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Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
It was not a good year to have a bat in your hand. Pitching ruled. The entire league scored only 5,577 runs in 1968, 714 less than in 1967, and 1,042 less than in 1966. Pitchers were racking up scoreless innings streaks – Don Drysdale, 58 2/3, Bob Gibson, 47 2/3. Houston’s Don Wilson struck out 18 Reds in a 6-1 win. Consecutive no-hitters were tossed on September 17 and 18 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. National League pitchers fanned 11 AL all-stars in a 1-0 win.
On September 27, Bob Gibson struck out 11 Astros in a 1-0 win that lowered his ERA to 1.12; five days later, on October 2, he struck out 17 Detroit Tigers in Game One of the World’s Series. Major League Baseball was not pleased – pitching was nice, and all that, but fans wanted to see the ball fly; something had to be done. Following the 1968 season, the pitching mound was lowered from 15 inches higher than the level of home plate, to 10 ½ inches. In 1969, with the lower mound, the average runs per game increased to 8.10 from the 6.85 in 1968.
The Phillies, minus Jim Bunning, had three pitchers who threw over 200 innings with sub 3 ERAs but lost a combined 42 games: Chris Short – 269 innings, 19-11, 2.94, 2 shutouts; Larry Jackson – 243, 13-17, 2.77, 2 SO ; Woodie Fryman – 213,12-14, 2.78, 5 SO.
The team batting average was a puny .233, led by Tony Gonzalez at .264. Dick Allen hit .263 with 33 home runs and 90 RBIs. Catcher Mike Ryan, in 97 games, hit.179. It was a tough year to be a hitter. Only three times in 162 games did the Phillies score 10 or more runs in a game. In the end, they were barely able to finish ahead of the Mets and Houston, in eighth place with a 76-86 record.
Trouble started early; after opening the season with a nice Chris Short shutout of the Dodgers in Los Angeles, they went to Houston and lost three straight, Oh oh. Houston was a patsie no more. Or were they? A week later, in Philadelphia, the Phils swept the Astros in a three-game series. In the first two weeks of the 1968 season, the Phillies had a six-game losing streak, and a five-game winning streak.
On June 14, following a losing stretch, the Phillies changed managers; Gene Mauch
was out after six plus years, 637 wins and 649 losses (both franchise highs). Bob Skinner was the new manager; he was 37 years old and recently retired from a 12-year major league career, mostly with Pittsburgh.
In July, Skinner glowed after a seven-game winning streak, then shuddered following a nine-game losing streak. Who were these guys?
They were an eighth-place team in spite of what a new manager, Dick Allen and Chris Short could do to prevent it.By max blue