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Lucchesi Gives It a Shot
The Phillies needed a new manager for the 1970 season so General Manager John Quinn reached into the Phillies farm system to get him. Frank Lucchesi was a minor league player who never threatened to make it the Majors as a player, but it turned out he was pretty good at managing, He began managing in 1956 in the low minors and worked his way up to AAA where he was the skipper of the pennant-winning Eugene Emeralds of the Pacific Coast League in 1969. Fourteen years in the system, he was one of those loyal worker bees that could be relied on to be there on time and put in a good days work. John Quinn liked everything about this man. It was his time. He only wished he had a better team to hand over.
Frank Lucchesi was just glad to be in the Bigs. He would bring his energy and optimism to the Phillies clubhouse and dugout. He was 43 yearsold, and he knew how to win. So there he was on opening day, gathered at home plate to exchange lineup cards for the first time. He stepped back and looked around, he wanted to take it all in – the storied Connie Mack Stadium, almost 16,000 spectators, half capacity but more than he was used to seeing in the minors. He was a major leaguer.
When he turned to the business at hand, he saw that the four umpires (Imagine that! Four umpires.), and the Cubs’ manager were all staring at him. “Come on, punk, let’s get this over with,” snarled the wrinkle-faced old man in the Cubs’ uniform; it was 65 year-old Leo Durocher, a near legend already, and still active in his 31st year as a big league manager, with more than 3,500 wins in his pocket. Lucchesi was overmatched from the start. “Sorry, Mister Durocher,” he said as he handed over his card. The Lip scanned the card, noting the names Bowa and Doyle at the top, then sneered, “You got no shot, punk.”
Durocher may have been right in the long run, but not today. It was Chris Short against Fergie Jenkins, a repeat of last year’s opener, but the result was different. Short cranked up a complete game, five-hit shutout, Denny Doyle began his major league career with three straight hits, including a two-out third inning RBI triple that gave Short all the runs he would need in a 2-0 win, and the Phillies led the league. Frank Lucchesi was a happy man.
The second game of the 1970 Phillies’ season was a night game, and they won again, on Deron Johnson’s three-run seventh-inning home run. In Game Three, Woodie Fryman shut out the Pirates, 2-0, and Lucchesi was delerious; could it be this easy? Then came the reality, Pirates’ lefty Luke Walker blanked the Phils 4-0, starting a seven-game losing streak, capped by consecutive shutouts handed them in New York by Mets’ two future Hall of Famers, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.
Durocher was right – the Phils had no shot; for the season, they were shut out 15 times, six times with lefty Grant Jackson (5-15) on the mound. The team average was .238 and they had no .300 hitters; Denny Doyle, after his glorious start, hit .208. They finished 73-88, fifth in the six-team NL East, a half-game ahead of Montreal.By max blue