Recounting the 1964 Phillies
Ruly Carpenter shares his memories.
Ruly Carpenter’s most enduring memory of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies truly hits home. After the team his family owned for portions of five decades blew a 6½-game lead in the last two weeks of the season, costing them a National League pennant and a postseason berth, his wife wallpapered the powder room with unused World Series tickets from that fateful summer 50 years ago.
“That was my final memory of the collapse,” he says from a family office in Wilmington. “We thought there was no way we could lose [the pennant].”
Carpenter was the principal owner and president of the Phillies from 1972 to 1981. He sold the team after five division crowns and the team’s first World Series win in 1980. Now 74, he was 3 years old when his grandfather, Robert Carpenter Sr.—who married into the du Pont family, worked for the company and helped found Tower Hill School—acquired the Phillies for $400,000 in 1943. By 1950, the family had a winner. Two year later, the American League Philadelphia Athletics left for Kansas City, and the Carpenters purchased Connie Mack Stadium for $1.7 million.
In the spring of 1963, Carpenter was an assistant baseball coach to UD’s Harold “Tubby” Raymond. By fall, he reported to the Phillies’ treasury department. In preparation for his new position, his father, Bob, insisted that the Tower Hill School and Yale University graduate audit accounting courses at UD.
Then, in the spring of 1964, Carpenter was sent to the Phils’ Class-A spring training camp in Leesburg, Fla., and with camp administrator Paul Owens, they began building a “farm system that was the key to the kingdom,” Carpenter says.
When the draft was initiated in 1965, scouting became even more critical. Carpenter spent his time overseeing the minor leagues and studying team scouts. “We had to make changes,” he says. “We let go of guys I’d known as a kid growing up. It was difficult, but we got the ship righted.”
Left to right: Art Mahaffey's Sports Illustrated cover; A poster of the Word Series that never happened (notice the empty white flag); an unused sheet of 1964 World Series tickets
The summer of 1964 was one of the greatest Phillies seasons—then came an implosion. “It was emotionally draining with each loss, and I saw how it affected my father,” says Carpenter of the improbable 10-game losing skid that is 50 years old this month. “It was devastating to him.”
Yet, on the last day of the regular season, the Phillies could’ve finished in a three-way tie and forced a round-robin elimination series with the Cardinals and Reds. On Oct. 4, 1964, the team was one game behind St. Louis and Cincinnati, who were tied for first. Philadelphia sent the legendary Jim Bunning to the mound. He did his part, shutting out the Reds 10-0. But the Cardinals beat the Mets 11-5 after losing two straight. The Phillies finished in a tie for second with the Reds, one game behind the Cards.
At that point in history—when there were no divisions, only a 10-team National and American League to win outright—no team had ever lost a pennant with a 6½-game lead and fewer than 15 games to play. “You take a collapse like that to the grave,” says Phillies catcher-turned-analyst Tim McCarver, who is 72 now but turned 23 the day after his 1964 Cardinals beat the Yankees 4-3 to win the World Series. He still recalls one headline, “Cards Win Series,” with the subhead, “Khrushchev Removed From Power.” “I’m forever grateful to have been on the other end of that [collapse],” he says.
Despite the golden anniversary, the Phillies haven’t—and won’t—recognize the 1964 team and season in any significant way. Instead, they’ve focused on promoting the 10th anniversary of Citizens Bank Park. “While ’64 was a highlight for a while, like the (1950) Whiz Kids once were, for both their prominence began slipping with the [success of] the ’70s and [early] ’80s that then took over,” says Larry Shenk, the Phillies 50-year PR guru and current vice president of alumni relations. “Now, the last six or seven years have taken over that. The ghost of ’64 didn’t die easily. It came back in ’93 and ’77. But [Larry] Bowa said the ghost was finally dead when we won it all (in 1980).”
As immediate past president of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association, Springfield’s Rich Westcott fought to have the 1964 collapse excluded from this year’s awards banquet. He ultimately prevailed. “It was a long, drawn-out argument—and I won,” says Westcott, who covered the team’s home games on-and-off that year for the Delaware County Daily Times. “Who wants to be reminded of that horrible, horrible event?”
A baseball author and historian who just released his 24th book, Great Stuff: Amazing Pitching Feats, Wescott has written eight books on the team. He also published the Phillies Report from 1983 to 1997, taking care to avoid ’64 whenever he could. “At this point, that season does not fit anywhere except at the bottom of the barrel,” he says. “It doesn’t rate with ’80 or ’08. The Whiz Kids can’t compare; they’re also a team that didn’t win [it all]. The Phillies had horrible years [other than] ’64.”
Like three years earlier, when the team lost 23 straight—still a modern-day, major-league record. “It was almost like a freak season the way it popped up,” Wescott says. “It was a great tragedy because [of what] didn’t happen—and it should have.”
Dallas Green has his own opinion of 1964. “For the guys on that team, it will always be there,” says the Newport native, who signed with the Phillies after his junior year at the University of Delaware. “It rears its head every time the Phillies have a losing streak or when they’re in first place. It never goes away totally.”
Now senior adviser to the Phillies’ general manager, Green returned to the organization to manage the 1980 world champions. He once owned a 60-acre Chester County farm (his son, Doug, now occupies a portion of it). At 80, Green still attends every home game, covers road trips on TV and evaluates staff and players throughout the organization.
In 1964, he was in his fifth year as a player in the big leagues. With the acquisition of Bunning, he knew he’d be in the “back of the bullpen,” and used as a “mop-up guy,” as he wrote in his 2013 autobiography, The Mouth That Roared: My Six Outspoken Decades in Baseball. Then, a week shy of his 30th birthday, Green was sent to the Triple-A Arkansas Travelers. Around that time, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died a few weeks after Dallas’ demotion to the minor leagues.
After a two-month stay, he re-joined the Phillies in September, a day after the start of the infamous 10-game losing streak. The first game he pitched was a 14-8 loss Sept. 27 that dropped the Phillies into second place for the first time since July 16. Green wrote that Mauch went into a shell—essentially panic mode. “Well, he confused us,” Green clarifies. “All season, he screamed, yelled and hollered and threw things around the clubhouse, then during the (losing streak), he never had a tirade. We were all waiting for the volcano to erupt and it never did. Maybe we were waiting for him to save the season.”
Yet Mauch, in a strategy that still baffles half-century-old critics, began starting Bunning and left-hander Chris Short, who pitched with the Phillies from 1960-72, every third day. They each had three consecutive starts on just two days’ rest, and went 1-5—though 0-5 until the 10-0 Bunning win the final game.
A native of Lewes, Short had a breakout season in 1964, winning 17 games with a 2.20 ERA. A two-time All-Star, and a 20-game winner in ‘66, he retired with back problems, then returned to his native Delaware as an insurance agent in Wilmington. At the office in October 1988, an aneurysm in his brain ruptured. Short remained in a coma for three years and died in 1991 at the age of 53.
Once in those years, Shenk remembers putting a baseball in Short’s left hand—and for a moment, there was movement. “Good guy is an over-used expression,” Shenk says. “But Chris Short was a really good guy.”
It was former teammate Art Mahaffey who paid Short’s nursing-home bills by organizing charity golf tournaments. When Short died, Mahaffey used what was left, $120,000 (including $20,000 from Phils’ alum Larry Christenson and a golf tournament he’d run) to start a perpetual baseball scholarship in Short’s name at the University of Delaware and to contribute to the Philadelphia office of the American Diabetes Association.
Today, Short’s widow, Pat, is his voice. Her husband defended Mauch, says Pat, who this spring packed a U-Haul truck full of her husband’s baseball memorabilia and sent it to Hunt Auctions in Exton. “He thought it was terrible that everyone blamed him, but none of the longtime players blamed him—only the reporters and the fans who booed him out of Philly,” she says.
From left to right: Ruly Carpenter in 1964; Dallas Green as a player; Art Mahaffey
Art Mahaffey’s relationship with his manager soured early on. After the young flame thrower—he could hit 101 mph and “fog it,” he says—was called up in 1960, he was 5-0 in the midst of a 6-18 road trip. Hall of Famer Robin Roberts had the other win. At Wrigley Field, Mauch pulled him aside before the game and forbade him to let Ernie Banks hit a home run. When Banks did just that, Mauch stormed to the mound and unleashed a battery of vulgarities that forever severed their relationship.
“In ’64, he told me that if we get to the World Series, I wouldn’t pitch—that I’d just be watching,” Mahaffey recalls. “He was just a nasty man. But I can’t blame it all on Gene. Blame us, too. We had no player-leader. If any, it was Tony Taylor—he could’ve been. But the way the tension was, I don’t think anybody could have snapped the streak.”
Mahaffey had the two best starts in the 10-game losing streak. He started the first game of the 10-game losing streak, and was on the mound when Reds rookie Chico Ruiz stole home with two outs and two strikes on future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. The Phils lost 1-0. Five days later, he pitched into the eighth inning and left with a 4-2 lead, but the bullpen blew it in a 6-4 loss to the Milwaukee Braves.
“All we needed was one win to break the streak,” he says. “In the 23 straight (losses in ’61), John Buzhardt won to break the streak and the next game was a shutout, but in the midst of the 10-game streak (in ’64), there got to be silence in the clubhouse after all Mauch’s screaming and yelling. The silence was deafening. We didn’t think we could lose that pennant—then the tension became awful.”
In ’64, Mahaffey started 29 games, and won 12, but his ERA was 4.52. He could dazzle one game, then leave onlookers dumbfounded the next. Prior to ’64, he was the hands-down pick to be the pitching staff’s ace, but the pre-season trade with the Detroit Tigers for Bunning ended that.
Certainly, one of the highlights of 1964 was Bunning’s perfect game on Father’s Day in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets at Shea Stadium. It was the first perfect game in 84 years in the National League, and the seventh in history. Bunning won 19 games in ’64 (1965 and ’66, too), made an All-Star appearance and finished with an ERA of 2.63.
The Phils won 10 of their first 12 in ’64. By May 1, Richie Allen, that season’s Rookie of the Year, was hitting .431 with six home runs. He hit .415 in the two-week slide, finishing the season with a .318 average, 29 home runs and 91 RBIs. (DT wasn’t given the opportunity to interview Allen—who has an established distaste for the media—for this story. We were only told that he would “pass” on the request.) He remains the only Rookie of the Year and league MVP not in the Hall of Fame. Of course, he once said, “I wish they’d shut the gates and let us play ball with no press and no fans.”
But when the Phils’ Johnny Callison appeared on the cover of SI in August after his two-out, walk-off three-run home run won the ’64 All-Star Game (Short was also a Phillies All-Star), the team was said to be full of “invisible men who do not seem to understand that a team without stars should not be a pennant contender.”
That season, Callison—who died in 2006—played in all 162 games. He hit 31 home runs and drove in 104. He finished second in the NL MVP voting to the Cardinals’ Ken Boyer. Winning a pennant made all the difference.
Left: Johnny Callison; right: Dallas green with Lary Shenk next to the 1980 world series trophy at citizens bank park.
There were plenty of non-stars. In consecutive starts, rookie pitcher Ray Culp out-dueled future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, a 14-time All-Star and 363-game winner, but Culp never won another game that season. By mid-August, injuries kept him off the mound.
Shortstop Bobby Wine had a rocket arm and split time (many did in ’64; seven or more played first base) with Ruben Amaro Sr. When he left the Phillies after 1968, he played for Mauch for his last four years, too, when Mauch was then managing the expansion Montreal Expos. Wine, who lives in Norristown, was Green’s bench coach in 1980. He was also the third-base coach for the 1983 NL pennant-winning Phillies.
By the All-Star break, the Phils were 47-28, enjoying a 1½-game lead over the Giants and a 10-game lead over the fifth-place Car-dinals. But 31 of the Phils’ first-half games were against the lowly Cubs, Colt 45s and Mets. They won 24 of those games (.770) and were just a bit over .500 against the rest of the league. Losing eight of the first 12 games after the break was a sign of what could come.
But they rebounded. Short beat Cardinals’ ace Bob Gibson on July 24 in a complete-game 9-1 victory. In August, he shut out Pirates’ ace Bob Veale. By Aug. 23, the Phils were 6½ games ahead of the Giants, seven ahead of the Reds and 10 in front of the Cardinals again.
But soon the chinks in the armor became evident. On Sept. 8, Mahaffey lasted less than an inning against the Dodgers. That was followed by a two-inning Mahaffey start against the Giants and a 9-1 loss. Up 3-0 behind Short on Sept. 18, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead, resulting in a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers. Jack Baldschun, who threw a screwball that dived like a sinkerball, couldn’t hold his third of four leads in September. The next night ended in a 16-inning 4-3 loss—the winning run scored on another uncanny steal of home, this time by Willie Davis.
“The real reason [we lost] was that we had a bad bullpen,” Green says. “For whatever reason, Gene eventually got mad at Jack—the only bona-fide closer in the day—and wouldn’t pitch him. That left myself and six other guys to try to close out games—and we weren’t capable.”
Left: Richie Allen’s baseball card; Right: Ruly Carpenter
Then, on Sept. 21, Ruiz broke for the plate. A startled Mahaffey unleashed a hurried, wide pitch that arrived too late, and the Phillies lost their first of 10 in a row on a most unorthodox play. “It was unbelievable,” Mahaffey says now. “If Robinson swings the bat, he knocks Ruiz’s head off. It was so ignorant and stupid. People say, ‘Weren’t you thinking about him stealing home?’ No! To this day they’re still talking about it as one of the most stupid plays in the history of baseball.”
Mauch was so angry that he ordered Short to bean Ruiz the next game. “I tried twice and missed both times,” Short told Villanova-based Major League Baseball scholar Lou Orlando, author of 1994’s The Phillies Trivia Quiz Book. “And then he hit my next pitch for a home run, and the Reds beat us again.”
Ruiz, who died in a 1972 auto accident, never hit another home run or stole home again in his career. Though not commonly reported, that same night Pete Rose stole home as part of a double-steal against Short.
After that, the Phils lost four at home against the Braves, and three to the Cardinals—consecutive losses eight, nine and 10. Whiz Kid Curt Simmons, whom the Phils traded four years earlier, was masterful in a matchup with Bunning, winning 18 in 1964 for St. Louis. “We could see fear in their eyes,” McCarver says of the series with the Phils. “We smelled blood.”
Cardinals teammate and eventual Phillies first baseman Bill White, now 80, was an eight-time All-Star and won seven-straight Gold Gloves for the Cardinals and Phillies. He says the difference down the stretch in 1964 was simple: “Our manager (Johnny Keane) let us play; Gene liked to play chess. When there isn’t a noose that’s been tightened around your neck, you can go out and play. Gene tightened the noose. Those guys could feel it around their throats.”
And as for the fate of former Phillies owner Carpenter’s powder room of shame? “After three or four years—you know how the gals are—my wife wanted to change things around in there,” he says. “I just called her today at the Shore and asked, ‘By any chance, did you happen to put any of those tickets in a shoe box?”
Not a chance.