As Gene Mauch fiddled with the dial, so did I. Twenty-Five years ago, on the afternoon of Oct. 4, 1964, he was in the visitors' clubhouse at Crosley Field in Cincinnati trying to pick up the Mets-Cardinals game on the radio while I was doing the same in the family station wagon outside a hunting lodge in Round Lake, N.Y.
We were hoping against hope that the lowly Mets would defeat the first-place Cardinals on the last day of the season. Earlier that afternoon, we, the Phillies, had beaten the Redlegs 10-0, and if New York could somehow complete a three-game sweep in St. Louis, we would end up in a three-way tie with the Cards and Reds. That, in turn, would necessitate the first round-robin playoff in major league history.
As the game floated in over the radio, we were buoyed when the Mets took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth; but in the bottom of that inning, St. Louis scratched out three runs to take a two-run lead and knock out starter Galen Cisco. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, the Cards' Bill White hit a two-run homer off Jack Fisher, and, suddenly, it was over. The Cardinals went on to win 11-5, and while Mauch and the rest of the guys boarded the bus in Cincinnati that would take them to the airport for the flight back to Philadelphia, I got out of the station wagon in upstate New York to seek the consolation of my dog, Brill. At a time like that, only a dog will do.
How I loved those Phillies. I had adopted them two years before, when I was 11 years old, because I needed a team and I figured a seventh-place team needed support. The fact that all of my friends in my hometown, Troy, N.Y., were either Yankee fans or Mets fans drew the Phillies even closer to me. I was beside myself when they swept the Dodgers at the end of the 1963 season to move into a tie for fourth place—first division!—and I sensed that '64 would be a special year. We had acquired pitcher Jim Bunning from the Tigers in the off-season for outfielder Don Demeter, and the reports from spring training on Richie Allen, a rookie from Wampum, Pa., were outstanding. Mauch said the Phils could win 92 games, and I believed him.
And it was a special year. On Father's Day, Bunning pitched a perfect game against the Mets. In the All-Star Game, Johnny Callison hit a ninth-inning home run off Dick Radatz to beat the American League 7-4. The Little General, as Mauch was called, pulled all the right strings, Callison and Allen drove in big runs, and Bunning and Chris Short mowed 'em down. On June 11, we tasted first place for the first time; on July 16 we took over the National League lead for good.
I devoured everything The Sporting News had on the Phillies, from the outrageous headlines (PHILS SNIFFING PENNANT PASTRY AS COOKIE REFUSES TO CRUMBLE) to the minutiae in the "Phillie Fodder" section at the bottom of Allen Lewis's dispatches ("Rookie Pitcher Rick Wise was sidelined for several days when he came down with the measles"). I changed my own pitching motion to emulate Bunning's fall-away style.
By Sept. 21 we had a 6½-game lead with only 12 games remaining. I graciously accepted the congratulations of my friends as the school year started. "How did you know?" they asked, and I answered, "It was just a feeling."
Then it happened. The Phillies' backup catcher Gus Triandos had already dubbed this season the Year of the Blue Snow, his own peculiar invention to describe its freak nature, but now the phrase took on new meaning as the losses began to pile up. The volatile Mauch, who will be forever second-guessed for starting Bunning and Short with only two days' rest on several occasions down the stretch, stayed quiet throughout the streak—"too quiet," as they say in the movies. On Sept. 21 the Reds beat the Phils 1-0 when Cincinnati rookie Chico Ruiz stole home in the sixth inning, and the Phillies proceeded to get swept by the Reds (three games), the Braves (four) and the Cards (three). It hardly mattered that they stayed close in seven of those games. This is what would come to be known as the Phillies Phlop.
The most poignant—and symbolic—moment of the losing streak occurred during the second of the three losses to St. Louis. Callison, weak and shivering from a mysterious virus, pinch-hit a single and then called for a warmup jacket while standing on first. But his fingers were shaking so badly that White, the Cardinals first baseman, had to snap up the buttons for him. It was a gesture of compassion that seemed to say, Here, let me button you up for the winter.
A few days later White hit that homer off Fisher. Mauch cursed the Fates, and so did I. I also cursed Mauch, and the Phillies. And I cursed my family for making me go to that stupid hunting lodge. Maybe I could have changed the cosmic scheme of things if I had watched the game against the Mets on TV at home. (That's the way 13-year-old minds work.)
Why did we have to come so far, only to come so close? Why, why, why? "It was like swimming in a long, long lake," utilityman Cookie Rojas said at the time, "and then you drown."
Cookie Rojas, the advance scout for the California Angels, walks through the lobby of the Hershey Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, past Jack Baldschun, a salesman for a building materials company in Green Bay. Over at the check-in desk, Johnny Callison, a bartender at Tomatoes in Doylestown, Pa., and Danny Cater, an accounts examiner for the Texas state comptroller's office, are told their rooms aren't ready yet. Ruben Amaro, manager of the Tigers' Rookie League team in Bristol, Va., spots Callison and gives him a big, manful hug.
This summer, as part of the Equitable Old-Timers Series, the Phillies of 1964 were invited back to Philly for a 25th reunion on the weekend of Aug. 19. On first thought, it might seem strange to be honoring a team that broke so many hearts. But on second thought, the '64 Phillies have a stronger identity than most championship teams—the '64 Cardinals, for instance. "I played on the '67 Red Sox," says Dennis Bennett, the manager of a new shopping mall in Klamath Falls, Ore., "but people hardly ever ask me about that team. They always ask me about this team."
Even a casual observer in the lobby of the Hershey Hotel could see that these very different-looking men were somehow linked. Larry Shenk, now the Phillies' vice-president for public relations, was a rookie p.r. man in '64. "I was so ill-prepared to host a World Series that losing that season probably saved me my job," he says. Shenk began sending out letters of invitation to the reunion a year ago. The response was excellent, as evidenced by the roster of reunion attendees on the preceding page.
A few players were conspicuously absent. Congressman Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) declined, citing a prior commitment. Yankee manager Dallas Green, a pitcher on the 1964 Phillies, was fired by George Steinbrenner the Friday of the reunion weekend. Wes Covington, a former outfielder who now works in advertising for The Edmonton Sun, never replied to Shenk's invitations. Ex-pitcher Ray Culp, who's in real estate in Austin, Texas, wrote to say that he couldn't make it. Gus Triandos, who's living in San Jose, was recuperating from an automobile accident. And Chris Short, who won 17 games that year, was lying in a coma in a hospital in Wilmington, Del., having suffered a brain aneurysm while at work at an insurance company office last October.
Short was there in spirit, though. Art Mahaffey spent months organizing a benefit golf tournament for him; it was held on the Monday before the reunion and raised $46,000 toward Short's medical expenses. Over the reunion weekend, the former Phillies autographed 4,826 replica hats that sold out, at $10 apiece, at Veterans Stadium, with all the proceeds going to Short and his wife, Pat.
The reunion would not have been complete without Gene Mauch, of course. The 1964 Phils were his team, in glory and disaster. Nobody would have blamed him, though, if he had chosen not to show up. After all, for 25 years he has been reminded that he blew the pennant, and by returning to the scene of the crime, he would have to undergo another inquisition.
But he came back. Looking tanned and fit from his daily regimen of 36 holes of golf in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Mauch strode into a press conference held Friday afternoon, Aug. 18, and his eyes lit up with each flash of recognition: Callison, Wise, Baldschun, Clay Dalrymple, Roy Sievers, John Herrnstein, John Briggs. And his joy made this former Phillies fan—now 38, the same age Mauch was in 1964—absurdly happy. It was plain that Mauch, too, loved this team.
"I've had more talented clubs," Mauch told a group of reporters after the press conference. "But I've never had a smarter, more unselfish club than this one. They prided themselves on the little things. If we were playing the Cubs, they would practice bunting down the first base line to make Ernie Banks field the ball, not Ron Santo at third. They did what they had to do to win."
Someone asked Mauch about the last day of the 1964 season. "After our game was over, I went into the clubhouse and spun the dial on the radio, trying to pick up the Mets and Cardinals," he said. "When White hit the homer off Fisher, I knew it was over."
Mauch wandered over to a knot of his former players. "Hey, Gene," said Sievers. "Remember the time I tried for that inside-the-park homer?"
"I'll say," said Mauch, with a laugh. "I can still see you swimming those last 15 feet. Your hand came down this short of home plate."
Mauch held out his hands just inches apart. It occurred to this former Phillies fan that the two men had offered up a perfect metaphor for their 1964 season.
By mid-September, the preparations were under way in Philadelphia. The World Series tickets were printed. A bulldozer sat by the third-base dugout at Connie Mack Stadium, ready to move dirt to make room for additional field boxes. Amaro had written home to his family in Veracruz, Mexico: "We are playing the best baseball of both leagues and nothing will stop us now.... I will wire you the money for the tickets, but you better start packing." When the Phillies went to Houston on their next-to-last road trip, several players, confident that they would soon receive World Series checks, went out and bought expensive hunting rifles.
It was during that visit to Houston, from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16, that Mauch first decided to use one of his aces with two days' rest. Bunning had beaten the Colt .45s four times that season, and Mauch, pushing the pedal to the metal, asked him if he would mind pitching the last game of the series out of turn. Bunning liked the idea, but he was shelled in the fifth inning. The Phillies lost, 6-5.
By now, Philadelphia was playing without the slugging Frank Thomas. He had broken the thumb of his right hand on Sept. 8, diving back into second base on a pickoff attempt. Before the injury, Thomas, acquired in midseason from the Mets, had driven in 26 runs in 32 games and made the Phillies less vulnerable to lefthanded pitching.
Still, the Phils ended their road trip on Sept. 20 with a victory in Los Angeles and, carrying a 6½-game lead in their pockets, flew back to Philadelphia for their final home stand, against the Reds and the Braves. Two thousand fans met the team at the airport when they touched down at 12:30 a.m. The Phillies' magic number was seven.
The first game of the series against the Reds was still a scoreless tie as Ruiz stood on third with two outs and Frank Robinson at the plate. Mauch didn't have the slightest premonition that Ruiz might attempt to steal home, but then neither did Cincinnati manager Dick Sisler nor Reds third base coach Reggie Otero. When Ruiz broke for home, Sisler yelled, "No! No!," but Mahaffey threw the ball away, and Ruiz slid home with the only run of the game. Afterward, Sisler said, "If Chico hadn't scored, he'd still be running—all the way to San Diego." (San Diego was a Reds farm club at the time.)
Including that loss, here's a recap of the Phils' 10-game skid, with the starting pitchers:
Sept. 21—Reds 1-0 (Mahaffey)
22—Reds 9-2 (Short)
23—Reds 6-4 (Bennett)
24—Braves 5-3 (Bunning)
25—Braves 7-5 (Short)
26—Braves 6-4 (Mahaffey)
27—Braves 14-8 (Bunning)
28—Cardinals 5-1 (Short)
29—Cardinals 4-2 (Bennett)
30—Cardinals 8-5 (Bunning)
The second game against the Braves was another gut-wrencher. With the Phillies leading 1-0 in the top of the seventh, Dalrymple tipped Denis Menke's bat with his glove for a catcher's interference call, and it set up a two-run Braves rally. Then, with Philadelphia trailing 3-1 in the eighth, Callison tied the score with a two-run homer. Milwaukee got two in the top of the 10th, but Allen hit an inside-the-park homer to even the score again. Before the game Thomas had literally ripped the cast off his thumb so that he could play; in the 12th, a potential double-play ball bounced off his rusty glove, and the Braves went on to win 7-5.
In the next game the Phillies carried a 4-3 lead into the ninth, only to lose 6-4. By then, the notorious Philadelphia boo-birds were in full voice, and they really gave it to the Phils the following day when Bunning blew a 3-2 lead and the Braves won 14-8. That loss dropped Philadelphia out of first, a game behind the Reds and a half game in front of the Cardinals. The Phillies, their ears stinging, professed to be happy that they were getting away from Philadelphia for the last five games.
In the meantime, I, too, was sinking. Each night I would listen to the Phillies' games on a wonderful old brown Zenith, the console of which you flipped up to turn on the radio. I would listen to the faint and floating signal from WFIL in Philadelphia, and after each nighttime loss during the skid, I would flip the console back down, turn off the lights and lie awake forever. I came down the steps to breakfast slower and slower on the mornings after, and the bags under my eyes grew heavier and heavier.
By the time the Phils reached Cincinnati for their final series, they were 2½ games behind the Cardinals and no longer in command of their fate. The two final victories over the Reds, with Short and Bunning going on three days' rest, were only a last torturous tease. Sisler, who had taken over from the ailing Fred Hutchinson as the Cincinnati manager, told Hutchinson after the last game, "I'd rather be here—one thousand times—than in Mauch's shoes. That nightmare he went through for 10 days. He had the whole world locked up, and, piece by piece, it got away from him. How can he stand it?"
Actually, he stood it pretty well. "When the plane landed in Philadelphia," Rojas recalled at the reunion, "Gene got up and told us, 'I want to be the first one off. You guys didn't lose it. I lost it.' He was wrong. We couldn't have gotten as far as we did without him."
Why did the Phillies blow it? On a poetic level, they could be accused of angering the gods. On an August night on which Sandy Koufax was supposed to pitch for the Dodgers in Philadelphia, the Phils' front office called the game on the merest hint of rain. The game was rescheduled for Sept. 8, and on that night Thomas broke his thumb. "I don't get hurt, we win it all," Thomas would say 25 years later.
Or maybe the gods were punishing Phillies fans for their shoddy treatment of Allen, whom they booed unmercifully for his fielding blunders, even though it was his first season at third base. At one point that season Mauch asked, "How can anybody even shape his lips in the form of a boo when a player like Richie Allen comes to bat?"
Or maybe it was hubris, pure and simple. Buying those guns in Houston was a clear case of counting chickens before they hatched.
On a more practical level, there was Mauch's overuse of his two ace starters, a rotation that could have been called Bunning and Short and Hold the Fort. The missing person throughout those final days was righthander Culp. Depending on whom you talk to, Culp had either 1) a bad back or 2) a room in Mauch's doghouse. (At the reunion several players assumed Culp didn't show because of his enmity for Mauch. "But that's Ray's problem," said one.) Even if Culp couldn't pitch, Mauch displayed undue stubbornness in trotting Bunning and Short out there, two days after two days after two days.
"At the time, I thought Gene was doing the right thing with the pitchers," says Dalrymple. "The one thing I kept waiting for, though, was an explosion. He was so calm through the whole streak. We were looking for him to turn over another table." The year before, Mauch had upended a postgame spread of barbecued ribs in the visitors' clubhouse in Houston to wake up his club.
Mauch could be held responsible in an entirely different way, though. He was hated around the National League for his aggressive style of managing—Mauch called for at least a dozen squeeze plays that season—and for his vituperative bench jockeying, and the more the Phillies won, the more teams loved to beat them. Sandy Grady wrote 25 years ago in the Aug. 29 edition of The Sporting News, "The name of the game may be Stop Mauch. The happy question for Philadelphia is whether the notion started too late."
All of these theories have a certain validity. But this former Phillies fan had heard them all before and found them lacking. I came to the reunion hoping, somehow, for a new answer. That winter after the Phlop, I had replayed the entire season on a dice game of my own devising. In my little game, the Phillies finished something like 125-37 in '64, and while there obviously was a certain bias built into my rules, the disparity still required a satisfactory explanation.
"Personally, I think we lost it at a Chinese restaurant in Eugene," Bennett said before the Friday night reunion banquet. Then he elaborated: "Well, we had to go to Eugene [Ore.] for an exhibition game [with the Phillies' Single A farm club] in the middle of the pennant race, and Ed Roebuck, Clay Dalrymple and Chris Short got into some trouble at this Chinese restaurant. I was across the street with my parents and saw the whole thing. Ed broke a plate glass window, and while he was running away, he turned his ankle, and he never pitched the same after that."
Bennett may have seen the whole thing, but, as it turns out, his memory is a little hazy. The exhibition was in May, not in the middle of the pennant race. And records show that Roebuck, a relief pitcher, was as effective after the incident as he was before. It may make a good story, but not a good excuse.
Roebuck rather sheepishly confirmed the episode, adding this postscript: "My roommate, Dallas Green, was the one who pulled the slivers of glass out of my shoulder."
The press never caught wind of the incident, and the whole affair remained a little team secret for 25 years.
Mauch kept something else hidden for 25 years, and that was his affection for his players. Back in 1964 the players, some of whom were nearly Mauch's contemporaries, were the children, and he was the strict master of the house. He stayed aloof because that's what he felt he had to do, and indeed, he got the most out of the '64 Phillies, so he was probably right.
But the years have dissolved the distance he once maintained. At the banquet, Mauch did the introductions, and before a roomful of strangers he revealed just what these guys had meant to him. Each of these introductions, effusive in praise, drew on his fabled memory and rose from a heart many of the players never knew was there. Here's a sampling:
"I've had some catchers who could call a good game, including Bob Boone. But I've never had a better one than this guy at nursing a pitcher through the first few innings until he found his stuff. He was very, very clever and very, very dedicated. Clay Dalrymple."
"The first 13 times this man came in with men on base that year, they didn't score. The 14th time I brought him in, against the Cardinals, the bases were loaded with one out, and I said, 'Let's see you get out of this one.' And he did—got Carl Warwick on a 3-and-2 pitch. Eddie Roebuck."
"When this man came to our club, he gave us a lot of dignity. One of the best righthanded hitters I've ever seen. Roy Sievers. Roy, I've never told you this, but I know you had a lot to do with polishing the kids on the team. Thank you."
"We had a saying all through the '60s in the late innings: 'Just six ground balls to Amaro.' He made a lot of great plays, but I'll never forget watching him dive for a ball at third base, and as he dove, I saw him push the glove to the tips of his fingers. Ruben Amaro."
"There have been many gifted ballplayers for the Phillies over the years, including Mike Schmidt. But of all those players, I'll take my guy. He was the finest athlete I've ever seen on the field. He had 13 triples that year, and I think the triple is the most beautiful thing in baseball. He was just a joy to behold. Dick Allen."
"The thing that bothered me most in '64 about not winning it—and I just want to say that that's the reason I'm alive today because I would have given 15 years off my life to have won it—is that we deprived Johnny of the MVP award. Johnny, I'm just sorry we couldn't have done more for you after all you did for us. Johnny Callison."
When the banquet broke up, many of the players repaired to the hospitality suite to reminisce. Julie Shenk, Larry's wife, finally closed the place at 2 a.m. Among the last to leave were Dalrymple, Baldschun, Bennett, Callison and Mauch. Baldschun said of the late-night session, "We saw a side of Gene we had never seen before."
As Frank Sinatra once sang, "There used to be a ballpark right here." We're at 21st and Lehigh, once the site of Connie Mack Stadium and now just one corner of an empty North Philly block choked with weeds and refuse from McDonald's. The stadium came into being as Shibe Park in 1909, and its French Renaissance style made it the most beautiful ballpark of its day. Residents along 20th Street could watch games from their rooftops, until Athletics owner Connie Mack raised the wall in right field to obstruct their view. The Phillies, who had played for many years at Baker Bowl, moved in during the '38 season, and it was here that the '50 Whiz Kids recovered from a late-season collapse to win the pennant on the last day.
In 1953 the name was changed to Connie Mack Stadium, and the name stayed even after the A's moved to Kansas City in '55. The Phillies spent most of the late '50s in the second division, and in '60 manager Eddie Sawyer quit one game into the season, saying, "I'm 49 and I want to be 50." His replacement was the 34-year-old Mauch, who watched in agony as his young club lost 23 games in a row in 1961. But out of those ashes rose the '64 Phillies. "The losing streak made them think of themselves as Phillies, not ex-Dodgers or ex-White Sox," said Mauch when it was over.
In 1964, 1,425,891 people went through the turnstiles of Connie Mack, but by '69, attendance had dwindled to 519,414 and a new ball-park, Veterans Stadium, was in the works. On Oct. 1, 1970, the last game was played at Connie Mack: The Phillies beat the Montreal Expos, managed by Mauch, 2-1 in 10 innings. A year later, a fire destroyed much of the structure, and in '76 the demolition was completed. Over the years there has been talk about putting a hospital or an industrial park on the lot, but nothing has come of it.
"This a bad day to die," says the aged cabbie as he drives through the rain. "Connie Mack Stadium, huh? I sold newspapers there when I was a kid. I can still taste the 10-cent hot dogs."
In the backseat of the cab, I listen and look. I've never been to Connie Mack, although I know its every detail from pictures. So I'm making this pilgrimage to see something I never did or ever will see. Dalrymple, courteous and curious, is kind enough to come along. He walks over to where home plate used to be and points out landmarks. "The opposite corner is straightaway center, and Richie hit one once that went over the wall in center and across the street," he says. As Dalrymple tromps around, his eyes suddenly glow with a memory:
"One time, after a game, I offered to take this blind girl I knew down to the field. The fans are leaving, and I'm still in uniform. She wants to feel home plate, so I take her over there, and she feels around. Then we walk to first base so she can feel the bag, then to second base and third base. We go all around the bases until we're home again. I never did notice that there were people still in the stands until suddenly I hear all this applause. It was probably the biggest ovation I ever got."
Despite their near success, the '64 Phillies were not kept intact. After a series of off-season trades, the Phils finished sixth in 1965. The front office kept breaking up that old gang of mine, until, in the middle of the '68 season, Mauch himself was sent packing.
I continued to root for the Phillies until the late 1970s. But by that time I was a sportswriter, committed to the edict, No cheering in the press box. So when the Phillies went all the way in '80, I was little more than an interested observer. I numbly walked through that World Series against the Kansas City Royals. In fact, when I ventured out onto the field at Veterans Stadium after the final out to bask in a moment I once longed for, a German shepherd growled at me. I got the message.
As for the 1964 Phillies, they scattered in different directions. A few stayed in baseball: Green, Rojas, Roebuck, Wise, Bobby Wine, Tony Taylor and a young catcher who had only one at bat that year, Pat Corrales. Bunning went into politics after Green, the Phillies' farm director, fired him in 1976 as the manager of a Phillies' farm team. Baldschun and Bennett, roommates in '64, went their separate ways, but both ended up working in the construction industry. Allen, who once said he didn't want to play on something his horses couldn't eat, drifted in and out of thoroughbred racing and now sells an all-weather bubble in which baseball players can practice.
In later life the '64 Phillies were nothing if not prolific: Bunning had nine children, and Bennett and Thomas eight apiece. Why, the 53-year-old Amaro, in his second marriage, has an eight-month-old child and another on the way. There are many grandchildren, and there will be many more, to listen to the tales of the Year of the Blue Snow.
"I'm luckier than most of these guys, because I got to bat in a World Series, with the Orioles in 1969," said Dalrymple at the reunion. "In fact, I batted 1,000—two for two. But the thing I remember about '64 is that I was so physically and mentally exhausted when the season was over. I just went home and slept on the couch for days. It didn't really hit home, though, until I'm lying there watching the first game of the World Series on television. My daughter comes home from first grade and says to me, 'Daddy, how come you're not playing today?' That really hurt."
Dianne Callison, Johnny's wife of 32 years, had a similar recollection. "That September, everybody wanted World Series tickets—friends, neighbors, the pharmacist. I sent the Phillies a check for $1,100 worth of tickets. I suffered through all the losses, but I think one of the saddest days of my life came after the season, when that check came back in the mail. You know, I still have some of those World Series tickets in the attic, along with a pennant that says, 'Phillies, 1964 National League Champs.' "
The 1964 Phillies have had more than their share of tragedy. Short lies in a coma. John Boozer and Don Hoak, both of whom played briefly for the Phils that year, died young. Dalrymple's first wife, Celia, died of cancer, leaving him with three young children, and his second marriage failed. Mahaffey went through a bitter divorce, lost his 16-year-old son, Michael, in an auto accident and hasn't heard from his estranged daughter, Judy, in seven years. He made this plea to Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News, who recently wrote a series on the team: "I wouldn't mind if you put it in the paper that I'd love to talk to her." Dalrymple and Mahaffey, thankfully, are very happy in their present marriages.
Callison's investments failed to provide a sufficient income, and he could never find a job for which he was suited. Though he made it known he wanted to get back into baseball, he never got a call. Three years ago he was rushed to the hospital with bleeding ulcers and had a heart attack while in intensive care. He had a triple bypass and lost 20 pounds. In street clothes he does not look much like a man who once had the best arm in baseball, who once finished second in the MVP voting.
Mauch lost his wife, Nina Lee, to cancer several years ago, but it's his ongoing baseball tragedy that people focus on. He has managed for 26 seasons searching for a pennant, with the Phillies, the Expos, the Twins and the Angels. In the 1982 playoffs, when he was managing California, he brought back Tommy John to start against Milwaukee sooner than he normally would have—as if to prove that he'd been right 18 years earlier—and lost the gamble. But you have to hand it to him: Mauch says he still wants to manage if the situation is right.
It's a curious process of any reunion weekend that the participants will revert to their old pecking order, no matter where the years have taken them. This reunion was no different. Herrnstein, for instance, is one of the most successful of the bunch—a bank executive in Ohio—yet he receded into the background, as befitting a role player, while Dalrymple and Allen and Callison and Bennett held court. At one point, Cater, who has a very responsible government job, walked into Room 501, the hospitality suite, and suddenly became a rookie again. "I came back to feel part of the gang," he said as he sat down.
"Hard to do, though, huh?" said Baldschun with a smile.
"Yeah, always was," said Cater.
The players spent the early part of Saturday afternoon in Room 501, autographing the caps for Short. When somebody asked where Roebuck was, Rojas said, "He's in the Chinese restaurant." Everyone chuckled, and suddenly it was story time.
Bennett and Dalrymple recalled the time they dived off the top deck of a riverboat in Cincinnati in their underwear. "I had caught both games of a double-header that day, lost like 12 pounds, so I'm drinking beer to put it back on," said Dalrymple. "On a bet, we tried to swim across the Ohio River, but halfway across, I said to Dennis, 'Now, I know I can make it to the other side. But I don't know if I can swim back across, and I'll be stuck over there in my underwear. If we swim back to the boat, I think we proved our point.' "
The tales continued until, just as in the old days, somebody in the room asked, "What time does the bus leave?" The 3:15 bus would take them to the Old-Timers' Game at Veterans Stadium, and among their opponents that day would be some ghosts from 1964: Menke, Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, Vada Pinson. "I hope they have the champagne ready," said Allen. "This time we're going to win."
As the 1964 Phillies walk through the bowels of the Vet, Baldschun says, "It's not Connie Mack, but it'll do." In the clubhouse, which was actually the visiting football team's locker room, they find replica '64 uniforms waiting for them. "It still fits," Dalrymple yells with delight. Somebody had the hindsight to put Wine and Rojas in adjoining cubicles—the Days of Wine and Rojas was an oft-used phrase back then.
"I have nothing but good memories of this uniform," says Roebuck, as he puts it on. "I've heard all the excuses over and over, that we'd have won it if Gene hadn't started Bunning and Short so often, or if Chico Ruiz hadn't gone on his own, or if Frank Thomas hadn't been hurt, or—and this one is real bull—if I hadn't been hurt. But Gene did a tremendous job that year. He got the most out of us, and people forget he was so young at the time. I think, plain and simple, that we were a good club that wasn't good enough, and the fact that we got so close was a tribute to him."
Out on the field the players take, or rather attempt to take, batting practice. Only Allen looks comfortable up there, which is funny because he never did like batting practice. He hits no BP home runs today, but he does rattle the wall.
Then it's time for the introductions, and each player is greeted with applause from those in the crowd whose memories reach back far enough. At the end of the intros, the P.A. announcer asks that a prayer be said for the recovery of Chris Short. Short's picture eerily appears on the television screen in left centerfield, and a hush falls over the stadium.
The players take the field for the scheduled three-inning game. In the top of the first, Mahaffey gives up two fly balls, to Brooks Robinson and Aaron, and then gives way to Baldschun, who retires Orlando Cepeda on one of his patented screwballs. In the bottom of the inning, with one out, Tony Gonzalez hits one of his trademark opposite-field doubles off Gibson. He moves up on a groundout by Callison, bringing Allen to the plate with two outs. But Allen pops up in front of the plate, and he hugs catcher John Roseboro to prevent him from catching the pop-up. Gonzalez scores, but the run is disallowed because of interference. Allen is booed. Just like old times.
Nothing much happens in the second, but in the top of the third, a pop-up drops in front of Amaro at third, and some blowhard yells, "Choke, choke!" Ha-ha. With the bases loaded, Wise relieves Bobby Shantz, and from the pop of the ball in Dalrymple's mitt, the fans can tell that Wise is not too far from major league velocity. "Heck, he throws harder than Rick Reuschel," says current Phillie pitcher Marvin Freeman, watching from the runway.
But Joe Christopher, a Met in 1964, takes Wise the other way for a sacrifice fly to give the All-Stars a 1-0 lead. The Phillies go down meekly in their half of the third, and the game is over. Or is it? Suddenly the P.A. announcer says, "How about one more inning?" Ah, if only commissioner Ford Frick had granted the Phillies a similar reprieve 25 years ago....
Sure enough, the Phils rally in the bottom of the fourth. Briggs doubles to right center with one out. Allen fouls out to third. ("Boooooo!!") With Rojas at the plate, All-Star manager Alvin Dark sends Gibson back in to pitch—Cardinal versus Phillie. This time around, Rojas singles off Gibson to score Briggs, and the game ends in a tie. A tie? This former Phillies fan can only wonder, What if the season had ended in a tie 25 years ago...?
As the players file into the locker room after the game, Mauch barks out, "O.K., everybody back onto the field for pop-up drills!" Some of the players, momentarily transported back to 1964, turn around as if they believe him. Mauch smiles, and they smile back in relief.
"You know, I've talked to them more in the last two days than I did in any two years as manager," Mauch says. "I have a deep, deep feeling about this team. I did then, too, but I was hard on them because I felt that was the way to go. This weekend has given me a chance to tell them exactly how I feel, and to thank them. It felt great being a part of the '64 Phillies again."
That it did. I need no more alibis, I forgive them for breaking my heart, and I bless them for a summer of memories. 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So I look around the roomful of strangers, at men I knew intimately 25 years ago, and silently thank them too.
Twenty-five years after Gene Mauch and I spun those dials, we found the right station.
This vacant lot—there used to be a ballpark here—was full of memories for Dalrymple.