The Phold of ’64!

It’s not a new story. It’s also not one that those us who were around in those days will ever forget. The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies had the world on a string late in the season. With 12 games to go, they held a 6 1/2 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds and they were moving into a seven-game home stand that surely would allow them to finish the job and prepare for the World Series, most probably against the New York Yankees. It was to be the year that the Phillies got back at the Yankees for that four-game sweep in the 1950 World Series.

It was not to be. Something happened to turn destiny on its tail and send it the other way, shooting up the halls of heartache in eastern Pennsylvania and forever altering the course of baseball history.

The easiest, incomplete way to summarize it is simple. Manager Gene Mauch made a fatal decision going into the seven-game home stand to basically go with a two-man rotation the rest of the way. As a result, starters Jim Bunning and Chris Short got the nod to start 7 of the next 10 games, 6 of which resulted in starts on 2 days rest. The Phillies lost all ten games while the Cardinals and Reds both heated up.

The Phillies finally won their last two games of the season, but that only left them tied with Cincinnati for 2nd place. Philly fans had hoped for more. Didn’t happen. The Cardinals won on the last day of 1964, giving them a one-game championship advantage over Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

The “Philadelphia Phold” was complete. The New York Yankees-Philadelphia Phillies World Series Reunion would have to wait until 2009 while the ’64 St. Louis Cardinals renewed their 1926-1928, 1942-1943 World Series rivalry with the Bronx Bombers.

Because of The Phold, the Cardinals had a chance to beat the Yankees in a thrilling seven-game Series in 1964. The Cardinals win cost Yogi Berra his job as manager of the Yankees and handed it to Johnny Keane, the manager of the Miracle Cards, who himself was in line to be fired by St. Louis until his club pulled this incredible comeback and capture of the 1964 World Series Championship.

Who can ever know how far The Phold rippled? Maybe if the Phillies had made it to the 1964 World Series and lost to the Yankees, just maybe it would have been good enough for Mickey Mantle to retire then in contentment, sparing himself and the rest of us  those four extra final seasons (1965-68) that tore his career average down below .300 and exposed him to living decay as a ballplayer in the field.

Maybe this. Maybe that.

And who knows how the absence of The Phold might have affected the future careers of Yogi Berra, Johnny Keane, and Gene Mauch differently? When a team blows a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 games left to play, it simply changes everything for everybody for all time.

What’s impossible to recapture here is how it felt daily to watch this steady slide into ignominy that the Phillies made so desperately. Short of writing a whole book that awakens all the five senses, including special horror movie sound effects on the subject, the best a writer can hope for in this short space is to show you how the Phold Phound Philly over that dark period through a daily look at changes in the standings:

9/20/64: The Phillies (90-60) led the Cardinals (83-66) & the Reds (83-66) by 6.5 games with 12 games to go for the Phillies.

9/21/64: Reds 1 – Phillies 0; Cardinals idle.

Phillies (90-61) led the Reds (84-66)  by 5.5 games & the Cardinals (83-66) by 6 with 11 games to go for the Phillies.

9/22/64: Reds 9 – Phillies 2; Cardinals 2 – Mets 0.

Phillies (90-62) led the Reds (85-66) by 4.5 games & the Cardinals (84-66) by 5 games with 10 games to go for the Phillies.

9/23/64: Reds 6 – Phillies 4; Mets 2 – Cardinals 1.

Phillies (90-63) led the Reds (86-66) by 3.5 games & the Cardinals (84-67) by 5 games with 9 games to go for the Phillies.

9/24/64: Braves 5 – Phillies 3; Cardinals 4-4 – Pirates 2-0; Reds idle.

Phillies (90-64) led the Reds (86-66) by 3 games & the Cardinals (86-67) by 3.5 games with 8 games to go for the Phillies.

9/25/64: Braves 7 – Phillies 5; Reds 3-4 – Mets 0-1; Cardinals 5 – Pirates 3.

Phillies (90-65) led the Reds (88-66) by 1.5 games & the Cardinals (87-67) by 2.5 games with 7 games to go for the Phillies.

9/26/64: Braves 6 – Phillies 4; Reds 6 – Mets 1; Cardinals 6 – Pirates 3.

Phillies (90-66) led the Reds (89-66) by 0.5 games & the Cardinals (88-67) by 1.5 games with 6 games to go for the Phillies.

9/27/64: Braves 14 – Phillies 8; Reds 9-3 – Mets 1-1; Cardinals 5 – Pirates 0.

Reds (91-66) now led the Phillies (90-67) by 1 game & the Cardinals (89-67) by 1.5 games with 5 games to go for the Phillies.

9/28/64: Reds idle; Cardinals 5 – Phillies 1.

Reds (91-66) now led the Cardinals (90-67) by 1 game & the Phillies (90-68) by 1.5 games with 4 games to go for the Phillies.

9/29/64: Pirates 2 – Reds 0; Cardinals 4 – Phillies 2.

Cardinals (91-67) & the Reds (91-67) are now tied for 1st; the Phillies (90-69) now trail by 1.5 games with 3 games to go.

9/30/64: Cardinals 8 – Phillies 5; Pirates 1 – Reds 0.

Cardinals (92-67) now led the Reds (91-68) by 1 game & the Phillies (90-70) by 2.5 games with 2 games to go for the Phillies.

10/01/64: Cardinals & Phillies idle; Reds 5 – Pirates 4.

Cardinals (92-67) now led the Reds (92-68) by 1 game & the Phillies (90-70) by 2.5 games with 2 games to go for the Phillies.

10/02/64: Mets 1 – Cardinals 0; Phillies 4 – Reds 3.

Cardinals (92-68) now led the Reds (92-69) by 0.5 games & the Phillies (91-70) by 1.5 games with 1 game to go for the Phillies.

10/03/64: Mets 15 – Cardinals 5; Reds & Phillies idle.

Cardinals (92-69) now tied with the Reds (92-69) for 1st; the Phillies (91-70) are 1 game back with 1 game to go for all three contending clubs.

10/04/64: Cardinals 11 – Mets 5; Phillies 10 – Reds 0.

Cardinals (93-69) win the NL pennant by 1 game over the Reds (92-70) and Phillies (92-70).

The Phillies came back with a death rattle run in their last two games, but it was far too little and way too late. Forty-five years later, 1964 still hangs in my mind as the most exciting pennant race in personal memory. Some of you will understand exactly what I’m saying here, as will those fans outside Philadelphia who didn’t cut their throats in funereal sympathy for the Phillies.

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