The Philadelphia Phillies owe their birth in 1883 to the death of the old Worcester club. Worcester in Massachusetts had been deemed too small to support a major league team.
After three seasons in the National League, the club was disbanded and the franchise rights sold.
Needing a team to balance out their schedule, the NL awarded an expansion team to Philadelphia to begin play in the 1883 season.
Originally nicknamed the “Quakers”, the team was frequently referred to that season as the “Philadelphias”, which was shortened to “Phillies” on a regular basis.
Known as the “Phillies” and the “Quakers” through 1889, the former was embraced much more by fans and sportswriters, and so “Phillies” became the official nickname in the 1890 season. It is the oldest continuous same city, same name professional sports team in American history.
PHILLIES EARLY DECADES TEAMS
The Phillies were a fairly successful club on the field for the better part of the first 35 or so years of their existence. In 1915, the team won their first National League pennant after having finished in second place three times and third place another half-dozen times prior.
Beginning in 1918, the fortunes of the team changed for the worse. Thanks to a series of poor ownership groups, the Phillies would experience just one winning season until 1949.
From the 1918 through 1948 campaigns, the Phils finished a combined 1,189 games below the .500 mark. For five straight seasons from 1938-42, the club lost at least 103 games each year. They would pass the century mark in losses in seven seasons between 1936 and the end of World War II.
THE WHIZ KIDS AND 1964 COLLAPSE
The ‘Whiz Kids’, a young group of talented players, emerged to break the spell with a winning 1949. The following year they captured just the second NL pennant in franchise history, and continued playing competitively through the 1957 season.
After sinking back to the bottom of the league once again from the 1958-61 seasons, another group of youngsters emerged to form the next winning Phillies club.
The 1964 team infamously held a 6.5 game lead with just 12 games to play, only to collapse with 10 straight losses. That team would finish in second place, a game out. Though the team had a winning record every year from 1962-67, they never came close other than that one ill-fated season.
THE DIVISIONAL ERA YIELDS FIRST WINNER
Baseball expanded and began divisional play in the 1969 season. The Phillies again collapsed to the bottom of the standings, finishing in last place for five straight years through 1973.
Once again, a new group of homegrown players began to emerge. Supplemented by a series of astute acquisitions by a talented leadership group that included owner Ruly Carpenter, scouting director Dallas Green, and general manager Paul Owens, the Phillies built a sustainable winner.
From 1976-83 the Phillies were regular contenders. They won the NL East title six times in those eight seasons, counting the 1981 split-season.
And finally in 1980, the Phillies won the World Series, capturing the first championship of Major League Baseball in franchise history.
FUTILITY OUTSIDE MAGICAL 1983 AND 1993
Following a second World Series appearance in four years in the 1983 season, the Phillies organization again began to scramble. A series of bad personnel moves resulted in a slow decline to another losing era.
The years 1987-92 were a mostly miserable half-dozen season stretch of failure. The club had a losing record every year. In fact, that futility would stretch out to the year 2000, with 13 of 14 losing seasons.
The one notable exception during that stretch of futility came during a magical, worst-to-first 1993 season. The Phillies led nearly wire-to-wire in the NL East, and upset the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. That Phils team then pushed the defending champion Toronto Blue Jays nearly to the brink in the World Series.
PHILLIES GLORY ERA
It would not be until the 2001 season that the Phillies would field another winner. That season began the greatest winning stretch in franchise history. Over a dozen seasons, only the 80-81 team in 2002 would have a losing record.
Thanks to a large group of homegrown stars supplemented by astute trades and signings, the Phillies would capture five consecutive NL East crowns. In 2011, the Phillies would win a franchise record 102 games during the regular season.
The icing on the cake during that run came in 2008. Those Phillies matched the 1980 club by capturing just the second World Series championship in franchise history.
The Phillies rise thanks to that homegrown core ended almost as abruptly as it had begun. Most of that core aged out together after 2012, and the Phillies have not fielded a winning team since.
Now in the midst of a major rebuilding program, the Philadelphia Phillies are trying to emerge using that same proven formula: building from within. The club has improved their minor league system greatly, and put themselves in a strong financial position to contend within the next couple of years.
HISTORY OF MEMORABLE PLAYERS
A look back through the history of this storied team shows long valleys of losing. But it also shows that over the last half-century, the Phillies have been one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball.
There have been many greats to pull on a Phillies uniform in over a century of play. 32 players who have worn that uniform are now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Nine of them played a significant portion of their careers with the Phillies.
Five Phillies have won the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Four pitchers have captured the Cy Young Award, while four more have been the NL Rookie of the Year.
There have been 16 different players to capture a Gold Glove Award, with the Phillies having seen one of their players win the honors at every position across the diamond.
The Phillies are a truly historic team, one of baseball’s “Classic Eight” franchises. If you opened the papers in 1883, you could read about a Philadelphia Phillies team. Now as we head towards 2017, fans can do the same, just as their great-great-great grandparents did before them.
APOLOGIES TO PHILLIES GREATS LEFT OUT
When crafting an All-Time 25-Man Roster for a team with a long and storied a history as the Phillies, you are going to leave out some truly great players.
The Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame includes 35 men who have taken the field as a player with the team. Of those players, 17 did not make my Phillies All-Time 25-Man Roster. As always, I have included two relievers and two catchers.
To the following players, and dozens more, I truly apologize: