Inaugural Years Can Be Tough For Phillies
(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)
Publisher
Posted Jan 20, 2009


If inaugural years mark anything for the Phillies, they generally mark having a new manager to start the season. That's not the case in 2009, so the Phillies hope that another inaugural tradition - losing - won't be the case, either.

1949 Harry S. Truman

After 16 seasons of finishing no higher than fifth, the Phillies finally seemed to be poised to pounce. Over the winter, they added Eddie Waitkus, Russ Meyer and Bill Nicholson in trades. By August, the Phillies were underachieving and in what has become a classic tirade, manager Eddie Sawyer tore into his team for how they were approaching the game. By the end of the season, the Phillies were in third and finished 81-73. Of course, the '49 Phillies would turn into the 1950 Whiz Kids, who improved by ten games and won the National League pennant.

1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower

After winning the National League pennant in 1950, the Phillies were back to being also-rans. Eddie Sawyer didn't survive the 1952 season as manager and Steve O'Neill took over. O'Neill would manage his first and last full season in 1953 with the Phillies finishing 83-71, just as they had done four years earlier when Truman was sworn in. Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons provided a one-two punch on the pitching staff and the likes of Del Ennis, Richie Ashburn and Granny Hamner led the offense.

1957 Dwight D. Eisenhower

By now, the Whiz Kids were worn out and the Phillies had to try a different approach. They turned to a youth movement, bringing up pitchers like Jack Sanford, Don Cardwell, Dick Farrell and Seth Morehead. For offense, they turned to Ed Bouchee, Harry Anderson and Bob Bowman. The Phillies also added shortstop Chico Fernandez, who became the first black player in the Phillies everyday lineup. In a controversial move, the Phillies had dealt Del Ennis to St. Louis for Rip Repulski, who would lead the team with 20 home runs, while Ennis would hit 24 and drive in 37 more runs than Repulski in what would be Ennis' last big season at the plate.

1961 John F. Kennedy

Eddie Sawyer returned to manage the Phillies part way through the 1958 season and lasted into the 1960 season when he was replaced by Andy Cohen. To finish the season, the Phillies turned to Gene Mauch, who would go on to manage the Phillies into the 1968 season. The Phillies set a record for futility by losing 23 straight games, a record that even the horrific 1962 Mets wouldn't beat. The last win before the streak started came from John Buzhardt and the win to break the streak also came from Buzhardt, who won just four other games that season. Robin Roberts was in what would be his last season with the Phillies and finished 1-10, while spending much of the season arguing with Mauch. The putrid 1961 Phillies finished at 47-107, 46 games out of first place. To Mauch's credit - and thanks in part to expansion - the Phillies would finish the following season at 81-80, but still finish just seventh in the NL.

1965 Lyndon B. Johnson

The '65 Phillies had the unenviable task of putting the calamity of 1964 behind them. To help get them back to the pennant race, the Phillies added Dick Stuart, Bo Belinsky and Ray Herbert during the off-season. Only Stuart would truly help the club, while pitchers Belinsky and Herbert finished with a combined mark of 9-17 on the season. The '65 Phillies were still pretty good, but not good enough, finishing 85-76 and 11 1/2 games out of first.

1969 Richard M. Nixon

Gene Mauch didn't survive the 1968 season and finished his managerial career with the Phillies with a mark of 646-684 (.486). In '69, Mauch took over the expansion Montreal Expos. George Myatt took over for Mauch after the Phillies got off to a 27-27 start and were seventh in the NL, but Myatt was later replaced by Bob Skinner, who would also start the 1969 season at the helm of the Phillies. Skinner feuded with temperamental Dick Allen about almost everything imaginable and at one point, Allen actually moved his locker into out of the Phillies clubhouse and into a broom closet. Skinner was gone at mid-season and again Myatt took over. Again, the Phillies were hapless and finished 63-99, but avoided last place in the newly formed National League East, thanks to Mauch's Expos.

1973 Richard M. Nixon

Frank Lucchesi took over the Phillies in 1970 and lasted through part of the '72 season when Paul Owens replaced him in the dugout. After the season, the job went to the always sullen looking Danny Ozark, who would help to usher in some of the best years in Phillies history. Owens, the team's general manager, went out and added pitching in the form of Ken Brett and Jim Lonborg. He dealt Oscar Gamble and Roger Freed to Cleveland for Del Unser, who took over in center field, freeing up Willie Montanez to play at first base. Rookies Bob Boone and Mike Schmidt joined the team and at the time, Boone looked like he would be the better player, with Schmidt hitting just .196 in his first full season with the club. Ozark stuck by Schmidt and the rest has become history. The '73 Phillies finished at 80-82, third in the NL East.

1977 Jimmy Carter

While Ozark's first season in '73 didn't go well, he was slowly moving them up in the division. In 1976, the Phillies won their first division title under Ozark with Schmidt. Early on, it didn't look like the Phillies would come anywhere near the 101 games that they had won in 1976. A mid-season deal to get Bake McBride gave the Phillies the leadoff hitter they needed and the spark was back in the Phillies. Greg Luzinski finished second in MVP balloting and Steve Carlton led the league with 23 wins as the Phillies repeated their 101 wins and again won the NL East by five games.

1981 Ronald Reagan

Even though the Phillies won four straight division titles under Ozark, the Phillies started 65-67 in 1979 and Dallas Green took over as the club's manager. Green, with the complete opposite demeanor of Ozark, let his club know that he wouldn't stand for anything less than full throttle play. In 1980, it was Green who carried the Phillies to not just the post-season, but that elusive World Series championship that they had been waiting for. In 1981, a 60 day player's strike interrupted the season, causing the year to become a split-season race. When the strike began, the Phillies were firing on all cylinders and had a 1 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals in the division. When play resumed, their engine had become gummed up and the club looked very much different from the one that started the season. The Phillies won the first half, but finished 4 1/2 games out in the second half. Even though St. Louis had the best record in the division, the Phillies and Expos - the second half champions - battled in a five-game playoff series, with the Expos winning three games to two. 1981 would turn out to be Green's final season as manager of the Phillies.

1985 Ronald Reagan

After Green's exit, both Pat Corrales and Paul Owens had managed the Phillies when John Felske took over for the '85 season. The Phillies went into an early tailspin, starting 18-34 and lost 11 straight games as they floundered at the bottom of the division. Felske, who was in his first season as a major league manager, looked somewhat lost. The Phillies had finished 1984 at 81-81, but could muster just 75 wins in 1985. Felske would show a slight turnaround in '86, but would be gone part way through the '87 season.

1989 George H.W. Bush

The 1989 season ushered in Nick Leyva's time as manager of the Phillies. With the Phillies again turning to a first-time manager and coming off of a 65-96 season, there wasn't much hope for the '89 season, which turned out to be just how the season played out. Leyva worked with GM Lee Thomas to try to find the right mix of players, but it just wasn't going to happen. Before the season, Thomas had added Tommy Herr, Steve Lake, Jeff Parrett, Dickie Thon and Floyd Youmans. John Kruk and Randy Ready came to the Phillies during the season in a deal with San Diego and Lenny Dykstra joined the club in a Father's Day trade with the Mets. Roger McDowell, Terry Mulholland, Dennis Cook and Charlie Hayes also joined the club during the season, but to no avail. The '89 Phillies improved by just two games over the previous season, finishing 26 games out, last in the NL East.

1993 Bill Clinton

Jim Fregosi took over as manager during the '91 season and was still there to start the 1993 season. His 1992 club had finished 70-92, last in the NL East. For 1993, the Phillies assembled a somewhat scary looking group of players. John Kruk said they were throwbacks; "Thrown back by other organizations," cracked the jovial first baseman. Kruk would be somewhat of a ring leader on what would be called "Macho Row". The formula worked though, as the Phillies drew more than three-million fans and Fregosi guided his misfits to the World Series. 1993 would also become the Phillies only winning season in a streak that would span 14 seasons from 1986 through 2000.

1997 Bill Clinton

Another new manager would take over the Phillies to start the 1997 season and again, it was a first-timer. Terry Francona inherited a team that lost 95 games the year before and was given the challenge to turn things around. Again, the change in managers signaled a change in attitudes from the fire breathing Jim Fregosi, who had led the Phillies to their first World Series appearance since 1980 just four years earlier. Scott Rolen picked up the National League Rookie of the Year Award and was seen as a player that the Phillies could build their team around. Francona's fist season as Phillies manager didn't turn out well, with the Phillies finishing fifth in the East at 68-94.

2001 George W. Bush

Another inauguration, another new manager. And again, a complete turnaround in personality as the meek Francona exited in favor of spit-fire Larry Bowa. The former Phillies great had been upset by the Phillies when he was passed over to manage the '97 club, but all had been made well and Bowa was welcomed back to the club as the manager of the 2001 Phillies. This time, the attitude adjustment worked and Bowa took his club from 30 games out in 2000 to just two games out in his first year as manager and was named NL Manager of the Year. The Phillies started 35-15 and looked like they would be able to handle the division for the entire season. Instead, things cooled and a 6-16 tailspin put the Phillies 3 1/2 games out in early September. As baseball was paused by the events of September 11, 2001, the Phillies returned to their earlier form, but in the end, they wouldn't be able to win the division.

2005 George W. Bush

Like clockwork, the Phillies had a new manager as the country inaugurated George W. Bush for a second term. Again, the fiery approach was gone and a kinder, gentler approached reigned with the arrival of Charlie Manuel. "Uncle" Charlie as he's known to many Phillies fans has made himself into one of the most popular managers in Phillies history. Inheriting a team that was over .500 in each of the last two seasons, Manuel used his personality to push his players to the next level. His first year, Manuel would take the Phillies to an 88-74 record, but finish second in the division. They would face the same second place finish in 2006, until breaking through in 2007 and winning the World Series in 2008.

In nine of the 15 inaugural years since 1949, the Phillies have had a new manager. Not so this year as Charlie Manuel is riding a wave of success and just received a contract extension in December. In case you're doing the math at home, the Phillies have a record of 1088-1194 in inaugural years since 1949 and have won one division title, shared the split-season title in one season and have one National League Championship. They have also had one season with more than 100 wins and one with more than 100 losses. Since the Phillies aren't ushering in an era of change in the manager's office, let's hope that there won't be change in their recent successes, either.




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