In 137 years of play, the Phillies have racked up more than a few what-ifs. What if Chico Ruiz doesn’t steal home in 1964? What if Danny Ozark replaces Greg Luzinski for defense on Black Friday 1977? What if the Phillies protect George Bell in the Rule 5 draft? What if they don’t trade Ferguson Jenkins? Or Ryan Sandberg?
What if Michael Martinez doesn’t catch that ball in deep center field that 2011 night in Atlanta and the St. Louis Cardinals don’t make the postseason? What if Chase Utley’s knees don’t go bad and Ryan Howard doesn’t blow out his Achilles tendon? There are many, many more.
Over the next few days, we’ll explore a few of the moments and events that may have flown under the radar but still make you ask: what if? Join us in our trip to an alternate Phillies universe …
If Major League Baseball is able to play a shortened season in 2020, it will be followed by an expanded postseason, with 14 teams, up from the usual 10, in a World Series tournament.
Baseball owners want an expanded postseason for one reason: It makes business sense. Postseasons generate significant interest and for that reason are very lucrative. An expanded postseason will help the owners recoup some of the revenues lost during the shutdown that has been caused by the coronavirus health crisis.
The idea of maximizing postseason revenues is not new. It’s why baseball added the wild card and extra round of playoffs in 1994.
And it’s why the Phillies – in an alternate universe – may have lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox in 1915.
The Phillies, led by the pitching of eventual Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander, opened their first World Series appearance with a victory in Game 1 then lost four straight one-run games as the Red Sox took the title.
Rube Foster, a 19-game winner for the Sox, beat the Phillies in Game 2 and Game 5 at Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl. Woodrow Wilson was in the seats for Game 2, becoming the first President to attend a World Series game, starting a tradition that’s still around today.
The Red Sox’ pitching staff also included a 20-year-old lefty named Babe Ruth. He won 18 games during the regular season in 1915 but made just one appearance in the World Series – as a pinch-hitter. Ruth would go on to play in 40 more World Series games, mostly with the New York Yankees, and club 15 homers. He played his final game at Baker Bowl in 1935, at the age of 40, as a member of the Boston Braves.
In the 1915 World Series, the Phillies came home from Boston for Game 5 trailing three games to one. They received a bad break when Alexander could not pitch because of a sore arm. They received another tough break – actually three of them – when Boston hitters smacked three ground-rule home runs to clinch the series with a 5-4 win.
You’ve heard of ground-rule doubles, but home runs?
Well, they became a thing in the 1915 World Series because Phillies owner William F. Baker ordered temporary seating to be added to the ballpark’s spacious left and center field so he could increase the capacity of his 20,000-seat ballpark and make more money. Boston’s Duffy Lewis hit one ball into the temporary seating area and Harry Hooper hit two of them there, including the decisive blow in the top of the ninth inning. All three became ground-rule homers as the Red Sox “powered” their way to the title in the old yard on North Broad Street.
Hooper went on to coach baseball at Princeton and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1971.
Baker, who named his ballpark after, well, himself, was known for selling off top players and erecting a high wall in right field to deny Chuck Klein home runs so he wouldn’t have to pay the future Hall of Famer big bucks back. Baker’s money-grab in October 1915 reinforced his reputation as a cheapskate. He was hammered by the sporting press of the day. In an alternate universe, Game 5 is played with center field wide open, the drives by Duffy and Hooper stay in the yard, the Phillies win, keep the series alive, maybe take the next two and don’t have to wait 62 years to win another postseason game and 65 years to win their first World Series.
Red Sox ownership also looked to maximize revenues in the 1915 World Series, but it didn’t rope off the outfield and change the playing surface at Fenway Park. The Sox played their home games a few miles away at larger Braves Field.
Baker reportedly had a chance to do something similar but turned down an offer to play up the street at Shibe Park.
And the rest is Phillies history.
At least Joe Carter hit his ball over the wall.