Monday, September 28, 2015

Both teams, the 2015 Nationals, and the 1965 Phillies were major disappointments to its fan base.

The Phillies lived through the collapse the previous season, losing ten straight, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to creep in, winning the NL Championship.

The club made some adjustments and had high hopes for the '65 season. The Phillies were 40-34 the night it happened — four-and-a-half out of first and two-and-a-half behind second-place Cincinnati.

It?

At Connie Mack Stadium on the night of July 3, 1965 — 50 years ago — behind the practice batting cage, at 5:30 p.m. The veteran, Frank Thomas swung his bat and hit the youngster, Dick Allen on the shoulder.

At the time, Allen, then 23 and in his second major league season, was hitting an NL-leading .341 and was named a starter in the '65 All-Star game. He was by far the Phillies best player.

Like the Jonathon Papelbon - Bryce Harper scuffle in the Nationals dugout Sunday, bad feelings had been brewing between Allen and Thomas.

Thomas said Allen sucker-punched him, provoking him to swing his bat hitting Allen on the shoulder.

Papelbon grabbed Harper in the National's dugout.
Allen later said, "He said some things I didn't like and not knowing what I know now, being young, I hit him. But I had to. I did what I had to do."

Allen said Thomas had been needling him for several days, and it continued behind the batting cage that evening.

I was 16 at the time and remember it like it was yesterday.

According to the New York Times, Papelbon hit a player on Wednesday and Harper made a comment about it — "I'll probably get  drilled tomorrow."

Indicating (The Times) that perhaps Papelbon didn't like Harper's earlier comment, Papelbon started a verbal confrontation in the dugout with Harper, 22, by far the Nationals best player, after he made an out.

They quarreled. Then allegedly Papelbon grabbed Harber by the throat and slammed him against the dugout wall.

What happened next, however, differed in the two situations. The veteran Papelbon was allowed to go back out and pitch the ninth, getting hammered by the Phillies and blowing the save.

Harper was pulled from the game.

Like Allen in '65, Harper leads the league in average, .341, and home runs, 41.

At Connie Mack Stadium, both Allen and Thomas played that night. The Phillies lost the game, as did the  Nationals, but Allen went 3 for 4 with 4 RBIs and Thomas hit an eighth-inning home run. The Phillies manager Gene Mauch threatened his players with $1,000 fines if they talked about the incident to the media ($2000 for Allen.)

That evening, the Phillies placed Thomas on irrevocable waivers. For Allen, it seemed to mark his downhill spiral with the Phillies. As the team dropped out of contention, the fans took their frustration out on Allen and booed him.

The booing continued throughout Allen's career with the Phillies. He was traded to St. Louis four years later. Some say the Phillies made a mistake releasing Thomas and making Allen a target for the Philly boo birds.

Besides being young and good, there are other similarities between Harper and Allen. At times, both have been accused of not playing as hard as they could. In Philly, the Faithful can spot that blindfolded and locked in a cement room.

And once they do, you've had it.

It will be interesting to see if Washington protects their best player, as the Phillies did in 1965. Was it just 'boys being boys,' as both Papelbon and Harper proclaim? Or does their beef run deeper? Also, Thomas was a fan favorite, which the veteran Papelbon is far from.

It won't be surprising if the Nationals dump Papelbon just as the Phillies did with Thomas 50 years ago.

We'll see.
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