In 1950 — after the Phillies lost the World Series to the Yankees in four straight — the team's future was brighter than a 300watt light bulb.
Robin Roberts was 23; Rich Ashburn 23; Willie Jones 24; Del Ennis 25; Curt Simmons 21; Granny Hamner 23; and 'Stosh' was 24. Plus five or six others in their early to mid-twenties.
I was two at the time, but the Faithful must have been thinking, "We'll be winning for a decade."
But for the next eight years the closest they got to an NL championship was fourth place.
President and owner Robert R. M. Carpenter, Jr., must have been as frustrated as, well, as David P. Montgomery 55 years later.
Finally, Carpenter pulled the plug on the — by then the Wheeze Kids — club bringing in a new GM named John Jacob Quinn, who cleaned house and rebuilt the Phillies.
Quinn joined the Phillies at the end of the 1958 season and from the start he was a tough GM to deal with. Rich Ashburn had just won the '58 NL batting title hitting .350. But Quinn would only offer him a $1000 raise.
"He told me I hit too many singles," Ashburn was quoted as saying. "I said, 'if I hit them any harder they'd be outs.'"
In '59 through '61, GM Quinn traded, sold or released Roberts, Simmons, Hamner, Jones, Ashburn and Stosh Lopata.
Over that same period, he traded for Johnny Callison, Wes Covington, Tony Taylor, Jim Bunning, Gus Traindos, and Roy Sievers. Plus two Rule 5 draft picks, Jack Baldschun and Clay Dalrymple. He hired a young, bright manager named Gene Mauch.
Working with Paul Owens Quinn rebuilt the farm system. It quickly produced Dick Allen, and a number of key players that helped the Phillies get to and win the World Series in '80, including a Hall of Fame third baseman.
On September 20, 1976, Quinn died at the age of 68. As Phillies GM, the closest he got to a championship was the near miss in 1964.
Closer than two in a bed and three in the middle.
Quinn is credited with the worse and best trades in Phillies history. Ferguson Jenkins in 1964 and Steve Carlton in 1972.
The Phillies have a nucleus of young talent, both on the club and in the farm system. But talent that's not yet ready to make the team a winner. The Phillies have the worst record in baseball and will most likely finish the year with such.
Since free agency, long term deals have made trading more difficult than in Quinn's day, and free agency has driven salaries up for less talented players.
The Phillies finished last in '59, '60, and '61 — enduring a 23 game losing streak in '61— Quinn's first three seasons as GM.
Are you ready for that ride? Or can a Quinn-like GM come in and win now.
That is the million dollar question!
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