Looking back at the 1940 Phillies

August 26th, 2020
MIAMI BEACH -- Pete Angell, pitcher for the Syracuse Chiefs, out at first in the ninth inning of the game with the Phillies at Miami Beach. Ed Levy is on first for the Phillies, and Donnelly of the International League is the umpire. Phillies won 5-3. (Photo: courtesy of Bob Warrington)

Yes, the Phillies held spring training in Miami Beach 80 years ago and during that era played minor league teams during the exhibition games. The Chiefs were a Class AA minor league team of the Pittsburgh Pirates. A win over a minor league team is generally meaningless. For the 1940 Phillies any win was cherished.

For five straight seasons, the Phillies lost over 100 games, the most cheerless era in franchise history. Right in the middle was the 1940 club which finished 50 games out of first place thanks to a 50-103 record. Losses two previous seasons, 105, 106; two following years, 111, 109.

Gloomy nuggets

• Doc Protho, former third baseman, was the manager, middle year of three with the club. Named Doc as he was a dentist in Tennessee when he signed to a pro contract at age 26. Went right to American League Washington Senators.

• The start of the season was also gloomy. After playing the opener against the Giants in New York on April 16, their next six games were postponed because of rain. Next game (April 23) turned out to be the home opener at Shibe Park….against the Giants.

• Those six postponements created doubleheaders on June 30, July 3, July 7, August 6, August 18, September 7. Total DH for season, 33; 15 times lost both.

• RHP Kirby Higbe won the season opener (3-1) and lost the home opener (1-0). He wound up leading the club in wins (14-19).

• RHP Hugh Mulcahy led the league in loses (10-22 record). Included was a 12-game losing streak. Gained national notoriety the following year when he became the first major league player drafted into the military. He missed four seasons, 1941-44.

• Pitching staff included a Si Johnson (5-14) and a Syl Johnson (2-2). Syl doubled as the pitching coach.

• LF Johnny Rizzo led the club with 20 homers and 53 RBI while batting .292, .001 below the team leader, 3B Pinky May.

• RF Chuck Klein, released by the Pirates in spring training, was signed as a free agent in late March. He was a shell of his glory days, .218, 7 homers, 37 RBI in 116 games.

• For the first time since the 1933 inaugural All-Star Game, the Phillies had three players on the NL squad, Higbe, Mulcahy, May.

• Phillies averaged 4,737 per game; finished drawing 288,970. Both figures last in NL.

• Levy, the Phillies first baseman in the photo? His Phillies career consisted of one pinch at-bat on April 16 in the Polo Grounds this season.

Phinally

In March 1940, the Phillies, along with the St. Louis Browns and Boston Braves were made outstanding offers of $5,000,000 by attorney Richard Cantillon for one of the teams to move its franchise to Los Angeles. Phillies owner Gerald Nugent quickly dismissed the possibility of the Phillies considering the move. Palm Beach Daily News. April 24, 1940.