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'Whiz Kids' core couldn't continue hot start in 1953

(Another in a series of seasons in Phillies history that end in a 3)

With nine players remaining from the "Whiz Kids" core that won the 1950 National League pennant, the 1953 Phillies under manager Steve O'Neill finished tied for third place with St. Louis (83-71).

An eight-game winning streak enabled the Phillies to get off to a 9-2 start and a spot in first place on April 26. They last tasted first place on May 21, when they were in the midst of a five-game losing streak. They finished 22 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers (105-49).

While the core players of the "Whiz Kids" were in their prime, it was the Phils' last winning season until 1962 (81-80) and the highest finish until 1964 (second place).

Robin Roberts had a typical season. The 26-year-old workhorse right-hander won 20 games and hurled over 300 innings for the fourth straight season, and he followed with two more such seasons. He led the NL in wins (23), innings (347) and strikeouts (198), which was a career high.

One of the game's greatest streaks ended on July 5 -- Roberts' streak of 28 consecutive complete games. He finished with a career-high 33 complete games 60 years ago, also a league high. As a sign for how the game has changed, the Tampa Bay Rays' staff led the Majors in complete games in 2013 with nine.

For the second straight season, Roberts was named the Major League Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. There was no Cy Young Award for pitchers during that time.

Left-hander Curt Simmons, 24, became the first pitcher in Phillies history to allow a leadoff hit and then retire 27 consecutive hitters. Braves center fielder Billy Bruton got the hit (single) in Milwaukee's County Stadium on May 16. Simmons' 16-13 record was second to Roberts on the staff. Simmons missed a month of the season starting in late May when he accidentally cut off the end of one of his big toes while mowing the lawn.

Center fielder Richie Ashburn, 26, led the club with a .330 average, while scoring 110 runs and leading the league with 205 hits, including the most singles -- 169.

Left fielder Del Ennis, 28, led the club with 29 homers and 125 RBIs, his fourth straight season of over 100 runs batted in. A slugger, Ennis struck out only 53 times in 643 at-bats.

Granny Hamner, 26, led the club with 30 doubles and finished second in home runs (21) and RBIs (92). He appeared in 71 games at shortstop, his normal position, and 93 at second base.

Four players were on the NL All-Star team -- Roberts, Simmons, Ashburn and Hamner.

Second baseman Connie Ryan, 33, in his second season with the Phillies, set a club record when he went 6-for-6 (four singles and two doubles) in Pittsburgh on April 18. The record hasn't been matched. His Phils career was short-lived as he was claimed on waivers by the White Sox in August.

Attendance at Connie Mack Stadium was 853,644, fourth best in the league.

Larry Shenk is a contributor to
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