Baseball was different during World War II. How different was it? Well, did you know that in 1943, the Phillies played a stunning 43 doubleheaders? And that eight of them were split gates, with one game at 10 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m. for the benefit of war
Baseball was different during World War II. How different was it? Well, did you know that in 1943, the Phillies played a stunning 43 doubleheaders? And that eight of them were split gates, with one game at 10 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m. for the benefit of war workers on swing shifts?
That's just one of the tidbits included in Larry Shenk's latest book, "The Fightin' Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits." And nobody is better positioned to tell these tales than Shenk, who worked for the team for more than 50 years.
What he's produced in his second compilation -- "If These Walls Could Talk" came out in 2014 -- is another relaxed stroll down memory lane, a smorgasbord of all things Phillies from an author who has had an inside look at so much of the franchise's history.
The narrative is loosely divided into categories, and turning to any page at random can turn up something amusing from the wry observation. Like the 1915 Phillies team that became the first to make it to the World Series had a player named Bud Weiser or that the Philadelphia Inquirer's story on the pennant clinching shared a page with the headlined "2 Children Badly Burned By Overturning Tea Kettles."
Spring Training was different in those days, too. There's an essay by Phillies historian Bob Warrington describing what it was like in those bygone days when the team worked out at Coffee Pot Park in St. Petersburg, including an adventurous team fishing trip.
That provides a natural jumping off point to list all the different cities in which the Phillies have prepared for their seasons, with detailed explanations of a few. Like Hershey, Pa. There is also a long look at the various sites in Clearwater, the Phillies home base for the last 70 years, where the players worked out, along with some of their memories.
Here we not only find a discussion of all the different ballparks the Phillies have used, but a story about how owner William Baker's 1915 decision not to move the Phillies' home World Series games to Shibe Park, the Philadelphia Athletics' more capacious stadium, helped cost his team the clinching game against the Red Sox.
The losing share that year, by the way, was $2,520.
The Phillies didn't make it back to the World Series until 1950 when Jim Konstanty became the first and only relief pitcher to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award. Here we have the explanation for why he then started Game 1 of the World Series.
The Pitchometer designed by Dr. I.M. Levitt of the Franklin Institute that was used in the early 1960s to measure the velocity of young athletes, and the 1952 game in which Robin Roberts pitched 17 innings and probably threw well over 300 pitches are covered.
There are also sections focusing on more recent events such as Roy Halladay's no-hitters, Ryan Howard's 58-homer season and Chase Utley's fabulous 2008 World Series. There are in-depth examinations of some of the behind-the-scenes people at Citizens Bank Park, from the Phillie Phanatic to the clubhouse attendants to the entertainment director to the public address announcer to the director of landscaping -- yes, there is such a position -- to the groundskeeper to the video production operation to the broadcasters to the scouts to Minor League personnel.
Wall of Famers, brothers who have played for the Phillies, nicknames, unbreakable records. All this, and much more, is included in "The Fightin' Phils".
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.