From the way it began, it would've been impossible to predict how the decade of the 1940s would wind up for the Phillies. In an amazing turnaround, the team went from rock bottom to being a pennant-contender.
The franchise had its worst teams in the early 1940s. By 1942, the club had lost more than 100 games for the fifth straight season, including a club-record 111 in 1941.
More weak teams followed during the World War II years between 1942 and 1945. But by 1949, a pennant was just around the corner.
The decade began with a practicing dentist, Doc Prothro, as manager, and ended with a college professor, Eddie Sawyer (photo at right), as the skipper. The Phils entered the '40s with a pitching staff anchored by Hugh Mulcahy, who before he became the first Major Leaguer drafted in WWII, was known as "Losing Pitcher." They ended the decade with a future Hall of Famer named Robin Roberts leading the staff.
The Phillies of the early '40s had a kid from Chester who answered to Danny Murtaugh playing second base. Nick Etten was a solid first baseman. And in 1942, left fielder Danny Litwhiler (photo at left) became the first outfielder to play a whole season and field a perfect 1.000.
The 1942 season also launched an upheaval at the top. Team ownership went rapidly from debt-ridden Gerry Nugent to William Cox, who was soon banned from baseball for betting on his own team, to Bob Carpenter.
Under Carpenter and the club's first full-time general manager, Herb Pennock, improvement occurred quickly. A farm system, which later had working agreements with 15 teams, was developed. Youngsters Del Ennis, Andy Seminick and Granny Hamner (photo at right) were signed. And in a contest among fans to pick a new nickname for the team, Blue Jays was the winner. It never became the official nickname, and was phased out by 1949.
Ken Raffensberger became the first Phillies pitcher to win an All-Star game in 1944. Andy Karl set a league record in 1945 by appearing in 67 games. In 1946, first baseman Frank McCormick set a league fielding record with a .999 mark, the team drew 1,045,247, nearly double its previous attendance record, and Ennis was named Rookie of the Year.
The Phils began 1947 with their first Spring Training at Clearwater. Harry Walker won the league's batting championship with a .363 average, and a record 41,660 watched a doubleheader with Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Shibe Park.
Within the next year, Roberts and Richie Ashburn (photo at left) had arrived. So had Curt Simmons and veterans Dick Sisler and Jim Konstanty.
In 1949, with the soon-to-be named Whiz Kids virtually in place, the Phils wound up third, their highest finish since 1917. First baseman Eddie Waitkus was shot by a deranged woman in June, but that proved only a temporary setback as the Phillies continued their push upward.