If there was one thing that characterized the 1950s, it was the Whiz Kids. Purely and simply, the decade belonged to the Whiz Kids.
The Whiz Kids were Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn and Del Ennis (photo at right). They were Granny Hamner, Willie Jones and Curt Simmons. All were products of the Phillies farm system, young, exciting players who with a handful of key veterans gave the franchise one of its most beloved teams.
Managed by Eddie Sawyer, and also featuring such solid vets as Andy Seminick, Dick Sisler and Eddie Waitkus (photo at left), who had returned from the previous year's gunshot wound, the Whiz Kids' star shone only briefly. The club won its first National League pennant in 35 years in 1950. Disappointingly, it could climb no higher than third place thereafter.
The 1950 season was one of unbounding excitement. The Phillies led most of the way, and with 11 games left to play had a seven-game lead. The team, however, went into a late-season tailspin, losing eight of 10 games. On the last day of the season, the Phils had a one-game lead.
Playing the final game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, the Phillies won, 4-1, in 10 innings on Sisler's dramatic three-run homer. Roberts went 10 gritty innings to get the win, after Ashburn threw out Cal Abrams at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
In the World Series, the Phils were no match for the New York Yankees, losing all four games, including the first three by one run. The highlight of the Series for the Phils came in the first game when Sawyer tapped Jim Konstanty (photo at right) as the starter, and the veteran reliever gave up just four hits before losing, 1-0.
Konstanty, who won 16 and saved 22, was named the National League's Most Valuable Player, the first reliever to win the award. Roberts won 20 in what would be his first of six straight 20-plus win seasons. Ennis led the league in RBI with 126.
After 1950, however, the Phils faded quickly. They were fifth in 1951, and by the end of the decade had drifted back to the bottom.
Roberts had a sparkling 28-7 record in 1952, Ashburn won batting titles in 1955 and 1958 and Ennis drove in more than 100 runs in six of seven seasons. Smoky Burgess (photo at right) hit .368 in 1954, Stan Lopata set a home run record for Phils catchers with 32 in 1956, pitcher Jack Sanford with a 19-8 mark and first baseman Ed Bouchee won top rookie honors in 1957 and Gene Freese hit three grand slams homers in 1959.
The Phillies played host to their first All-Star Game in 1952. Two years later, the Athletics moved away, and Shibe Park became the property of the Phils. In 1957 John Kennedy and Chico Fernandez became the Phillies first black players. John Quinn was named the team's general manager in 1959, replacing Roy Hamey. One of his first moves was to land Johnny Callison in a trade.
The 1959 Phils had a team that included Sparky Anderson (photo at left) at second and NBA player Gene Conley on the mound.