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Despite record, '23 Phils boasted healthy offense


Spring Training was held in Leesburg, Fla., at Cooke Ball Park from 1922-24, according to Bob Warrington, a Philadelphia baseball historian and memorabilia collector.

Warrington also noted camp was enlivened by an appearance of Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter who for years displayed her shooting talents as a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Her husband, Frank, threw pennies into the air for Oakley to shoot. After the exhibition, the Phillies scrambled to pick up remnants of the pennies.

Art Fletcher was the new manager in 1923, the fourth new skipper in five seasons. The team finished eighth, 50-104, suffering the most losses in the 40 years of the franchise. Fifty-five of the losses came at Baker Bowl, a club record.

The Phillies also played one tie, including a 5-5, 14-inning game on Opening Day against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Offense wasn't the issue. Five players hit batted .300 or better. Led by center fielder Cy Williams' league-leading 41 homers, the Phils led the National League with 112. His home run total was matched by Babe Ruth in the American League. Williams also led the NL in extra-base hits, 66, and was second in RBIs, 114. Fifteen of Williams home runs were hit in May, a club record that hasn't been matched or broken.

Two games that proved the Phillies' offensive prowess:

• May 11 -- Philadelphia outslugged St. Louis, 20-14, at Baker Bowl. The two teams combined for 10 home runs, then a Major League record. Williams hit three.

• July 21, first game -- They scored 12 runs in the sixth inning in blasting the Chicago Cubs, 17-4, also at Baker Bowl. No Phillies team has matched that sixth-inning outburst. The 12 runs stood as a club record until the 2003 Phils scored 13 in an inning at Cincinnati.

To lose 104 games, pitching had to be the issue. Seventeen pitchers took the mound that season and compiled a 5.30 ERA. Even more astonishing, the staff allowed the most hits (1,801) and walks (549) in the NL. The staff struck out only 384.

Only one pitcher had a winning record: right-hander Jimmy Ring, at 18-16. And he led the league in earned runs (131), walks (115) and wild pitches (14).

Defense was another weakness. Led by shortstop Heinie Sand's league-high 50 errors, the Phillies finished with 217 in 155 games. Oddly, 217 errors was the league average.

Attendance at Baker Bowl was just 228,168, an average of 3,042. Revenue from scorecard sales had to be minimal.

According to, a real oddity occurred on July 13: "Leo 'Red' Miller, a former Phils batboy, clubhouse attendant and batting practice pitcher, was called out of the stands to suit up when Cincinnati was routing Philadelphia at Baker Bowl. Miller, who pitched semi-pro ball at the time, came into the game to pitch one scoreless inning, then was back on the mound the next inning and surrendered six hits, a walk and six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. Cincinnati won, 21-7." The game took one hour, 54 minutes.

Larry Shenk is a contributor to

Philadelphia Phillies