Saturday, September 26, 2009

Philadelphia was no place for a young player in 1967

After trading away rookie pitcher Ferguson Jenkins for 2 old-timers (Larry Jackson, Bob Buhl) in early 1966, the Phillies apparently thought old = good, as they loaded up on aging veterans in the off-season. Pitchers Pedro Ramos, Ruben Gomez, Dick Hall, and Joey Jay were all brought in to supplement Bob Buhl and Terry Fox in the bullpen. First baseman Jim Gentile was signed to give the equally-old Bill White some time off.

This preference for geezers soon went by the wayside, as Jay, Fox, and Gentile never made it out of spring training (the latter two spending the year with the Phillies' triple-A team in San Diego, while surprisingly, Joey Jay wrapped up a long career by pitching for the Phillies single-A team in Tidewater). By mid-June, the Phillies had also dumped Buhl, Ramos, and Gomez, along with aging position players Dick Groat and Jackie Brandt. For good measure, little-used pitcher Dallas Green was let go 2 weeks before season's end.

My introduction to major league baseball

My first baseball game was in May 1967, when the Phillies hosted the Cincinnati Reds at Connie Mack Stadium. This is when I started following MLB, and collecting baseball cards. It was all new to me, so I knew nothing of the Phillies' infamous 1964 collapse.

The Phillies had a decent team in 1967, but with the exception of Richie Allen, they were top heavy with veterans on the downside of their careers. Jim Bunning and Chris Short were still top-notch pitchers, Allen was an offensive star, and Johnny Callison was a good hitting outfielder starting his downward slide. Cookie Rojas and Tony Gonzalez were serviceable/adequate players, but the rest were mostly filler.

The team continued to bottom out over the next several years, as Bunning was traded after 1967, Gonzalez and 4 others were selected by the expansion teams after 1968, and finally, Allen, Rojas, and Callison were traded away after the 1969 season. By the start of 1970, only Rick Wise, Chris Short, Tony Taylor, Grant Jackson, and John Briggs remained from the 1967 team, as the Phillies started the decade-long rebuilding process that would culminate in the 1980 World Series championship.