I don’t need to tell you that it wasn’t so long ago that October was the best month of the year in Philadelphia. For 5 straight seasons, we still harbored dreams of a World Series title after the regular season wrapped up. And in 2008, many of us experienced our most joyous month of being a sports fan ever. But the last two seasons have been duds, and October has become a month to gripe about Ruben Amaro, Jr. instead of watch baseball. Ripping Ruben is fun and all, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as rooting for the Phils on cool Autumn nights.
And so, in a small way, we want to try to bring a little bit of that feeling back. Oh sure, we won’t end up dancing down Broad Street and kissing total strangers when it’s all over, but we can try to relive the excitement of a team so many of us fell in love with, a team with a 45-year old pitcher, a shortstop with swagger, a goofy Hawaiian, and a rightfielder whose beard had a twitter account.
And at the same time, we want to introduce many younger fans to the greatest baseball team Philadelphia has ever produced, the 1929-1931 Philadelphia A’s. This was a team that took on Ruth, Gehrig and Lazzeri in their primes and CRUSHED THEM. In 1929, they won the pennant over Ruth and friends by 18 games. In 1930, they finished 16 games ahead of the Yanks, and in 1931, it was 13.5. Those great Yankees teams that sportswriters always gush about as the Greatest Team of All Time? For three years, they needed a good pair of binoculars to see the A’s in the standings.
It wasn’t a fluke. Four of those A’s winded up in the Hall of Fame, as did their legendary manager, Connie Mack. But because the team moved to Kansas City in the 1955, and then to Oakland in the 1960, those great ballplayers who meant so much to our grandparents and great-grandparents get lost to history (In fact, an excellent Sports Illustrated article about them is titled, “The Team That Time Forgot“.) We at Phillies Nation thought that, because Philly has such great baseball fans, that maybe a few of them would want to learn a little bit more about undoubtedly the greatest team in Philly baseball history, and one of the greatest teams in all of baseball history.
We want to have some fun with this project, and not just recite a bunch of old stats from the 1920s. So we decided to create a Philly Dream Series, between our beloved 2008 Philadelphia Phillies and the great 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. (Yeah, we realize that the 2008 team isn’t the best Phillies team ever, but the two best Phils teams, the 1977 team and the 2011 team, didn’t end up with the hardware.)
We’re going to be running the games through whatifsports.com, a really cool website that allows you to match up any two teams throughout time and then run simulated games with those teams. We’ll then be doing pre and post-game analysis on the games with some help from Penn professor Bruce Kuklick, who wrote the amazing book To Every Thing a Season, an absolute must read for any Philly sports fan. The book is about the history of Shibe Park. We also talk with Bryan Soderholm-Difatte, an historian on the Philadelphia A’s who recently presented his work at the annual SABR convention in Philly. Plus we’ll be meeting a fan of those ’29 A’s who lived on Lehigh Street, behind the right field wall of Shibe Park, whose parents sold tickets to their rooftop stands. We’ll even hear a few words from Brad Lidge about how he would pitch to sluggers on the ’29 A’s!
So for the next few weeks, instead of spending all of our time mumbling about Ruben and bemoaning our grim future, we’re going to take a fun trip to the past. We hope you’ll join us with the Philly Dream Series!