In 1954, Roy Mack went against his father’s wishes to sell the Philadelphia A’s to Kansas City real estate developer Arnold Johnson. He made a few more bucks than he would have had he sold the team to a Philly conglomerate that almost bought it at the time (In fact the papers were signed; Roy reneged on the deal). But by selling his father’s soul for a few pieces of gold, he lessened the impact that the greatest pro sports team in Philadelphia history had on this city. He left greats like Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and Al Simmons without an eternal home, allowing their names to get swept away by the winds of time instead of being honored in the city where they reached heights never again attained by any team in Philadelphia.
But on this day, in Game 7 of the Philly Dream Series, those three men returned to the forefront of the Philadelphia baseball world, and once again proved why they are among the greatest players this city has ever seen in any sport. Grove, beaten in Games 1 and 5, pitched a gem on only two days rest. Foxx delivered one of his vintage home runs to the deepest recesses of center field in the 2nd inning. And Al Simmons, a player who always had a fickle relationship with this city even when he was a star here, had no problem winning the adoration of the Shibe Park faithful on this day. It was Simmons who, with one out and two on in the bottom of the 9th, hit a scorcher down the left field line, past the glove of Pedro Feliz and into the corner, scoring Mule Haas and sending the Shibe denizens into a state of pandemonium. For Haas, there was a certain sense of deja vu…he had also scored the winning run in the 5th and deciding game of the 1929 World Series.
The A’s spectacular finish somewhat overshadowed the gutsy pitching performance of Cole Hamels. Pitching on only two days rest for the first time in his career, he was sublime, holding the A’s to 1 run and only 5 hits in 8 innings of work. Remarkably, he got better as the game went on, allowing only one hit after the 4th inning. That left some Phillies faithful wondering why he was pulled after the 8th, having thrown 90 pitches.
His opposing hill-minder Lefty Grove was dominant for 7 innings, but ran into problems in the 8th after giving up a walk to Jayson Werth to start the inning. Werth stole 2nd, went to third on a long Utley fly ball, and came home when a Ryan Howard shot was caught by Mule Haas just shy of the warning track. Haas, known for his great arm, fired a rocket home, but Werth was able to slide in under the tag and tie the game at 1. After surrendering a single to Pat Burrell, Grove was replaced by Ossie Orwoll, one of the unsung heros of the A’s in this series. He coaxed Shane Victorino into a harmless fly ball. The A’s went down quietly in the 8th, and we headed to the 9th tied at 1.
Mack threw the Phils for a total loop when he inserted Eddie Rommel into the game to pitch the top of the 9th. The knuckleballer, who won 27 games for an A’s team that won only 65 all season in 1922, stymied the Phils attack. Forcing the Phils to try to hit a knuckleball after chasing Lefty Grove’s fastball all day was a cruel trick played by the Tall Tactician, and the men in red went down quietly.
J.C. Romero came into pitch in the bottom of the 9th, and it was pesky little Max Bishop who got the A’s rally started with a single off the Phillies left-handed specialist. Haas then sent a roller to Utley. The Phils tried to turn two, but Haas beat the throw to first. Romero then walked Mickey Cochrane, sending Simmons to the plate. Charlie Manuel walked out onto the hill, and in a move that will be second guessed by Phillies fans for years to come, decided to send for Ryan Madson instead of Brad Lidge. Manuel was always extremely conservative when it came to his closer, but there are plenty of Phils fans who would say that this is why you pay the closer the big bucks, to put out fires like this one.
The count ran to 2-2 when Madson decided to toss his four seam fastball. Simmons put the barrel of the bat on it. Pedro Feliz dove but never had a shot. Burrell chased it into the corner, but by the time he got there, it was obvious that the game and the Series were over. The A’s erupted out of the dugout as Mule Haas crossed the plate.
The Phillies had put up a far better fight than anyone had thought they would. But in the end, the A’s simply had too much Mule, too much Lefty, too much Mickey, too much Double X. And they had a man born with the name Aloyz Szymanski who was one of the finest ballplayers this city has ever seen, and did a damn fine job of proving it on a Monday afternoon in North Philadelphia.
GAME NOTES: You can check out the boxscore and play by play here…Al Simmons was named Series MVP. After a slow start, he finished the Series 12-24 in the final 5 games, including the Series winning hit in Game 7…Mule Haas also had a monster Series, going 8-23 in the final 5 games, collecting four doubles and a homer…hitting stars for the Phillies were Jimmy Rollins (.310), Pat Burrell (.318) and Carlos Ruiz (.320). Utley and Howard both had disappointing Series. Utley went 4-24 (.166) and Howard went 4-30 (.133) though he did amass 7 RBIs. Howard was absolutely helpless against Lefty Grove. In three games against him, he went 0-11 with 8 strikeouts…Discussions are already in place for a matchup for next year. Possibly the 1980 Phils vs. the 1911 A’s? We shall see.