Baseball is meant to be fun, after all, it’s a kid’s game. Even players in their mid-30s in the big leagues are supposed to have fun. The 1950 Philadelphia Phillies team took those words to heart. Well, they had to, because many of them were practically kids. Like the ’93 team, the 1950 Phillies caught lightning in bottle, shocking the baseball world and maybe themselves by winning the National League pennant. The “Whiz Kids” were born.
A majority of the 1950 Phillies roster was comprised of players aged 26 and younger. The team was led by Richie Ashburn and Philadelphia native Del Ennis (Olney High School). Ashburn, who was 23, and Ennis, 25, were both staples in the batting order, leading off and hitting clean up respectively. Whitey, as we know him, was the table setter. He hit .303 with a .373 on-base percentage. What seems to be a lost art in this generation of baseball, Whitey was everything you wanted out of a lead-off man – hitting for average, walked often, a high OBP, and struck out just 32 times in 670 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Ennis had the best season of his career in 1950, belting 36 home runs while driving in 126. This Phillies lineup was loaded with firepower, four players knocked in 82 or more runs: Granny Hamner, Dick Sisler, Willie Jones, and of course, Ennis. Sisler was the only player of the four over the age of 25. The big boppers in the lineup that hit 24 or more home runs consisted of Jones, Ennis, and catcher Andy Seminick.
By the 1950s, teams had started to use airplanes to travel between cities on road trips. This is fortunate since not a single member of the starting rotation would have been old enough to rent a car. A 23-year old Robin Roberts led the Phillies staff in wins with 20. 21-year old Curt Simmons and 24-year old Bob Miller combined for another 28 wins. Another youngster, Bubba Church, 24, chipped in with eight wins along with a minuscule 2.73 ERA.
There’s no doubt the Phillies had a solid starting lineup, but their most valuable player and, in fact, the 1950 National League MVP resided in the bullpen. Closer Jim Konstanty sported a 16-7 record and 2.66 ERA that included 22 saves in 74 games. The 33-year old notched his only All Star appearance and MVP season in his 13-year career in 1950. Konstanty finished atop the ballot ahead of the likes of hall of famer Stan Musial, Philly native Eddie Stanky (Northeast High School), teammate Del Ennis, and another hall of famer Ralph Kiner.
People always remember what you do last. In the Whiz Kids’ case, they are the team that’s known for shocking the baseball world – reaching the World Series with no-named kids at the time. Yet they almost landed on the wrong side of the record books. The team led the National League for most of the season, until the final stretch. They had a seven game lead with eleven to play – and then disaster struck. The season was heading down the drain quickly, losing eight of ten games and clinging to a one-game lead on the last day of the season. However, against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, the Whiz Kids prevailed, on a 10th inning three-run homer by Dick Sisler and 10 gutsy innings out of Robin Roberts which, in turn, catapulted the Phils into the World Series against the New York Yankees.
It wasn’t the happiest of endings for the youngsters in pinstripes: they were swept by the Yankees in four games. However, the young guns didn’t go down without a fight, as the first three games were each decided by a lone run. In the final game, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and company proved to be too much, downing the Whiz Kids 5-2. The Yankees went on to win their second straight title and was just the start of a six title run in seven years.
The Whiz Kids epitomized what it meant to play a kid’s game. It’s hard not to enjoy the game, especially when you are a kid on the ride of a lifetime like the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies. 66 years later, these kids certainly have made a name for themselves in Philadelphia.
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