Another slow day baseball-wise, so I’m continuing my fond (or not-so-fond, whichever the case may be) look back in time. I’ve decided to combine 1974 and 1975 into one entry, to speed things along.
By 1974, the price of the Phillies magazine/program had gone up by a whole dime, from 50 cents to 60 cents. Instead of the fun pop-art cover of 1973, we now have something that looks like it could have been created by the semi-talented child of a member of the Phillies’ front office:
Another change from 1973 is the appearance of an advertisement on the front of the magazine. Really, they couldn’t have squeezed this one inside somewhere? I hope the team squeezed mega-bucks out of Gino’s for such prime placement.
Gone is the Phillies Family Album with its delightfully corny photos. Darn! But looking at the player photos is still fun. Mike Schmidt has now decided to grow the mustache that we all are so familiar with:
Judging by this picture, no one told Jim Lonborg it was photo day. He looks like he has a very bad case of bed-head:
According to the accompanying text, Lonborg suffered one of those classic freak injuries, breaking his toe by stubbing it against a hotel bed in Pittsburgh. A good attorney should be able to find a lawsuit in there somewhere. 🙂
The ’74 Phillies were an improvement over the previous season – they finished in third place in the NL East with a 80-82 record. Four of the five primary starters remained the same from 1973, the only change being Ron Schueler in place of Ken Brett. Seven of the eight position players also remained unchanged, with Dave Cash taking over second base from Denny Doyle.
Things continued to look up in 1975. The Phillies would go 86-76 to finish second in the division. Ticket prices remained unchanged, as well as the price of the magazine/program, which was graced by improved artwork:
The cover still contains advertising, this time for the brand-spankin’ new AMC Pacer, everyone’s favorite “fishbowl” car. Lauded at the time as a “car of the future,” it is, in my opinion, one of the ugliest vehicles ever.
1975 saw the arrival of some new faces, such as outfielders Garry Maddox and Jay Johnstone, catcher Johnny Oates, and relief pitcher Tug McGraw. Dick Allen returned to the Phils after a five-year hiatus with several other teams.
1975 also saw the arrival of the regrettable man-perm to the Phillies. This look was sported by not one, not two, but three members of the squad:
I wonder if they ever look back upon this, and think to themselves, “What was I thinking?”
Bad hairdos aside, things would continue to improve for the Phillies, who would win the NL East the next three seasons (1976-1978). Due to unknown reasons, there were no programs from 1976 or 1977 in my husband’s trove of stuff. So next time I’ll jump ahead to 1978.
Wow! After less than two weeks of blogging, I just found out that I made my Leader List debut at number 44. I didn’t realize so many of you were reading my little missives! A big “thank you” to everyone who’s stopped by to visit – I hope I can keep up the good work.
In keeping with the MLBlog tradition of dedicating an entry to a famous, or maybe not-so-famous, number 44, I began by compiling a list of Phillies who have worn that number. Hmm. No one name jumped right out at me.
There was Vicente Padilla. Word always was that he had great stuff, but just couldn’t quite get it together. While with the Phillies, he had a fan group known as “Padilla’s Flotilla”.
There was Mike Maddux, brother of Greg, mentioned in my recent post, The Other Brother.
There were quite a few who toiled in relative anonymity, like Amalio Carreno, Steve Comer, Yoel Hernandez, and most recently Les Walrond.
There was Steve Fireovid, whose name brought to mind images of flaming Latin poets.
There was Dick Ruthven, who was a member of the 1980 World Champs, and twice an All-Star.
But to me the most interesting number 44 was Eddie Waitkus. Waitkus had two stints with the Phillies, from 1949-1953, during which he wore the number 4, and then for 33 games in 1955, during which he wore the number 44.
Waitkus, a first-baseman, began his career with the Cubs, playing briefly in 1941 (12 games), then playing full-time from 1946-1948. He was named an All-Star in 1948. While in Chicago, Waitkus became a favorite, especially among female fans. One young fan, Ruth Ann Steinhagen, became particularly obsessed.
Then, before the 1949 season, he was traded to the Phillies. Steinhagen, upset that Waitkus was no longer a Cub, concocted a scheme to lure him to her hotel room during a Phillies road trip to Chicago. She left a note for him using an alias, asking him to meet with her. Once he had entered the room, she pulled a rifle out of the closet and shot him in the chest.
Amazingly, he survived, and was named an honorary member of the 1949 All-Star team, as he had been leading the voting for first base at the time of the shooting.
He returned the next season to play 154 games for the 1950 “Whiz Kids”, compiling a .284 batting average. However, his numbers declined the next two seasons, and the Phillies were looking to trade him. By 1953, he appeared in only 81 games, splitting time at first base with Earl Torgeson.
At the beginning of the 1954 season, Waitkus was sold to the Baltimore Orioles. Always known as a slick fielder, he had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage that year.
After playing in 38 games for the Orioles in 1955, he was released, and a few days later signed with the Phillies. He appeared in 33 games before being released after the end of the season.
After leaving baseball, Waitkus battled depression stemming from the shooting, which in turn led to problems with alcohol. Towards the end of his life, he found some solace working with young ballplayers at the Ted Williams Baseball Camp in Massachusetts. He died of cancer in 1972, at the age of 53.
Waitkus’ story inspired, in part, the Bernard Malamud book “The Natural”. Anyone interested in a more thorough telling of his career and life should read “Baseball’s Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus” by John Theodore. We will never know what his career might have been like had it not been for one crazed fan.
(photo from www.waitkus.org)