Thursday, April 01, 2004
SI focused, in part, on the concerns about Manager Larry Bowa, and I agree that he is a big concern, maybe the biggest concern for the team: if these guys are locked in a tight race for the pennant and the Phils lose two or three games in a row, is Bowa going to ride them too hard? With 2003 in mind, I immediately flashed back to the Phillies collapse in 1964: the team that blew a six game lead with twelve to play. Manager Gene Mauch, a fiery leader a lot like Bowa in some respects, mismanaged a slumping team and watched an enormous, seemingly insurmountable lead crumble away to nothing. (The Phils finished a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.) A ten-game losing streak in the middle of a pennant race. (The Phils went from 90-60, to 90-70 and finished 92-70.) Seems hard to believe!
I wasn’t alive then. (I wouldn’t come into the world for another thirteen years.) My understanding of the event derives from reading David Halberstam’s outstanding October, 1964. It is an event, though few of us remember it (and even fewer were alive for it) that haunts Phillies fans. Lurking in the undercurrent of a good season filled with hope and optimism is the fear of 1964, redux. Specifically, during the 1994 season I remember the panic and fear that set in after a sudden losing streak: a flurry of articles by Inquirer sports writers worrying that the ghosts of 1964 were revisiting the team a year removed from the World Series.
So as I read my SI today, looked over a favorable assessment of the team (the first time in a long time I can recall SI actually being optimistic about the Phils), and thought about the future, I thought of what I read in Halberstam’s book – shattered confidence, wasted opportunities … Not this year!
Not this year!