the philadelphia phillies: organizational failure at its best



By the time some of you read this post, the Philadelphia Phillies will have achieved a unique feat in professional sports: they will be the first professional sports franchise to lose 10,000 games. Yes, that’s right, 10k. You counted the zeros correctly. For that reason, I have always thought that fans of the Warriors, Red Sox, Mets, and Cubs were undignified whiners. Those guys are blue chip stocks compared to the gang from Philly. They got nothing on the Phillies – nothing! Don’t believe me? Let’s start with the following facts:

  • They lost their first game ever back in 1883 to the Providence Greys. The rest of the season was a disaster: 17 wins, 81 losses (21%). A pitcher named John Coleman was responsible for 48 losses all by himself.
  • It doesn’t get better: From 1918 to 1931, they have a 37.5% win average. From 1933 to 1948, they won 26% of the time. They only had one winning season from 1918-1948.
  • Of the 23 worst seasons in MLB history, 9 go to the Phillies.
  • In 1961, the Phillies lost 23 games in a row, probably the MLB record.

You may think I am cherry picking from the worst years. Yes, it is true that the Phillies have had a few excellent moments. They made the World series in 1950, 1983, and 1993, and they did win in 1980. They were consistently excellent from about 1977 to 1983, when they had a spectacular roster of top notch players. But once you live in Philly, you realize that the late 70s/early 80s were a freakish event. The normal state of affairs is to blow leads and massively screw up. Here’s some other deliciously painful moments:

  • In 1950, with 10 games left and up by 7 in the NL east, the Phillies lose *10 straight.* Only a last minute loss by 2nd place Cardinals allowed them to squeak into the play offs.
  • In 1964, the Phils were up 6 1/2 games with 12 left. They lost 10 in a row and missed the play offs.
  • In the 1993 World Series, the Phils are making a come back when ace pitcher Curt Schilling threw an excellent game. What’s the next move now that the managers do? Late in game 6, they put in Mitch Williams. He’s actually a pretty good pitcher, but he also has a tendency to be a bit inconsistent. Result: Joe Carter homers and wins the series.
  • From 1883 to 1979, they went 97 years without winning their league’s championship.

Aside from those soul cruching heart breakers, we also have a string of gawd awful management decisions and bad behavior by players, managers, and fans (courtesy of the New York times):

  • In 1917, they traded star pitcher Grover Alexander Cleveland to Chicago – after consecutive 30 win seasons.
  • Two Phillies owners have been banned from the MLB. Horace Fogel for bad mouthing the league and William Cox for betting on his own team. Ironically, Cox was betting on a team that dropped 90 games a season.
  • They traded hall of famers Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg for Ivan DeJesus in 1981.
  • In 1965, players Richie Allen and Frank Thomas beat each other with baseball bats during a game.
  • Don’t get me started on the Kevin Gross cheating incident.
  • The #1 draft pick in 1997, JD Drew, refused to sign with the Phillies because they refused to pay the $10m salary he demanded. He opted to play independent league ball than deal with the Phillies. In 1998, disgruntled fans in the notorious 700 level threw car batteries at him when he showed up as a Cardinal. The Phils actually won that game, 7-5.

And of course, there is the infamous ’72 hang glider incident, as recounted by the NY Times:

Here, not only the Phillies fail. Sometimes, the entertainment tanks, too. On April 17, 1972, a hang-gliding daredevil named Kiteman was hired to ski down a ramp at Veterans Stadium and soar to home plate, where he would deliver the first ball of the home season. First, Kiteman panicked and froze. Then he caught a gust of unfortunate wind, clipped rows of seats, crashed into the railing of the upper deck and tossed the ball into the Phillies’ bullpen — about 400 feet from its intended destination.

“I was just relieved that he was alive,” Bill Giles, the Phillies’ chairman, wrote in his autobiography, “Pouring Six Beers at a Time.” “Generally speaking, a dead body is not a good omen for the start of a baseball season.”

What die hard Phillies fan wouldn’t conclude with a comment on the remarkable ugliness of the “Philadelphia Phanatic?” I am insulted whenever well meaning folk describe the “furry green creature with a cylindrical beak containing a tongue that sticks out” as “cute.” Just look for yourself. Note the beer gut, the logical result of feasting on “soft pretzels, cheesesteaks, and Tastykakes.” (His diet according to the Phillies Marketing Dept.)


If you must punish yourself more, check out Countdown to 100000, Philly Sucks, and Real Phans Love Their Losers.

6 Responses

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  1. “Ironically, Cox was betting on a team that dropped 90 games a season.”

    perhaps he was betting against them. :)



    July 8, 2007 at 6:49 pm

  2. No, Christopher, sadly, he betting for them…



    July 8, 2007 at 6:50 pm

  3. Wow, I had no idea the Phillies had such a pitiful past. Just goes to show how much impact winning even one series can have on your franchise. Despite the years of losing, the Phillies never achieve the same level of loser-ness had by the Cubs.



    July 9, 2007 at 2:41 am

  4. BK: “Despite the years of losing, the Phillies never achieve the same level of loser-ness had by the Cubs.”

    That’s wrong, Brayden. The Phillies are bigger losers. Proof:

    World series won: Cubs (2), Phillies (1)
    World Series runner up: Cubs (3), Phillies (3) – tied
    Pennants & division titles: Cubs (20), Phillies (11)
    Wild Card births: Cubs (1), Phils (0)
    All time win average: Cubs (.532), Phils (.469)
    Suspended Owners: Cubs (0), Phils (2)
    Nasty Obese Mascots: Cubs (0), Phils (1)
    Car Batteries Thrown at visitors: Cubs (0), Phils (1)

    Need I say more?



    July 9, 2007 at 3:06 am

  5. Here we see the difference between having the reputation as the Great Loser (Cubs) and being by preponderance of quantifiable measures the Great Loser (Phillies). Much like Departmental reputations in academia — ascribed status and measured performance may easily be mismatched, because they are two different things.



    July 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm

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