July 21, 2019

50 Years Ago: The ’64 Phillies–Mauch Loved to Sacrifice

The ’64 Phillies passed the first real test as to their competitive mettle on the Fourth of July weekend by sweeping three straight from the Giants with first place at stake. Their one-run victory in the concluding game showcased Gene Mauch’s managerial proclivity to emphasize small ball tactics (sacrifice bunts, hit-and-run plays, productive outs) to work for one run at a time, even with a lead. This is the fifth article in a series on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Phillies’ epic collapse.

On July 3, the Philadelphia Phillies came into San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for a three-game July 4th holiday showdown series with the Giants, the two teams seemingly the only two taking the National League pennant race seriously. A game-and-a-half separated the Giants and Phillies, with San Francisco having surged into first place with 12 wins in their last 14 games. The Phillies themselves had been playing quite well with an 18-12 record in June, having spent 18 of that month’s 30 days on top of the heap, including a lead that reached 2-1/2 games on June 19, the day after which the Giants got hot to bring them to this moment at Candlestick.

(Of the other teams that would figure in September’s drama, the Cincinnati Reds were third, 6-1/2 games behind, and the St. Louis Cardinals, now with Lou Brock in their outfield, were still trying to get traction, 9-1/2 games out in fifth place with an exactly .500 record. The defending World Champion Dodgers were out of the picture, trailing everybody but Houston and the New York Mets.)

The Giants could have put themselves in the driver’s seat of the pennant race sports car with a sweep because the season was approaching its mid-point and contenders were being separated from pretenders. That was still an open question for the Phillies: 31 of their 44 victories (70 percent) had been against teams that had losing records as of July 3. Their record against teams .500 or above was 13-15 and the Phillies had been swept when the Giants came to Philadelphia for three games in early June. But it was the Phillies who won the first game to move within half-a-game of the top; won the middle game on July 4 to flip-flop the top two in the standings; and took the series finale, 2-1, beating Giants’ ace Juan Marichal—who entered the game with an 11-3 record—to leave San Francisco with a game-and-a-half lead.

Both runs in the third game were set up by intended sacrifice bunts. In a scoreless game, Johnny Callison led off the fourth inning with a single, bringing up the ever-dangerous power-hitting Dick (then known as “Richie”) Allen, who had been batting clean-up in Gene Mauch’s line-up since mid June. Notwithstanding Allen’s .306 batting average and 16 home runs and 47 RBIs at the time, the rookie slugger was asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt to move Callison to second base. It was such a good bunt, Allen beat it out for an infield single. A strikeout and a groundout later, with both runners moving up a base, Callison scored on an infield hit. With two outs and starting from second base, Allen kept coming on the play but was thrown out at the plate for his base running aggressiveness.

The Phillies were still nursing that 1-0 lead when Marichal walked catcher Clay Dalrymple to start the seventh inning. Mauch ordered Tony Taylor, batting seventh with a .243 average, to lay down a sac bunt despite knowing that the next two hitters were the weakest bats in his line-up, but his decision paid immediate dividends when Ruben Amaro, hitting a mere .222 in only his 13th start at shortstop for the season, singled up the middle to score Dalrymple. That run proved critical because Jim Ray Hart, like Allen another power-hitting rookie third baseman to make his presence felt in 1964, hit his 10th of 31 home runs that season off Philadelphia starter Dennis Bennett in the bottom half of the seventh to make it a one-run game again—which was how the game ultimately end.

Gene Mauch was an aggressive manager who liked to force the action, in particular early in games to put the Phillies on the scoreboard first and in close games, whatever the inning. The Philadelphia Phillies in 1964 attempted more sacrifice bunts (156) than any other team in baseball except for the Los Angeles Dodgers (185) and were successful 62 percent of the time, compared to 65 percent for the Dodgers, to finish second to L.A. in sacrifices (97 to 120). The Phillies were also second to the Dodgers in percentage of productive outs to advance base runners, 36 percent for Philadelphia compared to 37 percent for L.A. And the Phillies had the highest percentage in the National League of scoring runners from third base with less than two out (56 percent) and from second base with nobody out (57 percent).

For Los Angeles, managed by Walt Alston, reliance on these strategies—along with the stolen base—was understandable and perhaps even necessary because the Dodgers struggled to score runs and generally lacked extra-base firepower, in part because of the vast expanses of Dodger Stadium. Even in their 1960s pennant-winning years, the Dodgers were below the league average in extra base hits and slugging percentage—substantially so in 1965 and 1966.

While small-ball strategies made sense for Alston, Mauch had much more capacity with his line-up to score runs, but often chose to sacrifice in a play for one run—even with his best hitters at the plate—instead of trusting in his firepower. The two best hitters in his line-up—Allen and Callison—combined for a total of 60 home runs in 1964, but both laid down six sacrifice bunts to move a base runner up with nobody out.

If John McGraw, the grand-daddy of master strategist managers, disdained the sacrifice bunt precisely because it “sacrificed” a precious out, Gene Mauch was more than willing to sacrifice in the interest of playing for one run, including giving up as outs the two batters most likely to drive in runs. Over the course of the full season, Mauch’s willingness to sacrifice Allen and Callison as outs to advance a runner into scoring position for somebody else to drive in may seem insignificant. But as we shall later see in September, in the final weeks of the ’64 season, sacrificing Dick Allen may have cost his team the pennant.

At the end of July, the two teams met again for a three-game series with first place on the line, this time in Philadelphia. The Giants came into Connie Mack Stadium trailing by a half-game; the Reds were three back in third and the Cardinals tied for fifth, seven games out. The top of the standings remained the same after they split the first two games, but in the series finale—on July 30—after having surrendered a run to the Giants in the top of the tenth inning, the Phillies won the game with the following sequence: a leadoff double and hit batter put runners on first and second; Allen, once again asked to bunt, reached on an infield single toward third to load the bases; a two-run double by Johnny Briggs won the game. Philadelphia now led by 1-1/2 games. It would be nearly two full months before their lead would be that narrow again.

The following is the link to the previous Baseball Historical Insight on the 1964 Phillies: http://brysholm.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-64-phillies-perfect-fathers-day.html

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