Friday, February 23, 2007

The best and the worst

For a team that has won exactly one World Series title since its inception in 1883 and just one playoff appearance after 1983 (none since 1993), it’s a wonder that the Phillies haven’t run out of players to induct into their Wall of Fame. Yet year after year the Phillies keep sending out lists of players for us to vote on.

This year the 15 players on the ballot are:

Pitchers: Larry Christenson, Jim Konstanty, Ron Reed, Dick Ruthven, Rick Wise
Catcher: Darren Daulton
Infielders: John Kruk, Fred Luderus, Juan Samuel, Pinky Whitney
Outfielders: Lenny Dykstra, Von Hayes
Manager: Gene Mauch
Coaches: Mike Ryan, John Vukovich

The criterion for consideration, according to the Phillies, is:

Phillies players with five or more years of service are eligible. Managers and coaches need four or more years of service.

In addition to a player’s statistical record, consideration is given to longevity, ability, contributions to the Phillies and baseball, character and special achievements.


Out of the 15 eligible, I cast my vote(s) for Jim Konstanty, Darren Daulton and Gene Mauch. Too many more and there won’t be anyone left on the ballot for next year.

Konstanty gets the vote for one season. In 1950, as a relief pitcher, Konstanty appeared in a then Major League record 74 games and was National League’s MVP that season. When the Phillies got to their first World Series since 1915, Konstanty took the ball and started Game 1for his first start in approximately four seasons.

Ultimately Konstanty only won 51 games and saved 54 in 6½ seasons for the Phillies, but he was one of the pioneers in that he was a true relief specialist, who was versatile and strong enough to pile up more than a 100 innings.

Don’t tell me the Phillies wouldn’t like to have a relief pitcher to toss 50 or so innings this season.

I don’t think I have to get too into why Daulton should be enshrined. Simply, he may have been one of the most important players the franchise ever had. Importance of a player, of course, belies simple things such as numbers on a page and in that regard Daulton is both simple and complex. He led the league in both RBIs and knee operations… then moved to the outfield after two decades of squatting.

Better yet, he was the straw that stirred the drink in ’93. Ask anybody.

Mauch, on the other hand, was regarded as one of the best baseball minds as well as the most star-crossed. He’s has managed more seasons without reaching the World Series than anyone else. Worse, Mauch has come so excruciatingly close to getting there only to fall through a trap door.

There was 1964, which people around here remember, but then in 1982 he guided the California Angels to 2-0 lead in the best of five series only to drop the final three games to the Milwaukee Brewers. That was the first time that had ever happened.

In 1986, Mauch’s Angels were one pitch away from beating the Boston Red Sox in five games of the best-of-seven ALCS before Donnie Moore served up the famous home run to Dave Henderson. The Red Sox went on to win Game 5 and then games 6 and 7 to further extend Mauch’s curse.

Yet for the Phillies, Mauch turned a laughingstock into a contender by winning 646 games in a little more than eight seasons. From 1962 to 1967, Mauch’s Phillies finished .500 or better in every season, which was a rarity for the franchise.

We're the worst!
According to U.S. News and World Report my neighbor James Buchanan is still the worst president in the history of our union. But then again history is always evolving and an endless cycle and I’m sure that maybe in another two years or so, “Old Buck” as he was known, could be bumped up a notch.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Buchanan served from 1857 to 1861 and was in office when the first shots of the Civil War were fired. A contradictory figure, Buchanan was known as a southern sympathizer, yet would buy slaves and bring them back to Lancaster to free them.

Some of Buchanan’s “highlights” in office include:

  • Refused to challenge the constitutionality of slavery and supported compromises that allowed it to spread into U.S. territories.

  • Encouraged the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court in his Inaugural Address, which became one of the major factors that led to the Civil War.

  • Though he claimed secession was illegal, he claimed going to war to stop it was also illegal.

  • Watched silently as the southern states formed the Confederacy.

  • When Preston Brooks, a congressman from South Carolina, stabbed Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate, Buchanan did nothing.

    Buchanan did a bunch of good things, too. Namely, he turned the union over to Abraham Lincoln and his name was on an excellent elementary school for which I am an alumnus.

    Buchanan’s stately mansion “Wheatland” is open for tours year round, and if you a presidential history buff it’s worth the visit. And if you come by let me know… I’ll give directions and the “insiders” tour of the ‘hood.

    More: The 10 worst presidents
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