Deja Vu All Over Again

How America’s most historic baseball team is making history again this year. 

One of my earliest memories was going to a Phillies Game at Veterans Stadium with my Granddad. I can remember it like it was yesterday. During the entire car ride to the stadium, he reminded me how important it was to remember this experience for as long as I lived.

He wasn’t talking about the hot dog I enjoyed during pre-game, the Phillie Phanatic driving around the field on his mini-ATV (stopping now and again to hug some unsuspecting young Phillies fan), or even the game’s final score.

Granddad wanted me to remember the moment I walked out of the concourse tunnel and saw the field for the first time: the impossibly green turf, the freshly painted lines of the infield, and the towering scoreboard glistening in the mid-June sun.

For many young Phillies fans these days, Citizens Bank Park is their first experience in a major league ballpark. (And what a difference! Compared to the bunker-like Vet Stadium, CBP might as well be the Polo Grounds.)

This new generation of Phillies fans can no doubt feel the excitement building around this team as one of the best seasons in Phillies history, even if they are not yet old enough to understand its meaning or the occasional references to another great season in 1892.

From Center City to the suburbs, the talk is all about those Fightin’ Phillies. And why shouldn’t it be, with an impressive 60-32—the best record in the majors and bats like Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper, a team-record seven (!) all-stars, and ace Zack Wheeler with 126 strikeouts? (Editor’s note: Stats as of July 11)

Even more amazing was the Phils’ hot streak early in the season. From April 15 through May 23, they posted a 29-6 mark – an 82% winning percentage! Put another way, you’d have to go back to 1892 to find a Phils team that matched it. If you don’t remember the 1892 campaign 132 years ago  —  take heart. You’re not alone.

It’s hard to imagine that in 1892, the Phillies were already nine years old. In fact, 1892 was a split season. The first half of the season saw the Phillies post a record of 46–30, which was good enough for third place in the National League. They finished the second half of the season with a 41–36 record. Good for 5th place, 12.5 games out.

Still, they reeled off the 29-6 run during that season for the same reasons the 2024 team has – strong bats and even stronger pitching. Outfielder Sam Thompson had 104 RBIs, Ed Delahanty had 91 RBIs, and first baseman Roger Connor hit twelve home runs that year (which doesn’t sound impressive until you learn that James Wear “Bug” Holliday of the Cincinnati Reds led the league with 13 homers).

Add in an impressive ERA of 2.66 from their pitching staff (good for 3rd best of the 12 National League teams), and you can see why they posted such an eye-popping run. In a nice nod to our winning history, the 2024 season will feature some 19th century flair: the Phils’ iconic pinstripes will alternate with new “City Connectuniforms featuring the colors of Philadelphia’s first City Flag, which dates back to 1895. Look for them at every Friday home game. 💙💛👀

The Phillies were born from an 1883 expansion team, the Philadelphia Quakers. In April 1883, they acquired the nickname that proudly resonates around the city today. The Phillies (short for “Philadelphians”) played in North Philadelphia at Recreation Park from 1883 to 1886 before moving to The Baker Bowl, which was widely considered the first “modern” ballpark because of its cantilevered design, which eliminated many of the support columns and obstructed views that plagued earlier stadiums.

Recreation Park saw the Phillies win their first game ever — an 11–0 win over The Manayunk Ashlands. In June of 1860, Recreation Park hosted Philadelphia’s first-ever baseball game , where Equity defeated Pennsylvania 65–52. Unlike today, the scores in those days were unusually high. In another game in 1866, the Athletics trounced the Alert Club 67–25, with slugger Lipman Pike hitting six home runs, including five in a row.

Granddad was right; I’ll never forget holding his hand as we walked out towards the railing behind home plate on that hot Sunday afternoon in June. I was just another young fan taking in the sights and sounds of their first Phillies game — a Philadelphia tradition that’s lasted 141 years.

Don’t tell this first-place Phillies team — but the 1892 squad didn’t make the playoffs. The 2024 team has much higher aspirations. (They better, after last year’s meltdown. No hating—still love ya fellas!)

Granddad was right about something else. I can’t even remember the final score of my first game.

1890’s Baseball: Fast Facts

  • Pitcher’s box moved back (1893). The pitcher’s box, as it was called then, was moved from 50 feet to 60 feet, six inches from home plate. Until the change was made, batters had scant time to react to a pitch.
  • The Page Fence Giants (1894): The Giants club, founded in 1894 by “Bud” Fowler, is considered one of the best teams in early African-Ameri- can baseball history because they played against major league teams and enjoyed impressive success against both Black and white opponents, posting a record of 118–36–2 in 1895.
  • Infield Fly Rule (1895): The infield fly rule was introduced to prevent infielders from intentionally dropping pop-ups to turn easy double plays.

❓🤔Did you know…? Philadelphia has a vintage Base Ball team that hosts games in Fairmount Park and participates in exposition games with other vintage teams around the Delaware Valley and beyond.  👀👀👀

Thoughts? Questions? My friends, I love your feedback! Please reach out in the comments below.

About Michael Thomas Leibrandt 13 Articles
Michael Thomas Leibrandt is a Historical Writer Living in Abington Township, Pennsylvania.

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