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The Worst Choke Job in Baseball History: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies

Mark Tulin is a sports fan from Philadelphia, PA. He has four books of poetry and one short story collection available on Amazon.

Shibe Park where the 1964 Phillies played.

Shibe Park where the 1964 Phillies played.

At the Bar Talking Sports

A few friends and I were drinking beer and talking sports at the bar when Jay complained about his team choking in the playoffs.

Suddenly, I flash-backed to 1964. I was nine years old, and I never saw a Philly team win a championship, but everyone told me that this would be the Phillies' year.

Mind you, I was a gullible kid with no perspective. All I did was go to school, come home and watch the Three Stooges on TV with an occasional Popeye mixed in. I was naive, dreamy, and hopeful—nothing like I am now fifty-some years later.

At the bar, I was too ashamed to mention the collapse of the Phillies in 1964.

Tony Gonzalez, center fielder for the 1964 Phillies.

Tony Gonzalez, center fielder for the 1964 Phillies.

It was sometime in September 1964 when the Phillies had a 6 1/2 game lead with only twelve to play. The city was going nuts--vendors sold Phillies National League and World Series pendants at every corner. It was a lock. We were going--absolutely! No question. Everyone was on the Phillies bandwagon with Callison, Allen, Rojas, Covington, Wine, and Tony Gonzalez headed to the Promised Land. We were going to be world champions!

The Phillies printed out thousands of World Series tickets. The city was planning a parade. I would cut school that day and take the subway downtown with my friend, Dave, and we'd watch the Phillie players pass by in their caravans.

I couldn't sleep at night. I kept thinking about Jim Bunning throwing a no-hitter, Chris Short striking out Brock and Wills. I saw Richie Allen launch one over the Coca-Cola sign and heard the Liberty Bell ring at Independence Mall. Finally, Philadelphia will celebrate a championship in all of its historical glory.

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How could I concentrate on anything else? The Phillies were my world. It's what everyone talked about--not only me. We hadn't gone to the series since the 1950 Whiz Kids got us into the post-season against the Yankees.

And then the Unthinkable Happened

Sometime in late September, the unthinkable happened.

The Phillies began their historic slide.

Euphoria turned to anxiety. Even local kid TV celebrities like Sally Starr, Chief Halftown, and Gene London were concerned by the Phillies' late-season swoon. And soon, there was no more talk about buying world series tickets. Instead, random people in stores and supermarkets said how the Phillies sucked and that it was stupid to believe in them.

That 6 1/2 game lead with twelve to play was not a lock that everyone believed. The Phillies lost ten games after that. And all too quickly--their lead shrank. The Phillies had won a game on the season's final day, but it was too late. The Cardinals had clinched the pennant. So instead of the Phils going to the World Series, the Cardinals represented the National League in the big enchilada.

Clay Dalrymple, Catcher

Clay Dalrymple, Catcher

The Day Philadelphia Died

I didn't know if the sun would ever shine in Philly again. Instead, there was nothing but rain clouds and tears, people hiding their faces in shame. No one smiled or said hello. It felt like the city's heart stopped, and everyone had a cardiac arrest.

I didn't know what to do, so I stayed home. On the day the Phillies died, I lay in bed as if a close relative had died. I watched cartoons but didn't laugh. Even the Three Stooges weren't funny. I remember trying to soothe my hurt with a Mister Softee soft serve, but that was only temporary. The pain in the heart and the knot in my stomach wouldn't go away for months.

I don't remember watching the World Series that year. I was too angry at the baseball Gods for allowing the collapse to happen.

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