I am placing a post about each team in any given year based on how far they went in the playoffs and then by their overall record for the season. In 1954, the league champion only went to the World Series, so aside from the first two team, these are all in order of how they finished record wise for the season. Last week I covered the Milwaukee Braves, who had an 89-65 record. That is even better than a 90 win team in the 2010 season, as they played 8 less games, and they essentially finished 6th out of the 16 teams. This week we get to the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished 14 games worse with a record of 75-79. They are the first '54 team with a losing record. And that 14 games represents the divide between winning teams and losing teams. So it appears that there were some great teams and then some not so great teams, with not a lot in the middle.
The 1954 Phillies were trending downward. They were halfway between appearing in a World Series in 1950 and finishing in last place every year between 1958-1961. Expansion in 1962 probably saved them from making that 5 years in a row. This may explain why they were a slightly below .500 team in 1954. This team was led by pitching, and most specifically pitcher Robin Roberts, who led the team with 23 wins and had a sub 3.00 ERA. Offensively, this team was carried by center fielder Richie Ashburn and second baseman Granny Hamner.
The Hometown Team
What started on the side project of making a checklist for the ultimate 1954 set, even though I own zero of these cards, was this entry at the Phillies Room on the 1954 Topps cards. If you haven't paid attention to that blog, Jim has been putting up a review of every Topps set since 1951 showing the Phillies that are in each set. A conversation came up on how during the era when Bowman was in existence, the star Phillies players were not found in the Topps set. My argument was that Bowman was based in Philadelphia, and they may have got preference for signing exclusive contracts with players because they were the hometown team. I started this side project to see what an ultimate set from 1954 may look like, as 1954 is probably my personal favorite design of these early sets. As we are finding out the Bowman-Philadelphia connection really may not be the case at all. Bowman did have a better selection of current players that were probably more in demand in 1954 for most teams.
Starter and Hall-of-Fame/All-Star Scores
Exclusive players to a set are in italics.
Topps Regulars (4): Granny Hamner, Willie Jones, Richie Ashburn, Herm Wehmeier (shown with the Reds, split time between Phillies and Reds, getting more playing time with the Phillies)
Bowman Regulars (12): Smokey Burgess, Earl Torgeson, Granny Hamner, Willie Jones, Del Ennis, Richie Ashburn, Stan Lopata, Mel Clark, Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Murry Dickson, Steve Ridzik
Topps All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Richie Ashburn
Bowman All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (4): Richie Ashburn, Smokey Burgess, Granny Hamner, Robin Roberts
For a Phillies fan...there is really no reason to buy Topps cards in 1954. The only player of any significance that appears only in the Topps set, Herm Wehmeier, is shown in a Reds uniform. Topps picks things up by showing 8 minor players and coaches that do not appear in the Bowman set. Johnny Lindell who appears in only 7 games, all as a pinch hitter, appears in both sets, and represents the only Phillies player in the Bowman set that is not considered by definitions as a regular. Topps had the opportunity to add some regulars, as neither set had starting shortstop Bobby Morgan, outfielder Danny Schell (I have him listed as the right fielder, but Del Ennis led the team in appearances in both left and right field, so I put Ennis as the left fielder), outfielder Johnny Wyrostek, starting pitcher Bob Miller, and relief pitchers Jim Konstanty and Ron Mrozinski.
I am not sure of Tom Qualters role on the Phillies in 1954. He appeared in one game as an 18 year old in 1953 with the Phillies. I don't see him listed as a player in the military, and there is no record of him playing anywhere, majors or minors. He shows up again with a minor league record in the Phillies system in 1955 and 1956, and then appears again in the majors with the Phillies in 1957. 1954 appears to be a mystery, but he gets a card in the Topps set. His last appearance in the majors was with the Phillies and White Sox in 1958.