Saturday afternoon, July 16, 1966, at Connie Mack Stadium, Phillies vs. Giants

A Mythical Willie Mays Triple,
a Matinee Hero, and Some Bored Cub Scouts

by Mike Walsh

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One of my earliest memories of the Phillies is a game in the mid-60s at Connie Mack Stadium against the great Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants. I went to the game with my cub scout den from Delphi, PA, which is near Schwenksville. All I remembered about the game was that it went extra innings, that it was on a weekend afternoon, probably a Saturday, and that Mays hit a triple, sliding into 3rd just ahead of the throw.

I also remembered that our group had seats in the bleachers on the 3rd base side, so we had a good view of that exciting play. The slide would've happened in the part of the field closest to us. I treasured the memory, thinking of the Mays' triple as one of the most exciting baseball plays in sports. But I couldn't remember the date, score, or anything else about the game, like who won. And over the years, I even wondered if I'd imagined that wondrous triple.

Someone suggested that I look for the game on Baseball Reference, so I pulled up the site and found team pages that listed all games played each year. Scrolling through the Phillies team pages for the mid-60s, I saw that all NL teams visited Connie Mack Stadium for three series per year. There weren't many weekend afternoon games against the Giants that went extra innings. In fact, there was just one: Saturday, July 16, 1966. 1:37 pm start. 15 innings. That was it! The game link opened up a box score and play-by-play details.

I also tracked down the Philadelphia Inquirer sports section for July 17, 1966, which featured a couple of articles about the game. Turns out that this game that I hardly remembered was very exciting and very long--3 hours and 49 minutes.

The Phillies lineup that day featured stalwarts from a strong roster--Johnny Callison, Dick Allen, Cookie Rojas, and Tony Taylor. It even included future celebrity announcer Bob Uecker, the backup catcher who started that day, and Bill White, the future National League president.

Back then, the Giants were perennially one of the best teams in the 10-team National League. Besides Mays, they had stars like Willie McCovey, Matty and Jesus Alou, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and a 44-year-old Warren Spahn.

The series started on July 14, 1966, two days after the All-Star Game. The Giants were embarking on a six-game road trip in Philadelphia. They were in first place in the National League and had been for most of the season, but they had been inconsistent since a 12-game winning streak in May. When they arrived in Philadelphia, the Giants were up just one game over the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Thursday night, the first game of the series, Larry Jackson needed just 98 pitches for a complete-game shutout of the Giants. Giants' starter Gaylord Perry, who had a 12-1 record in the first half of the season and was the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game, was relieved during the Phillies’ four-run fourth inning. After that loss, the Giants trailed the Pirates by percentage points.

The next night Marichal went nine strong innings, holding the Phils to one run, for his 15th win of the season. Mays homered against Bunning, the 526th of his career. San Francisco was back in first.

The Saturday afternoon game on July 16 was the rubber match, and both teams had doubleheaders the next day, the Giants in Pittsburgh and the Phillies hosting the Dodgers. What the Oakland Tribune described as a “whooping, screaming” crowd of 31,531 included more than 16,000 kids and women who took advantage of a free-admission promotion.

37-year-old Bob Buhl started for the Phillies vs. versus 25-year-old lefty Ray Sadecki for the Giants. Mays batted 3rd for the Giants and went 2 for 7 with two runs scored, both hits coming off Buhl in regulation. Mays was 35 that year, and he hit .288, with 37 HR, and 103 RBI. 1966 was actually a down year for Mays, as he had raked .317, 52 HR, and 112 RBI in 1965, one of his two MVP years. By the way, Mays also won Gold Glove awards every year from 1957 through 1968. Say hey, indeed!

But the box score showed no triple. Just a single and a double. What!? Had I dreamt that perfect feet-first slide into 3rd, one of my most cherished baseball memories? Say it ain't so!

The Play-By-Play section of the box score told the tale: Mays got a single off Buhl in the 6th and advanced to 3rd on an error by Cookie Rojas, the Phillies' centerfielder that day. (Rojas usually played 2nd base.) So Mays didn't hit a triple, but I did see him slide into 3rd on a close play. What a relief! I was at least half right.

The game was scoreless until the top of the 4th, when the Giants’ Jim Davenport hit a homer off the upper-deck facing in left-center. The Giants got another run that inning after a Mays double and McCovey’s RBI single. Uecker answered in the 5th with a solo shot to left, his last homer of the season. (Uecker’s 7 homers that year were half of his career total of 14.)

The top of the sixth featured three Giants hits and three Phillies errors, which resulted in a 5-2 Giants lead. But White, who started his career with the Giants in the late 1950s, hit a two-run homer, his 16th of the season, in the bottom of the sixth to keep the score close.

But this game wasn’t exciting enough for the cub scouts. As I dimly recall, by the 6th or 7th inning the scouts weren’t paying attention. Most of us were either sleeping, bickering, napping, wandering the bowels of the stadium, or just staring at nothing in particular.

Going into the bottom of the 9th, the Phils were down to the Giants, 5-4. Tony Gonzalez replaced Rojas in center and opened the inning with a single.

A bunt and a ground out later, and Gonzalez was on 3rd with 2 outs. Phil Linz, a backup infielder for the Phils who had taken over for Phil Groat at shortstop, hit a chopper to 3rd.

As Frank Dolson of the Inquirer reported, "The ball took a high hop and glanced off the glove of 3rd baseman Jim Davenport," allowing Gonzalez to score. Tie game. Extra innings.

"I thought he'd catch it," Linz said about his game tying hit. "It was, well ... a miracle."

The Phillies brought right-handed reliever Terry Fox into the game in the 10th. Fox had been purchased from the Tigers in May, and he proceeded to shut out the mighty Giants for six innings. In three of those innings, the leadoff batter got on, but Fox pitched out of a jam each time. In the 11th, for example, the first two batters singled -- 1st and 3rd, no outs. A bad situation. But the next batter hit into a double play, and luckily the runner on 3rd didn't go. A fly ball out, and the inning was over, still tied.

Giants reliever Frank Linzy matched Fox with scoreless innings, and the game moved to the bottom of the 15th with the score still tied. The Giants brought in reliever Joe Gibbon. White singled. Clay Dalrymple, who had replaced Uecker behind the plate, bunted White to 2nd. Gonzalez then singled to left on the first pitch. The Giants leftfielder, Jim Hart, fumbled the ball, allowing White to score, ending the game.

The Inquirer called the game a "thrilling, come-from-behind triumph." I'm sure the cub scouts and our den master cheered just so we and the other 31,531 fans could finally load into the bus and go home.

Reliever Terry Fox's six shutout innings for the Win are amazing to consider. Relief pitchers rarely pitch that long, then or now, and he held the formidable Giants offense to only four hits. Mays went 0-3 against Fox. The Inquirer wrote an article about him the next day, calling Fox a "Matinee Hero."

At age 90, Fox now lives in New Iberia, Louisiana. After some internet sleuthing, I found his phone number and called him.

"I remember the game because it went extra innings, and we were able to control it and win," he told me. "That made a big difference. I did what the Phillies got me for. The Giants were trying to get to the championship. I also remember the umpire telling me after the game that it was the best game he had ever seen."

It was Fox's longest game for the Phils, but, as he pointed out, it wasn't the longest of his career. That was in 1962 when he pitched for the Detroit Tigers.

"We were playing the Yankees in Detroit. Saturday afternoon. The game went 22 innings. 7 hours. I came in in the 12th and pitched eight innings of shutout ball. Phil Regan relieved me, and a backup outfielder hit a home run. And then we didn't score, so the Yankees won." (Fox also pitched 7 1/3 innings in relief for Detroit on June 11, 1963, in a 15-inning game against the Red Sox in which he took the loss.)

About his pitching style, Fox says, "I wasn't an over-powering pitcher, but I could throw a curveball, a good changeup, and a sinker-type pitch. I kept the ball low, and I threw a lot of strikes. The infielders knew how I pitched, and they expected the ball to be hit on the ground."

Terry Fox’s career stats bear this out. In seven major league seasons, he faced 1,664 batters, issued only 124 walks, hit only 12 batters, threw just six wild pitches, and committed just one balk.

I mentioned the Phillies infamous late season collapse of 1964 to Fox, and he told me about the Tigers' similar collapse in 1961, his rookie year. Detroit finished 2nd in the AL with a record of 101-61 that year, a record that was normally good enough to win the pennant. But the Yankees went 109-53.

The Tigers spent 83 days in 1st place that year. With hitters like Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, and Al Kaline, the Tigers scored more runs than the vaulted Yankees offense, 841 to 827.

But the Tigers lost 11 of 13 games between Aug 28 and Sept 10th and dropped to 11 1/2 games back. They were out of it, a collapse almost as bad as the Phils' epic 1964 choke. The Yanks went on to beat the Reds in the 1961 World Series 4 games to 1.

Another painful memory for Fox came on September 17, 1961, of that same season, another game against the Yankees at Tiger Stadium that went extra innings.

"I was pitching in the 12th inning and Tony Kubek got a hit. Next up was Roger Maris. I think it was a 2-1 count, and he hit the ball out of the park." That was Maris' 58th home run of the year, and the Yankees won the game. A couple weeks later, on the last day of the season, Maris hit his 61st homer of the season, breaking Babe Ruth's single season home run record, set in 1927.

Fox appeared in 39 games for the Tigers that season as a reliever, had a 5-2 record, 12 saves, and an astonishing 1.41 ERA. He allowed only nine earned runs all season. He was 25 years old. Fox didn't get any votes for Rookie of the Year in 1961, but he should have.

Johnny Callison had an off day that afternoon, taking a rare 0 for 6. In both 1964 and 1965, Callison hit over 30 HR and had over 100 RBI. He was an All Star both years, and who can forget his walk-off 3-run homer to win the 1964 All Star game at Shea?

But 1966 was the beginning of the painful decline in Callison's batting power. He hit a respectable.276 and led the NL with 40 doubles, but he hit only 11 homers and had only 55 RBI. He would not hit 20 homers in a season again, and he never again approached his All Star power numbers.

I remember the Philly newspapers speculating about psychological issues as the cause of his diminishing power. They also questioned if he needed glasses. It's still puzzling. At age 27 in 1966, when he should have been reaching his peak of athleticism and strength, his power abandoned him. Callison spent the early 70s with other clubs, and he retired in '73 after hitting just one round tripper in 45 games with the Yankees.

In addition to his early career offensive prowess, Callison was one of the best defensive outfielders of his era. He lead all NL right fielders in putouts and assists for most of the 1960s. He was also in the top 5 for initiating double-plays from right field for most of the '60s, and he was 1st in the RangeFactor defensive measure for right fielders in the '60s. But sadly, he never won a Gold Glove. In those days, Roberto Clemente, Mays, and Curt Flood dominated the Gold Glove awards for NL outfielders.

Richie Allen also had a quiet day, going 2 for 7 with no RBIs and 2 Ks. But Allen had a monster year in 1966--second in the NL with 40 HR, third with 110 RBI, and fourth with a .317 batting average. In fact, he lead the National League in OPS and Slugging % and finished fourth in the NL MVP vote. He would have three more good years with the Phillies before being traded to St. Louis in the infamous Curt Flood deal. Allen wnt on to win the AL MVP with the Chicago White Sox in 1972.

By the way, in 1965, Allen hit what may be the longest home run in Phillies history: a monster 529 foot smash over the left field roof of Connie Mack Stadium.

After the marathon game on July 16, 1966, against the Giants, the Phillies were 48-40 and still in contention. The Phillies finished 1966 with a very respectable 87-75 record, but that record was no better than 4th in the 10 team National League.

The Giants had more success that year. They finished in 2nd, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers. The Giants were one of the winning-est teams in baseball in the 60s, but they finished a frustrating 2nd in the NL for five straight seasons (1965-1969). Back then, there were no playoffs. Your team either won the pennant, or their season was over.

That would be the last good year for that solid core of Phillies. After jettisoning many older veterans after the season, the Phils won only 82 games in 1967, just two games over .500. Then began a string of seven straight sub .500 seasons until their mid-70s revival with Schmidt, Bowa, Luzinski, Carlton, and others.

1966 was the last season of good baseball for some time in the City of Brotherly Love. Within a couple years all of the players who figured prominently in the exciting July 16, 15-inning victory over the Giants at Connie Mack, the game in which a cub scout thought he saw Willie Mays hit a triple, were long gone.

1966 Phillies Rebuild: The Wheeze Kids, Opposite of the Process

In 1966, the Phillies were two years removed from their disastrous 1964 season. They had spent most of '64 in first place and were poised to win their first pennant in 14 years, but they fell apart during the last two weeks of the season. They lost 10 in a row and finishing one game behind the eventual World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals.

But in '66 they still had a solid core from that team: Richie Allen, Johnny Callison, Bobby Wine, Tony Taylor, Cookie Rojas, Tony Gonzalez, and strong starting pitching led by Jim Bunning and Chris Short.

After coming in sixth in 1965, the Phillies general manager John Quinn and manager Ray Mauch thought that the team was just a few pieces short of another run for the pennant. They didn't want to trade any of their starters, so for the 1966 season, the Phillies did something unusual: through waiver pickups, player purchases, and trades of younger players, they added several accomplished but past-their-prime veterans. These were mostly players like Terry Fox who were near the ends of their careers.

It was a rebuild of sorts--in reverse--the opposite of the infamous "Process" rebuild that the Sixers and Sam Hinkie tried a few years back. The Sixers got rid of veteran players, replaced them with draft picks, and accepted the inevitable losing seasons--aka, tanking. The 1966 Phillies kept their good players and added older veterans in an effort to win it all that year. As it turns out, neither approach was successful, although it's easy to see why Quinn and Mauch thought it was worth the risk.

* Hochman later christened the 1983 Phillies with the same nickname, and the 1983 Phillies were indeed older than the 1966 team. Many players from that team, including former Reds Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez, were in their late 30 or early 40s. The nickname stuck with the 1983 Phillies, who made it to the World Series, only to lose to the Orioles in five games. By 1983 no on remembered the nickname for the 1966 team, but the 1966 Phillies were the original Wheeze Kids.

Daily News columnist Stan Hochman referred to the 1966 Phillies and their over-the-hill additions as the Wheeze Kids, a clever take on the nickname of the 1950 team, the Whiz Kids, who reached the World Series.*

The first sign of the veteran makeover came on October 27, 1965, when the Phils traded three players in their 20s to St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Groat, Bob Uecker, and Bill White, all in their 30s.

They then made minor moves during the winter, picking up small ball backups and utility players like Phil Linz, Jackie Brandt, and Doug Clemens, the kind of players that Mauch cherished.

On April 21, 1966, after the start of the season, the Phillies made one of the worst trades in team history: they sent Ferguson Jenkins and two other backups, all in their 20s, to the Chicago Cubs for 35-year-old Larry Jackson and 37-year-old Bob Buhl. Jackson and Buhl were very good pitchers, especially earlier in their careers. A the time of the trade, Jenkins had spent most of his career in the minors, but he go on to pitch in the majors for the next 18 years, win 280 games, and earn a place in Cooperstown.

In no particular order, here are the 1966 Wheeze kids acquisitions:

  • Bob Buhl, the Phils' starting pitcher that day in 1966 against the Giants, had a great 15 year career: 166-132 Win-Loss record, 3.55 career ERA, 20 shutouts, 11 complete games. Not Hall of Fame numbers but darn good nonetheless. He spent the first half of his career with the Milwaukee Braves, then four seasons with the Cubs. The next year, 1967, he pitched only three innings for the Phils and was released in May. But in 1966, he helped form a formidable starting rotation for the Phils.

  • Larry Jackson had a 14-year career as illustrious as Buhl's. Jackson appeared in 5 All Star games, won 24 games in 1964, and was 2nd in Cy Young voting that year. He pitched through 1968 for the Phillies.

  • Bill White was 32 when he was traded to the Phillies and had spent most his career with St Louis. He had 22 HR and 103 RBI for the Phillies that year, and he was the only veteran they acquired that season with any power. He played in 1967 and 1968 with Philly before being traded back to St. Louis before the 1969 season, where he got just 68 at bats before retiring. White's career was substantial as well: 8 All Star Games, 7 Gold Gloves, 1,702 hits, 202 HR, 870 RBI, and a .286 career batting average. He later served as President of the National League, becoming the first African-American to hold such a high position in sports.

  • Bob Uecker was a backup catcher for the Phils in 1966, but he played just 18 games with the team the following year. He played 62 games with Atlanta before he was released at the end of 1967 and retired. He went on to a long career as an announcer for the Milwaukee Braves and TV pitchman.

  • Dick Groat was one of the best players the Phils acquired that year, but he was 35. He had spent most of his career with the Pirates. Groat had been an All American at Duke in both baseball and basketball, and in 1953 he played in the NBA. During his 15 year career, he had a .286 lifetime batting average, 2,138 hits, was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1952, NL MVP in 1960 when he hit .325, and MVP runner up in 1963 with the Cardinals when he hit .319. He appeared in eight All Star games. In 1967, Groat played 10 games with Phillies and 34 more with the Giants before retiring. He was eventually elected into both the College Baseball and College Basketball Halls of Fame. He died on April 27 of this year.

  • Jackie Brandt, a veteran outfielder, appeared in the game against the Giants but only as a pinch runner. He also had a long career in the majors, starting in 1956 with the Cardinals. His most productive years were in the early 60s with Baltimore. He appeared in two All Star games, won one Gold Glove, and had over 1,000 hits and 112 HR. Brandt hit .250 for the Phillies that year. The next year he was picked up by Houston but hit only .213 as a part-time player and was released at the end of the 1967 season and retired.

  • Harvey Kuenn may have been the most accomplished player added by the Phils for the past-their-prime rebuild. He was purchased by the Phils from the Chicago Cubs on April 23. Despite hitting a very good .296 that year in 86 games, 1966 would be his last year in the big leagues. He was 35, and he ended his 15-year career with stats similar to Groat's: 2,092 hits, a .303 lifetime batting average, 1953 AL Rookie of the Year, and 8 time All Star. In 1959, he hit .353 for the Tigers, the top batting average in the AL. He also lead the AL in hits for four seasons in the 1950s. He played most of his career as a shortstop, but by 1966, he had lost speed and range, so Mauch played him part-time in left. The Phils released Kuenn after the 1966 season. He went into coaching and by 1982 he was the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, who went to the World Series but lost in seven games to St Louis.

  • ** In 1964, Craig was a member of the St Louis Cardinals, as were trade acquisitions White, Groat, Uecker, and Clemens. Most probably remember that the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals beat the Phillies by one measly game for the pennant. The Phillies led the NL most of the year before losing 10 of their last 12 and finished one game behind the Cardinals. So why did Quinn and Mauch add five of them to the Phillies? Didn't those five players remind everyone, including the fans, of the pain of '64 on a daily basis?

    Roger Craig was another player from the 1966 Phils who would later make a name for himself in coaching. In 1966, the 11-year vet was 36 years old. In April, he was released by the Reds and immediately picked up by the Phils. During the next couple of months, he made 14 relief appearances for the Phils, but his ERA was a high 5.56 and he was released on July 23, just one week after the 15-inning game that I attended. Craig finished the season in the minors before retiring. He went on to coach in the majors for 25 years. He died on June 4, 2023.**

  • Ray Herbert had been picked up by the Phils in 1965, during which he started 19 games. But in 1966, when he was 36, he pitched almost exclusively in relief. The 15-year vet, who had spent most of his career in the AL, was released after the '66 season and retired.

  • 1966 was Terry Fox's last season in the majors too and his only one with the Phillies. He had spent seven years in the minors and seven years in the big leagues, mostly with Detroit. He finished with a 29-19 record, all in relief, with 59 saves and a 2.99 career ERA. He retired in 1967 after a year in the minors and accumulating shoulder injuries.

Sadly, the Phillies' 1966 strategy of adding experienced but aging vets to take another crack at the pennant didn't pan out. The Phillies won only two more games in 1966 than they had in 1965. They moved up in the standings but only from 6th to 4th. During the next 10 months, the Phils jettisoned most of the veterans they had recently acquired, including Buhl, Groat, Uecker, Craig, Linz, Herbert, Brandt, and Kuenn.

In 1967, the Phils won only 82 games, just two games over .500, and the dismantling of the team’s core began with the trade of Bunning to the Pirates that December. Allen was traded to the Cardinals in December 1969. Callison, Taylor, Rojas, and González were all gone shortly thereafter. The 1968 season began a string of seven straight losing seasons for the Phillies.

Mauch himself was fired on June 16, 1968, although he went on to coach other teams for the next 20 years. Quinn remained as general manager of the Phillies until 1972. In his final trade, he acquired future Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton.


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