If you look at the flagpoles toward centerfield at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa., you’ll notice different colored flags indicating various years. Those flags represent the division titles, National League pennants, and World Series crowns won by the Philadelphia Phillies. Since the Phillies joined Major League Baseball in 1883, they’ve captured seven NL championships, including the MLB title in 1980 and 2008 (big-league runner-up in 1915, 1950, 1983, 1993, and 2009).
It’s hard to believe exactly 100 years have gone by since the Phillies won their first pennant. On Sept. 29, 1915, the Phillies defeated the Boston Braves, 5-0, at Braves Field to clinch the league title with five games remaining. Staff ace Grover Cleveland Alexander completed his record-setting fourth one-hitter of the season, allowing a single to ex-Phillie Sherry Magee while permitting one bases on ball and posted four strikeouts.
Philadelphia scored five runs on 10 hits, drew one walk, and committed one error. Boston failed to score on one hit, committed two errors, and walked once. The Phillies tallied three runs in the top of the first inning, one in the fourth, and one during the seventh, all of Boston starter Dick Rudolph, who fanned six batters in the complete game loss.
Shortstop Dave Bancroft, right-fielder Gavvy Cravath, and Alexander each posted two hits. Alexander recorded a double, centerfielder Dode Paskert tripled, and Cravath hit a double and a home run. First baseman Fred Luderus, second baseman Bert Niehoff, and left-fielder Possum Whitted also notched singles. Bancroft and Cravath scored two runs apiece and Paskert also crossed home plate.
Anyway, Philadelphia’s pitching proved it belonged in the World Series as the NL representative, posting a league-low 2.17 Earned Run Average in 1,374 innings with a league-most 98 complete games, 1,161 hits, 342 walks, 652 strikeouts, and 20 shutouts. The starting rotation consisted of Alexander, George Chalmers (8-9, 26 games, 20 starts, 170 innings, 82 strikeouts, one shutout, 2.49 ERA), Al Demaree (14-11, 32 games, 26 starts, 210 innings, 69 strikeouts, three shutouts, 3.04 ERA), Erskine Mayer, and Eppa Rixey (11-12, 29 games, 22 starts, 177 innings, 88 strikeouts, two shutouts, 2.39 ERA). George McQuillan, who pitched for the Phillies from 1907 until 1910, came back to Philadelphia, going 4-3 in nine games with 11 walks and 13 strikeouts while posting a 2.11 ERA.
Alexander (31-10) led all NL pitchers in wins, complete games (36), innings (376), strikeouts (241), shutouts (12), one-hitters (four), and ERA (1.22). Mayer (21-15) struck out 114 batters in 275 innings (43 games, 33 starts) with two shutouts and a 2.36 ERA. Stan Baumgartner (0-2, 16 games, one start, 48 innings, 2.44 ERA), Joe Oeschger (1-0, six games, one start, 24 innings, 3.38 ERA), and Ben Tincup (0-0, 10 games, 31 innings, nine walks, 10 strikeouts, 2.03 ERA) also made pitching contributions.
Mayer and Alexander both defeated every club in the eight-team NL. At one point in the season, Alexander posted nine consecutive victories.
At the plate, the Phillies batted .247 (1,216-for-4,916) with 589 runs, 202 doubles, 39 triples, a league-most 58 home runs, 121 stolen bases, and 486 runs batted in. Philadelphia’s starting lineup usually included Bob Byrne at third base, Bancroft at shortstop, Paskert in centerfield, Cravath in right field, Luderus guarding first base, Whitted in left field, Niehoff at second base, and Bill Killefer behind the plate.
Cravath led the league in runs (89), homers (24), and RBIs (115) while batting .285 (149-for-522, 61 extra-base hits) in 150 games. Luderus led the Phillies in hitting (.315), hits (157), and doubles (36). Whitted stole 24 bases, Bancroft participated in all 153 games and collected 143 hits in 563 at-bats, and Ed Burns was the catcher and Stock guarded third base when the Phillies won the pennant in Boston.
On Aug. 18, Cravath tallied eight RBIs in a home game against Pittsburgh. Bancroft stole three bases at Boston on May 31.
The Phillies posted the league’s second-highest fielding percentage that season at .965 with 216 errors and 99 double plays. Byrne compiled a .969 fielding percentage, tops for all NL third basemen. Cravath recorded 28 assists from right field.
First-year manager Pat Moran led the Phillies to the pennant with 90 victories, 62 losses, and one tie, seven games ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs. The Phillies, who won their first eight games of the season, spent 135 days in first place, occupying the second spot from May 22 until July 13 before staying put as the leader. However, in the 1915 World Series, the Phillies lost to the Boston Red Sox of the American League, four-games-to-one. Philadelphia didn’t capture another pennant until 1950 when it was swept by the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic.
*Information about the 1915 Phillies and the 1915 World Series between the Red Sox and Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.