The oldest active team in Major League Baseball happens to be the Philadelphia Phillies. On May 1, 2015, the Phillies celebrated 132 years since their first game.
Between 1883 and May 2015, the Phillies have appeared in seven World Series (1915, 1950, 1980, 1983, 1993, 2008 and 2009), emerging as MLB champions in 1980 and 2008. The Phillies have recorded 13 no-hitters (two of those were perfect games) while being no-hit 19 times. Philadelphia has called home to Recreation Park (1883-1886), Baker Bowl (1887-1938), Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium (1927, 1938-1970), Veterans Stadium (1971-2003) and Citizens Bank Park (since 2004); the Phillies also played six games (5-1) at the University of Pennsylvania in 1894 and 16 games (6-9-1) at Columbia Park in 1903.
On May 1, 1883 at 1:30 p.m. ET, Recreation Park on 24th and Columbia welcomed the visiting Providence Grays and host Philadelphia Phillies for the Phillies’ first game. Providence’s Charles Radbourne, a future Hall of Famer pitcher, had been pitted against Philadelphia’s John Coleman with approximately 1,200 spectators witnessing the start of the Phillies.
Taking the field for the Phillies were Coleman (pitcher, batted seventh), Frank Ringo (catcher, eighth), Sid Farrar (first base, ninth), Bob Ferguson (second base, fourth), Will Harbridge (third base, sixth), Bill McClellan (shortstop, second), Blondie Purcell (left field, leadoff), Fred Lewis (center field, fifth), and John Manning (right field, third). Providence’s lineup involved Paul Hines (CF), Joe Start (1B), John Farrell (2B), Arthur Irwin (SS), John Cassidy (RF), Cliff Carroll (LF), Radbourne (P), Jerry Denny (3B), and Bernie Gilligan (C).
The Phillies scored twice in the bottom of the first and one run in the bottom of the seventh to carry a 3-0 advantage into the top of the eighth. However, Coleman surrender four runs in the top of the eighth as the Grays claimed a 4-3 lead. Radbourne didn’t allow the Phillies to score in the eighth or ninth as Providence earned a 4-3 victory.
In the first-game defeat, Purcell collected two hits, Manning and Ringo each posted doubles, and Coleman struck out two Grays. Coleman, Manning and Ferguson each committed errors while Providence recorded five errors.
After 17 games in 1883, the Phillies were 4-13 and Ferguson, also the team’s manager, resigned as the skipper and was replaced by Purcell. Ferguson continued to play second base and pitched one inning, compiling 85 hits in 329 at-bats and allowed two hits (9.00 Earned Run Average) in his lone appearance on the mound.
The Purcell-led Phillies won 13 of 81 games to finish 1883 17-81; moreover, the Phillies committed 639 errors and scored 437 runs. Philadelphia lost a 29-4 contest (against Boston) and was shutout 28-0 by Providence. Cleveland’s Hugh Daily no-hit the Phillies to hand Philadelphia a 1-0 defeat.
It’s hard to believe the 2014-2015 Philadelphia 76ers (National Basketball Association) won more games (18-64) than the 1883 Phillies. However, the Phillies once committed 27 errors against Providence (walks, wild pitches, and passed balls even counted as errors at that time). Coleman led the Phillies in pitching wins (12) as well as an MLB-record 48 defeats in 65 games (538 innings, 159 strikeouts, 48 walks, 772 hits and 59 complete games with a 4.87 ERA).
Some MLB games in the 20th and 21st centuries featured three home runs by one player; the 1883 Phillies sent a total of three baseballs over the fence (one each by catcher Emil Gross, McClellan and Purcell), none at Recreation Park. Gross (.307 with 71 hits including a team-high 25 doubles) was the only Phillie to hit above .300 as Philadelphia had a league-worst .240 batting average.
Ironically, the Phillies scored three runs at Miami on May 1, 2015. Similar to the Phillies’ first-ever game, Miami eventually tied the game (3-3). Miami won the game, also 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth with zero outs.
*Information regarding the 1883 Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.