If you don’t win the championship this year, there’s always next year.
The Philadelphia Phillies captured their first National League pennant in 1915 after a 90-62-1 regular season. Although the Phillies dropped the final four games after winning game one of the 1915 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, 1916 appeared to be the season the World Series trophy would arrive in Philadelphia.
In his second season as Philadelphia’s manager, Pat Moran led the Phillies to a 91-62-1 campaign. Despite earning one more victory than the previous season, the Phillies were two-and-a-half games behind the NL champion Brooklyn Dodgers. The Phillies wouldn’t win back-to-back league championships until 2008 and 2009.
All of the starting pitchers from the 1915 squad returned; those pitchers included Grover Cleveland Alexander, George Chalmers (1-4, 12 games, eight starts, 54 innings, 21 punch-outs, 3.17 ERA), Al Demaree (19-14, 39 games, 35 starts, 285 innings, 130 strikeouts, 48 walks, three shutouts, 2.62 ERA), Erskine Mayer (7-7, 28 games, 16 starts, 140 innings, 62 strikeouts, two shutouts, 3.15 ERA), George McQuillan (1-7, 21 games, three starts, 62 innings, 22 strikeouts, 2.76 ERA), and Eppa Rixey. Hall of Fame pitcher Chief Bender (7-7, 27 games, 13 starts, 123 innings, 43 strikeouts, 3.73 ERA) joined the Phillies in 1915 after spending the previous season in the Federal League.
On the mound, Phillies pitchers posted a combined 2.36 Earned Run Average in 1,382 innings with 24 shutouts, a league-leading 97 complete games, 1,238 hits, 295 bases on balls, and 601 strikeouts. Alexander (33-12) led all NL pitchers in victories, starts (45), complete games (38), innings (389), hits allowed (323), strikeouts (167), shutouts (16), and ERA (1.55). Rixey, a 1963 inductee in Cooperstown, NY, reached his Hall of Fame potential by striking out 134 batters, shutting out three opponents, and posting a 1.85 ERA with 22 wins and 10 defeats in 287 innings (38 games, 33 starts).
Rixey and Alexander both defeated every club in the eight-team NL; Alexander accomplished this feat for the sixth consecutive season. Bender batted .279 with 12 hits in 43 at-bats. At one point during the season, Alexander didn’t surrender a run in 30 consecutive innings; he holds the Phillies’ record for most consecutive scoreless innings at 41 and two-thirds in 1911.
At the plate, the Phillies collected 1,244 hits in 4,985 at-bats (.250 batting average) with 581 runs, an NL-most 223 doubles, 53 triples, 42 home runs, 486 runs batted in, and 149 stolen bases. Right-fielder Gavvy Cravath, who slammed 24 homers in 1915, touched them all 11 times while batting .283 (127-for-448) in 137 games with 70 runs, 21 doubles, eight triples, and 70 RBIs. Second Baseman Bert Niehoff hit .243 (133-for-548) in 146 games, which includes 65 runs, 61 RBIs, and a league-leading 42 doubles.
Center-fielder Dode Paskert (155-for-555) scored 82 runs, slammed eight long-balls, posted 30 doubles, and stole 22 bases in 149 games. Left-fielder George “Possum” Whitted stole 29 bases, plated 68 runs, touched home plate 68 times, slugged 20 doubles, stretched 12 triples, and circled all four bases in a plate appearance eight times in 147 games.
Cravath slugged two triples on May 16 at Cincinnati. The right-fielder also recorded two-triple games in 1912 and 1913.
Defensively, the Phillies displayed the league’s fifth-ranked fielding percentage at .963, committing 234 errors while turning 119 double plays. Niehoff took part in a league-leading 65 double plays at second base.
Despite falling short in repeating as league champions, Baker Bowl admitted a record 515,365, the highest attendance in a single season during the stadium’s existence. The Phillies called Baker Bowl home from 1887 until 1938. Philadelphia wouldn’t reach a World Series from 1916 until 1949, returning to the Major League Baseball championship series in 1950.
*Information about the 1916 Phillies can be found in “The Phillies Encyclopedia (Third Edition)” by Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky.