Philadelphia Phillies (minors)

From BR Bullpen

Team History[edit]

The minor league Philadelphia Phillies preceded the coming of their National League namesakes by one year.

According to Robert D. Warrington, "Histories of the Philadelphia Phillies portray the club's admission to the National League as a straightforward and swift process." Which is generally how it is viewed with most of the teams that joined the National League in the 19th century. But, as it happens, that's not always the case. There has also been a persistent belief that the Phillies were actually a continuation of the Worcester Ruby Legs, yet there is no evidence that any of the players made the transition from Worcester to Philadelphia. As it happens the Phillies actually began prior to the 1883 season or to be more technical, prior to December 7, 1882, the date when the Phillies joined the National League.

The earliest beginnings of the Phillies can be dated to September 24, 1881, when an article appeared in the New York Clipper stating that Horace Phillips will run a first-class club in the Quaker City (Philadelphia), backed by influential supporters of the game, including a former baseball player Al Reach. It should be pointed out that Phillips was the current manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. Reach was best known as a member of the original Athletics, having last played for the team in 1875.

At the same time, a new league was being formulated by Phillips to challenge the National League's baseball monopoly. However before Phillips could participate in that first meeting as representative of the Athletics, he was let go as team manager on October 9th, so he was not able to attend. A second more formal meeting was scheduled for November 2nd at the Gibson House in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was here that the American Association of Professional Base Ball Clubs was formed. Initially the league was made up of six teams: the Athletics of Philadelphia, the Atlantics of Brooklyn, St. Louis, Cincinnati, the Alleghenys of Pittsburgh, and the Eclipse of Louisville (Brooklyn would eventually drop out and be replaced by the Baltimore Orioles). Horace Phillips was also at the meeting, this time representing Al Reach and their soon-to-be-formed Philadelphia Base Ball Club. Unfortunately things did not work out for Phillips and Reach. While it was important to have the cities of New York and Philadelphia represented in the new league, they could only have one team from each city. Therefore the Athletics were in, and the unnamed Philadelphia franchise was out.

The only other option was the National League. However, there was an embargo or ban which had been in place since 1876, on allowing teams from the cities of New York and Philadelphia. This was due to the unwillingness of previous National League clubs, the New York Mutuals and Philadelphia Athletics, who refused to make their final western road trips of the 1876 season in the belief that they would lose money because they were no longer in the hunt for the league pennant. Therefore Chicago White Stockings president William Hulbert saw to it that both clubs were expelled from the league and that no other club from either city would be allowed in the league in future years.

By 1881 the ban was still in effect as Hulbert had now become league president. Around this time, a team from New York, the Metropolitan Baseball Club (New York Metropolitans), sought entry into the National League. The annual league meeting of the National League took place on December 7th. Hulbert, who was seriously ill at this point, was reelected president, while the Metropolitans' application was denied in part because none of the current members wanted to drop out. At the meeting, the owners discussed the formation of the new league. While the owners of the National League hoped that the league would fail, they also knew the possibility that it would not. According to the New York Clipper, the six cities represented in the American Association contained over 2 million inhabitants, while the eight cities in the National League had a little more than half that number, so there was some pressure to move into bigger markets before too long, or risk being marginalized by their newly minted rival.

The owners knew they needed to counter the American Association, but as long as Hulbert was in charge, the embargo would remain in place. The owners sought a way around this by reactivating the League Alliance. The idea was that it would keep clubs in New York and Philadelphia outside of the American Association, and have them retain a formal link them to the National League. The idea was to have the two teams play each other as well as against other teams in the National League, and then at the end of the season it was hoped to add both teams to the league for the 1883 season. John B. Day, who was the owner of the Metropolitan Club, attended the league meeting as a non-voting member and accepted the offer to join the alliance. Around this time a letter arrived from Reach who agreed to have his club joined the fledgling league was well. Given the lateness of their acceptance into the league and the fact that the team existed only on paper, Reach and Phillips had to scramble to find a home ballpark and build a roster.

So what was the team called? Initially the team was known as the "Philadelphia Ball Club and Sporting Association". By April 15, 1882, the team was called the "Philadelphia Ball Club and Exhibition Company". Concerning the press: Generally the team was referred to in the singular or plural (i.e. Philadelphia or Philadelphias). They were also called the Phillies for short. However, they were not the first team to be referred to by this nickname, a distinction which belongs to the Philadelphia White Stockings. At least three teams were referred to by the "Phillies" nickname between 1873 and 1877. As for the "Quakers" nickname, which is often attached to the team's first seasons in the National League, there may have been newspapers who had referred to the team that way, but the two newspapers who did extensive coverage on the team during its early years, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Clipper, never referred to the team as the Quakers.

When it came to finding a home field for the team, Reach looked to the Recreation Park. Located at 24th and Ridgeway, the ballpark had been home to previous Philadelphia clubs: The Philadelphia Centennials and a previously named Philadelphia Phillies team that had called the grounds home in 1881. Initially, Reach was not able to secure a lease for the Grounds because the location was supposed to have been used for other purposes, so he was forced to look elsewhere. However it has been said that Reach was told this initially by the owner in order to get more money from Reach, but the two sides eventually came to an agreement. reach then set about making renovations to the Grounds.

When it came to completing the team roster, Reach and Phillips needed to find top-flight ballplayers, players who would capture fans attention, otherwise the team would lose out to the Athletics. So Reach put an advertisement into the newspaper looking for ballplayers. The team would suffer its first setback on January 15th, when Horace Phillips abruptly resigned. He had decided to devote his entire attention to overseeing the other sports at the Recreation Grounds, such as lacrosse, football, lawn-tennis, polo and bicycling. This left Reach as acting manager until a replacement could be found. Most of the ballplayers who played for Philadelphia had previous major league experience. One player, first baseman Pop Corkhill, had no major experience at all.

The schedule for the 1882 season was approved at the National League meeting on March 7th, with both Reach and Day attending as non-voting members. It was up to both clubs to schedule their games against clubs from the the National League and American Association. These games would be held on the latter's off-days. From a financial standpoint it would do for both teams to schedule as many games against the major league teams, as they were likely to draw the largest crowds. Reach managed to schedule games against all 8 members of the National League. The only team from the American Association he would manage to secure games against were the Philadelphia Athletics. He also scheduled games against five amateur and semi-professional clubs from Philadelphia.

With the season set to open on April 8th, Al Reach decided to name Jack Manning team manager. The team opened the season at home against the Providence Grays of the National League. 3,000 fans were in attendance to see the team lose to the Grays, 3-0. When the Phillies played the Grays a second time three days later, Horace Phillips was back as manager. Manning spent the rest season playing in the outfield. The team got its first win against the Brooklyn Atlantics on April 12th. After losing their first 11 games against National League opponents, the Phillies held the Boston Red Stockings to a 12-12 tie. The team’s first major league win came on May 20th. 10,000 fans showed up at Oakdale Park to watch the visiting Phillies defeat the home team Athletics, 7-6. Their first win against a National League team came on May 24th against Boston. However only 1,000 were on hand to see the victory.

The Phillies' first game against the Metropolitans was a 3-0 win on May 8th, but would only win one other game against them for the month of May. Throughout the season, the series was competitive between the two clubs, even though the Mets were leading the series in wins. Half-way through the season, the Phillies had an overall record of 32-36-2. Things changed again for the Phillies on July 23rd. It was on one of the team's off days that manager Horace Phillips announced that he was again leaving the team. This time he was to be heading west to Indianapolis, IN where he was putting together a baseball team for the next season. To replace him, Reach selected Billy Barnie, who was managing the Brooklyn Atlantics, an independent ball club. Barnie's first game came the next day and was a 2-1 loss to the Metropolitans. The Metropolitans clinched the series on the 26th in an 8-6 win.

To keep fans' interest in the remaining games between the two clubs, gentlemen from Philadelphia put forth a prize, a silver punch bowl, to be awarded to the winner of a new 12-game series between the two clubs. The series was to begin on August 31st. It should be pointed out that prior to the start of the new round of games between the two clubs, the Metropolitans and the Philadelphias had played each other two more times following the Metropolitans' July 26th win, both teams winning one game each. When the series resumed on August 31st, the Phillies won the first four games. The Mets would then win the next five.

During this time, Al Reach was looking to the next season. According an article dated September 17th in the Philadelphia Item, Reach had returned from the west, where it was rumored that he had the contracts of several fine players and that it was believed that the Philadelphia club would be a strong one for the 1883 season. A week later a special meeting was held with the owners of the National League. At the meeting the resignations of the Troy and Worcester clubs was discussed, as well as who would replace them. The Philadelphia Item reported that several applications had been presented to the league, among those included were the applications from Reach's Philadelphia Club, and Day's Metropolitans. Even though the Phillies had not officially been accepted into the league, the newspaper says that it was now a settled fact that the Phillies were in. At that time, both Troy and Worcester had not officially withdrawn from the league, which would come later that December.

Four days later it was reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer that the addition of the Phillies to the National League had been done without the consent of team owner Al Reach. It was said that unless he could get a strong team together for the 1883 season, in order to win the pennant, he would remain a member of the League Alliance. If this were to actually happen, there would be the possibility of moving the Troy Club to Philadelphia. The New York Clipper reported on October 7th that if Reach did not accept the National League's offer to join the league, another team would be placed in Philadelphia, and his team would be tossed out of the League Alliance.

From a financial standpoint, joining the NL would be beneficial to the Phillies as they would be making more money. Reach had every reason to be concerned about his team's success in the National League: against the other NL clubs, the Phillies had posted a 16-44-5 record. But even so, it was rare that home attendance would see less than a 1,000 fans in the stands, and often times the attendance exceeded that number. It showed that the city not only could support an NL club, but it could also support two baseball teams.

The Phillies concluded their season with a three-game series against the Metropolitans. The Phillies won the first game, 4-2. The second game was a game that was marred with controversy. Team owner Al Reach was selected to serve as umpire. By the end of the 6th, the Phillies were leading, 1-0. The team then claimed that darkness made the ball almost impossible to see. The Metropolitans claimed otherwise, and the game continued into the 7th. The Mets scored 2 runs in the top of inning. In the bottom of the 7th, the Phillies were down to their last out, when Reach called the game on account of darkness. The score was then reverted to the completed previous inning, and the Phillies won the game, 1-0, much to the annoyance of the Mets. The series finale found the Mets in a foul mood. Throughout the game they disputed every decision made by umpire Charles Fulmer that did not go their way, and in return they were hooted and jeered by the home crowd. The Mets won the game, 9-4, "tying" the series at six wins apiece. Reach was unsuccessful in trying for another game on October 26th as the Mets were unwilling to stay in Philadelphia for another night. The Mets won the overall series with a record of 19-12-1. Against the other Philadelphia teams, the Phillies went 5-0 including a two-game series win against the Athletics.

When the season ended on October 25th they had a 67-66-6 record. On December 7th the Phillies officially became members of the National League. The Mets were also offered a chance to join, but they chose to join the American Association instead. The league did admit a club from New York, a club that was also owned by John Day. This was to be the famed New York Giants, the club that is known today as the San Francisco Giants.

During the off-season several changes were made: the first was the reorganization of the club on November 1st. Reach changed the name from the "Philadelphia Ball Club and Exhibition Co." to the "Philadelphia Ball Club Ltd." At the same time, Reach brought in new partners: John I. Rogers was named secretary and treasurer; Thomas J. Pratt and Stephen Farrelly were also stockholders, with Farrelly as majority owner with 100 shares. Reach, who was chairman held 20. Rogers and Pratt held the remaining 30 shares. Barnie was replaced as manager by Bob Ferguson. Only three players made the transition with the team into the National League: Outfielders John Manning and Fred Lewis, and shortstop Bill McClellan. Outfielder Mike Moynahan signed on with the Athletics.

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager
1882 67-66-6 2nd Jack Manning (0-1)/Horace Phillips (31-38-2)/Bill Barnie (35-27-4)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Matt Albertson: "Understanding the Phillies Origins and Nickname",, May 13, 2019
  • Brock Helander: "The League Alliance", SABR Bio Project [1]
  • Brock Helander: "Prelude to the Formation of the American Association", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 7-12.
  • Matt Veasey: 1882: First Phillies team takes the field, May 25, 2020
  • Robert D. Warrington: "Philadelphia in the 1882 League Alliance", in Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 48 Number 2, Fall 2019, pp. 105-124.
  • Robert D. Warrington: Philadelphia in the 1881 Eastern Championship Association, The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Spring 2019. [2]

Newspaper Articles:

  • Richard Hershberger for
  • New York Clipper October 8, 1881
  • New York Clipper October 15, 1881
  • New York Clipper November 19, 1881
  • The Philadelphia Item September 17, 1882
  • The Philadelphia Item September 24, 1882
  • Cincinnati Enquirer Sept. 28, 1882


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