Coming soon: a Phillies Homerun milestone

coming soon: a phillies homerun milestone

Coming soon: a Phillies Homerun milestone

It’s June 20th, 1883: Krakatoa has recently erupted, Treasure Island has arrived in book stores, and the Brooklyn Bridge is now open after 13 years of construction. Meanwhile, the Phillies are in their first season in the National League. They’re in Boston, facing the Red Caps (the future Atlanta Braves) for their 35th game of the year, and their record stands at 8-26. Batting third in the top of the first inning, shortstop Bill McClellan will do something no Phillie has done yet: he will hit the new franchise’s first ever home run.

Almost 141 years later, the Phils are sitting at 13,998 homers, about to become the 9th major league franchise to reach 14,000.

To commemorate being on the verge of this big round number, we’ll take this opportunity to review the Phillies hitters who have been the franchise’s all-time leaders in home runs, from Bill McClellan (1) to Mike Schmidt (548).

PHILLIES CAREER HOMERUN LEADERS

Bill McClellan, 6/20/1883 (1) - 10/8/1884 (4)

The Phillies would hit two more homers in 1883, by Emil Gross and Blondie Purcell. Jack Manning hit the next one, in early 1884, making it a four-way tie with one each. McClellan was the first Phil to hit his second (7/3/1884), and he held at least a tie of the lead for over a year until the last week of the ‘84 season.

Jack Manning, 10/9/1884 (5) - 7/24/1885 (6)

McClellan’s reign as the Phillies home run king came to an end as the ‘84 season was winding down, thanks to outfielder Jack Manning. Manning played right field and led off that day, and he came into play with two homers as a Phillie (two behind McClellan):

On October 9, 1884, when his Philadelphia Quakers ballclub were visiting the Chicago White Stockings in Lakeshore Park, he hit three home runs in the same game, becoming the third player to do so. The first occasions were done by Ned Williamson and Cap Anson. All three had their big game in that hitter-friendly park in 1884.

The late 1800s was a period of constant change in teams, rules, equipment, and tactics. That included ground rules at the Cubs’ home at the time, Union Base-Ball Grounds (or “Lakeshore Park”):

The right field fence was less than 200 feet away, so anyone hitting the ball over that fence was awarded only a ground rule double. Batters would aim for the fence, and during their years at the park, the Chicago club regularly led the league in doubles. In what would be their final season on the lakefront [1884], the White Stockings decided to make the entire outfield fence home run territory. Thus, the team slumped in the number of doubles while boosting their home runs from typically a dozen or two to 142, easily outdistancing second place Buffalo, which had 39 for the season. The entire league’s home run totals were up, thanks to the change to the Chicago ground rules.

How much of a fluke was this? Not only was it the first 3-HR game by a Phillie, it was also the first time any Phillie had hit more than one. They had been playing for two seasons by this point, and as a team had hit a total of 13: three in their inaugural 1883 season, and 10 more in 1884.

They wouldn’t have their first two-homer game until the start of the following season, when Charlie Bastian hit a pair on May 9, 1885.

Joe Mulvey, 7/25/1885 (7) - 7/31/1887 (12)

Manning would hit one more (his sixth), before third baseman Joe Mulvey passed him in July of 1885 — Mulvey would hold the title for two years. Mulvey is probably more well known for 1) surviving a gun-shot wound from a fan while with Providence in 1883, and 2) holding the record, along with five other players, for most errors in a game by a third baseman, with six.

George Wood, 8/1/1887 (13) - 9/25/1891 (29)

Mulvey would be overtaken by outfielder George Wood, who had already led the NL in home runs back in 1882, with seven.

When he retired after 1892, Wood was 12th on MLB’s all-time MLB list, with 68 homeruns.

Sam Thompson, 9/26/1891 (30) – 9/5/1917 (95)

Hall of Famer Big Sam Thompson was one of the most feared hitters of the late 1800s, leading the NL in HRs twice, RBIs three times, and Slugging three times. In the 1890s he was part of the great Phillies outfield with two other future Hall of Famers, Ed Delahanty and Billy Hamilton.

It’s a fairly well known bit of trivia that when Babe Ruth shot to the top of the all-time HR list in 1921, the man he passed was Roger Connor, who had 136. Less well known is that the slugger just behind Connor at the time was Thompson, with 126.

He retired to Detroit, where he worked as a U.S. marshal and bailiff, but was coaxed out of retirement for eight games in 1906. At the age of 46 he again shared an outfield with fellow future Hall members, this time Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford.

Gavvy Cravath, 9/6/1917 (96) – 5/4/1924 (117)

Gavvy Cravath was stuck in the minors for many years, before finally making it to the majors for good in 1912 at the age of 31.

Like Thompson before him, Cravath took advantage of the Baker Bowl’s dimensions to lead the NL in home runs six times in the span of seven years during the Dead-ball era (1913-19). When he retired in 1920, he was fourth on the all-time list, behind only Connor, Thompson, and Harry Stovey.

Cy Williams, 5/5/1924 (118) – 7/23/1937 (217)

Cy Williams had already led the NL in homeruns and OPS two yeas earlier, when the Phillies acquired him from the Cubs in 1918 in exchange for Dode Paskert.

Williams set a new NL record with 41 homers in 1923, and surpassed Cravath on the Phillies career list the following year. The “Williams Shift”, which was famously later associated with Ted Williams, was first used against Cy.

He retired as the National League’s career HR leader with 251, until Rogers Hornsby passed him in 1929.

Chuck Klein, 7/24/1937 (218) – 6/18/1956 (243)

Chuck Klein had one of the great five-year runs a hitter has ever had, with a combined .359/.414/.637 line (1.050 OPS) from 1929 through ’33. Granted that was helped in part by both the high offense environment at the time (still a 161 OPS+), as well as the short right field in his home park.

Del Ennis, 6/19/1956 (244) – 7/24/1980 (259)

Ennis came up in 1946, and led the NL in RBIs with 126 in 1950 to help the Whiz Kids win the NL pennant. His 31 HRs that year were a career high, with most seasons in the 24-30 range.

About halfway through his final season as a Phillie, Ennis passed Chuck Klein as the Phillies career HR leader, a title he would hold for the next 24 years.

Mike Schmidt, 7/25/1980 (260) - ??? (548)

On the way to the Phillies reaching the World Series for the first time in 30 years (and ultimately winning it for the first time), Mike Schmidt surpassed Ennis in late July of 1980.

When (or whether) any Phillie will ever pass Schmidt’s record is very hard to say. Players who remain with one organization their entire careers have become a rarity, and yet that’s what it would likely take for someone to reach Schmidt’s total.

In the meantime look for the Phillies to reach 14,000 home runs, hopefully tonight.

coming soon: a phillies homerun milestone

Below is a similar list for the franchise single-season record:

coming soon: a phillies homerun milestone

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