Posted on Sat, Sep. 29, 2007
For '64 Phils: Been there, done that
Members of the infamous team say they can sympathize with the Mets.
By Sam Carchidi
Inquirer Staff Writer
The New York Mets' free fall has been greeted with sympathy by several members of the 1964 Phillies.
Those Phillies, of course, suffered the greatest late-season collapse in baseball history. They led the National League by 61/2 games with 12 to go - and promptly lost 10 straight and finished in a second-place tie.
The Mets have lost a seven-game lead in two weeks and fallen out of first place. If they finish second, behind the Phillies, they will have blown a seven-game lead with 17 to play.
No, it's not quite as grim as the '64 Phillies' math, but it would put them in the neighborhood.
"I feel sorry for them; they've been in first place the whole year," Tony Gonzalez, a starting outfielder on the '64 Phils, said yesterday from his home in Miami. "And there's a chance they won't even get the wild card."
"I was through it in '64 and wouldn't want it to happen to anybody else," he said. "No matter what you do, you keep falling down. The Mets scored nine runs the other day and still lost. Their bullpen was the best in the league earlier in the year, and now they can't get anybody out. The same funny things happened to us in '64. . . .
"[Johnny] Callison hit three homers in a game, and we still lost. Chico Ruiz and Willie Davis stole home to beat us. In another game, Felipe Alou strikes out and reaches first on a passed ball with two outs, and then Hank Aaron hits a homer into the upper deck and beats us. I think '64 was worse than what's happening with the Mets because of the way we lost."
Ray Culp, whose sore elbow kept him from pitching during the Phillies' late-season '64 collapse, said he "absolutely can sympathize" with the Mets, "because if they let it slip away, they'll have some bad memories."
"That," said Culp, a real estate investor in Austin, Texas, "is not my most pleasant year to remember."
Even if the Mets continue to falter, the image of the '64 Phillies never will be erased, said Jack Baldschun, who had 21 saves for the '64 Phillies. "I've always said if we had won the pennant, we wouldn't have gotten as much press as we did for losing it."
Baldschun said he could relate to how the Mets were dealing with their late-season problems.
"We tried a lot of things. You hold team meetings, and that doesn't help. You play as hard as you can, and you still lose," the retired lumber salesman said from Green Bay, Wis.
Dennis Bennett, who went 12-14 for the '64 Phils, wasn't as sympathetic to the Mets' woes.
"I don't feel sorry for them," said Bennett, who owns a cocktail lounge/restaurant in Oregon. "I feel happy for the Phillies. I signed with the Phillies, so a piece of me is still with them."