How the Phillies Used ‘Stupid Money’ to Rebuild Their Roster
As the Phillies go through their summer shuffle, we take a look at how the club was built from the ground up.
In the early years of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Phillies had one of the richest histories in baseball. They had won the National League pennant as a young team in 1901, and then went on to win it again in 1903. In those early days, however, they were not a powerhouse; the top stars at the time were Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Honus Wagner, each of whom had a career batting average of.325.
Over the decades, the Phillies would go on to make plenty of changes with their roster. But one thing had remained the same all along, and that was their “stupid money” — the combination of high-value draft picks and free agents who were brought in with very little to no salary to fill out their rosters and help them to win.
As the Phillies were building their roster over the years, the team would acquire many of their top players by buying or trading them from other organizations. For example, in 1952 the team acquired pitcher Frank Chance from the Red Sox. Chance had been the Red Sox’s #1 draft pick in 1946 and had been a star for the Boston team from 1920-1941. He won four National League pennants in his 11-year career with Boston, batting a.322 lifetime average with 1,073 hits in 1,437 games.
Just a few years later, the Phillies would acquire outfielder Johnny Pesky from the Angels in a blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. Pesky was known for his speed on the bases, and had spent five seasons with the Boston American League team. His career batting average in the major leagues was.297, and in the minors he had a career batting average of.346.
Before trading away the team’s top stars, in 1953 the Phillies signed pitcher Lefty O’Doul, who would go on to win three more Cy Young Awards and three more World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.