The start of another Phillies season and the recent death of Dallas Green made us pause for a minute and harken back to those golden days of yesteryear when the Phils were great and had a distinct First State flavor. The Dallas Cowboys may have been America’s Team, but the Philadelphia Phillies were Delaware’s Team. Here’s a quick rundown of the people who made Delaware blue and gold blend with Phillies red and white:
The manager: Start with Dallas Green, an ace pitcher at Conrad High and the University of Delaware who played for the Phillies for six seasons. Green was never a star in the big leagues – his career record with the Phils was just 20-22 – but just making it to majors was a major accomplishment for the kid from Newport.
Then, of course, he became part of Phillies history when he left the front office for the dugout and became manager of the 1980 team that won the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s long history.
And Green wasn’t just some guy who sat in that dugout and made up lineup cards. He was a leader in every sense of the word, an intimidating figure who wasn’t afraid to take on stars like Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. After Green died at 82, Larry Bowa, another member of that ’80 team who has also been part of the Phillies for decades, stated that the Phils would not have won that World Series if it wasn’t for Green’s ramrod leadership.
The owner: Delaware’s influence on that Phillies’ team really started at the top, with the ownership. Bob Carpenter (and if you don’t know who he is by now you should move to Rhode Island or someplace) purchased the Phillies in 1943 and his son, Ruly Carpenter, took over control of the club in 1972 at the young age of 32.
Ruly Carpenter was the owner who, with Green’s help, rebuilt the pitiful Phillies farm system that produced future stars like Schmidt, Bowa, Greg Luzinski and Bob Boone, and acquired cornerstone players like Carlton, Manny Trillo, Garry Maddox, Tug McGraw and, of course, Pete Rose.
That culminated in 1980 when the Phillies finally won a World Series, but the spiraling costs of running the franchise, including salaries that skyrocketed with free agency, prompted Ruly Carpenter to sell the team in 1981 for $32.5 million, which today is about what a utility infielder makes per year.
The athletics trainer: Like Dallas Green, Jeff Cooper’s path to the Phillies went through Conrad High and the University of Delaware, where he was a student athletics trainer. He was hired as an assistant trainer by the Phillies in 1976 and was promoted to head athletics trainer in 1980, a job he held for the next 25 years. Cooper quickly won the trust and confidence of the players and he became one of the most respected athletic trainers in all of sports. He won just about every athletics trainer award there is before being elected to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
The scout: Brandon “Brandy” Davis was a standout three-sport athlete at Newark High before matriculating to Duke, where he played basket and ran track. Davis was a good enough all-around athlete to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951 and he was a base-stealing whiz, once stealing 82 bases in 85 attempts. He held several positions throughout a long baseball career with the Dodgers, Astros and Cubs, but it was his bird-dogging for the Phillies – he was part of the team that scouted and signed Mike Schmidt — that won him a World Series ring and elevated him to the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.
The media man: If you walk into the Phillies press box today, the first thing you see is a sign pronouncing the media enclave as “The Baron’s Box.”
The Baron is Larry Shenk, who was the Phillies media guru from 1964-2008 and who made the drive from his north Wilmington home to Philadelphia every day for decades.
To put his career into perspective, Shenk outlasted 16 managers and during his tenure the Phillies won five pennants and two World Series. Shenk got his start as a sports writer for the Wilmington News-Journal before joining the Phillies in 1964, just in time to witness one of the greatest collapses in sports history. Shenk is still involved with the Phillies as director of alumni affairs and in 2014 he published a book about his time with the Phils, If These Walls Could Talk.
The organ player: It’s common today for a baseball player to have his own theme song played when he walks to the plate (think Chase Utley and Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.)
Well, that all started with Delawarean Paul Richardson, who played the organ at Phillies games from 1970-2005. Richardson, who died in 2006, was a talented and understated musician who understood that baseball was an understated game. Today, of course, fans are bombarded by loud, almost non-stop music that is prerecorded and intrusive, and we pine for the good ol’ days when Richardson was at the keyboard for all Phillies home games. Here’s a taste of that – a clip of Richardson playing “Take Me Out to The Ball Game”.