THE PHILLIES' fan-stirring domination of the first-place Brewers this week has slowed the historic march toward 10,000 franchise losses. The magic "L" has ticked down to 9,977, just 23 defeats from the inevitable obelisk of oblivion.
Their 20-21 record leaves Manuel's Maulers one game under .500 for the season and 1,193 total games under the international symbol of mediocrity. Putting that numbing number in sharper focus, to reach an all-time break-even point, the Phillies would have to go 162-0 for seven straight seasons and jet to a 59-0 start the following year.
To pay homage to this daunting deficit, a salute to an All-Time Worst Phillies Team seems appropriate. After all, the franchise's All-Time All-Stars have been elected, selected and honored. Now, it's time for the Philadelphia National League Baseball Club's All-Time No-Stars to assume their place in the rain as the special 10K moment hurtles at us.
My hourglass will start with the 1943 Phillies of the Carpenter Family, creating a target-rich 63-year untalent pool and eliminating 60 years of mostly dreadful baseball and some of the worst athletes to ever wear major league flannels.
The Hefty bag, please:
John Bateman (1972): A tough call here. For some unexplained reason, catching has been a Phillies strength since World War II: Andy Seminick. Stan Lopata. Smokey Burgess. Clay Dalrymple. Bob Boone. Bo Diaz. Ozzie Virgil Jr. Darren Daulton. Mike Lieberthal. The Phillies traded Tim McCarver to Montreal for Bateman on June 14, 1972. General manager Paul Owens had no idea that Bateman had so many outstanding warrants from his time in Montreal, he couldn't return to Canada. South of the border, Bateman set the kind of target Steve Carlton preferred. Bateman caught the majority of Carlton's 27 victories for that wretched team, batting .222 in 252 ABs. Larry Bowa thoughtfully appointed Bateman captain of his baseball All-Ugly Team with the comment, "John's face looks like somebody set fire to it and put it out with a track shoe."
Dick Stuart (1965): After the 1964 debacle, Gene Mauch made two big offseason moves. He traded for lefty lothario Bo Belinsky and power-hitting first baseman Stuart - Dr. Strangeglove. Dick didn't dishonor his famous nickname. In 143 games, Stuart hit 28 homers and drove in 95 runs. But he made an appalling 17 errors and was slower on the bases than Third World mail. Add his thriving clubhouse-law practice and you know why the Phils traded him to the Mets before the 1966 season for three utility types. The Mets released him.
Pancho Herrera (1958, '60-'61): OK, Mauch's mad experiment to make the very large first baseman a middle infielder lasted just 17 games. Pancho made only one error and helped turn 11 doubleplays, but he had the range of the Great Pyramid. While planning the move in spring training, Mauch ordered trainer Joe Liscio to put Pancho on a diet. Joe gave him a month's supply of Metrecal, the popular diet drink of the day. Liscio was shocked to discover that Pancho had gained more than 10 pounds. Mauch asked why. "I do what I am told," Pancho shrugged. "I drink the Metrecal before each meal." And? "Then I eat the meal."
Juan Bell (1992-93): Jim Fregosi's 1993 Opening Day shortstop took "Good field, no hit" down a level to "Bad field, no hit." Juan made nine errors in 24 games for a .909 percentage and hit .200 in 65 ABs. He was replaced by Kim Batiste, who was replaced by Kevin Stocker. Juan was the younger brother of George Bell, a future American League MVP lost by the Phils in the Rule 5 draft to Pat Gillick and the Blue Jays.
Charley "Dingo" Smith (1961): Mauch saw a little of himself in Smith, an intense infielder whose nickname paid homage to the wild dogs of the Australian Outback. Third base is the other position where the Phillies have been historically strong: Willie Jones. Rich Allen. Don Money. Mike Schmidt. Dave Hollins. Scott Rolen. Dingo, acquired from the Dodgers, was a rope bridge between Jones and Allen. His 22 errors in 94 games at third left him with a .924 fielding percentage. He hit .248.
Jeff Stone (1983-87): This came down to two Stones - Jeff and Ron "Palm Tree" Stone. Both played all three outfield positions. Jeff wins on quotability. He was an intriguing young man out of the Ozarks - the mountains, not Danny - who ran like a Level 5 tornado was chasing him. He stole 123 bases one season in Class A. But he had the baseball instincts of a manhole cover and threw like the Venus d'Milo. Jeff called the location of the leg miseries that plagued him, "my groan." When a waitress asked if he wanted a shrimp cocktail, he replied, "No, thanks, I don't drink." Watching a full moon rising over the beach at Waikiki, he asked a minor league teammate, "Is that the same moon I see in Missouri?"
Ricky Otero (1996-97): Selected in the 65th round of the 1989 draft by the Blue Jays, didn't sign, then was selected by the Mets on the 45th round in 1990 - Little Ricky must have grown a half inch. "I caught a lot of heat over him," Jim Fregosi says. At 5-5, it was suggested he should shout, "Lucy, I'm home," when he scored and should wear a whip-mast pennant on his hat when in the field so the catcher could see him over the mound. Somehow, the guy managed to get 562 ABs over two seasons here.
Roger Freed (1971-72): The Phils were giddy when they were able to get the 1970 minor league player of the year from Baltimore for lefty reliever Grant Jackson and throw-ins. Roger turned out to be a good guy with a slider-speed bat, lead cleats and an unmatched gullibility. One sample: Dick Selma: "Where's Roger?" Barry Lersch (laughing): "He's in the sauna." Selma: "What's so funny about that?" Lersch (Laughing hysterically): "Roger's in the sauna and he's eating fried chicken."
Buford Billy Champion (1969-72): Carrot-topped organization-signed pitcher who typified the atrocious Phillies staffs of the Bob Skinner, Frank Lucchesi teams. The pleasant North Carolinian's numbers speak for themselves: 52 starts, 12-31 record, 175 walks and 185 strikeouts. Buford Billy eventually went into scouting.
Kyle Abbott (1992, 1995): The 6-4, 200-pound lefthander was the ninth pick in the 1989 draft by the Angels. Abbott achieved instant local fame when general manager Lee Thomas acquired him and outfielder Ruben Amaro Jr. from the Angels in December 1991 for - drum roll, please - Von Hayes. We soon forgot about old 5-4-1. In 19 starts, the former Long Beach State star was 1-14 with a 5.13 ERA. Oft-injured Kyle was released after spending the 1993 season at Scranton, re-signed in 1994 and granted free agency after pitching just 28 1/3 innings of 1995 relief. He worked just four innings for the Angels in '96.
Dick Selma (1970-73): The poster boy for how to burn out a great arm. The flaky, compulsively needling righthander was just 5-11 and didn't weigh more than 160 pounds, but his fastball rode in the high 90s and he had knee-buckling breaking pitches. And Selma hungered for the ball. Manager Frank Lucchesi used that combination to bleed 134 1/3 relief innings out of Dick in 73 hair-on-fire 1970 appearances. Selma struck out 153, allowed just 108 hits, saved 22 games and won eight of 17 decisions. After that, Selma was a sore-armed reliever pitching on guts whose needling became mean-spirited and relentless. Good-guy traveling secretary Eddie Ferenz, a former minor league hockey player, finally dropped him onto a Newark Airport luggage carousel with a right cross worthy of Dave Schultz.
Ben Chapman (1945-48): An Alabama redneck who was the perfect skipper for a Phillies team dominated by white Southerners - until Jackie Robinson came along, that is. The despicable treatment of Robinson by Chapman and his vitriol-spewing Phillies was an indelible stain on baseball and the nation. Chapman's white supremacists finished 62-92 in 1947. Robinson's Dodgers were 94-60 and won the pennant.
William D. Cox (1943): Gambling Willie was a slam dunk. After the National League forced out bankrupt owner Jerry Nugent during the winter of 1943, New York lumber playboy Cox fronted a group that bought the club. When Cox fired manager Bucky Harris 94 games into the season, Bucky informed the league that his boss frequently bet on Phillies games. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis investigated, and when the owner admitted betting "only on my own team to win," he banned Cox for life and the Carpenter Era began that autumn. Anybody who would have bet on that team needed institutional care, not punishment.