Today in Phillies History: Babes and Tafts

Utley at Bright House Field - USA TODAY Sports

Phillies and Pirates exchange Babes seventy years ago today. 101 years ago, the Tafts agree to sell the team to Locke and Baker.

The "This Day in Phillies History" happenings are pretty sparse this time of year, but there are two things of note for December 30th, courtesy of the indispensable Broad and Pattison:


1943: Traded Babe Dahlgren to Pittsburgh for Babe Phelps and cash

Babe was a much more common nickname in the first half of the 20th century. lists 17 players with the first name Babe (and there are several others who have that as one of their nicknames). But only three of those 17 ever made an all-star team:

Babe Dahlgren
Babe Phelps
Babe Ruth

So the Phillies and Pirates exchanged the only All-Star "Babe"s not named Ruth.

Dahlgren was a 31-year-old first baseman whose only All-Star appearance was in his only season with the Phils in 1943. He finished his career with a .261/.329/.383 line (93 OPS+).

Phelps was a 36-year-old catcher (who also had the nickname "Blimp"), and had been an All-Star three straight years in 1938-40, and a career line of .310/.362/.472 (125 OPS+).

This article from the day has more on both players (as well as some interesting reminders of war-time considerations), but for more info on Phelps, SABR has a long but fascinating bio.

Dahlgren drove in 101 runs in 1944 and finished 12th in the MVP voting. Phelps never signed a contract with the Phillies and instead chose to retire.

The other item from this day in Phils history is this:

1912: William Locke, secretary of the Pittsburgh club, obtained an option to purchase the Phillies from Charles Taft and Charles Murphy, who also owned the Chicago Cubs. Taft and Murphy were secretly behind the group that bought the Phillies in 1909.

What's interesting here is yet another link between the Phillies and the Taft name.

This is a brief history of the Tafts and the Phillies, as far as I can tell:

1905-1913 (according to wikipedia): Phillies are owned by Charles Phelps Taft, who was the brother of President William Howard Taft, a congressman (for only two years), and most importantly, founder of the Taft media empire. In fact, the book Philadelphia Phillies includes this bit:

Seen here with his wife at his inauguration in 1909 is Pres. William Howard Taft, who may have had a share of the Phillies' ownership. In 1910, the Taft family of Cincinnati owned part of the Phillies through an arrangement headed by Chicago Cubs owner Charles Murphy. The Taft and Murphy families sold the Phillies to William Baker in 1913, but the catch was the sellers continued to maintain ownership of the Philadelphia Baseball Park and simply leased it to Baker. They constructed an ironclad lease arrangement that resisted modifications and kept the Phillies tethered to the dilapidated stadium until 1938.


President Taft became a baseball fan after Murphy convinced him of the benefits he could accrue as an ambitious politician who was a fan of the national pastime. Consequently, President Taft began attending baseball games in Washington, D.C. Baseball historians attribute two traditions to President Taft: ceremonial first pitches by a sitting president and the seventh-inning stretch.

Actually it appears the Phillies were sold to William Locke as the principal owner in 1913, with Baker as the minority share holder. Much more on this here, including Baker's somewhat tainted background as a NYC police commissioner.

1981: Taft Broadcasting puts in $15 million of the $30 million to purchase the Phillies from the Carpenter family.

1986: Taft Broadcasting sells its 47.3 percent share of the Phillies to the other owners for $24.1 million.

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