It is a truth universally acknowledged that a city in possession of a sports team must...complain about them incessantly. Philadelphia isn’t immune to this but rather the city is potentially the best possible example. Here at the Good Phight, we read a lot of terrible, misspelled insults directed towards the Phillies, the players, the management, and everyone else even remotely connected with the team. The insults come via comments on articles, directed towards us on Twitter, and occasionally even sent directly to our emails.
But this certainly isn’t new by any measure.
It was only the second week of June 1896 and the Phillies were in 4th place overall in the single league that consisted of just twelve teams. At a time where the final World Series was decided by the top two teams, being 4th place in June was not halfway bad considering the last place Louisville Colonels had only won 9 out of their 42 games and would remain in that position throughout the entirety of the season. None of that really mattered to Phillies fans though, because the team had just dropped three in a row to the Cleveland Spiders.
The sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer that year really loved his job. Or hated it. Honestly, it is kind of hard to tell but at least it seemed as though he was having a good time being creative. He consistently referred to the fans as ‘cranks’ and came up with increasingly ridiculous headlines to describe the team’s below-average playing.
Even when the Phillies won, the writer considered it a fluke, approaching the victory with cautious optimism and the same amount of bravado as the rest of the headlines.
When not writing about the Phillies, this determined sportswriter still managed to complain about them. During a feature for the July 7, 1896 issue, the writer headlined other games around the league with unsubtle insults. A Chicago-Baltimore game was praised as “A Game Worth Seeing” while a Cleveland-Brooklyn game was entitled “Pitchers We Could Use.” In the writer’s defense, that was the same week that the Phillies dropped to 7th in the league and gave up 27 runs to Cincinnati in just three games. (I wouldn’t want you to forget that the current 2019 Phillies have given up 32 runs in the past five games? It’s fine. We’re all fine here.)
The writing was so sensational that it caught the attention of other sportswriters, including one from the Washington Evening Star who insisted on poking fun at some of the more dramatic portions in his own paper claiming that they were “fretful complaints about the best team the city ever had.”
Please remember that it was only 1896 and that of course, Philadelphia would go on to have teams that were much, much worse. Also, not to be petty about baseball that happened over a century ago, but the Phillies did finish above the Senators by the end of the 1896 season so suck it, unnamed Washington Evening Star writer.
So as you sit and type your most creative insults towards the Phillies, remember that it is only June here in 2019 and this team could get a lot worse. Pace yourself. It is a long season.
Of course, don’t let that stop you from complaining about this dumpsterfire team. After all, if you don’t describe the team as a “beautiful composite corpse” after a loss, are you really even that upset with them?
All article images in this piece are from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Evening Star, June & July 1896