We have a labor deal! I thought (hoped?) that the new CBA would prompt a flurry of moves from teams - especially the Phillies - as they hurried to prepare for the fast approaching season. Instead, we’ve gotten crickets so far.
I expect that we’ll get some actual moves next week, but until that happens, I’ll waste a few minutes of your time by writing about Ken Raffensberger.
Let’s remember Ken Raffensberger
In researching Opening Day starting pitchers for the Phillies, I came across the name Ken Raffensberger, who got the Opening Day nod for the 1945 Phils. Since that start happened 77 years ago, there’s a good chance that many of the readers do not have vivid memories of Ken, or his time with the Phillies.
After spending his early years with the Cardinals and Cubs, Raffensberger did not play during the 1942 season. (I assume this was because of World War II, although I can’t confirm this.) He returned to action in 1943, and in September of that season, the Cubs traded him to the Phillies.
Raffensberger responded with an interesting season. He led the National League with the fewest walks per nine innings, and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio. Because of this, he led the league in FIP. He was the team’s lone representative in that year’s All-Star Game and earned the win for the National League.
ASG PHACT: Three Phillies have been the winning pitcher in All-Star Games: Ken Raffensberger (photo), 1944 (Forbes Field); Doug Jones, 1994 (Three-Rivers Stadium); Heathcliffe Slocumb, 1995 (The Ballpark in Arlington, TX). pic.twitter.com/KvTUAeF085— Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) July 17, 2018
He also led the league with 20 losses. In those days, higher loss totals weren’t uncommon, since starting pitchers would often pitch complete games. Of his 31 starts that season, Raffensberger completed 18 of them. Combined with a poor supporting cast - the 1944 Phillies had a 61-92-1 record - and that would inflate a pitcher’s loss total.
Despite getting the Opening Day start, Raffensberger’s 1945 season didn’t go so well. Presumably due to injury, he only made five appearances that season, going 0-3. He did rebound to have a strong season in 1946 before being traded in the middle of 1947. In return, the Phillies received catcher Al Lakeman who put up an OPS of .459 over two seasons, while Raffensberger had three more seasons in which he earned MVP votes.
Perhaps Raffensberger was traded because he wasn’t much of a team player. He reportedly refused to listen to manager Ben Chapman who ordered his pitchers to throw at Dodgers outfielder Jackie Robinson whenever he reached a 3-0 count. Nothing like actively making your team worse because one of your players wouldn’t participate in the racism!
Phillies Madness is coming!
The NCAA basketball tournament kicks off next week, and like most Americans, I feel obligated to make some sort of tournament-style bracket to mark the occasion. The theme that I’ve settled on: Phillies Opening Day starting pitchers!
Next week, you’ll have a chance to vote on matchups between the Phillies’ Opening Day starters from 2021 to 1990. For all of you Omar Daal and Jon Lieber enthusiasts out there, this will be your opportunity to make your voice heard!
Griffey was iffy
Speaking of Kens, the most famous Ken in baseball history is probably Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. In his 22-year career, he terrorized a lot of opposing teams, but surprisingly, the Phillies weren’t often one of them. Perhaps it's because his best years were spent in the American League, but in 39 games played against the Phils, he had a humble .676 OPS and just four home runs.
The 30th anniversary of Homer at the Bat is next year. So, which minor league team is going to make a Ken Griffey Jr with gigantism bobblehead? pic.twitter.com/82AxW8JHjH— clueless joe jackson ⚾️ (@illliterate_) June 13, 2021
Featured baseball card
I couldn’t find a baseball card of Raffensberger on the Phillies, but here’s a 1953 Topps card of him on the Reds:
Was it normal for baseball cards to feature illustrations instead of photos in the fifties? When did they make the switch?
Last week’s answer: Toby Borland was the last Phillie to be assigned the uniform number 42 before it was universally retired across Major League Baseball. ShaneM got it right.
This week’s question: Who was the most recent player with the first name of Kenneth to appear in a game for the Phillies?
That was a heck of a performance by the Sixers last night. While the fans were excited to heap verbal abuse on their former player, the Nets players were apparently excited to demolish their former teammate and his new team.
I’d honestly be more worried about the Sixers if the game had been closer. You might have seen some real flaws exposed in that situation. Instead, this was a case where one team’s stars played insanely well, and the other team’s stars did not, and things just got out of hand quickly. I’m not sure that actually means anything in the long run.
And if you’re Ben Simmons, are you all that happy about the result. If the Nets are playing that well without you, and then things don’t go as well once you return, doesn’t it look like you are actually the problem?