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Phillies Stat Notes: Mother’s Day and a milestone

The holiday born in Philly

Touching on a couple of topics from over the weekend: with Mother’s Day being celebrated yesterday, we cover the Phillies’ history on the holiday, as well as a milestone that you probably won’t read about anywhere else (possibly for good reason).

Mother’s Day and the Phillies

The Phillies arguably have as strong a connection with the holiday as any other team, since the holiday was established by Philadelphian Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century:

In its present form, Mother’s Day was established by Anna Jarvis with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker following the death of her mother, Ann Jarvis, on May 9, 1905.

On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day and requesting a proclamation. The next day, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

In a previous holiday piece on Easter Sunday we covered how the existence of Sunday Blue Laws delayed the commingling of two great Springtime traditions of Easter and baseball, and likewise the same was true of Mother’s Day for many years. That was exacerbated for the Phillies, A’s, and Pirates because Pennsylvania was the last state with major league baseball to permit Sunday games. While other parts of the country gradually relaxed Blue Laws regarding baseball through the first 20 or so years of the 1900s, Massachusetts finally allowed Sunday baseball in 1932, and the first season that Pennsylvania allowed it was 1933.

In the 14+ years that Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were the last remaining holdouts, teams juggled their schedules to work around the restrictions and get games in in order to keep pace with the rest of the league. Sunday baseball historian Charlie Bevis is quoted in The Battle for Sunday Baseball:

“The Athletics often made the train trip to Washington to play the Senators on Sunday, with occasional one-day forays to New York to play the Yankees. The Phillies played many weekends in New York, playing the Giants at the Polo Grounds on one day and the Dodgers at Ebbets Field on the other day. The Pirates ventured from Pittsburgh frequently on one-day Sunday excursions to Cincinnati and Chicago.”

The Phils played their first game on Mother’s Day in Cincinnati in 1916, and played on the road eight more times on Mother’s Day before finally playing at home on the holiday in 1935.

The graphic below shows what the Phillies were doing on Mother’s Day on each year in their history. The blue boxes denote the years when Phillies games were prevented by Blue Laws.

This starts with the first observances of the holiday, though it didn’t gain much prominence until 1914:

Best performances

In 1993 the Phillies were off to a 22-7 start and 6 12 games ahead in the NL East going into the Mother’s Day game. However they were trailing 5-2 with two outs in in the bottom of the eighth against the Cards (after a rocky Schilling start), when Darren Daulton, Wes Chamberlain, and Milt Thompson all got on to load the bases. Facing future Hall of Famer Lee Smith, Mariano Duncan blasted the first pitch he saw for a grand slam, and Mitch Williams wrapped up the game and weekend sweep.

Scott Rolen hit two solo home runs on Mother’s Day 1998 in a 7-4 win over the Diamondbacks at the Vet.

On Mother’s Day 2006, the Phillies were in Cincinnati and Ryan Howard didn’t start because of an illness. Alex Gonzalez, a 13-year major league shortstop (and kudos to you if you remember he was on the Phillies briefly) got a rare start at first base. Ryan Howard came in to pinch-hit in the 8th and homered to tie the game up at 1-1, and then stayed in and hit the game winner in extra innings, another solo shot in the 12th.

In game 2 of a Mother’s Day doubleheader in 1956, Phils catcher Stan Lopata went 4 for 5 with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs in a 7-2 win in Pittsburgh.

On the mound, Curt Schilling pitched a 12-K, 4-hit, 1-run complete game in 1997, but the best games were two 4-hit shutouts almost 50 years apart: by Ken Heintzelman on the road in 1948, and by Mike Grace at home in 1996.

Finally, one from Bryce Harper in his younger days. This came up recently when Harper got on base 5 times in just his second game back, but on Mother’s Day 2016, with the Nats visiting the Cubs, he came to the plate 7 times in a 13-inning game, and got on base all 7 times, all without a hit: BB-BB-IBB-HBP-BB-IBB-IBB

Record on Mother’s Day

The Phillies have played on 94 Mother’s Days, including 19 doubleheaders which bring the total number of games to 113.

Given the franchise’s overall losing record over its history, it’s no surprise that they also have losing records when playing on most holidays (or most days — Easter Sunday is the rare exception there). They do have a losing record on Mother’s Day, with yesterday’s 4-0 loss dropping them to 55-58.

Overall, their record on the major holidays (.474 W%) is almost exactly the same as their overall record (.473):

One thing to note here is that in their 140-year history, the Phillies have played way more than 140 games on some holidays. The holiday doubleheader used to be a staple in days gone by, though that really hasn’t been the case now for over 50 years.

A milestone to take seriesly

The single game is obviously the key measure that baseball revolves around, but another important one is the series. The series is referenced often for a team with postseason aspirations, and especially after a losing a game — “just win the series” we say.

By winning the Rockies series over the weekend, the Phillies improved to 7-5-1 in series this year, so they’ve been largely following the advice so far.

Over the 140+ seasons of their history, the Phils have now played 6,672 series* , and as one might expect, have lost more series than they’ve won.

Nevertheless with the weekend series win, they reached a milestone of sorts, having now won 2,500 series.

Their all-time record stands at 2,500 series won, 3,030 lost, and 1,142 tied.

Even if we break out their “years in the wilderness” of 1919-48, like we sometimes do, the rest of their history still doesn’t crack .500 in terms of series wins:

1919-48....... 296 wins, 804 losses, 276 ties (508 below .500)
all others.. 2,204 wins, 2,226 losses, 866 ties (22 below .500)

Below are the numbers of series and total games played by the length of the series. It’s not surprising that 3-game series have been the most common, with 2- and 4-gamers next. Presumably a lot of the 2-game series weren’t scheduled that way, but resulted from the rain washing out one or two games of a longer series:

(They’ve also played 436 single games, which are usually to make up rainouts and aren’t counted in series.)

What may be surprising is how this has varied over time, as shown below by the year-by-year breakdown of Phillies games by series length.

The split in the Phils’ inaugural 1883 season looks familiar enough, but in 1884 they didn’t play a single 3-game series. And in 1885 they only played two all year. How much of this was by design, as opposed to weather and other factors, would need more study. Maybe someone like @MattDAlbertson knows something.

In the 1890s there were very few series longer than 3 games. Then longer series became the norm through the first four decades of the 20th century, before it changed again in the late ‘30s. The WW II years brought back longer series, probably to reduce travel and conserve fuel.

Over the last 60+ years the 3-game series has become the predominant length.

Presumably these changes have been the result of a various factors over time: modes of transportation, lighting and night games, TV, and the advent of fields that are more easily dried and made playable after rain (or even domed).