The Series That Never Happened

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: October 28, 2009

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — Welcome to the I-95 World Series.

Or should we call it the Jersey Turnpike World Series?

Back in 1950, these teams first met when the Yankees swept the young “Whiz Kids” from Philadelphia. At the time, it gave New York their 13th World Series crown. In fact, the Yanks had swept their six previous Fall Classics (Pirates, Cards, Cubs, Reds) in a 24-year span.

In 1964, Interstate Highway 95 was just an engineer’s dream. The New Jersey Turnpike was the main road traveled from Philadelphia to New York.

That season, Phillie fans also had a dream of a National League pennant and World Series championship. Over four decades later, the Phillies prepare to meet the Yanks in the 2009 World Series.

It’s the Yankee blue pinstripes versus the Phillie red pinstripes. It’s the Blue Collar, hardcore Phillie fans versus the bling-bling, bandwagon, white collar fair-weather Yankee fans from .

It’s New York’s Darth Vader/Evil Empire vs.th e handsome Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Knights from Philly. What a classic match-up between two cities and two neighboring states with New Jersey being the buffer zone.

Now America can paint the Northern half of Jersey blue and the Southern half red.

It’s the free swinging New York Yankees with Captain Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Mark Texiera, Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, and Hideki Matsui.

It’s the new Big Red Machine with former MVP’s Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins as well as Pedro Feliz, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley.

The goat horns have been taken off of Alex Rodriguez (. 438 BA, five homers, 12 RBI, and .969 slugging percentage this postseason) because he has carried this Yankee team through the playoffs.

In the pitching department, New York is led by the ALCS MVP, C.C. Sabathia, who’ll get a second chance to beat the Phillies — a feat he could not achieve with the Milwaukee Brewers last year.

Manager Joe Girardi also has starters A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and legendary closer Mariano Rivera. The next question is what will the Yankees do with Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte and others in the Yankee bullpen?

Sabathia is a horse and the Yankees don’t have to worry about the number of innings he will pitch. C.C. will show up and pitch. The Yankees have rested him this season.

Milwaukee worked him to death last year and consequently C.C. could not perform at his best in the playoffs. The Brewers lost to the Phillies in the NLDS last year. That will not happen this year.

Philly will put J.A. Happ, Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels on the mound along with their closer, a resurgent Brad Lidge.

Neither team will not have to travel far. It is only 90 miles up the I-95 or the New Jersey Turnpike. One major problem might be if a major cold front hits the east coast during the World Series.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

45 years ago, it was a family affair at my house. My father was a diehard Yankee fan and many of the children of Burlington City rooted for the young Philadelphia Phillies — that included me.

The James F. Cooper School (a school for disabled children) of Burlington City played their own World Series. The older students always chose the Yankees while the younger students represented the Phillies.

The series lasted seven games and the older guys would blow the young guns out. Two years later the younger students (with ground ball Gray) beat the older students in the seventh game.

Americans can look forward to a great series this week in South Philadelphia and the Bronx . In the Summer of 1964, the residents of South Central Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania , and the Bronx could not wait for the fall classic.

However, it never happened as the Phils had an historic meltdown.

New Jersey was split in 1964 and probably will be split again this year. Most of North Jersey will be rooting for the Bronx Bombers while residents below the Capitol City of Trenton will be rooting for the New Big Red Machine.

Looking back at 1964, Philly was on a roll. They had a six and a half game lead with 12 games to go. They also had my favorite player, third basemen Dick Allen, who later became the scapegoat for many of the Phillies problems.

Philadelphia only needed to look in the mirror to discover their problems and it was not Dick Allen.

This team traded for Jim Bunning that winter to bolster their starting pitching staff. Bunning even tossed a perfect game — On Fathers’ Day — against the New York Mets that summer.

The Phillies’ achilles heel was the bullpen and it would show its ugly head at the end of the 1964 season. Baseball history will record this team as one of the greatest collapses of all times.

The starting lineup for the Fightin’ Phils on opening day 1964 was:

Tony Taylor, 2b,

Johnny Callison, rf

Dick Allen, 3b

Roy Sievers, 1b

Tony Gonzalez, cf

Danny Cater, lf

Clay Dalrymple, c

Bobby Wine, ss

The starting lineup for the 1964 AL Champion Yankees was:

Phil Linz, ss

Bobby Richardson, 2b

Roger Maris, rf

Mickey Mantle, cf

Tom Tresh, lf

Joe Pepitone, 1b

Elston Howard, c

Clete Boyer, 3b

Elston Howard was the first Black New York Yankee. The Yankees and Boston Red Sox were the last American League teams to field an African American player in 1960-1961 respectively.

In the final week of the 1964 season, the first-place Phils slide would begin with a six-game home losing streak before traveling to St. Louis . Philly would lose four more games including a 5-1 shutdown by future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

When the Phillies left the Midwest , they were in second place with the hard charging Cincinnati Reds, a game behind. During last weekend of the 1964 season, the New York Mets would host the NL-leading Cardinals.

New York gave St. Louis all they wanted by beating them Friday and Saturday. That Sunday, the final Mets-Cards game was the last regular-season game played. Most of the west coast teams ended the season in the Eastern Time zones.

All eyes and ears in South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania listened to the radio broadcast of the Mets and watched the bottom of Channel 6 WPHL, KYW- TV3, or WCAU Channel 10 screens that scrolled the score of the New York-St. Louis game.

Phones all over the tri-state area were ringing and telling residents of the Cardinal-Met score. That was the weekend many in South Jersey became New York Met fans.

Many were so mad at the Phillies for losing what seemed to be an insurmountable lead, with two weeks left of the season. Many never returned to Connie Mack Stadium, while others traveled the hour and half ride to the new Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows.

The last-place Mets gave St. Louis a tussle all weekend long only to succumb to the eventual 1964 World Series Champion. That impressed many that a team in last place could win and could beat a first place team.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the National League pennant by one game and went on to play the New York Yankees beating them in seven games. It should have been the Philadelphia Phillies.

That Philadelphia team finally unraveled in the late 1960s and was never the same after the meltdown of 1964. Manager Gene Mauch never could escape the epic collapse and never won a World Series throughout his managing career.

So, 45 years later the New York Yankees will play the Philadelphia Phillies a second time for the World Series. This may cause many Northeast baseball fans to take a short trip down that 1964 path.

These 50-plus year old baseball fans will think of what could have been.

It might have taken a long time to finally happen but it is here, the Philadelphia Phillies will play the New York Yankees in the Battle for the I-95 Corridor.

This should be one of the more interesting series.

The Phillies play more of an American League style of baseball while the Yankees play more of a National League style — a complete role reversal. Both teams have power and speed, force their opponents to make mistakes in the field, and have patience at the plate.

These two teams are a mirror of each other and therefore this will be a very good World Series. Manager Charlie Manuel has the experience of last year to fall back on while the Yankees have many grizzled veterans on the field.

Manuel is the old Southern gentleman vs.

Joe Girardi in his first World Series is blue collar. Remember Yankee fans,he is not Joe Torre. Girardi does it his way and the Yankees glow in victory or fall in defeat with his unusual decisions.

The bullpens are almost even with a slight edge to the Yankees. Relievers Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Kennedy, and Marte were well rested last week. C.C Sabathia will start three games and that’s a plus for the Yankee pen.

The Phillies’ ace, Cliff Lee will mirror Sabathia. The closers are even with Rivera and Brad Lidge. The first team to get deep into the other team’s middle relievers will win this series.

This World Series is a dream coming true some 45 years later. As a fan, we will e njoy this World Series. But we must also send a message to Bud Selig that we want the true game back.