In 1930, a new team was added to the National Hockey League in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when the team deserted its hometown of Pittsburgh (where it had been named the Pirates, like the champion baseball team) to move farther eastward. The team took on the name Quakers, a reference to the religious group that heavily populated Pennsylvania, and played two seasons of some of the worst hockey the league had ever seen. By 1932, the team was gone forever from the annals of the game.
This writeup, however, is about the baseball Philadelphia Quakers who entered the National League in 1883 and played ten years of middling baseball before becoming the team they are today, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Upon the team's founding in 1883, it was up to Bob "Death To Flying Things" Ferguson, former star second baseman of the now defunct Troy Trojans, to form the team. He went around the other teams in the league, scooping up whatever leftover talent he could muster. The best he could find was Buffalo Bisons holdout Blondie Purcell, a double threat as both pitcher and third baseman, and Jack Manning, a former pitcher turned outfielder coming off of several poor years of play. The rest of the team was a ragtag group of journeymen and rookies, including #1 pitcher John Coleman, a mere 20 years old. The team went a positively dismal 17-81, with Coleman himself going 12-48 for his effort.
In 1884, Ferguson was ousted and replaced by Harry Wright, former manager of both the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves and 6-time league champion. Unfortunately, all of the managing talent in the world wouldn't help on the diamond, where Manning's .271 was tops on the team in a league where Chicago as a team batted .281. With such colorful personalities as fireballers Cyclone Miller and Sparrow Morton, and 24-year-old poker wizard named Tom Lynch, the team's 6th place finish with a 39-73 record was something of a sideshow to real entertainment. In the age of baseball as vaudeville, the Quakers were a standout team.
Getting Better All The Time
Luckily for the Quakers, Harry Wright meant business, and by 1885, the team had found two pitchers (in pre-1900 baseball, one or two pitchers did most of the dirty work for each team) who could do the job well, and do it well, and both only 22: Charlie Ferguson and Ed Daily. In relief they had Eddie "The Only" Nolan, who was so named because he only threw one pitch, a mean curveball in the age when the curve was considered deceptive and crude. With third baseman Joe Mulvey finally coming alive and Manning providing some decent pop, the team finished 56-54, good enough for third place in the watered down National League, where Chicago and New York dominated.
In 1886, the team lost Manning but gained yet another young mound phenom in Dan Casey. They also added a young catcher named Deacon McGuire, who spent the next 28 years playing pro baseball, and a strong centerfielder named George Wood. With all of this improvement, the team finished 71-43 - good enough for 4th place as other teams all improved their teams as well. How did they all get better at the same time? Well, seeing as baseball was only about 20 years old, the new talent had just now started growing up playing the sport and could grasp the fundamentals more firmly at a younger age.
In 1887, the team was blessed with a banner year from rightfielder Ed Andrews, who hit .325 and clubbed 4 homers (!), while Casey and Ferguson continued to shine. Unfortunately, Ed Daily got a case of "dead arm" (most likely tendonitis) and was replaced by Charlie Buffington, who proceeded admirably in his stead. With good seasons from Mulvey, Wood, and franchise long first baseman Sid Farrar, the team won 75 games, just 4 short of eventual league champions the Detroit Wolverines. It would be the closest to the top the Quakers ever reached.
In 1888, it was to be expected that Wood, Andrews, and the others wouldn't be as good as they had been the year before. But nobody expected just how far the team would fall: Andrews, from .325 to .239; Wood, .289 to .229; Mulvey, .287 to .216. The team's addition of the ill-fated Ed Delahanty didn't prove useful, but luckily, last year's newcomer Buffington proved magnificent on the mound, going 28-17 with a 1.91 ERA in 400 IP. He was aided by another young pitcher named Ben Sanders, who topped Buffington with a 1.90 ERA and a 19-10 record! The team went 69-61, and finished in third place.
In 1889, the Quakers finally found themselves in the possession of a known product, a guaranteed star, in Detroit's Sam Thompson. Two years earlier he had batted .372 for them, and the Quakers hoped he could be a leader on their new team. They had no idea what he would do in this season.
Sanders and Buffington both had dropoffs but still managed winning seasons; Farrar, Mulvey, and Wood showed improvement over the year prior. Even young Delahanty batted .293 off the bench, on his way to a .346 career average. But it was Thompson who stole the show, batting .296 and hitting 20 home runs (the second most ever by a major-leaguer) while stealing 24 bases. The team finished fourth, but Thompson's 1889 season was one to remember, and the best ever in a Quakers uniform.
In 1890, the team dumped the Quakers moniker in favor of the more fan-friendly "Philadelphia Phillies." The name would lie dormant for forty years, until its good name was sullied by that one-shot pony in the NHL. Let's hope no one uses it again without living up to its original owners.
Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates