The Worst of the Worst tournament continues with the final match-up of the first round. The sixth-seed Boston Braves of 1935 will play the 1942 Philadelphia Phillies, the 11-seed, in 50 154-game seasons; the loser to advance to face the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics. This series pairs two teams so bad their seasons resulted in name changes. After an embarrassing 38-115 campaign (the second worst won-loss percentage behind potential second-round opponent, 1916 Athletics). Owner Judge Emil Fuchs signed legend Babe Ruth as a player-assistant manager, but soon into the season, Ruth learned life as a Brave was not what he signed up for. Ruth retired on June 1, but not before one of his more memorable games in which he hit the final three home runs of his career at Forbes Field on May 25. Wally Berger was the lone highlight for the Braves’ season as he led the National League in home runs (34) and RBI’s (130). In an attempt to perhaps shed the nightmare of the 1935 season, Boston changed its’ name from Braves to Bees beginning with the new ownership in 1936. This name change lasted until 1940 when afterward the club reverted back to the Braves.
Like the ’35 Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies were in the final year of ownership. Gerald Nugent took over the club upon the death of William Baker in 1930. Under Nugent, the Phillies did finish over .500 in 1932, the only time the franchise did so in the thirty years from 1918 – 1948. But in 1942, the Phillies set a franchise worst record with a 42-109 mark. The club was in such financial straits that it had to borrow money from the National League to take part in spring training in 1943. That spring, the club was sold to William D. Cox. Allegedly, Nugent discussed selling the Phillies to Bill Veeck who intended to bring in Negro League stars to revive the Phillies. When Commissioner Kennesaw Landis learned of these plans, he pressured National League president Ford Frisk to quash the deal.
The 1942 Phils (the team wore “Phils” on their uniforms for this season only), under manager Hans Lobert, finished 18 12 games behind the seventh-place Boston Braves. Home attendance was a sad 230,183 for the season. On September 11, 1942, only 393 people showed up at Shibe Park to watch the Phillies lose to the Reds. The team featured only two capable major leaguers, first baseman Nick Etten and left fielder Danny Litwhiler. Etten and Litwhiler were the only Phillies with an OPS+ over 100. The team’s OPS+ was a league worst 85. They were last in runs, home runs, walks, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their 395 runs in 151 games was the lowest total of any major league team since 1909, and has been by far the lowest in any non-strike-shortened season ever since. They were shut out 16 times, and scored just one run 36 times which equated to scoring no more than a single run in over one-third of their games. Remarkably, the pitching was likely even worse. 22-year-old Tommy Hughes was the only capable performance, ERA+ of 108 in 253 innings. No other pitcher with more than 20 IP reached an ERA+ over 90. They were last in complete games, shutouts, saves, walks allowed, runs allowed, and ERA. In the field, they were last in errors and fielding percentage, and next-to-last in defensive efficiency. Like Boston, the new owners in 1943 wanted the club to be called the Blue Jays rather than Phillies. However, this change did not catch on and by the end of World War II, the Philadelphia National League club was back to being the Phillies.
In the final tournament of the first round, the Boston Braves won 31 of the 50 seasons played against the 1942 Phils. Philadelphia won 16 seasons, and there were 3 seasons where both clubs finished 77-77. Boston’s Wally Burger (.886 OPS) and Nick Etten (.830 OPS) were the hitting stars over the 50 seasons. Babe Ruth finished with an interesting slashline of .187/.422/.489 in a pinch-hitting role, averaging 80 AB/season. Tommy Hughes was the pitching star with a 2.73 ERA and 771 wins.
The second round will feature a Philadelphia match-up of the 1916 Athletics vs. the 1942 Phils. See the link below for the remaining three second-round pairings.