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by Harold Friend
At the end of play on September 20, 1964, the Phillies led both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds by 6 ½ games. At the end of play on September 27, the Reds led the second place Phillies by a full game.
In the span of seven days, the Phillies lost a 6-½ game lead and were never again in first place.
Jim Bunning started against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 20 at Los Angeles. It was the last important game that future United States senator Bunning would win in 1964.
Jim Bunning to the Rescue?
When Bunning made his next start, the Phillies' lead had been whittled to three and one-half games over the Reds, and to five games over the Cardinals. Facing the Milwaukee Braves, the 18-5 Phillies' alleged ace found himself trailing, 3-0, after six innings. Bunning was taken out after yielding three runs in six innings.
The Braves won, 5-3, as Bunning had his personal six game winning streak snapped. The Braves' hitting hero was Joe Torre, who drove in three runs with a pair of triples.
The Cards won a double header, the Reds were idle, and the Phillies' lead was now only three games over the Reds, and three and one-half games over the surging Cardinals.
A Quality Start
Today, some consider that a quality start, which is a measurement created by sportswriter John Lowe in an attempt to evaluate the performance of starting pitchers in terms other than the traditional values of ERA and wins and losses. When Jim Bunning allowed the Braves three earned runs in six innings, his ERA was 4.50. In 1964, a 4.50 ERA belonged to pitchers who had trouble getting outs.
Up to Bunning to Stem the Tide
On Sept. 27, the Reds were only one-half game behind the Phillies. It was up to Jim Bunning to stem the tide, but all Bunning could manage was to give a performance that ensured the Phillies' offense didn't stand a chance.
Felipe Alou led off the game by beating out a slow ground ball to second baseman Tony Taylor. Lee Maye doubled Alou to third, and Henry Aaron drove both home with another double. After three hitters, Bunning trailed, 2-0.
Jim settled down until the fourth inning. The Phillies put Bunning ahead by scoring one run in the first and two more in the second.
Bunning went into his windup and fired a side arm fast ball to future Hall of Famer Joe Torre. The Braves' slow-footed catcher hit a slow grounder to the left side of the infield. Bunning, who often finished on his hands and knees after this follow through, couldn't get near dribbler. Torre beat it out for a lead-off single.
Rico Carty singled Torre to third, Denis Menke singled Carty to third, scoring Torre to tie the game. Ty Cline doubled, pitcher Tony Cloninger singled, and Bunning was through.
In three innings, Jim Bunning faced 18 batters. He gave up 10 hits, seven earned runs, and didn't record a strikeout. The Cincinnati Reds were in first place.
A Game the Phillies Could Not Lose
On the last day of September, the Reds and Cardinals each were one and one-half games ahead of the Phils. Jim Bunning started on two days' rest for the second consecutive time, this time against Curt Simmons at St. Louis. It was a game that the Phillies , who now had a nine game losing streak, could not lose.
Simmons no-hit the Phillies until Richie Allen singled with two outs in the seventh, but the game was really over as soon as Bunning, who retired the Cardinals in order in the first, went out for the second inning.
Dick Groat singled, and Tim McCarver, who became the announcer many fans love to hate, hit a home run. In the third, the Cardinals scored two more runs, one of which was unearned, to lead, 4-0.
Bunning couldn't get out of the fourth inning. He gave up one-out singles to Curt Flood and Lou Brock, and manager Gene Mauch removed Bunning. The final score was 8-5.
Five runs should be enough for a team's top pitcher. During the waning days of the 1964 season, five runs were not enough for Jim Bunning.
On the last day of the season, the Phillies, who ended their 10 game losing streak, trailed the Reds and Cards by one game. Jim Bunning squared off against the Reds' John Tsitouris.
Bunning pitched a six-hit shut out as the Phillies won, 10-0. The Phillies had caught the Reds, but their problem was that in St. Louis, the Cardinals beat the Mets to win the pennant.
Jim Bunning pitched a shut out on the last day of the season, but the damage he had done in his previous three starts made it irrelevant and even worse, almost regretful.
BRAVES TRIUMPH ON 22-HIT ATTACK :Callison Hits 3 Home Runs, but Phils Fall From Lead First Time Since July 16. (1964, September 28). New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 22. Retrieved March 2, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 118537846).
Special to The New York Times. (1964, October 1). PHILLIES DOWNED BY SIMMONS, 8 TO 5 :14-Hit Attack Sends Losers to 10th Straight Defeat -- Bunning Is Routed. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 40. Retrieved March 2, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 97277528).