Phillies Lose 23rd Straight, Then Win – August 20, 1961
On August 20, 1961 the Philadelphia Phillies played a double header in Milwaukee with the Braves. Milwaukee won the opener 5-2, extending the Phillies losing streak to 23 games. While the Phillies were tacking yet another game onto what was already the Major League (modern era) record for most consecutive losses, the Braves were chalking up their 10th win in a row.
Going into the nightcap, the Braves were 64-51. At 30-87, the Phillies were already well past the point of being mathematically eliminated from the pennant race.
John Buzhardt (The H is silent) started the second game for the Phils. He came into the game with a 3-13 record and an ERA of 4.33. The Braves starter was Carl Willey (5-6, .402)
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third when Roy McMillan homered off of Buzzhardt, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead. The Phillies bounced back in the top of the fourth as Wes Covington homered to tie the game. Then Lee Walls doubled and Clay Darymple singled him home, giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
The Phillies small-balled their way to another run in the sixth with another pair of hits by Walls and Darymple, and a sacrifice fly RBI off the bat of Bobby Malkmus. The Braves answered in the 7th when Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock both singled and Aaron scored after Frank Thomas grounded out into a double play.
The Phillies scored four in the eighth on four singles and a walk, and with a 7-2 lead, they were well on their way to winning their first game in more than three weeks.
The win was actually a turning point for the Phillies. They won their next three games. For the remainder of the season they were only four games under .500 (16-20, .444).
In 1962 the National League expanded to 10 teams with the addition of the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45’s (renamed the Astros in 1965.) That year, the Phillies actually managed to finish a game over .500 at 81-80, a dramatic improvement compared to their dismal 1961 showing. In 1963 the Phillies continued to improve, finishing the season 12 games over .500 in fourth place. Then in 1964 they were the best team in the National League, for the first 150 games. But then they lost 10 straight, and finished a disappointing second to St. Louis.