The Phillies are an old baseball team.
Really old. In fact, they’ve been around so long that they are said to be the oldest continuous same-name, same-city team in all of professional sports in these United States of America. That’s pretty remarkable.
Major League Baseball recognizes that the franchise had its beginnings in the 1883 season, when the Philadelphias, managed by early professional baseball player and later famed sporting goods manufacturer, Al Reach, joined the nascent National League that year. Known colloquially as both “the Quakers” as well as “the Phillies,” for the first seven seasons, they formally became known as the Phillies in 1890.
Baseball was a different game in 1883 than now. Pitchers were required to throw underhanded as overhand pitching didn’t enter the game until 1884. Batters were permitted to ask for a high or low pitch, and seven pitched balls were required for a batter to be walked by a pitcher. Home plate was a 12-inch square and games were not allowed to be played on Sunday.
The 1883 Phillies team also turned out to be one of the worst ever in professional sports. Their start of 0 wins and 8 losses is still a club record and they finished the season in the cellar with a win/loss tally of 17-81, 46 games behind the frontrunner. Their longest losing streak was 14 games and their longest win streak was two games. Their home games were played in Recreation Park, which was located in North Philly, between 24th and 25th Streets from Ridge Avenue to Columbia Avenue. Built in 1860(!), it had gotten an upgrade prior to the 1883 season for the new ball club with a new surface and wooden grandstands with a capacity for 6500 patrons. And its dimensions were modest at best, coming in at 300 feet in left field, 331 in center and 247 to right.
Interestingly, one of the earliest mentions of a Philadelphia baseball team known as the “Phillies” appears almost 10 years prior to the 1883 team recognized by MLB as the Phillies. In an article heralded as a special dispatch to the Chicago Tribune on July 12th, 1874, it refers to a game played between the Athletics, (also of Philadelphia) and the “Philadelphias” the day before on July 11th. The article, entitled “The Athletics defeat the Philadelphias,” uses the moniker “the Quakers” in referring to the Philadelphias but also refers to this same squad as “the Phillies” interchangeably. (This reference is repeated in an article from the same newspaper in September, and in fact, shares a further nickname that these Philadelphias were also known as, “the Pearls.”) This league, known as the National Association, was formed in 1871, and, though it was a league of professional baseball teams like the later National League, its records and history are not recognized by MLB as a “major league.”