News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 8, 2012

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: 1947 Phillies in battle for first place at mid-season

Mike McCormick
Special to the Tribune-Star


With one or two exceptions, the 1947 Terre Haute Phillies had an established starting lineup by mid-May.

Wally Jakowczyk, Bill Higdon and Dick Welker were secure in the outfield. Willie Jones and Don Hasenmayer were solid on the left side of the infield. And Charley Hood was consistent behind the plate with Vince Oltman in reserve.

Gene Olive and Guy Glaser were the weak hitting links but both were veterans and expected to contribute soon. In need of “a stopper,” pitching was still uncertain.

A two-game stand at Danville demonstrated that frailty. With Jakowczyk out with a charley horse, the Phillies lost 13 to 2 and 9 to 8 in 11 innings. Jake Suytar handled Wally’s outfield duties well, but seven pitchers could not stop the league-leading Dodgers.

Al Porto and Til Panaranto combined to defeat Decatur, 4 to 2, and the Phillies won two of three at Evansville as the bats of Olive and Glaser came alive. In the first win, manager Jack Sanford’s pinch-hit single in the ninth accounted for the winning run.

Shortstop Johnny Logan and pitchers Bob Whicher and Don Liddle, all future major league stars, were Evansville manager Bob Coleman’s key players.

The Phillies swept a three-game home series against Decatur despite a controversial call in the third game resulting in the expulsion of Sanford and Olive. With Jakowczyk back in the lineup, the 6-foot-5 Suytar assumed first base duties.

Springfield came to Terre Haute in second place for the season’s first Ladies Night. For 20 cents, females could sit anywhere but in reserved box seats. None of the 2,931 fans present asked for a refund. Trailing 7 to 5 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies sent the game into extra innings with two runs. Catcher Oltman got one of the key hits.

The Browns countered with a run in the 11th but Hasenmayer and Welker executed a double steal to tie the game at 8. Springfield scored two runs in the top of the 13th inning with two stolen bases and singles by Anthony Pirello and Emidio Riga.

Terre Haute nearly tied the game once more. Olive singled and scored on Hasenmayer’s triple. With pitcher Ed Sundra at the plate, Hasenmayer tried to steal home but was called out on a close play. The marathon game lasted 4 hours and seven minutes.

Sundra was brilliant the next night, pitching a five-hit shutout. The Phillies won 9 to 0 without the services of Sanford, suspended five games by league president Tom Fairweather for bumping umpire Gene Allinger during the argument May 25 in Decatur. Sanford had complained that Commodores pitcher Bill Osborne blocked the base path preventing Welker’s advance from third to home before he was tagged out. Even the Decatur newspaper acknowledged the interference.

The Phillies moved into third place by defeating the Browns, 11 to 8, in the final game of the series. Welker, Jones and Hood, among others, teed off on former major league pitcher Stan Partenheimer.

Terre Haute lost the second game of a Memorial Day doubleheader to Decatur, ending its five-game mastery of the Commodores. Panaranto got his first start of the season in the victorious first game, allowing six hits in 6 1/3 innings. And Bill Jankowski saw his first action at third base when Jones injured his leg.

Sundra sparkled in a 7 to 5 victory over Evansville in the only game of a four-game home series that was not rained out. It was the first time manager Coleman, who guided Terre Haute to a Three-I league crown in 1922, had visited the city in 1947. The win boosted the Phillies into second place, ahead of Springfield, its next opponent.

Meanwhile, a new temporary fence was installed at immense Memorial Stadium, reducing the distance from home plate to the center field fence from 546 feet to 410 feet.

Though Jankowski pitched well in his second mound effort, Norb Litzsinger’s double in the ninth gave Springfield a 3 to 2 win, knocking the Phillies out of first place. And the Brownies hammered Terre Haute, 12 to 1, in the second game.

Terre Haute salvaged the final game of the series, 8 to 6, in a free-swinging affair featuring home runs by Oltman and Hasenmayer. But the losses dropped the Phillies into fourth place behind Danville, Evansville and Springfield.

The Phillies won an exhibition game against a Cedar Rapids semi-pro club, 5 to 3, but Suytar, used as a catcher, was injured by an errant bat. Sanford had his team mentally prepared for a four-game series at Waterloo beginning June 7. The Phillies won them all: 10 to 9, 16 to 9, 4 to 3 and 11 to 6.

Higdon knocked in the tying and winning runs in the ninth inning of the first game but was injured in the eighth inning of the second game when he collided with Waterloo second baseman Bill D’Allessandro. Both men were hospitalized. Olive hit two round-trippers in the final game of the series.

Higdon returned but the Phillies were not prepared for Davenport. The Cubs blasted Sundra for seven runs in the bottom of the first en route to a 28 to 2 triumph. Sanford, Olive, Welker, Jones and Hasenmayer took turns on the mound for Terre Haute.

Panaranto allowed just five hits as the Phillies whipped the Cubs, 8 to 2, in the second game, Til’s first complete game of the year. The Phillies lost the third game, 7 to 2, and Mississippi River floods forced cancellation of the final game.

The series with Waterloo at Memorial Stadium pitted the top two league teams in attendance. Terre Haute came from behind to win the opening game, 8 to 7, after White Hawks manager John Mostil was ejected. Panaranto pitched a shutout until the seventh inning of the first game of a doubleheader before 3,173 cash customers, won 4 to 3 by the Phillies in 10 innings. Grasmick went the distance for a 6 to 0 Phillies’ victory in the second game.

Umpire Don Waltz ejected every Waterloo player not currently in the lineup from the dugout in the nightcap for colorful language following a controversial foul ball call. The White Hawks ended their eight-game losing streak against Terre Haute in the final game of the series.

Returning to Memorial Stadium, Terre Haute was scheduled to host Davenport on “Booster Day,” which also included an extraordinary menu of contests and promotions.

Continued to next week