Jim Konstanty: The Father of All Phillies Relievers

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst IJuly 28, 2009

With the Phillies well on their way to their third straight National League East Title, dreams of another World Series trip are on the minds of many Phillies fans.

Watching Yankees' highlights and thinking about their recent ascent to first place in the tough American League East, my mind wandered to a Phillies vs. Yankees World Series. I don't know, it just sounds right to me.

If the Dodgers go to the World Series, I think of a matchup with the Boston Red Sox. It just seems right. The whole Manny Ramirez thing is what the media wanted last year, but it got the Phillies vs. Rays instead.

The last time the Phillies played the Yankees in the World Series was in 1950. For me, one player comes to mind: Jim Konstanty. In a way, he was the first great closer in baseball.

Baseball was a different game back in 1950. Philadelphia had two Major League teams for crying out loud. Though, the Philadelphia A's were the more popular of the two teams in town.

Pitchers pitched more complete games, and the game was not nearly as specialized as it is today.

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1950 was a magical year for the Phillies, known then as the Whiz Kids. The team was managed by Eddie Sawyer and featured Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn.

The Phillies beat out the Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League pennant and faced the Yankees in the World Series.

You see, much of the Phillies' history before their World Series wins in 1980 and 2008 was about what could have been. And that remains true for their 1964 collapse.

Sawyer made a bold move by starting Konstanty in Game One of the World Series. In 1950, Konstanty appeared in 74 games. That year, he won 16 games, had 22 saves, and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player.

According to The Baseballpage.com, Konstanty paid off his manager's trust. Konstanty pitched nine innings, allowed five hits, and one run in a 1-0 loss. Konstanty pitched well in two other games in the World Series, but the Phillies were swept in the series, 4-0.

Casimir James (Jim) Konstanty also played for the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, New York Yankees, and the St. Louis Cardinals in his 11-year career.

His best years came with the Phillies, from 1948 through 1953. The bespectacled reliever employed a slider and change-up to baffle hitters.

In an 11-season career, Konstanty posted a 66-48 record with 74 saves and a 3.46 earned run average in 433 games.

Konstanty died in Oneonta, New York at age 59 on June 11, 1976.

In an era when specialists were uncommon, Konstanty stood out among his baseball peers.

To me, he is also a symbol of what could have been had the Phillies won Game One against the mighty Yankees.

To baseball historians, he could be considered the first great closer.

*Information gathered from Wikipedia and thebaseballpage.com.