The Last Time the Phils were ERA Champs


 The 1952 baseball season enjoyed a renaissance of sorts during Wednesday’s wild wild-card finish to 2011.

 The Red Sox, who went 7-20, in the final month, hadn’t lost that many September games since 1952. And the Phillies ended up leading the National League in ERA for the first time since that same season 59 years ago.

 The ace of that ’52 Phils staff, of course, was Robin Roberts, who had his finest season. Robbie was 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA. He pitched 330 innings, completed 30 of his 39 starts and threw five shutouts.

 And, oh yeah, he saved two games.

 Roberts' 28 wins were the most by a National Leaguer since Dizzy Dean won the same number in 1935. One of his victories was a 17-inning game and he went the distance.

 Curt Simmons was 14-8 with an ERA of 2.82. The lefthander started just 28 games but completed 15 of them.

 The other two regulars in the rotation were Russ Meyer (13-14, 3.14 ERA, 14 CG, and Karl Drews (14-15, 2.72, 15).

 Those four totaled 74 of the Phils’ NL-best 80 complete games. They needed to. The bullpen wasn’t particularly good.

 Aging Jim Konstanty, the MVP of 1950, was never the same after that Whiz Kids season. He led the club in saves, but did so with only six. And neither he, Steve Ridzik, Andy Hanson, Ken Heintzelman or Howie Fox had an ERA under 3.00.

 Thanks to their starting pitching, those Phils finished 20 games over .500, 87-67. But in the eight-team NL, that was good enough for only fourth place, 9 ½ games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers.

 Actually, those Phillies ran away with the ERA title. Their 3.07 was nearly a half-a-run-per-game better than the second-best team’s number, the Dodgers’ 3.53.

 Philadelphia also was the league’s best in complete games (80), shutouts (16), fewest homers allowed (96) and fewest walks (373).

 The biggest surprise was Drews, a journeyman righthander who at 32 had his career’s best year. It was the only time Drews, who finished with a 44-53 win-loss record, reached double figures in victories.

 Drews had played for 12 minor-league teams before reaching the majors with the Yankees in 1946, and played for 6 more after his big-league career concluded in 1954.

 His playing days ended in Mexico in 1960, when he was 40. Three years later, vacationing in Florida, Drews was killed when his car was hit by a drunk driver.

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