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On This Date in Sports August 20, 1961: The Phillies Phinally Win

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The misery ends for the Philadelphia Phillies as they defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4 in the second game of a doubleheader at County Stadium to end a 23-game losing streak. The 23 consecutive losses set a modern MLB record. It was the first win the Phillies had since July 28th, when they beat the San Francisco Giants in the second game of a doubleheader. Overall the Phillies had lost 28 of 29 games under manager Gene Mauch. The Phillies would finish the season dead last with a record of 47-107. 

Throughout most of their history, the Philadelphia Phillies were perennial losers mired in the second division. They suffered 30 losing seasons in a 31-year stretch from 1918-1948; the lone rest bit was a 78-76 record in 1932. After a winning record in 1949, the Phillies made a surprise trip to the 1950 World Series led by the Whiz Kids. However, after getting swept by the New York Yankees, the Phillies resumed their losing ways and finished in last place in 1958 and 1959. Eddie Sawyer, the manager who guided the Whiz Kids in 1950, stepped down after opening day in 1960 as Gene Mauch took over as the Phillies again finished at the bottom of the National League at 59-95. 

The 1961 season was not much better for the Phillies, as they were buried in the basement after a 6-18 mark in May, which included a ten-game losing streak. The Phillies scuffled most of the season as Robin Roberts had a nightmarish 1-10 season. As the second All-Star Game was played at the end of July, the Phillies were in another free fall, closing the month with seven losses in eight games. The lone win was on July 28th, when they edged the San Francisco Giants 4-3 in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Connie Mack Stadium. 

The Phillies would take a two-game slide into August, holding a record of 30-66. The worst part of the slump came on August 9th, when they began a string of three straight shutouts against the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies became the fourth team since 1900 to suffer a 20-game losing streak with a 7-6 loss to the Braves in 11 innings on August 17th, equaling skids from the Boston Americans in 1906 and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1916 and 1943. 

The longest losing streak in Major League history was by the Louisville Colonels of the American Association in 1889. The infamous Cleveland Spiders dropped 24 straight in 1899, on the way to a record 134 losses. The Pittsburgh Alleghenys suffered a 23-game losing streak in 1890 before becoming the Pirates one year later. 

The Phillies reached 23 straight losses dropping the opener of a Sunday doubleheader 5-2. John Buzhardt, who wore #23, got the start in the nightcap for the Phillies as Carl Willey started for Chuck Dressen and the Braves. Roy McMillan gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead with a home run in the third inning. Wes Covington homered in the fourth to even the score, while Lee Walls followed with a double and scored on a single by Clay Dalrymple. Walls scored again in the sixth on a sac-fly by Bobby Malkmus. 

The Braves scored in the eighth to cut the Phillies' lead to 3-2. In the eighth, the Phillies broke the game with four runs, highlighted by Tony Taylor's two-run single. The Braves scored runs in the eighth and ninth, but the Phillies won 7-4, ending their losing streak as Buzhardt went the distance. 

In the 60 years since only the Montreal Expos with Gene Mauch as their manager and the Baltimore Orioles in 1988, had a 20-game losing streak or longer in MLB.