The Phillies had started hot, and their fans were excited. Normally second fiddle to the A’s, the Phillies had started the season 5-0. “Seldom have Philadelphia fans become so vitally interested in the fate of the Phillies at this early stage of the race as they are today,” Philadelphia’s Evening Public Ledger wrote. “In past years they have pulled for the Phillies with all their power, but there was usually little hope, and none at times, even if the club began the season with a big lead, as it has done this season.”
Other stories that day talked about an Allied military offensive in Turkey, a dying police officer who rejected his shooter’s apology, and some members of the Biddles, a rich Philadelphia family, not being invited to a fancy wedding because of a post-office mistake. The year was 1915, and it remains the last time the Phillies started the season 5-0.
The Phillies had a chance to make it twice in 106 years yesterday, but lost to the Mets 8-4 after reliever Vince Velasquez put up this stat line in 1 ⅓ innnings: 0 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts. (Per Jayson Stark, this was the first time in the modern era a pitcher had such an outing.) The Phillies have started 4-0 just four times in their history: 2021, 2019 (where they also lost their fifth game), 1915, and 1897, when they opened the season 5-0-1.
If you will pardon the baseball jargon: Yikes! This is the Phillies’ 138th season of baseball, and they have only won their first four games four times. That’s a batting average of .028, fitting for a team that is best known for its history of losing. Since they tied their fifth game of 1897, the Phillies have only really been 5-0 once. Per Baseball-Reference, a total of 85 teams have started the season 5-0. The Phillies are not the only team to struggle to win its first five games, to be fair. The Athletics only did it once in Philadelphia and twice in Oakland. The Giants have done it 11 times, six of those in New York. The Dodgers and Reds have done it four times, the Yankees three. The Mets are in the same spot as the Phillies, having started a season 5-0 once. But the Phillies have a 78-year head start on them!
There are still reasons for Phillies fans to be almost as optimistic as they were in 1915, when the team eventually won its first pennant. After reports of payroll reductions and other cost-cutting measures broke last year, it looked like this year could be a down one for the Phillies. But things worked out OK. The team did not end up trading Zack Wheeler, and re-signed J.T. Realmuto to a five-year deal and Didi Gregorius to a two-year contract. The bullpen, one of the worst all-time last season, has been solid (aside from Velasquez’s performance yesterday). A 4-0 start two years ago led to a truly depressing second half of the year, but fans can still be hopeful.
But they must also face the truth. The Phillies are not 5-0 once again. Maybe one day they can recreate the magic of 1915.