September Swoon: Richie Allen, the ’64 Phillies and Racial Integration

September Swoon: Richie Allen, the ’64 Phillies and Racial Integration

By William C. Kashatus

280 pages. Photographs, bibliography, notes, appendices, index
ISBN: 0-271-02333-3 $32.50 hard cover 2004.
ISBN: 978-0-271-02742-5 $26.95 paper 2005.

Winner of the 2005 Dave Moore Award, Elysian Fields Quarterly Baseball Review.

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Everything seemed to be going the Phillies’ way. Up by 6 ½ games with just 12 left to play in the 1964 season, they appeared to have clinched their first pennant in more than a decade. Oufielder Johnny Callison narrowly missed being the National League MVP. Third baseman Richie Allen was Rookie of the Year.

But the “Fightin’ Phils” didn’t make it to the post-season — they lost 10 straight games and finished a game behind the pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals. Besides engineering the greatest collapse of any team in major league baseball history, the ’64 Phillies had another, more important distinction: they were Philadelphia’s first truly integrated baseball team. In September Swoon William Kashatus tells the dramatic story — both on the field and off the field — of the Phillies’ bittersweet season of 1964.

More than any other team in Philadelphia’s sports history, the ’64 Phillies saddled the city with a reputation for being a “loser.” Even when victory seemed assured, Philadelphia found a way to lose. Unfortunately, the collapse, dubbed the “September swoon,” was the beginning of a self-destructive skid in both team play and racial integration, for the very things that made the players unique threatened to tear the team apart. An antagonistic press and contentious fans blamed Richie Allen, the Phillies’ first black superstar, for the team’s losing ways, accusing him of dividing the team along racial lines. Allen manipulated the resulting controversy in the hopes that he would be traded, but in the process he managed to further fray already tenuous race relations.

Based on personal interviews, player biographies, and newspaper accounts, September Swoon brings to life a season and a team that got so many Philadelphians, both black and white, to care deeply and passionately about the game at a turbulent period in the city’s — and our nation’s — history. The hometown fans reveled in their triumphs and cried in their defeat, because they saw in them a reflection of themselves. The ’64 Phillies not only won over the loyalties of a racially divided city, but gave Philadelphians a reason to dream — of a pennant, of a contender, and of a City of Brotherly Love.

Reviews:

“Kashatus did impressive research, interviewing most of Allen’s teammates during that era. But he also faced the challenge of putting it in proper context. This is a notable book about a notable man in a notable time and place.” – Jon Caroulis, Pittsburg Post-Gazette

“What sets September Swoon apart from previous ‘64 books is an earnest attempt by Kashatus to craft a parallel narrative about the seismic shifts that were occurring simultaneously in Philadelphia’s sociological landscape. Political figures and civil rights activists carry equal weight with the heroes of Connie Mack Stadium. At the center of everything is Richie Allen, the Phillies’ first true African-American superstar…. September Swoon follows the remaining path of Allen’s career, a path that ironically ends up in Philadelphia many years later. How he went from Philadelphia pariah to a beloved Quaker City sports icon is, in its own way, as compelling a story as the team’s tragic collapse of 1964.” – David Plaut, USA Today Sports Weekly