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Off-field drama overshadowed lackluster 1903 Phils

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The two biggest news stories for the Phillies didn't occur on the field 110 years ago. What happened on the field wasn't good, as the Phils finished 49-86, in seventh place. The losses were the most in the 20-year history of the franchise.

Owner Al Reach, who started the Phillies in 1883, and his partner, John Rogers, sold the team for $170,000 in March to a syndicate that owned the Pittsburgh Pirates. Heading the syndicate was James Potter, making him the second president in team history.

The new ownership lasted only through one more season. In the next 10 seasons, the Phils had three owners and six presidents.

The other major news took place on August 8. Twelve fans died and 232 were injured when a balcony collapsed at Philadelphia Park during a doubleheader with the Boston Braves. The accident forced the Phillies to play 16 games at the Philadelphia Athletics' Columbia Park.

Chief Zimmer -- former catcher of Cy Young -- was the manager, his first such position. He lasted one season and then became a Major League umpire.

Three regulars batted over .300: center fielder Roy Thomas (.328), right fielder Bill Keister (.320) and third baseman Harry Wolverton (.308), who had 127 singles, 13 doubles and a club-high 12 triples.

The brightest moment of the season came in the second game of a September 18 doubleheader when right-hander Chick Fraser threw the Phils' first no-hitter of the century, 10-0, at Chicago. For losing righty George (Peaches) Graham, it was his only big league appearance.

In the second game the next day, right-hander Bill Duggleby allowed all 17 runs in losing, 17-7, at Cincinnati. It still stands as a club record for most runs allowed in a game.

Other dubious notes from the season:

• Right-hander Fred Mictchell hit 19 batters, a club record that was tied by Jim Bunning in 1966.

• Rudy Hulswitt committed 81 errors in 138 games, a record that still stands for most errors by a shortstop.

• Williams "Kid" Gleason, who set a Phillies record with 38 wins as a pitcher in 1890, returned after playing 11 seasons with four other teams. The 5-foot-7, 36-year-old Camden, N.J., native became their starting second baseman for the next four seasons.

• The Phils used nine pitchers during the season. All had losing records except left-hander Walt "Pop" Williams, who was 1-1 in two appearances.

• Offensively, the Phillies hit .268, but had only 12 homers.

The year also featured the first City Series game between the Phils and American League Philadelphia Athletics.

Larry Shenk is the vice president of alumni relations for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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