Cliff Lee Meet Deacon Phillippe!

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi on a brilliant pitcher likely forgotten by all but baseball historians. As Joe writes, Deacon Phillippe is most known for his outstanding work in the 1903 World Series, though he’s also a distant relative of actor Ryan Phillippe (who named his son Deacon for him) and he won 20 games six times. In 2005, Tom Verducci included the Deadball Era hurler in’s list of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame.


Here’s a World Series quiz for readers. What starting pitcher who excelled in post season play said: “It’s a cold day when I get three balls on a man.”

If you have been listening to baseball analysts these past few days, you might think it was the stingy Cliff Lee, all but crowned as the greatest October pitcher of all time. Others mentioned by the talking heads, although somewhat dismissively, include Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Mariano Rivera and Whitey Ford.

The correct response is not Lee, however, but the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Deacon Phillippe (pronounced Phil-uh-pee) who in 1903 against the Boston Americans pitched five complete World Series games, two on back-to-back days, and won three of them. In what was then a nine game World Series format, Phillippe out dueled Boston’s Cy Young in the opener while striking out 10 and walking none.

Here’s Phillippe’s aggregate five game line for the 1903 World Series, won by Boston 5-3:

IP- 44; H-38; R-19; ER-16; BB-3; SO-23

Three walks in 44 innings averages less than one per game, lower than Phillippe’s career average of 1.2 walks per start and, moreover, lower than Lee’s 2.2 per nine inning career mark.

Although Phillippe’s Herculean performance did not lead the Pirates to a world championship that year, Pittsburgh fans showed their appreciation by presenting him with a diamond horseshoe stickpin and owner Barney Dreyfuss rewarded him ten shares of stock in the club.

The secret of Phillippe’s pitching success was, according to an interview he gave to The Sporting News, “keeping batters guessing. I study the batsman in every way: his position in the box, his general attitude, the way he holds the bat, and any other individual characteristics he may have.” Lee, more than a century later, learned Phillippe’s lesson well.

Phillippe’s five complete game decisions are a World Series record that will stand forever unless the fall classic reverts to the best of nine. If that happens, we’ll be watching baseball and eating turkey on the same day.


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

One Reply to “Cliff Lee Meet Deacon Phillippe!”

  1. Deacon got a very late start to his career, for some reason. Add 3-4 more years to the front of his career and he very well might be in the Hall.

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