Cy Williams' month to remember
During the 1923 season, Phillies outfielder Fred "Cy " Williams put together a stretch of run production that established a franchise mark that endures to this day. Playing a total of 30 games as the Phillies everyday centerfielder, Williams drove in a total of 44 runs. Keeping in mind that the Quakers franchise of the early 1920's was the perennial doormat of the National League makes Williams' feat all the more remarkable. In fact, during the entire decade of the 1920's, the Phillies had only one season(1929) where they finished higher than seventh.
The N.L. schedule called for the Phillies to begin the 1923 season on April 17 at Brooklyn. And despite Williams getting off to a hot start in the season's first two weeks, nothing could have prepared Phillies fans and the local press for the tear Williams was about to embark on.
On May 1, facing the Boston Braves at the Baker Bowl, Williams slugged two home runs resulting in 4 RBI in a 12-10 loss. By the time the Phillies lost 11-9 to the New York Giants on May 4, Williams had already produced a total of 11 RBI in the month's first four games. Over the next three weeks, Williams proved remarkably consistant. Only once during the entire month did he ever go two consecutive games without an RBI; and that didn't occur until a double header on May 30 at Boston. His month eventually included six games with three or more RBI.
Much of Williams' production came courtesy of the long ball. On May 11 at home versus the St. Louis Cardinals, Williams hit three home runs and collected seven RBI in a 20-14 Phillies victory. He would go on to bang out a total of 15 home runs in May, more than double the total of any other month that season. It also remains the Phillies' franchise record for any single month, a mark eventually equalled by Jim Thome in June of 2004. There's no telling how high Williams' season HR total might have been if he had not missed 13 games in June with a series of nagging injuries.
Much like his eventual teammate Chuck Klein, critics of Williams' offensive numbers have frequently attributed much of his success to playing half his schedule at the cozy confines of the Baker Bowl, with its notoroiusly short right field wall. And while it's true that the left-handed batting Williams was a dead-pull hitter, his accomplishments in May of 1923 were not totally skewed by his home ballpark. Of the Phillies' 30 games that May, 19 were played at home and 11 were on the road. Of Williams 44 RBI, 31 of them came at home and 13 on the road. So, although 70% of Williams RBI total that May came at home, he also played 63% of his games at home. Not an entirely unusual ratio.
Maybe more significant in the big scheme of things is that, although the Phillies scored a total of 174 runs for the month(an average of 5.8 per game), their pitching staff allowed 232(an average of 7.7) Thus, for all of Williams' production at the plate, most of it went for naught as the Phillies record for the month of May was a pathetic 7-23.
For his part, Williams' totals of 41 home runs and 114 RBI in 1923 would be career highs. His fourth and final National League home run title came in 1927 when, at age 39, he hit 30 home runs. It also marked his final season as an everyday player in the major leagues. But Cy Williams' achievement of 44 RBI in a single month earned him a lasting place in the Phillies record book. Thus, as of the start of the 2009 season, no Phillies player has ever had a single month like that of Williams in May of 1923. Only Ryan Howard's 41 in August, 2006 and Chuck Klein's 40 in July of 1929 have even approached the mark set by Williams.