Oxford, Pa.'s famous connection to the Phillies

All this talk about 'hometown hero' Mike Trout's visit to Citizens Bank Park this week has me thinking about my own hometown.

As it turns out, good old Oxford, Pa., has its own fairly famous connection to the Phillies.

Raise your hand if you've ever heard the name John Ogden. Unless you're Larry Shenk, Chris Wheeler or maybe Bill Campbell I am guessing the answer is no.

John Ogden may not be famous, he never played for the Phillies, but his link to the team - and one of the most famous young men to ever put on those pinstripes - is indelible.

John Ogden played all or parts of five seasons in the big leagues between 1918 and 1932. His brother Curley also played in the bigs. Both went to Chester High school where they are among seven CHS alumni who made the majors. The brothers also went to Swarthmore College.

By the time a young squirt - and future newspaper editor - started hanging around his house, he was a senior scout for the Phillies.

John Ogden lived lived in a modest brick house on Pine Street, right smack in the middle of tiny Oxford, Pa.

And the young man he brought to Philadelphia became one of the most controversial figures in Philadelphia sports history.

Any guesses?

Here's a hint: Wampum, Pa.

That's right, a 66-year-old John Ogden Sr. discovered - and signed - the young man then known as Richie Allen, the "Wampum Walloper." You might know him better as Dick Allen.

I will always remember him for two things - crushing baseballs over the Ballantine scoreboard at old Connie Mack Stadium, and as the quiet, almost shy young man who once sat on Ogden's front porch and talked to a bunch of local kids.

We were all baseball crazy, and played the game the way it was meant to be played, just a bunch of kids in a field. No adults, no uniforms, no umpires, no trophies. We would pick sides and then play until the sun went down.

How have times changed? Ask yourself this question: When was the last time you saw a bunch of boys playing baseball in a field without any adults around?

Once we realized Mr. Ogden's connection to the Phillies, some of us used to actually hang around his house, sometimes sitting his yard, hoping he would come out. It was not unusual for him to do just that. No, he never once did a Clint Eastwood imitation and ordered us to "Get off my lawn." He did, however, from time to time, offer something much more valuable. Bleacher tickets to Connie Mack to see the Phils.

Allen, of course, became the Rookie of the Year in that ill-fated Summer of 1964. Swinging that massive 42-ounce bat, Allen torched the National League, hitting .313, smashing 29 homers and collecting an astounding 201 hits. Sprinkle in 38 doubles, 13 triples and 91 RBIs and you have the makings of a rookie season to remember.

Most of die-hards remember 1964 for something else - the tragic September swoon.

But I will always also remember Allen, still one of the best pure hittters the game has ever produced.

Of course, Allen's stay in Philadelphia soon became stormy. There was the confrontation with Frank Thomas, the mysterious hand injury, and the indelible image of Allen scratching out the word 'Boo' in the dirt around first base with his cleats.

I never booed Allen, in part because I claimed him as my own.

And I have John Ogden to thank for it.


Anonymous said…
I have never understood how these "reversed" images end up in print. Is this an unavoidable effect or just careless editing?
Philip Gardner said…
Great great article Phil. Thanks for the continued excellence!

-Phil Gardner
Heron's Nest said…
A very nice compliment from my old 'battery' mate, Phil Gardner. What I would give to go back to those days and play some baseball, eh, Phil?
Anonymous said…
John Ogden was around Oxford back in the 50's. He was a scout back then and scouted my brother Paul Poole but I think he was scouting for the Braves at the time because my brother signed with the Braves. Nice to here someone talk about what it used to be like in Oxford.