No comments have been posted

Ruly Carpenter '58 Reflects on Family’s Phillies Reign

On the 70th anniversary of the Carpenter ownership of the Phillies, The News Journal highlights the Carpenter family and their contributions to pro sports. 
Republished with permission from the News Journal
By Kevin Tresolini
, The News Journal

Major League Baseball salaries averaged less than $250,000 annually in 1981. The Phillies of that year had just three players making more than $500,000, topped by future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Steve Carlton’s $725,000.

But team president Ruly Carpenter saw the coming increases and knew baseball was no place for a family business.

His grandfather, R.R.M. Carpenter, had purchased the then-bankrupt franchise on Nov. 23, 1943, for
$400,000. He died in 1949 and son Bob took control of the team. Ruly Carpenter, the Montchanin resident who became team president in 1972, sold it for $30 million in 1981 and has never regretted the decision.

A former baseball standout at Tower Hill School, Yale and in the Delaware Semi-Pro League, Carpenter continues to follow the Phillies with a fan’s zealousness and baseball man’s critical eye, riled when Jimmy Rollins gets under a pitch and doesn’t drive it. The hiring of Ryne Sandberg, whom the Phillies signed as a player under Carpenter’s watch in 1978, neatly ties his long association with the club.

Carpenter, 73, was 3 years old when his family purchased the Phillies and has early and fond memories of that association.

What are your earliest recollections of your family’s involvement with the Phillies?

“Being the owner’s son who was probably a pain in the ass to the players. I can remember going to spring training back in the late ’40s. The Phillies set up spring training in Clearwater, Fla., in 1947. They trained during the war in Bennettsville, S.C. I can remember once going with my father there. Then they moved to Clearwater where they’ve been ever since. We’d take the train down on spring vacation or fly down. I knew a lot of the players personally – Willie Jones, Granny Hamner, Robin Roberts, Andy Seminick, Richie Ashburn – all of them. I was just the owner’s bratty little son. They used to harass the heck out of me.”

But didn’t you love it?

“Oh, sure. You’re taking infield and playing pepper with major league players. It was a lot of fun growing up with those guys. As time went on, they retired or got out of baseball and I went to college, but it was a great experience.”

Do you remember much about the Phillies

“Whiz Kids” winning the pennant in 1950?

“Yes, because I can remember I got out of school to go up [and watch the World Series]. They lost four straight to the New York Yankees but all those games were close [1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 5-2]. I remember going to Connie Mack Stadium and Joe DiMaggio hit a home run off Robin Roberts that went up on the roof in left field [in the 10 th inning to win Game 2]. I don’t know how far that would have gone if it hadn’t hit the roof, probably 500 feet if you do the math. They’d won the pennant in Brooklyn at Ebbets Field and Ashburn threw out Cal Abrams at home plate [with the potential go-ahead run in the ninth inning] and I listened to that game on the radio. I remember exactly where I was at my grandmother’s house. I was 10 years old. They had been deplorable before that and after that there were some very difficult years,

Did you have jobs working for the Phillies when you were a kid?

“I didn’t work for the Phillies. I just went to the games. During the summer, I’d work on my grandparents’ dairy farm. I got out of Yale in 1962. Then I went to the University of Delaware and I audited a couple business classes. Ironically [Delaware Gov.] Jack Markell’s father [William] was the accounting teacher. It’s
such a small world. Then in the spring of 1963 I was Tubby Raymond’s assistant baseball coach at Delaware. That summer was the last one I played in the Delaware Semi-Pro League. In the fall of 1963 I went to work for the Phillies. I spent two or three months in the treasurer’s office to get some idea of how the accounting system worked and then I started in the farm department.”

What were your responsibilities

“In the spring of 1964, our minor league springtraining camps were separate. The Double-A and Triple-A guys were over in Dunedin, Fla., which is sort of a suburb of Clearwater. The Class A players were all in Leesburg, Fla., and my first job was to be the administrator at the Leesburg camp. I had to make sure the guys got their meal money, set the schedule, then we’d have meetings every night with all the managers and coaches and we’d make decisions on ballplayers and who was going to be cut and who was going to make the teams. That’s where I started and that’s where I got an idea of really how bad we were. At that A camp, there were guys that scouts had signed that couldn’t have played on the teams I played on at Yale, that’s how bad they were. That’s where I met Paul Owens. Paul was a scout at the time in California. He coordinated
all the drills and the workouts and who would do what. That’s where I got to know him and I realized right away that here’s the guy, if I get my father involved in what’s really going on, we want for our farm director [which Owens became in 1965, before becoming GM in 1972].”

What did you do to get the Phillies turned

“We spent a lot of time reviewing the performances of the scouts who were employed by the Phillies at that time. In those days, you didn’t have computers or anything. I took every fulltime territorial scout and went back and researched what players had they signed and how far had those players advanced in professional baseball. Most of this was pre-draft and you kind of get a good idea of who your better scouts are and we made a lot of changes on guys who were non-productive.”

Could you begin to foresee the success of the 1970s and the 1980
World Series title?

The [Greg] Luzinskis and [Mike] Schmidts and all these guys who eventually became starters, some of those guys I got to see personally before we signed them. I remember seeing films of Greg Luzinski in Paul Owens’ office prior to the draft. They were very crude, it almost looked like homemade film, of Greg taking
batting practice in high school. I remember watching Mike Schmidt play at Ohio University, where he was a shortstop. That’s just an example of what I got involved with. We were fortunate. Tony Lucadello signed Mike Schmidt and he was one of the best scouts in our system.”

When did you move from your farm-system role into running the
big-league club?

“I just stayed with the farm system, working with that, until my father decided he was going to step down in 1972. Paul [as GM] and Dallas [Green, as farm director] and myself and, of course, Danny [Ozark as manager] came in ... You surround yourself with the right people, that’s the key to success. We had a pretty good run. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t have won more world championships. Eventually we got it in 1980 and then we sold in
December of 1981.”

Was that a hard decision, to sell the team?

“In a lot ways, yes. Of course, the franchise is worth a heck of a lot more than what we sold it for today, but I didn’t see a future for a single-family ownership because of the inordinate amount of money that it takes today to retain your quality

What’s your association with the Phillies

“Of course, I always
root for the Phillies. I want them to win. There are still some people up there who worked for us. Other than just being a good fan, I don’t get involved at all. I still have a good relationship with Dave Montgomery, who is CEO of the ownership group now.”

With Ryne Sandberg being manager, do you feel the family connection renewed?

“We signed Ryne Sandberg. We took him in the 15 th round or later [20 th , in 1978] because he was an outstanding high school quarterback and the reason he wasn’t taken earlier in the draft was because everybody was afraid he was going to go to football. We secured the draft rights to him. The scout’s name was Bill Harper. I didn’t know this until I read Dallas Green’s book, but Bill Harper, the scout who signed Ryne Sandberg, his grandson is Bryce Harper ... Bill called us after we drafted him and Pope and Dallas and I are in the office and he asked us ‘What should we offer him?’ Our consensus was we were going to offer him the same amount of money we would if he was a secondor third-round pick, which is what he would have been based on his ability without the football factor. I think we signed him for $15,000. Harper goes in and offers and Ryne Sandberg was on his way to rookie league that afternoon. That’s a true story.”

Family brought long-sought stability to Phila. franchise

By Larry Shenk, Special to The News Journal

For the first 60 years of the Phillies franchise, 10 different groups owned the team. The re­volving door finally end­ed after the 1943 season.

Gerry Nugent, who be­came the owner in 1932, was so financially unsta­ble that the National League intervened, forc­ing Nugent to sell the team to William Cox, a successful New York lumber company busi­nessman who headed a 30-man syndicate. He took control of the Phil­lies when spring training started in March of 1943. Late that season, word got out that Cox had bet on Phillies games. Fol­lowing a lengthy investi­gation by Major League Baseball, Cox was banned from the sport.

Seventy years ago, on Nov. 23, R. R. M. Carpen­ter Sr., a vice president of the du Pont Company in Wilmington, purchased the team and named his son, R. R. M. (Bob) Car­penter Jr., president. At 28 years of age, Bob Car­penter was the youngest National League team
president ever. Facing military duty, Bob Carpenter an­nounced, “We will hire someone to run the club. He’ll be in full charge of the baseball affairs.” Taking over a club that finished 64-90, 41 games out of first place and an organization with one scout and a minor league system with a working agreement with one team, Bob Carpenter pro­plan claimed, “The first thing is building a farm system. We’re not going to beat anybody’s brains out by trying to get a good club right off the bat. But, we are going to start working on one systematically. It may take five years to produce results.”

Eight days into his new role, Bob Carpenter hired a general manager, a friend from Kennett Square and a former great pitcher of 22 years in the majors, Herb Pen­nock.

“He’s the boss, the chief cook, bottle washer and everything else,” said Bob Carpenter.

Pennock had been head of the Boston Red Sox farm system at the time Carpenter hired him. In March of 1944, Bob Carpenter was draft­ed into the Army. He served until 1946, leaving Pennock to carry out the plan alone.

Within four years, the Phillies had dolled out bo­nuses amounting to $1,250,000. The scouting staff numbered nine and the minor league system consisted of working agreements with 11 teams, according to
The Phillies Encyclopedia.”

Pennock died unex­pectedly on Jan. 30, 1948, at age 53, leaving Bob Carpenter completely in charge. Bob Carpenter was named the Major League Executive of The Year by The Sporting News in 1949 after a third-place finish, the first winning season for the Phillies since 1932.

On the last day of the 1950 season, the master
produced a National League pennant winner.

A bunch of young, home-grown players, nicknamed the Whiz Kids, brought an NL pen­nant to Philadelphia for the first time since 1915. Despite a young core, that included future Hall of Famers in center field­er Richie Ashburn and right-handed pitcher Robin Roberts, the Whiz Kids never won another pennant.

Following the organi­zation’s first World Championship in 1980, the Carpenter family, with R. R. M. (Ruly) Car­penter III as president, made a difficult decision.

As spring training in 1981 was about to begin in Clearwater, Fla., Ruly Carpenter called for a meeting with the players and front office execu­tives in the Carpenter Field clubhouse. To the surprise of everyone, he announced the team was going to be sold. That fall, a group headed by Bill Giles, the Phillies Execu­tive Vice President, pur­chased the ballclub.

Thirty-eight years un­der one ownership group was a far cry from the early years of a franchise that has been around 130 years. The Carpenter family had established continuity and stability for not only the Phillies, but all the pro sports teams in Philadelphia.

Larry Shenk is vice president of alumni relations for the Phillies. From 1963 to 2008, he served as the team’s PR director. Prior to that, he worked briefly as a sports reporter for The News Journal.

Larry Shenk is vice president of alumni relations for the Phillies. From 1963 to 2008, he served as the team’s PR director. Prior to that, he worked briefly as a sports reporter for The News Journal.

‘Baron’ a member of Phillies’ royalty
By Chris Branch, The News Journal

It is a short elevator ride from the ground floor of Citi­zens Bank Park to the Phillies’ front office. Take a right out of the elevator, and it’s only a few paces to Larry Shenk’s office.

Inside is a library of Phillies artifacts, includ­ing the lineup board from Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. Pictures of Veter­ans Stadium line the walls. A few awards hon­oring Shenk sit opposite
his desk.

On this day, however, the prize is a scrapbook of articles from 1943-1944, all about the Phillies. Shenk was delighted to find the collection in a storage room at The Vet as the Phils prepared to move into their new digs
at CBP in 2004.

The focus of the con­versation is Nov. 23, 1943, the day DuPont vice president R.R.M. Carpen­ter Sr. purchased the Phil­lies and put his son, R. R. M. (Bob) Carpenter Jr., in

Shenk is 75. His mind is sharp. He was too young to remember the events chronicled in the newspaper clippings he’s looking at, but he knows the stories. And he re­members most every­thing since he became the Phillies’ director of pub­lic relations in 1963, a po­sition he retired from in

He recalls when news broke via the newspaper instead of social media. Shenk remembers when sports editors would get angry with him for send­ing out press releases to other papers, allowing them to break the news in the morning edition. Now, Shenk checks Twitter ev­ery night before bed.

He recalls when Bob Carpenter summoned Shenk to his Wilmington estate for a pressing mat­ter. It was a Saturday, and the Phillies had a day
game. “Am I getting fired or what’s going on?” Shenk remembers wondering.

Turns out, general manager John Quinn was stepping down. The Phil­lies held a press confer­ence in the ninth inning of that day’s game – some­thing unheard of today – to inform the newspaper

Shenk was once a newspaperman, too, his last job being at The News Journal. Under sports ed­itors Hal Bodley and Al Cartwright, Shenk wrote about Delaware sports for almost a year. Cart­wright would leave Shenk letters in his mailbox at the paper with critiques, addressed to “Baron von Shenk.” The nickname stuck. “The Baron” is a fixture in Phillies culture.

“[Cartwright] would leave you letters in mail and really air you out.

‘You dummy, you can’t spell Smyrna right,’” Shenk said with a chuckle. “I couldn’t spell Smyrna. Smyrna is like an eye chart.”

Shenk didn’t stay long. Less than a year after taking the News Journal job, Shenk took over as head PR man for the Phillies, a job that had seen its last three occupants each leave after one year.

“I was worried I’d be the fourth guy in four years to fail,” Shenk said.

These days his title is vice president of alumni relations. He runs the alumni page on the Phil­lies website, posting old stories and vintage pho­tos. A longtime Wilming­ton resident, Shenk now lives in Glen Mills, Pa., with his wife Julie.

As the conversation winds down, Shenk poses for pictures in front of the Phils’ 2008 World Series trophy. Passersby tease Shenk, and Shenk doles it right back. A bystander marvels at Shenk’s mem­ory, and comments how she couldn’t even remem­ber what she had for lunch the day before.

In fact, another anni­versary came about re­cently. October marked 50 years since Shenk joined the Phillies.

“I survived,” Shenk said, smiling. “I still have an office.”