Starting shortstop for the ‘Whiz Kids’, Hamner manned the position for the entirety of the 1950’s with the Phillies
Since the fall of 2014, I’ve been running an off-season series titled “Philography” in which I present a brief biography of the important players in the Phillies’ past, both recent and distant.
In this series, I try to mostly key on their playing careers, but also like to toss in a few personal tidbits to frame each player’s background.
In two chapters of the series earlier in this current off-season, I covered a pair of shortstops who were vital to National League pennant-winning Phillies teams of the past.
This current chapter continues that shortstop theme as we take a look into the life and career of “Whiz Kids” shortstop Phillies Wall of Fame back in 1987., the ninth player selected to the
Hamner was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and was first signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent out of high school back in 1944 as a 17-year old.
But despite being three years older and further along in his development,didn’t beat his kid brother to the Major Leagues.
After signing, Granny went straight to the shorthanded Phillies, appearing in 21 games during that summer of ’44, when baseball and the rest of the country was still embroiled in World War II.
The following year, Hamner started out back in the big leagues. In fact, Garvin had signed with the Phillies as well, and joined him on the roster for Opening Day.
The two brothers played together for the entire month of April and into May, including as the starting middle infield combo, with Garvin at 2nd and Granny at short. Neither would last the season. Granny was just 18 years old and hitting for just a .171 average when he was sent to the minor leagues in mid-May.
Garvin lasted with the Phillies through back-to-back doubleheaders on June 6th and 7th, but that was it – for his big league career. At age 21, he would be sent to the minors as well, never to get another shot.
Garvin did play on, lasting through the 1953 season in the minor leagues when, at age 29, he decided to hang it up.
The younger Granny meanwhile hit .258 with 18 extra-base hits in the minors at A-level Utica over 104 games during that summer of 1945. He also fielded the shortstop position flawlessly.
After spending most of 1946 serving in the post-War military, Granny returned in time for a pair of late September games against the Giants. He was sent back to Utica in 1947 as the starting shortstop once again.
Now 20 years old and beginning to mature physically, Hamner hit .291 with 36 extra-base hits, and was knocking on the door for a return to the big leagues. He received a cup of coffee at the end of September, starting the final two games, once again against those Giants.
In 1948, Hamner won the shortstop job at the start of the season. Hitting just .212 by late May, managerbegan to bounce him in and out of the lineup, and use him at both 2nd and 3rd base.
By May,, in his first Phillies season but an 11-year veteran who had played with both Cincinnati and the Boston Braves, had taken over the full-time shortstop duties.
At the end of May, Hamner seized the starting job next to him as the starting 2nd baseman. The two would form the Phillies’ middle infield combo for the rest of that summer.
By spring training of the following 1949 season, the Miller and Hamner roles were completely reversed under new manager, who had taken over for Chapman the previous season.
Miller was made the second baseman, while Hamner returned to shortstop, the position that he would man for the Phillies for the next eight seasons.
The 1949 Phillies under Sawyer were a young, exciting ball club. They finished in 3rd place in the National League with an 81-73 record, the first winning season for the franchise since 1932. It was just the second winning campaign since 1917, after which much of the remnant of the 1915 pennant winners had been dealt or faded away.
Hamner was right in the middle of that excitement, literally. He was the 22-year old starting shortstop for what appeared to be an up-and-coming contender.
Among those joining Hamner in that group were 22-year old center fielder, 24-year old left fielder , 23-year old 3rd baseman , 22-year old starting pitcher , and 20-year old pitcher .
By 1950 these “Whiz Kids” were putting serious pressure on the established powers in the National League.
On the season’s final day, a 9th inning tremendous throw by Ashburn nailed the winning run at the plate, and kept the Phillies in the decisive game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Then a 3-run 10th inning home run by Sisler clinched the pennant.
The Phillies had won the 1950 National League pennant, but would go on to be swept out of the World Series in four straight games by the New York Yankees.
Though they were swept, the first three losses were all by a single run. Hamner was nearly flawless in the field, as usual, during that Fall Classic. He made one error – but it would prove pivotal.
As reported back in 1993 by Joe Berkery of the Philadelphia Daily News:
“in the third game, he bobbled‘s grounder in the eighth inning with the Phillies leading, 2-1. Hamner had scored the go-ahead run. A run scored on the error and the Yankees went on to score in the ninth and win, 3-2.”
Hamner finished sixth in the National League MVP voting in the following weeks after a season in which he hit .270 with 11 homers, 82 RBI, 78 runs scored and played tremendous defense at shortstop for the NL champions.