The Mahaffey Theater is a famous performing arts venue in St. Pete, Florida, but the Mahaffey name that will always occupy center stage in my mind is the Art who performed for the struggling Phillies of the early 1960s. I came across Art again while doing some housecleaning in and under desk in the office, featured as one of six unsung players in the 1963 edition of Fawcett’s Major League Baseball.
Art wasn’t known for his bat, but here he is crossing the plate after belting a grand slam in 1962, greeting by Don Demeter, Wes Covington, and a pair of legs to be named later. Art was known for his arm, and the article describes how enamored the Phillies ace Robin Roberts was with Mahaffey’s talent when he arrived to the majors: “I’ve never seen a young pitcher who could come into the league and do as many things as well as Art can.” To this day, Mahaffey holds the record for strikeouts in a single game by a Phillies pitcher with 17. You might have guessed the record holder to be Steve Carlton, among the greatest strikeout pitchers in history, but Lefty’s record was 16 in a game. Art will also be forever linked to the infamous Chico Ruiz steal of home plate that sealed the 1964 Phillies fate of all-time Phlops. There is a phenomenal SABR bio article of Art online that summarizes his career, and a bittersweet interview from 2011 online in which he ruminates about what was, and what might have been.