Ruly Carpenter, 81, dies; Owned the Phillies’ first championship team
Ruly Carpenter, the third-generation owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, who in 1981 sold the team a year after winning their first World Series, saying he was troubled by the rising cost of player salaries, died Monday at his home of Montchanin, Del., near Wilmington He was 81 years old.
His wife, Stephanie (Conklin) Carpenter, confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.
Mr. Carpenter, whose grandfather acquired the Phillies in 1943, took over his father’s team in 1972 and helped make them a contender with players like third baseman Mike Schmidt and pitcher Steve Carlton , both future Hall of Fame members, along with Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox and Pete Rose, who signed with the Phillies as a free agent in 1979 after 16 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
But although the Phillies finished first in their division in 1976, 1977 and 1978, they lost the National League Championship Series in each of those years. Then, in 1980, they beat the Houston Astros in the NLCS and beat the Kansas City Royals in the World Series in six games.
Almost six months later, however, Mr Carpenter announced his intention to sell the team, citing skyrocketing player salaries caused by free will and arbitration.
“Marvin Miller didn’t force the owners to pay these ridiculous salaries,” he said, referring to the executive director of the players’ union. “We, the owners, did it. I did it. We hoped that common sense would prevail. But this is not the case.
Mr Carpenter said he was exasperated by the Atlanta Braves signing Claudell Washington, a good but not great outfielder, on a five-year contract worth $ 700,000 a year (about 2 , $ 2 million in today’s dollars) in the late 1980s.
“What did I think? He said in an interview with the New York Times at the time. “You couldn’t print what I thought. “
In late October 1981, he sold the team for $ 30.175 million to a group led by one of its executives, Bill Giles, whose wealthy partners included Taft Broadcasting. Mr Carpenter said he believes he should have brought in investors to pay the rising cost of his players’ salaries.
“I just never liked the idea of having to contact three or four other partners if there was a big financial decision to be made,” he told the Philadelphia Daily News in 2008. “And in 1981 , I just looked where the baseball was and said, ‘Boy, that will never change.’ “
He was right. In 1981, the average salary for a major league player was $ 185,651 (about $ 570,000 in today’s dollars). Today it is around $ 4.2 million. But the team’s values have also skyrocketed; Mr. Carpenter sold the team for 75 times the $ 400,000 his grandfather paid in 1943. More recently, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen paid nearly $ 2.5 billion for the Mets, a record for a baseball team.
Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter III was born June 10, 1940 in Wilmington and raised in Montchanin. His father, Robert Jr., ruled the Phillies for nearly 30 years, and his mother, Mary Kaye (Phelps) Carpenter, helped start a school for students with intellectual disabilities and owned a shoe store. His grandfather, also known as Ruly, was an executive at DuPont.
Young Ruly did spring training in Florida with the Phillies; was, he later recalled, “the owner’s bratty grandson.” He was 10 in 1950 when the Phillies – a young team known as the “Whiz Kids” – were swept away by the Yankees in the World Series.
“I remember going to Connie Mack Stadium and Joe DiMaggio hit a home run against Robin Roberts who got on the roof in left field,” he said in a 2013 interview for the website of Tower Hill School, the private school in Wilmington which he attended.
He played baseball and football at Tower Hill, and in 1962 graduated from Yale University, where he captained the baseball team and played on the soccer team.
He started working for the Phillies in 1963, first in the treasurer’s office and then in the minor league system, where he met Paul Owens, a scout. Impressed with Mr. Owens’ ability to evaluate players, he recommended his father raise him to the rank of farm team manager.
Working together to improve the Phillies, Mr Carpenter recalls, he and Mr Owens went over the work of their scouts, firing those who had hired players who weren’t productive. They drafted Luzinski in 1968 and Schmidt in 1971. The following year Mr. Owens was made general manager and Mr. Carpenter took control of the Phillies, replacing his father as team president.
“He would treat you the same if you were a superstar or the 25th guy on the team,” Larry Bowa, who was also the Phillies coach, said by phone. “He loved baseball, but he hinted every now and then that he thought free agency would get out of hand. He looked like he didn’t know how long he would keep doing this.
Mr Carpenter sold the team in 1981, a few months after the end of a 50-day mid-season players’ strike, the main issue of which was the compensation a team would receive in the event of a loss. a player because of free agency. He called the strike a “tragedy and disaster”.
After leaving the Phillies, Mr. Carpenter served on the Boards of Directors for Tower Hill and the University of Delaware and was a volunteer assistant baseball coach at Tower Hill.
Besides his wife, he is survived by his sons, Robert IV and David; one daughter, Lucinda Carpenter; one sister, Mary Kaye Murray; one brother, Keith; and seven grandchildren.
Stephanie Carpenter said in a phone interview that her husband, in his post-Phillie years, missed the thrill of seeing young talent grow, but not the baseball economy. She pointed out that Phillies superstar Bryce Harper’s salary ($ 26 million) is almost what her husband received when he sold the team.