The decade of the 1990’s would be largely forgettable on the field for the Philadelphia Phillies. The unforgettable 1993 pennant winners were an oasis in a desert of losing. They were the only winning team in the entire decade for a franchise that finished a cumulative 91 games below the .500 mark even with that lovable ’93 bunch going 97-65.
Our first pitching representative of the decade for this ‘Phillies 50’ series on the players from 1971-2019 who provided the least impact during each of those seasons is right-hander Chuck Malone.
Born and raised in Arkansas, Malone was the fifth round choice of the Phillies in the 1986 MLB January Draft-Regular Phase out of a Missouri community college.
Wildness held Malone back as he tried to rise through the farm system over the next few years. He wound end up walking 482 batters over 568.2 innings across parts of six minor league seasons.
In 1990 at age 24 the Phillies decided to take a look at him up close when rosters expanded in September. Though he had walked a characteristically wild 78 batters over 76 innings at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre that season, Malone had also only allowed 47 hits.
On September 6, 1990 at Veterans Stadium, Phillies manager Nick Leyva gave Malone his first opportunity in the big-leagues. Starter Jason Grimsley had been knocked around for five earned runs over 5.2 innings and threw 90 pitches when Malone was brought into the game in relief.
Knowing his record for such things, it should not have been surprising to anyone in the Phillies organization when Malone walked the very first two batters that he ever faced in Major League Baseball. After first walking Greg Smith, Malone then walked Mark Grace to force in the final run charged to Grimsley.
After getting out of that frame with no further damage, Malone retired the Cubs in order in the top of the 7th inning. He would be lifted for pinch-hitter Louie Meadows in the bottom of that frame.
“It was his first time out there, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt,” Leyva said per Don Bostrom of The Allentown Morning Call after the game. “He might have been jittery. He got them out the next inning. He’s got some kind of arm and that kind of track record. He either walks them or strikes them out. Not too many hit him. If he gets it going, he’ll really be something.”
It was the first of seven games in which Malone would see action over the final weeks of that 1990 season, strangely six of the seven coming at home at The Vet. They would also prove to be the only seven big-league games in which he would ever appear.
There were some highlights, however. In his very next appearance on September 8, 1990 came his first big-league strikeout when he fanned Keith Miller of the Mets swinging. That came one batter after he allowed his first home run, a 9th inning leadoff shot off the bat of future Phillies star Gregg Jefferies.
It was an inning stereotypical of Malone’s entire career that went like this: Home run to Jefferies. Strikeout of Miller. Walk to Dave Magadan. Strikeout of Kevin McReynolds. Walk to Darryl Strawberry. Strikeout of Tom Herr.
On September 21, 1990 at The Vet, Malone earned his only decision in MLB when he received credit for the win as the Phillies walked off the Montreal Expos in the 12th inning.
In the top of the frame, Malone shut down the visiting Montreal Expos while facing the minimum three batters. However – of course – he walked one of those. But Delino DeShields, who had drawn that walk as the second batter in the top of the 12th was gunned down trying to steal by catcher Darren Daulton.
Lenny Dykstra then provided the game winner with two outs in the home 12th when he shot a ball into the right-center field gap, allowing Dave Hollins to score all the way from first base with the walkoff game-winning run.
Malone would stay with the organization in 1991. But during spring training he failed to impress. “I’ve never seen him pitch good, to tell you the truth,” Leyva said at that point according to Seth Livingstone in The Sunday Telegraph.
His control problems only seemed to get worse in the minors. Also, he was roped around by lesser experienced hitters when sent back to High-A Clearwater. Malone would pitch in the final 15 professional games of his career that summer and was never heard from again in organized baseball.
Other than the walks, the back of Malone’s baseball cards really don’t look that bad: 1-0, 3.68 ERA, three hits allowed over 7.1 innings across seven games with seven strikeouts. But also, with 11 walks, accounting for his 1.909 WHIP and 7.17 FIP marks.
If it was any consolation to the 25-year-old Malone, the manager didn’t last long either. Leyva was fired after just 13 games in the 1991 season, replaced by Jim Fregosi.