The 1978 Philadelphia Phillies position player entry for this ‘Phillies 50’ series on players who had just a small impact on their particular ball club and in MLB overall sounds more like a Philadelphia Flyers hockey player to me.
Kerry Dineen appeared in just five games with those 1978 Phillies and received nine plate appearances. They were the final games and at-bats of his career in Major League Baseball, which had included brief appearances in two prior seasons with the New York Yankees.
Dineen was an Englewood, New Jersey native who was chosen by the Yankees in the third round of the 1974 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of California-San Diego. He hit well in the minors until struggling upon reaching Triple-A Syracuse in 1975 and 1976.
In June 1975 the Yankees were re-emerging as a force in the American League, trailing the arch-rival Boston Red Sox by just a game when Dineen was promoted and made his big-league debut.
He would appear in seven games over a week-long stretch in which he was given six starts in center field, a position that would prove problematic for that Yankees team all season after starter Elliott Maddox was lost for the season in mid-June.
Though he performed well, producing three multi-hit games and hitting .364 with a .417 OBP across 24 plate appearances, the Yankees brain trust would ultimately deny him a chance to hold the position long-term. By the end of the month, right fielder Bobby Bonds would be moved to cover the position for most of the next two months.
Dineen was returned to Triple-A and would not be brought back to the Bronx until May 1976, at which time he appeared in another three games to cover for an injury that briefly knocked new center field starter Mickey Rivers out of the lineup.
Near the end of spring training in 1977, Dineen was traded by the Yankees to the Phillies in exchange for infielder Sergio Ferrer. Dineen would struggle through 1977 but then emerge in 1978 with a solid season at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
When rosters expanded in September, the Phillies were in the midst of a lengthy 15-game road trip that had already taken them to Los Angeles and San Diego with stops in San Francisco, Saint Louis, and Chicago still to go. The two-time defending NL East champs were again in first place on September 1, leading the division by five games.
Dineen was one of the minor leaguers promoted to join the club on that road trip as the rosters were expanded. Over a two week period from September 10 through September 24, Dineen made four pinch-hitting appearances for the Phillies, going 0-3 with a walk.
In the team’s final game of the regular season on October 1, 1978 at Three Rivers Stadium manager Danny Ozark rested his regulars with the playoffs looming. Dineen was given his only start in a Phillies uniform that day, leading off and playing left field. At age 26, it would prove to be his final appearance in Major League Baseball.
Dineen doubled in the top of the 3rd inning off starter Odell Jones of the host Pittsburgh Pirates. He then singled with two outs in the 9th inning off Bucs’ closer Kent Tekulve, who would then close out a 5-3 Pirates victory by retiring Bud Harrelson on a ground out.
Returning to Triple-A in the Phillies organization for the 1979 season, Dineen appeared in 30 final games. In 1997 he was inducted into the University of California-San Diego’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
On November 21, 2015 Dineen died at age 63 following a battle with cancer. He was survived by his wife, Jamie, sons Kerry Jr. and Cory, a daughter, Katie and her husband, and grandchildren Stephen, Emilly and Mackenna.
“Kerry Dineen was one of those special players not everyone has the privilege of coaching,” said his former college coach John “JC” Cunningham per Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego. “He loved the game and was immune to pressure.”