Thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus many Americans lost important members of their families last year. Of course, death is an inevitable part of life. That will always remain true not only during the pandemic, but also from the wide variety of usual causes.
More than 100 former Major League Baseball players passed away in 2020. The list includes Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Al Kaline, and Joe Morgan. Other memorable players including Bob Watson, Jim Wynn, and Don Larsen left us as well.
Morgan was just one of a number of those players left us in 2020 after having worn the uniform of the Philadelphia Phillies during their career and who left an indelible impression on the fan base in the City of Brotherly Love. Here is a very brief look back at those players and their contribution to the team and the game of baseball. They are presented in alphabetical order by last name.
Dick Allen (78): The 1964 National League Rookie of the Year played nine of his 15 big-league seasons in a Phillies uniform over two stretches 1963-69 and 1975-76. He was an NL All-Star three times during that first period and seven times over the course of his career. With the Chicago White Sox in 1972, Allen became the American League Most Valuable Player. He slammed 351 home runs and finished with a career .292/.378/.534 slash line, and during his 1964-74 prime he was one of the most dangerous and powerful hitters in the game. In 1994, Allen became the first player of color enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame, and the team retired his uniform number 15 this past summer. Allen is a deserving Baseball Hall of Famer who finished just one ballot shy of enshrinement in 2014 voting. He will once again be considered later this year.
Ramon Aviles (68): A utility infielder with the club from 1979-81 as part of a four-year MLB career, Aviles made his biggest impression with the first-ever Phillies world championship team in 1980, appearing in 51 games that year. During the epic 8th inning comeback against Houston ace Nolan Ryan in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Aviles entered as a pinch-runner and scored the go-ahead run on a two-out, two-run triple by Manny Trillo.
Kim Batiste (52): A left-side infielder during a five-season big-league career, four of those 1991-94 with the Phillies, he was a key bench player with the 1993 National League pennant winners. Batiste appeared in seven postseason games that year and came up with one of the biggest hits. In Game 1 of the NLCS vs Atlanta he entered as a defensive sub for Dave Hollins but made an error that helped the Braves tie it in the 9th inning. Batiste made up for it with a game-winning, walkoff RBI double in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Billy DeMars (95): He played three seasons in the big-leagues, including the 1948 season as a 22-year-old rookie with Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics. After retiring he became a minor league manager during the 1950’s and was hired as a coach with the Phillies in 1969. DeMars would spend the next 13 seasons on the coaching staff, including as the hitting coach with the 1980 World Series championship club. He later returned as a roving minor league hitting instructor during the 1990’s. Pete Rose called DeMars the best hitting coach with whom he had ever worked.
Jay Johnstone (74): The free-spirited Johnstone appeared with the Phillies in five years 1974-78 during a two-decade career in Major League Baseball. From 1975-77 when the club emerged as a contender, Johnstone was the Phillies’ primary right fielder, hitting .303 and becoming a fan favorite. Johnstone also hit .571 over 15 plate appearances across five NLCS games in 1976-77. He delivered 1,254 career hits with eight teams over 20 seasons and had a brief but memorable cameo in the first “The Naked Gun” movie in 1988.
Denis Menke (80): A 13-year big-leaguer, Menke was an NL All-Star with Houston in 1969-70 and starting third baseman with the early ‘Big Red Machine’ in 1972-73. He went into coaching upon his retirement and joined the Phillies as the hitting coach from 1989-96. He was serving in that role under Jim Fregosi during the unforgettable 1993 National League championship season when Menke tutored a colorful group of hitters who terrorized NL pitching and took the defending world champion Toronto Blue Jays to six games in the World Series.
Bob Miller (94): The right-hander pitched his entire 10-year career in the big-leagues with the Phillies, his best season coming as a 24-year-old member of the 1950 ‘Whiz Kids’ starting pitching rotation. Miller went 11-6 with a 3.57 ERA that year, making 35 appearances on the mound including 22 starts over which he produced seven complete games. He then made a relief appearance in Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees. On his passing, fellow rotation mate Curt Simmons (91) is the lone living player from that popular team.
Joe Morgan (77): One of the greatest second basemen in MLB history, Morgan spent just one of his 22 big-league seasons in a Phillies uniform, but it was a memorable year. Acquired in a December 1982 trade, Morgan was reunited with former ‘Big Red Machine’ teammates Pete Rose and Tony Perez and helped lead the 1983 Phillies ‘Wheeze Kids’ team to an NL pennant as their starting second baseman. Morgan was NL MVP in 1975-76 with Cincinnati as well as a 10x NL All-Star and 5x Gold Glover. In 1990 he became a first ballot Baseball Hall of Famer after retiring and was a longtime color announcer on national TV broadcasts.
Jim Owens (86): A right-hander who pitched with the Phillies in seven of his 12 big-league seasons from 1955-62, Owens enjoyed his best year in the 1959 campaign. That season he went 12-12 with a 3.21 ERA for the Phillies, making 30 starts over which he tossed 221.1 innings and 11 complete games. He retired after pitching with Houston over his final four years, immediately becoming the Astros pitching coach, a role he filled through the 1972 season.
Mike Ryan (78): ‘Irish Mike’ appeared with the Phillies in a half-dozen of his 11 seasons as a player in Major League Baseball from 1968-73, including as the club’s primary catcher in 1968-69. Prior to that he received two plate appearances in the 1967 World Series with the Boston Red Sox. He famously caught a ball dropped from a helicopter to help open Veteran’s Stadium in 1971. After retiring, Ryan joined the Phillies coaching staff for the 1980 World Series championship season and became the second-longest serving coach in franchise history, serving through 1995 when a chronically sore shoulder forced him to retire.
Tony Taylor (84): The Cuban native appeared with the Phillies in 15 of his 19 seasons as a player in Major League Baseball over two stints 1960-71 and 1974-76. He then served with the team as a coach and minor league manager from 1977-89. In 2002, Taylor became the first Hispanic player honored with enshrinement on the Phillies Wall of Fame. Before arriving in Philly, Taylor was a 1960 NL All-Star with the Chicago Cubs. He finished with 2,007 career MLB hits with three teams, and his 1,518 hits in a Phillies uniform remain 12th on the franchise all-time list.
Others who played with the Phillies at some point during their career and passed away in 2020 were: Jim Bolger (88) 1959, Tyson Brummett (26) 2012, Ed Farmer (70) 1974 and 1982-83, Don Hasenmayer (92) 1945-46, Dick Koecher (93) 1946-48 and who was also a Philly native, Phil Linz (81) 1966-67, Bobby Locke (86) 1962-64, Hank Mason (88) 1958 and 1960, Bob Sebra (58) 1988-89, and Fred Wenz (79) 1970.
Also, Philadelphia native Paul Doyle, who pitched with four teams over three seasons between 1969-72, passed away at age 80.