Category Archives: PHILLIES

Philography: Von Hayes

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Phillies obtained Hayes from the Indians in exchange for a five-player/prospect package

 

For Phillies fans who were around at the time, the rationale for the trade by GM Paul Owens with the Cleveland Indians that brought Von Hayes to town following the 1982 season seemed sound.

The Phils had been regular contenders for the better part of the period from 1975-1981, a seven year string of success that had yielded a World Series championship, 4 N.L. East titles, and even a split-season title in the work stoppage season of 1981.

In 1982, the Phillies had not been far off. They finished 89-73, just 3 games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the N.L. East. The Cards went on to win the World Series that season. But even prior to that 1982 season, the organization had begun the turnover from the 70’s core to a new generation of players.

They said goodbye to 1980 World Series heroes Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Bake McBride, Keith Moreland, and Dickie Noles as well as manager Dallas Green. Coming in to Philly were starting pitcher Mike Krukow and shortstop Ivan De Jesus.

Krukow joined with holdovers Steve Carlton, John Denny, and Dick Ruthven to give the team an enviable pitching rotation, but the team’s offensive core was limited and aging. Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox were 32, Gary Matthews and Manny Trillo were 31, and Pete Rose was now 41 years old.

So the deal with Cleveland was to land the Phils a near-ready, high ceiling offensive outfielder. Hayes fit the bill perfectly. At the time of the trade on December 9th, 1982 he was a 23-year old coming off his first full season in the Majors.

A 7th round pick of the Tribe in the 1979 Draft out of Saint Mary’s (CA) College, he could run, hit, field, and hit for power. At the minor league level, he played 2 full seasons. As a 21-year old in his first pro season at A-Waterloo in 1980, Hayes hit .329 with a .405 on-base percentage. He showed his power/speed combo with 15 homers, 90 rbi, 51 steals, and 105 runs scored.

Hayes skipped AA completely, and in 1981 at AAA-Charleston hit .314 with a .401 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 73 rbi, and 34 steals in almost 120 fewer plate appearances than the year before. His performance resulted in a promotion to the Indians, and it would be a decade until, late in his career, he saw another minor league appearance.

After getting his feet wet over the last couple months of the 1981 season in Cleveland, his first full 1982 season resulted in 14 homers, 82 rbi, and 32 steals. The Phillies scouts had seen enough, and Owens pulled the trigger during the off-season in what would become one of the more controversial and discussed deals in team history.

The problem with the deal, at least as far as the media was concerned, was not with the player coming to the club, but in the price paid to land Hayes. The media hung the handle “Five-for-one” on Hayes to recognize that the Phils gave up 5 players in order to bring this one individual to the organization.

The package headed to Cleveland included longtime popular World Series hero 2nd baseman Manny Trillo, starting rightfielder George Vukovich, and a trio of prospects: infielder Julio Franco, pitcher Jay Baller and infielder Jerry Willard. To many, this seemed a steep price to pay, and the deal would be criticized for years. But the fact is, when evaluated fairly, the Phillies got the better end.

In his first season with the Phillies, Hayes split time at all three outfield spots, playing mostly in rightfield. He got just 392 plate appearances, stealing 20 bases, for a Phils team that put on a late charge to win the N.L. East and eventually reach the World Series. Hayes saw limited postseason action, going 0-5 as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. He appeared in the first four games of the World Series that was eventually lost to the Orioles 4-1.

In 1984, Hayes played his first full Phillies season. It was the first of four consecutive years, and five of six, in which he would appear in at least 152 games. He hit .292, stole 48 bases, drove 16 homers, and drove in 67 while scoring 85 times. He tailed off in 1985, with his average (.263), homers (13), runs (76), and especially his steals (21) all dropping.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were also collapsing. In 1984 the club finished exactly at .500, with an 81-81 record and in 4th place. In ’85 they dropped even further, to 75-87 and 5th place. As the championship era faded further into the past, Von Hayes, who was supposed to lead the charge into the future, became a poster boy for the team’s struggles with his own personal struggles. The nickname “Five-for-One” became a full-blown insult thrown in his face at every turn.

Hayes did have a bright moment in 1985. On June 11th that season, Hayes led off with a homerun against New York Mets pitcher Tom Gorman. The Phillies batted around, and Hayes came up again. In his 2nd at-bat of the opening frame, Hayes again homered, this time off Mets reliever Calvin Schiraldi. He thus became the first player in MLB history to hit 2 home runs in the 1st inning of a game. The Phils won 26-7, the most runs scored by a team in MLB in more than 40 years.

In 1986 though, Hayes rebounded, producing his career-best season. He hit .305 with a .379 on-base percentage, blasted a career-high 19 homers, drove in a career-high 98 runs, scored an NL-high 107 times, and he stole 24 bases. In addition to Runs, he led the NL in Doubles. The result was not only an 8th place finish in National League MVP balloting as an individual, but his performance was a key part of the team rebounding to an 86-75 record.

The team success was fleeting, however. In ’87 the club fell below .500 again at 80-82, and then in 1988 they completely collapsed to 65-96, their worst season since 1972. Hayes wasn’t the reason for the 1987 slip. He cracked a career-high 21 homers, both drove in and scored 84 runs, stole 16 bags, and continued as one of the league’s best all-around outfielders. But in ’88, he got hurt right before the All-Star break. He would not play again until September as the team collapsed.

As the 80’s drifted through the 2nd half, the old gang was slowly dismantled, or drifted away. Tug McGraw had retired after the 1984 season. Garry Maddox retired after 1986, having been a parti-timer the last 3-4 seasons. Steve Carlton was traded away during the 1986 season. He hung around for a couple years before finally retiring following the 1988 season.

At this point, Phillies all-timer Mike Schmidt was clearly seeing the writing on the wall. The good old days of his being an impact player were over, as were the teams days as a contender, and the effort to play became a chore. In late May of the 1989 season, Schmidt suddenly and, to many, surprisingly retired.

The efforts that Phillies management did make to try and bridge that late-70’s, early-80’s winning group largely failed, with the exceptions of Hayes and Juan Samuel. The Phils had brought “Sammy” in full-time in 1984. He was 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting that season, and through the 80’s had become an All-Star, and a Silver Slugger winner.

But as the Phillies mostly lost, as the old heroes aged and left, and as it became obvious to the fan base that the winning wasn’t returning, both Hayes and Samuel, arguably the two faces of the franchise in the 2nd half of the 80’s (aside from the aging Schmidt) received a lion’s share of the blame from the fans. Despite the fact that they produced, the fans saw them and saw losing, and many equated the two.

Still, Hayes had a final hurrah in him. In 1989, with Schmidt retired, Samuel traded to the Mets (for Lenny Dykstra), and the Phils struggling to a last place finish, old “Five-for-One” became a National League All-Star for the only time in his career. Hayes banged a career-best 26 homers, stole 28 bases, and scored 93 runs. For the player originally billed as a power-speed combo, it was his only career 20-20 season at age 30.

He also had another big moment of glory as well in 1989. On June 8th, the Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the 1st inning at Veteran’s Stadium. Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Jim Rooker said on-air that “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.” Hayes smashed a pair of homeruns in leading the Phillies all the way back to a 15-11 victory. Rooker did not walk home, but did conduct a charity walk from Pittsburgh to Philly after the season.

The early 1990’s were the end days of Von Hayes career as an MLB player. He played a full season in Philly in 1990 as the team improved slightly to 77-85. His final season as a full-timer ended with 17 homers, 73 rbi, 70 runs, and 16 steals.

In 1991 his arm was broken by a pitch from the Reds’ Tom Browning, which caused him to miss more than a month, and the Phillies cut ties with him. He caught on with the Angels as a part-timer in 1992, and then retired, claiming that he was never able to recover fully from the broken arm.

Over the course of a career encompassing parts of a dozen MLB seasons, 9 of them in Philadelphia, Von Hayes ended with a career .267 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage. He accumulated 143 homeruns and 253 steals. On the current Phillies all-time lists he is 10th in Steals, 17th in Homeruns, 21st in Extra-Base Hits, 24th in Runs, and 25th in Hits.

After his playing days were over, Von Hayes eventually tried to get into the game as a manager and coach, and had some success in the minor leagues. He was the High-A level California League Manager of the Year in 2004 at Modesto, and the AA Texas League Manager of the Year in 2005 at Midland, guiding both clubs to championships. He last managed with the Independent local Camden Riversharks in 2010 and 2011.

As for the trade, old “Five-for-One” was a win for the Fightins in the end. Trillo called it a career soon after the deal. All three of Vukovich, Baller, and Willard were inconsequential as MLB players. Only Franco enjoyed success and longevity, but Hayes out-performed him and the Indians dealt Franco away to Texas eventually.

In the end, Von Hayes became a symbol for everything that was going wrong with the Philadelphia Phillies as the 1980’s moved from early-decade glory to an end-of-decade bottoming out.

That decline coincided with his, and Juan Samuel‘s, presence as key players. But it would be hard to blame that decline on either of them. Hayes was one of the few consistent bright spots during that largely dark era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball.

Philography: Chris Short

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Chris Short was a mainstay in the Phillies rotation during the 1960’s

Chris Short was an outstanding lefty starting pitcher who in these parts is forever associated with the ill-fated 1964 Phillies.

But he had a lengthy career in Philadelphia, a Phils pitcher for parts of 14 seasons spanning Connie Mack Stadium in the 1950’s and Veteran’s Stadium in the 1970’s.

For a 6-year stretch, from 1963 through 1968, he was one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball.

Short was also an interesting story off the field. His nickname was “Style”, given him by teammates because he actually lacked any in his dress. He was described in a recent article by Frank Fitzpatrick as “different…in a harmless way” by former road roommate and fellow Phillies pitcher Art Mehaffey, and as “happy-go-lucky” by fellow Phils pitcher and Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning.

Born in Milford, Delaware, Chris Short’s talent difference was first noticed on the field as a teenager. A standout at Bordentown Military Institute in New Jersey, where his father, a judge, had sent him to instill some discipline, Short signed with the nearby Phillies as an amateur free agent in June of 1957 at age 19.

Short began in the Phils’ farm system at Johnson City in that summer of 1957 as a 19-year old. He was wild, as are many young lefties, but his talent was obvious. Over the next two season, Short would work his way steadily up the club’s organizational ladder. He made 76 starts from 1957-59 at 3 levels, accumulating a 34-24 record with a modest ERA, and allowing significantly fewer hits than innings pitched.
In 1959, Short got his first taste of life in the Big Leagues. He made 3 early season appearances with the Phillies, getting one start each in April and May. He would get beaten up to the tune of 19 hits in 14.1 innings, amassing an 8.16 ERA, and with just a 8/10 K/BB ratio, but would go on to a successful year with AAA Buffalo.
Short began the 1960 season back at AAA, but it didn’t last long. Just a week into the season he got the call back to the Majors, and would spend the rest of the season there with the parent Phillies. Used exclusively as a lefty reliever through June 2nd, Short made 11 appearances out of the pen and was having success. In 17.2 innings he was 2-0 and had allowed just 14 hits.
It was then that manager Gene Mauch decided to give the lefty a shot in the rotation. During June and July of 1960, Short made the first 10 starts of his Big League career. 2 of his first 4 outings were complete game victories over the Chicago Cubs, one at Wrigley Field and the other at Connie Mack.

Short would slow down, losing his next 7 starts, including an 0-5 July. Sent back to the bullpen, he again thrived, with a 2.61 ERA during 20 games in August and September, allowing just 26 hits in 31 innings. When 1960 finished, Short had appeared in a total of 42 games, 10 of them starts, and had allowed 101 hits in 107.1 innings with a 3.94 ERA. He wasn’t dominating, but he was more than surviving as a 21 year old.

During the 1961 and ’62 seasons, Short continued to bounce back and forth between the rotation and the pen. Battered a bit in 1961, he regained some equilibrium with a solid 1962, and finally in 1963 at age 25, Chris Short became a full member of the starting rotation with the Phillies. He made 27 starts, going 9-12 with a 2.95 ERA. He also had amassed 198 innings, striking out 160 batters.

The “Whiz Kids” team had won the 1950 NL Pennant, and their successors hung around the .500 mark for most of the next half dozen years, finishing between 3rd and 5th place. But from 1958-61, the club finished in last place each year, with each season successively worse, sinking from 69 to 64 to 59 to a low of 47-107 in 1961. But along with Short’s improvements, the entire Phillies team was finally beginning to show signs of life.

The 1962 Phillies didn’t fair much better in the standings, finishing in 7th. But it was better than last place, and their final record was actually a winning one at 81-80. It would prove a sign of things to come. The 1963 Phillies would go 87-75, finish in 4th place, and with some young, exciting players like NL Rookie of the Year Richie Allen the future was finally looking brighter.

In 1964, Chris Short became an NL All-Star for the first of what would be two times. He also received some NL MVP votes for a season in which he would finish 17-9 with a 2.20 ERA, pitching 220.2 innings over 42 games, including 31 starts. The Phillies that year ran out to a big lead in the National League, and appeared primed to return to the World Series for the first time in 14 years. And then the infamous collapse came.

In the final week of that 1964 season, manager Gene Mauch pitched his top two starters, Bunning and Short, on two days rest not once, but twice each. Bunning would be completely bombed in his starts. Short didn’t pitch so poorly, but following a complete game victory over Houston on September 14th that raised his record to 17-7, he would not win again. The Phils famously let a 6 1/2 game lead with 10 to play get away.

Still, the Phillies appeared poised to be one of the top clubs in the National League for the next few years. It never materialized. Though they had a winning record each year from 1965-67, giving the club a stretch of 6 straight winning seasons during the 60’s, they wouldn’t again come close to winning a Pennant.
Short fully established himself among the top hurlers in the game during that era. His seasons during that period were key pieces to the Phils’ winning run. He went 18-11 in 1965, pitching a career-high 297.1 innings with a 2.82 ERA. In 1966, Short again received MVP votes during his only 20-win season. He went 20-10 with a 3.54 ERA, pitching 272 innings across a career-high 40 starts.
His 1967 campaign was the 2nd All-Star season of his career, but injuries cost him an entire month from late-May through late-June. As a result, his record was just 9-11. But he fashioned a 2.39 ERA, allowing just 163 hits in 199.1 innings. In 1968, Short was again strong, going 19-13 with a 2.94 ERA and tossing 269.2 innings. As the 1969 season approached, Chris Short was just 31 years old, and appeared set to ring out his successful decade with another strong year.

It was 1969, the “Summer of Love” in the United States, that would prove anything but for Short and the Phillies, and that would in fact prove to be the beginning of the end for his career. That year, Short suffered a back injury that would require surgery. Though he would pitch in parts of the five seasons from 1969-73, he would never again be the same level of pitcher as his mid-60’s dominant peak.

It all started innocently enough. He lasted just 4 innings in his first outing in Chicago on April 8th. His next start was not for a week later, home at Connie Mack against the Mets. Short battled through 6 innings against the Mets 22-year old rookie phenom Gary Gentry, but the Phils trailed 3-1. In the top of the 6th, Short got Amos Otis to ground weakly to 3rd, and then struck out the last two hitters he faced, Ron Swoboda and Jerry Grote. In the bottom of the inning, Short was lifted for a pinch-hitter, Johnny Briggs. He would not appear again in 1969.

1969 became a lost year for Chris Short, with the surgery knocking him out, and it was a lost season for the Phillies, who in the first year of a new divisional setup would finish in 5th place out of 6 teams in the new National League East Division. In fact, it would mark the first of 5 straight seasons that the Phils would finish either 5th or 6th in the new setup.

Short was able to return for the 1970 season, the team’s final one playing in Connie Mack Stadium. The old ballpark at 21st and Lehigh Avenue had been in existence since 1909 when it opened as Shibe Park, the name it would carry until 1953. The Phillies had left Baker Bowl at Broad & Lehigh and moved into Shibe, the home of the Philadelphia Athletics in those days, in 1938. In his 1970 comeback, Short went 9-16, making 34 starts and pitching 199 innings for a 5th place team. It wasn’t the strong seasons that he had been pitching, but he was healthy and was able to take his turn the team ended the Shibe/Mack Era.

When the Phillies opened Veteran’s Stadium in 1971, Chris Short was not just a regular member of the starting rotation, he was their Opening Day starter at Pittsburgh. He would pitch at The Vet for the first time a week later, on April 13th, 1971, losing to those same Pittsburgh Pirates.

Short would finish 7-14 in 1971 with a 3.85 ERA. He pitched 173 innings across 26 starts. But at the end, he was being eased out. After getting ripped in what was his final start at Pittsburgh on August 30th, Short was relegated to the bullpen, and from there he made just 4 appearances in September.

Short wrapped his 14-season Phillies career in 1972
1972 Topps, Short’s last Phillies card

 

1972 would prove to be Chris Short’s swan song in a Phillies uniform. He was used exclusively as a lefty reliever out of the bullpen, and in fact seemed to be settling into the role. Struggling at first, he was excellent over his final dozen appearances. Short registered a 1.72 ERA in those 12 games, striking out 14 and allowing just 11 hits in 15.2 innings. But it was a game on June 27th that sealed his final fate in Philly.

June 27th, 1972. First game of a doubleheader between the Phils and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cubbies started former Phillie and future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins. The Cubs had a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the 6th, and Phils starter Jim Nash was in trouble thanks to some awful defense.

With runners at 1st and 3rd and nobody out, manager Bob Skinner called on Short to put the fire out. Instead, Short’s two walks (one intentional) and a wild pitch helped it blaze into a 3-run inferno. It would be the final appearance by Short in a Phillies uniform after 14 seasons stretching back to the 1950’s.

Chris Short was released by the Phillies in October of 1972. He signed a month later as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1973, Short appeared in the final 42 games of his career with the Brewers, including 7 starts. His last win as a starter came on June 1st at Milwaukee County Stadium, a 5-3 Brewers victory in which Short went 6 innings, scattering 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 to beat the Chicago White Sox.

His actual final game was not so glorious. On September 18th against the Cleveland Indians he failed to retire a batter. Called on to protect a 5-3 Brewers lead in the bottom of the 9th with 2-on and nobody out, Short yielded a 3-run walkoff homerun to pinch-hitter John Ellis. It would be Chris Short’s final time on a pitching mound.

Short retired from baseball at age 35 with a final record of 135-132 across parts of 15 seasons in Major League Baseball, 14 of those with the Phillies. Hit pitched in 501 games, 308 as a starting pitcher. In his 2,325 innings he struck out 1,629 batters and yielded 2,215 hits. His career ERA was a respectable 3.43, and he had even accumulate 18 Saves along the way.

To this day, Short is high on the Phillies all-time career pitching lists: 4th in Wins (132), 4th in Games (459), 3rd in Starts (301), 4th in Shutouts (24), 4th in Innings (2,235), and 3rd in Strikeouts (1,585) and he was selected to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1992. In 1979, Short was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.

Short never got to see his plaque on that Phillies Wall of Fame. He was inducted posthumously after dying tragically young, on August 1st, 1991. He battled health issues for years, including diabetes. Alone in his office, working as an insurance agent, Short had suffered a brain aneurysm in 1988. Hospitalizations and rehabs followed, but Short never recovered, finally succumbing at just age 53.
Chris Short is considered by many to be a bit star-crossed, his story somewhat tragic, particularly due to the circumstances of his post-baseball career and his life’s shortened and difficult ending.
But it must always be remembered that Chris Short also lived the dream. He not only reached the pinnacle of his profession in Major League Baseball, but he became an All-Star, was one of the best pitchers for the entirety of the decade of the 1960’s, and in 1964 very nearly helped lead his team to the top. He should be remembered fondly always by Phillies fans everywhere.

Philography: Mitch Williams

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Mitch ‘Wild Thing’ Williams was both hero and goat to the Phillies ’93 NL champions

 

It may be hard for many fans of the team to believe, but Mitch Williams only pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies for three seasons, from 1991-1993.

But in those three short years, particularly for his final game in red pinstripes, he is forever remembered by most as a Fightin’ Phil.

That final game was, of course, Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Williams was the Phils’ closer, and was called on by manager Jim Fregosi to protect a 6-5 lead in the 9th inning. The Phillies were now just 3 outs away from tying the series with the Blue Jays and sending it to a decisive Game 7 at Toronto.

Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson led off with a walk against the “Wild Thing”, but Williams got Devon White to fly out to left field. The Phils were now just two outs away from Game 7. But the Jays had yet another Hall of Famer next. Paul Molitor smacked a line single to center, with Henderson stopping at 2nd base.

Up to the plate stepped Jays’ cleanup hitter Joe Carter. He was the type of slugger who could easily end it with one swing, and was also veteran enough to not shrink from the moment, and sling a base hit to score Henderson with the game-tier. However, he also had little speed, and could end the game with a doubleplay ball. And he was also a strikeout candidate.

Williams battled with Carter, and the count went to 2-2. One more strike, and the Phils would be just an out away from Game 7. Williams delivered. Carter swung. Every baseball fan alive at the time knows what happened next, and every Jays and Phillies fan will never forget it.

But that next moment should never be the moment for which Williams is remembered exclusively in Philly, or in general baseball circles. The man had an 11-year MLB career, the first 10 of which were fairly successful.

For the Phillies, Mitch saved 102 games across his 3 seasons, striking out 218 in 231.1 innings pitched, while allowing just 181 hits. But in the 200 games that he appeared in that time he fully earned his “Wild Thing” nickname. While he could strikeout a hitter, he was also prone to wildness. He walked 170 batters here, and finished those three seasons with a 1.517 WHIP mark.

In 1993, Williams had his best season ever as the Phillies won the NL East in a wire-to-wire, worst-to-first magical season that was, by far, the most fun full season that this writer and fan ever experienced. Mitch save 43 games that season, then won 2 and saved 2 more in the NLCS vs the Braves. His joyous leap after striking out Bill Pecota to put the Phillies into the World Series for the first time in a decade sent the Veteran’s Stadium crowd and the entire city into delirium.

 

The road to that 1993 World Series had begun for Mitch Williams on the opposite coast. Born in Santa Ana, California, Williams came to the attention of scouts while playing at West Linn High School in Oregon. He was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 8th round of the 1982 MLB Draft, and began his career at age 17 with the Padres low-A affiliate at Walla Walla, Washington.

In those early years with the San Diego organization, Mitch was a starting pitcher, and despite his wildness he rose to the A-ball level at Reno. In 3 seasons across 3 stops in the Padres system, Williams went 20-25 and struck out 362 hitters in 372.2 innings. However, he also walked 314 batters.

Tired of his wildness, the Padres left him unprotected, and he was taken by the Texas Rangers in December of 1984 in the rule 5 draft. The following April, the Rangers worked out a trade to keep Williams, and that season kept him as a starting pitcher where he rose to the AA level.

In 1986, Mitch finally made the big leagues out of spring training, but as a reliever. Still he was with the Texas Rangers, pitching in the Majors. Over his first three Big League seasons with Texas, Williams was a bullpen workhorse. He pitched in 232 games, striking out 280 hitters in 274.2 innings. He remained wild, walking 220. But his ERA was a respectable 3.70, and in his final Rangers season, Williams saved 18 games.

Following the 1988 season, Williams was the key part of an 8-player trade between the Rangers and the Chicago Cubs in which Texas would receive a young pitcher named Jamie Moyer and a young 1st baseman named Rafael Palmeiro.

With the Cubbies, Mitch became an NL All-Star for the first time in 1989. As their full-time closer he would save 36 games and had just a 2.76 ERA. He would finish 9th in the NL Cy Young and 10th in the NL MVP Awards voting. In 1990, however, his ERA ballooned to 3.93, his saves dropped to 16, and his K/BB ratio was just 55/50 in 66.1 innings.

Due to become a free agent the following off-season, Mitch was dealt by the Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies just before the 1991 season got underway in exchange for pitchers Chuck McElroy and Bob Scanlan.

He bounced back with perhaps his best-ever statistical season. In 1991, Williams went 12-5 and saved 30 games for the Phils, registering a career-low 2.34 ERA with 84 strikeouts in the 88.1 innings that he pitched across 69 games.

The off-season came, and Williams became a free agent. But the Phillies and general manager Lee Thomas liked what they had seen of him in 1991, and signed the 26-year old just entering his prime to a multi-year free agent contract that would ultimately earn him over $10 million total.

His Philly history is well know. What I failed to mention earlier was the immediate, short term aftermath of that 1993 finish. Williams received numerous death threats for his personal role in the losses of not only the decisive Game 6, but also the pivotal Game 4 of the World Series. His final two games in a Phillies uniform were a disaster, and a certain vocal, crazed segment of the local fan base was unwilling to forgive.

Believing that the break with Phils fans was untenable, Thomas looked to deal Williams, and in December of 1993 would send him to Houston in exchange for pitchers Doug Jones and Jeff Juden. His brief two-month stint with the Astros in 1994 would prove to be the beginning of the end. A 7.65 ERA and 2.250 WHIP ended his stay at the end of May. His poor performance and the August work stoppage put an end to his season.

For the 1995 season, Mitch caught on back on the west coast again, this time with the California Angels. As baseball finally got back to business, he got back to pitching and he started well. In a dozen games through May 25th, Mitch had a 3.00 ERA and had yielded just 5 hits in 6 innings. It didn’t last, however. He was bombed on back-to-back outings by the Red Sox on May 26th and 27th, his ERA ballooned to 9.82, and he was on his way out of California, gone by the middle of June.

Out of the game for over a year, Mitch was signed as a free agent in July of 1996 with, of all places, the Phillies. Still the GM, Lee Thomas gave him another shot. Williams pitched in the Phillies minor league system at High-A Clearwater and then at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre. In AAA, Mitch proved a shell of his former self and he got shelled, allowing 25 hits and 11 walks in 15 innings. On August 19th, the Phillies released him for the final time.

Still, Mitch wasn’t done. Keep in mind that he was that most sought-after commodity, a power-armed and experienced lefty. And he wasn’t old. At age 32 in 1997, Mitch signed with the Kansas City Royals. He began by pitching well in three games with AAA Omaha, earning his final big-league promotion.

With the Royals, Williams got into the final seven games of his MLB career. They proved to be unsuccessful. He allowed 11 hits and 7 walks in 6.2 innings, and was released for the final time on May 12th of 1997.

In the years following the 1993 World Series debacle, Williams’ cold relationship with the Phillies fans slowly began to thaw. The biggest single factor was that Mitch never ran. He fully embraced his responsibility in the defeat, and combated it with both honesty and self-deprecating humor.

Philly fans, notorious for ganging up on perceived whiners, babies, and “losers” began to feel both sympathy and respect for the way in which Williams handled himself. Within a decade, Mitch Williams became not only a tolerated, forgiven player, but a beloved personality again here in the City of Brotherly Love.

He caught on with an independent league team at the nearby Jersey Shore as both a pitcher and pitching coach with the Atlantic City Surf for the 2001-02 seasons. In 2007, Mitch became a regular with local Philly talk radio and cable TV stations. And then in 2009, with the launch of the new MLB Network, Mitch was hired there as a baseball analyst.

Firmly re-established both in Philadelphia and in the game at large, the married family man with 5 children became a countrified voice of the common man to many. Then came May of 2014. While coaching his 10-year old son’s Little League team, Mitch was ejected from a tournament game for yelling profanities at an umpire. He also faced accusations that he had ordered one of the pitchers on his team to throw a beanball at an opposing child.

While the details of the controversial incidents this past spring were disputed and being fought out, Mitch was first suspended and then released from his appearances on the MLB Network. He has since resurfaced in recent weeks, both at his Twitter handle and as host of a Wildfire Radio program which begins broadcasting at 6pm tonight.

For the past three decades, Mitch Williams has been a unique, controversial, colorful character within the game of professional baseball. With his often outstanding, and just as often frustrating, three seasons of baseball played here, Mitch has also proven to be an unforgettable Phillies character.

Follow Mitch: @Mitch99Williams on Twitter
his new radio show “Unleashed” is @99Unleashed

 

Philography: Greg Luzinski

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Now a Phillies Wall of Famer, Luzinski starred with the team from 1970-80

 

With next year’s 2015 season being the 45th that I hope to enjoy as a fan of the Fightin’ Phils, I’ve decided to take on a Phillies history project moving forward.

Once a week, I’ll be presenting a short biography of an interesting figure from the Philadelphia Phillies long and storied past. This might be a player, a coach or manager, a team executive, a broadcaster, maybe even the occasional fan.
To kick things off, we’ll start with someone who not only has nostalgic interest to me personally, but also someone who the majority of today’s Phillies fans are familiar with: Greg “the Bull” Luzinski.
If you were born in the early-1970’s or beyond, your memories of ‘the Bull’ as an active ballplayer are likely few or none at all. But many of today’s younger generation of fans know him from “Bull’s BBQ”, the popular food joint out in right field adjoining Ashburn Alley at Citizens Bank Park.
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Luzinski is a Windy City native, born in Chicago on November 22nd, 1950. He became a slugging high school star at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois, and the Phillies made him their 1st round selection, 11th overall, in the 1968 MLB Draft.
At age 17, Luzinski headed for Huron in the Northern League, where he belted 13 homers in his first 212 professional at-bats. The following season he was moved up to the High-A Carolina League, where at Raleigh-Durham he crushed 31 homers and had 92 rbi.
With the big league club struggling in the final years of Connie Mack Stadium, speculation was quickly rising as to how fast the kid masher would reach Philly. The talk grew louder when he moved to AA Reading in 1970 and, at age 19, he hit .325 while powering 33 homers and driving in 120 runs.
It was then, at the tail end of the 1970 season, in the final month of the club’s stay at old Connie Mack, that Luzinski got the call.
It would prove to be an inauspicious debut. Wearing uniform #42, Luzinski recorded just a pair of hits in a dozen at-bats spread across 8 games, appearing mostly as a pinch-hitter or at 1st base.
1971 found the Phillies opening Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly. It also found Luzinski back in the minors. He would spend most of the year at AAA Eugene, again tuning up minor league pitching. At age 20, the young slugger crushed 36 homers, drove in 114 runs, and hit .312.
As the 1971 season wound down, Luzinski again got the call to the parent club. This time it would be for good. Donning what would become his familiar #19, he again played solely at 1st base. Thickly built and possessing no speed, the Phillies were not sure that he could handle the outfield. In just 100 at-bats, Luzinski hit .300, and he registered his first three career home runs.
With his powerful build, he was given the nickname “The Bull”, and his homeruns became more frequent and impressive in 1972. These powerful blasts were becoming known as “Bull Blasts” to writers, broadcasters, and fans. He hit .281 with 18 homers and 68 rbi in that first full MLB season as he made a permanent move to left field.
1973 would be the true coming-out party for The Bull. He hit .285 with 29 homers and 97 rbi. He was joined that year by a new regular at 3rd base for the Phillies, as 23-year old Mike Schmidt hit 18 homers in his own first full season. The two young sluggers would now become a powerful combination in the Phillies lineups for the rest of the decade.
In both the ’72 and ’73 seasons, Luzinski had put on impressive performances down in Clearwater, Florida for spring training. But both seasons, late spring injuries had actually hindered him and held his regular season numbers down. In 1974, that bad luck run got worse.
Off to a slow start already, Luzinski tore the ligaments in his right knee on June 1st of that 1974 season. He would miss three full months, and the injury sapped him of much of his power. He hit just seven homers and knocked in only 48 runs, both of which would prove to be career-low figures.
Perhaps worse yet, the Phillies were beginning to contend as a team. They finished just eight games out of first place in that ’74 season, with Schmidt breaking out as an NL All-Star, hitting 36 homers and driving in 116 runs. Dave Cash had come over from the Pirates, becoming an All-Star himself and inspiring the Phillies to believe in themselves with the motto “Yes We Can!” Could the Phils, with a healthy Luzinski, have made a run at the NL East crown in 1974?
Hopes were high as the 1975 season rolled around. The Phillies were clearly an emerging threat to the perennial NL East pace setters, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Saint Louis Cardinals. Luzinski came back with a vengeance. He not only stayed healthy, he dominated, hitting .300 with 34 homers and 120 rbi.
The performance earned him his first NL All-Star nod, and he finished 2nd in the National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting to the more charismatic LA Dodgers young 1st baseman Steve Garvey. Schmidt had 38 homers and 95 rbi himself. Cash hit .305 and scored 111 runs. Still, despite the obvious improvements, the Phils finished in 2nd place in the NL East, 6 1/2 games behind the Pirates.
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It would be the following season where the team would finally kick in the door, win the division, and establish itself as longterm favorites. The 1976 and 1977 Phillies teams each won 101 games in the regular season, establishing a franchise record that would last for 3 1/2 decades, and the 1978 club won a 3rd straight NL East crown. Bull did his part: 1976 – .304/21HR/95RBI, 1977 – .309/39HR/130RBI, 1978 – 35HR/101RBI. He was an NL All-Star each season, and again was NL MVP runner-up in 1977.
Luzinski had established himself as not only one of the game’s great sluggers, but one of it’s best hitters, period. He was a perennial All-Star. And his team was a perennial contender. But still, something was missing. Each year, the Phillies fell short, losing in the postseason. In ’76 it was acceptable. The Phils were first-time playoff participants, and they lost to the defending World Series champion Cincinnati Reds during the ‘Big Red Machine’ heyday.
The losses in both the 1977 and 78 playoffs were a bit harder to swallow, however. Particularly in 1977, when the Phils had the best record in the National League, were tied with the Dodgers at 1-1 in the NLCS, and had a 5-3 lead with 2 outs and nobody on for LA in the 9th inning of Game 3.
The Phillies were just a step away from a 2-1 lead in the series, which would put them a win away from reaching the World Series, with ace Steve Carlton scheduled for Game 4. One more out. Luzinski was in left field. This was unusual, because in such situations, manager Danny Ozark frequently used Jerry Martin as a defensive replacement for The Bull. But for some reason, not this time.
Phils’ closer Gene Garber got those first two outs, and got ahead of Dodgers pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo 0-2. Just one strike away from victory, the unspeakable began to happen. Davalillo surprised the Phils defense with a 2-strike drag bunt single. Another pinch-hitter, Manny Mota, stepped to the plate. Again, Garber got ahead of the hitter 0-2. This time, Mota sent a fly ball to deep left field. It is a ball that Martin likely would have tracked down fairly easily for the 3rd and final out.
But Martin wasn’t out there, Luzinski was. He tracked back towards the left field wall at The Vet, reached up, and momentarily appeared to have it. But he didn’t have it. The ball clanked off his glove, hit the wall, and bounced back to him. Luzinski fired wildly towards the infield, trying to nail Mota at 2nd base, but his throw skipped past 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore allowing Davalillo to score and sending Mota to 3rd as the tying run.
Davey Lopes then followed with another crazy play. His hot-shot careened off Schmidt’s leg at 3rd base and redirected to shortstop Larry Bowa, who gunned a throw that appeared to reach 1st baseman Richie Hebner’s glove for the final out just before Lopes hit the 1st base bag. But umpire Bruce Froemming called Lopes safe, and Mota scored the tying run. And still, it didn’t end.
Garber tried to pick the speedy Lopes off, and threw the ball past Hebner. Lopes moved up to 2nd base on the error. When shortstop Bill Russell followed with a single, Lopes scored, and incredibly the Dodgers, one strike away from defeat twice with weak-hitting pinch-hitters at the plate, were ahead 6-5. The Phillies went down without as much as a whimper in the their half of the 9th. The defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory, has forever become known as “Black Friday” in Phillies lore.
The following day, Carlton was bested in the rain by Tommy John. Yes, that Tommy John, of surgery fame. The Dodgers 4-1 victory put them into the World Series, and left the Phillies shell-shocked in defeat. Los Angeles would do it again in 1978, dumping the Phils in the NLCS.
In 1979, the Phils signed star free agent 1st baseman Pete Rose away from the Big Red Machine to help get them over the playoff hump. The addition of “Charlie Hustle” to the team didn’t help, as the club let an early fast start deteriorate into a horrid 4th place finish, 14 games behind the Pirates.
In that disappointing 1979 season, Luzinski had slumped to a .252 average with 18 homers and 81 rbi. In 1980, things didn’t go much better. He slumped further to a .228 average, with 19 homers and just 56 RBIs.
That decreased offensive production combined with his defensive shortcomings and the emergence of speedy, exciting rookie Lonnie Smith to reduce The Bull’s overall playing time. But also in that 1980 season, the team under new manager Dallas Green was able to fight its way to the NL East crown and a return to the playoffs.
There, the Phillies engaged in perhaps the greatest NLCS in history, coming from behind to edge the Houston Astros 3-2 in games. A titanic “Bull Blast” homer from Luzinski helped put the Phillies in front in the opener. And his clutch 10th inning double knocked in the go-ahead run in the series-tying fourth game.
The group of players who Luzinski had grown with was finally advancing to the Fall Classic for the first time. He would appear in just three of the six games against the Kansas City Royals, going 0-9 with a walk and five strikeouts.
But most importantly, the Phillies and The Bull ultimately won that World Series, bringing home the first championship in the 128-season history of the franchise.
The World Series victory would prove to be the final official appearance for The Bull in a Phillies uniform under competitive circumstances. At the end of spring training prior to the 1981 season, Luzinski was sold to the Chicago White Sox.
Now in the American League, free from having to play defense regularly, Luzinski returned to being an offensive force. With Chicago he became one of the top Designated Hitter’s in the game, blasting 84 homers and driving in 317 runs over four final seasons.
Following the 1984 season, Luzinski officially retired. He would take a job as the combined baseball/football coach at a New Jersey high school for a few years, and showed up at Phillies old-timer’s and reunion events.
When the Phillies moved out of The Vet and into their new home at Citizens Bank Park for 2004, one of the food attractions was named for him, with Luzinski as part owner. “Bull’s BBQ” remains a fan favorite to this day, and most home games The Bull himself can be found there, meeting and greeting fans, signing autographs, and posing for pictures.
Greg Luzinski finished up his MLB career with 307 homeruns and 1,128 rbi across parts of 15 seasons. 223 of those long balls were hit in a Phillies uniform, leaving him currently 7th all-time on the club Home runs ranking. He is 12th in RBI, tied for 14th in Doubles, 21st in Games played,  and 21st in Hits.
In 1989, Luzinski received the honor of being inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. Then in 1998, Luzinski was honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame, where he is now forever remembered with an honored place among the franchise immortals.

Time for MLB to lift the ban on Pete Rose

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Pete Rose with the Phillies in the 1981 season

 

Philadelphia Phillies fans who were around to enjoy the emergence of the team as a contender in the second half of the 1970′s know the story well.

Despite being contenders every season since 1975. Despite three straight National League East Division crowns. Despite franchise record-setting, back-to-back seasons of 101 victories in both 1977 and 1978, the Fightin’ Phils of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Garry Maddox, and company simply could not win “the big one” in the post-season.

That team was clearly missing two ingredients. A manager who wasn’t afraid to tell them when they were playing like horse bleep, and wasn’t afraid to sit veterans on the bench for a couple of games in favor of younger players was one.
The other was a no-doubt-about-it locker room leader. A proven winner. Someone who had been over the hump in the post-season, knew what it took, and was fearless in voicing their opinion to other veterans during the difficult times that any team will inevitably face, no matter how much talent they possess.

 

Even the greatest 3rd baseman of all-time, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, couldn’t get those late 70′s Phils over the top
In 1979, the Phillies satisfied both of those needs with a change in managers from the stoic Danny Ozark to the organizational firebrand Dallas Green, and with the signing of Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose as a free agent.
By the following 1980 season, Green’s expletive-laden tirades were peeling the paint off the walls of the locker room when the players sagged. Green had inserted rookies Lonnie Smith and Keith Moreland into the lineup for energy. It certainly was a big help.
But even Green would later admit, and nearly every player who was on the team at the time would speak of it over time: it was the veteran, winning, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners presence of Peter Edward Rose that made the biggest difference.
On the field at first base, in the lineup batting at or near the top of the batting order, and in the locker room building up and massaging egos and playing horse whisperer to future Hall of Famers. That was what Rose had brought to the team, and what made the ultimate difference in finally winning the 1980 World Series.
Rose turned 38 years of age at the beginning of his very first season with the Phillies in 1979. It was the first of five successful seasons with the club that would result in a 1980 World Series victory and another appearance in the Fall Classic in 1983.
During his Phillies years alone, on the back-end of a 24-season career, Rose hit for an overall .291 average at ages 38-42. He accumulated 826 hits, an average of more than 165 per season, and was an NL All-Star the first four years.
Rose received NL MVP votes twice in that span, and won an NL Silver Slugger Award at 1st base in 1981 at age 40.
Pete Rose is beloved by the vast majority of Philadelphia baseball fans who, like me, got to enjoy the entirety of that period. He isn’t even really ours. We are Rose’s second baseball family.
Pete Rose is truly a Cincinnati Red. He broke into the majors there in 1963, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He would play in Cincy for 16 seasons, through 1978 as the driving force atop the Big Red Machine of those years.
Rose helped lead the Reds to five National League West Division crowns, four National League pennants, and back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. This included an NL playoffs victory over the Phillies in 1976.
Rose was able to become one of the earliest beneficiaries of baseball free agency during the 1970′s, jumping to the Phillies for that 1979-83 run. He then played for just over one season with the Montreal Expos before returning to the Reds to finish out his career with couple of final seasons in Cincinnati.
As a player in those 24 total seasons, Rose was an NL All-Star a total of 17 times. From 1965 through 1982, Rose appeared in the Mid-Summer Classic in all but two seasons, and in those two non-All Star years he would end up receiving MVP votes each time, almost as if to say “I’m not an All-Star? Oh yeah? Watch this.
Rose was the most versatile All-Star of all-time, appearing in the game at five different positions: first base, second base, third base, left field, and right field.
On his return to Cincinnati during the 1984 season, Rose was not just a returning player, he was installed as player-manager. He would manage the Reds for nearly five full seasons from August 1984 through August 1989, accumulating a win-loss record of 426-388 as the skipper.
In each of his four full seasons as the Reds manager, the team finished in second place in the NL West Division. As a player and as a manager, Pete Rose was one of the game’s all-time fiercest competitors, and he was one of its all-time winners.
Rose was the 1973 National League Most Valuable Player. He was the MVP of perhaps the greatest World Series of all-time in 1975. He was a three-time NL batting champion, won Gold Gloves in 1969 and 1970, and won the league’s Roberto Clemente Award in 1976 given to the MLB player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” 
A switch-hitter, Rose would amass 4,256 hits in his career, more than any player ever in the game’s century-and-a-half existence.
In addition to being the MLB all-time Hit King, Rose also set records for games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), and singles (3,215) and he was a career .303 hitter.
Rose is sixth on the all-time runs scored list with 2,165. He is second all-time on the doubles list with 746. he is 14th in walks, and is scattered across the leader boards of almost every career category in baseball history.
Problems began to surface for Rose, at least publicly, when Sports Illustrated published a front-page article in its April 3rd, 1989 issue alleging that he had bet on baseball while still the manager of the Reds.
Rose had been interviewed by outgoing Commissioner of Baseball Peter Ueberroth, as well as Ueberroth’s eventual replacement, A. Bartlett ‘Bart’ Giamatti, in regards to rumors of his gambling on the game a couple of months earlier.
Rose denied the allegations, and the investigation was dropped. But Giamatti retained an investigator, lawyer John Dowd, to look further into the allegations.
The story of the lengthy investigation process would take too long here. Suffice it to say, evidence pointed to Rose having done what he was accused of doing, what he publicly denied: gambling on baseball while a player/manager, a well-known, for obvious reasons, taboo in sports.
A settlement was reached wherein Rose accepted a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list, and MLB would not make any formal finding in regards to the gambling charges. Rose was eligible to apply for reinstatement after one year, but there was no deal that this was simply a one-year suspension.
Importantly, there was also no agreement or consideration that this was some “lifetime ban” from baseball.
The official Dowd Report establishes that “no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds“, and no such evidence has ever surfaced in the ensuing decades.
People have alleged that they “believe” it happened, but the motives and agendas and biases of those making such statements have always been questioned, including such statements by Dowd himself.
Rose would eventually admit to betting on baseball. However, he vehemently denies ever betting against his own team. For his fans, this is a vital point.
It is hard to believe that someone who was such a competitor, for whom winning was literally everything, who it was believed would run his own mother over at home plate to score the winning run, could possibly bet against his beloved Reds to lose. It is especially hard to believe that Rose would intentionally create any situation wherein such a loss would be more likely to occur.
Pete Rose has spent the last quarter century in baseball’s version of purgatory. Unfortunately, he is not alone. He is there with tens of millions of baseball fans around the country who believe that his continued ban from the game has itself become unjust.
Pete Rose did not kill anyone. He did not rape anyone. He did not destroy anyone. He was a weak man who made a mistake, and who lied about it when caught. He was eventually caught in his lie, and he accepted, even if it was grudgingly and forced, an extremely harsh punishment. That punishment, reviewable after a year, has now drug into a 26th year.
On Febuary 4th, 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted to exclude anyone who was on the game’s “permanently ineligible” list from consideration for enshrinement in the Hall.
In 2008, the second year in which Rose would have been able to be considered by their group, the Veteran’s Committee also changed their rules to bar those on the “permanently ineligible” list from consideration.
Both of these measures were clear “kick the can down the road” moves by these cowardly groups to keep them out of the decision-making process when evaluating the worthiness of the controversial Rose.

2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Commissioner Bud Selig should lift the ban, and allow consideration of Rose for the Hall of Fame to move forward
This weekend, the Baseball Hall of Fame will enshrine a handful of very deserving men into its hallowed halls, into the ranks of the game’s immortals. The simple fact is that Pete Rose deserves to be one of them. He should have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame years, if not decades ago. Any honest evaluation of his playing career, if that is all that you were judging, would show this to be true.
At the very least, it is long past time for the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, to lift the ban on Pete Rose.
A brief statement could accompany such a gesture, not assigning any innocence to Rose, but simply saying that the punishment had fit the crime, and was now long enough. The statement could include a stern warning regarding any future involvement of players, coaches, umpires, managers, and others intimately involved in the games from gambling on those games in any way while still actively involved in the sport.
Lift the ban, Commissioner Selig. It would be a tremendous parting gift to fans on your way out the door as you retire.
As for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Veteran’s Committee, and any other entity that has been perpetuating their own withdrawal from the Rose situation, I would call on their own immediate repeal as soon as the Commissioner lifts that MLB ban.
Allow Pete Rose the full consideration by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America. Allow them to debate and vote on Rose, just as they do now with similarly controversial figures such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.