Tag Archives: Jack Sanford

Four Phillies have won the NL Rookie of the Year Award

Sanford was the Phillies first Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1957.

 

In a scheduled 6:00 pm EST telecast this evening on MLB Network, the 2019 Major League Baseball Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards will be announced.

These are the official awards for the National and American League’s top first-year players as chosen in voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Finalists for the NL honors are first baseman Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, starting pitcher Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves, and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.of the San Diego Padres.

Over in the AL the finalists are OF/DH Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros, 2B/OF Brandon Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays, and starting pitcher John Means of the Baltimore Orioles.

(UPDATE: After original publication of this piece it was announced that Alonso and Alvarez had won the NL & AL awards respectively.)

Winners of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) Rookies of the Year were announced earlier in the day. Those awards went to Alonso in the NL, with Alvarez capturing the AL honors.

The Chicago chapter of the BBWAA established the original Rookie of the Year Award in 1940 and voted on a single winner for all of baseball through the 1946 season.

In 1947, voting went national, and the winner was the racial barrier-breaking Robinson. Beginning in 1949 a separate award was given for the top rookie in each league.

Originally named the J. Louis Comiskey award after the 1930’s-era Chicago White Sox owner, it was renamed as the Jackie Robinson Award in July 1987 on the 40th anniversary of his breaking baseball’s unofficial color barrier.

The Philadelphia Phillies have seen four players take home the award as NL Rookie of the Year.

The first of these was Jack Sanford. A right-handed pitcher from Massachusetts, Sanford was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent prior to the 1948 season. He made his first big-league appearances during a brief three-game cup of coffee in 1956.

During his official rookie campaign the following year at age 28, Sanford made 33 starts, going 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA for a .500 ball club. Sanford allowed just 194 hits over 236.2 innings with 188 strikeouts, a figure that led the National League.

For his outstanding freshman season, Sanford not only took home the NL Rookie of the Year award, but was also named to the NL All-Star team that year. In addition, he finished 10th in the NL MVP voting.

Seven years later, in what would become an infamous 1964 campaign for the Fightin’ Phils, a slugging 22-year-old third baseman named Dick Allen took the honors in the National League.

Allen (featured picture accompanying this piece) had also received a cup of coffee in September prior to his breakout season, hitting .292 over 25 plate appearances across 10 games in September of 1963.

The following year, Allen (known then as ‘Richie’) led the Phillies to the front of the National League, a position the club would hold until collapsing with 10 consecutive late-September losses left them a game off the pennant pace.

Allen’s power-speed combination in the middle of manager Gene Mauch‘s lineup made all of the difference. He slashed .318/.382/.557 with 29 home runs, 91 RBIs, and 125 runs scored.

Among his 80 extra-base hits were a league-leading 13 triples, and Allen led all of Major League Baseball with 352 total bases.

In addition to capturing that year’s NL Rookie of the Year honors, Allen finished 7th in the NL Most Valuable Player voting.

It would be more than three decades before another Phillies rookie took home the honors. Once again it would be a dynamic, slugging third baseman. But that player very nearly did not qualify for the award.

Requirements for the MLB Rookie of the Year Awards are that a player must have fewer than 130 official at-bats or fewer than 50 innings pitched in order to be eligible. They must also have fewer than 45 days on the active roster, excluding time on the disabled list, in military service, or time when the rosters are expanded.

In 1996, Scott Rolen was called up for an August 1 doubleheader against Saint Louis at Veteran’s Stadium. He would play so well that he was never sent back to the minor league.

Rolen hit .254 with four homers, seven doubles, 18 RBIs, and 10 runs scored over his first 146 big-league plate appearances with the Phillies across 37 games that summer.

Then, in the bottom of the third inning of a September 7 game at Veteran’s Stadium, Rolen was hit by a pitch thrown by Chicago Cubs starter Steve Trachsel. He would be pulled from the game, and miss the rest of the season.

That left Rolen a single at-bat shy of exhausting his rookie eligibility. With it still intact the following year, he would become a runaway winner in the 1997 Rookie of the Year voting.

That season, Rolen slashed .283/.377/.469 with 21 homers, 59 extra-base hits, 92 RBIs, 93 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases. He also played the hot corner like no one had since Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt nearly a decade earlier, and like no one has since.

Eight years later, in 2005, a hulking first baseman named Ryan Howard would become the fourth and most recent Phillies player to win those Rookie of the Year honors.

Howard may have been ready for his big-league debut a year earlier, but was blocked by future Hall of Famer Jim Thome. Howard did receive his own September cup of coffee promotion in 2004, blasting a pair of home runs over 42 plate appearances across 19 games.

Thome was still manning the first base position at Citizens Bank Park when that 2005 season began, so Howard again began the season at Triple-A.

However, an injury to Thome opened the door for an opportunity, and Howard  was called up on May 3 for what would be another dozen games. The injury to Thome’s elbow would persist, eventually costing his season. Howard came back on July 2 to stay.

Over the final four months of the season, Howard slashed .296/.365/.585 and became one of the most feared middle-order hitters in the game. He blasted 21 homers with 62 RBIs over just 318 plate appearances in that stretch.

During the ensuing off-season, Thome would be traded away to the Chicago White Sox for a package led by center fielder Aaron Rowand. Howard would become ‘The Big Piece’ in the middle of the lineup for five straight NL East Division champs, back-to-back NL pennant winners, and the 2008 World Series champions.

While a member of the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper took the honors as National League Rookie of the Year as a 19-year-old back in 2012. Harper hit .270 with 22 home runs, 57 extra-base hits, 59 RBIs, 98 runs scored, and 18 stolen bases after being called up on April 28.

The terrible trade of Jack Sanford

In 1957, starting pitcher Jack Sanford was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Philadelphia Phillies. Just over a year later, Sanford was traded to the San Francisco Giants.

It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies franchise history. So how and why did this happen? You have to look at the details to understand the Phillies thought process at the time. That process turned out to be wrong. But was it forseeable by the team decision makers of the day?

Let’s start with Sanford himself. Signed by the Phils as an amateur free agent in 1948 as a 19-year old, he began that year with a miserable 3-15 record and 7.20 ERA in 140 innings at the lowest level of the team’s minor league system.

Sanford survived that rough introduction to pro ball, and in 1949 bounced back to go 15-9 with a 4.39 ERA. The following year, while the ‘Whiz Kids’ were winning the NL Pennant, Sanford began to make a name for himself by going 12-4 with a 3.71 ERA.

From 1949-54, a 6-season period in which he aged from 20-25, Sanford went a combined 80-59. He broke the 200 innings pitched level in 4 of those 6 seasons. But he wasn’t given a shot at the Majors.

The biggest problems for the flame-throwing Sanford both involved the same basic issue: discipline. He was known for having a quick temper on the field, and he was also wild. In 4 of the 6 seasons from 1949-54, Sanford walked more than 100 hitters each season.

A 1955 stint in the US Army cost him a full season on the mound, but did wonders for both his personal and professional discipline issues. He returned in time to get a handful of late 1956 innings up with the Phillies, walking 13 in his 13 innings. But he showed enough to be in the mix come the following spring.

In 1957, Sanford not only made the Phillies roster, he put up an epic season. In his first full season at age 28, Sanford went 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA. He allowed just 194 hits in 236.2 workhorse innings. He did walk 94 batters, but he also struck out 188.

For this strong performance, Jack Sanford made the NL All-Star team, and then at season’s end was named as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. He even finished in 10th place in NL MVP balloting.

But then in 1958, Sanford slipped back a bit. He went 10-13, and his ERA rose to the 4.44 mark. His strikeouts dropped to a mere 106, and he allowed more hits than innings pitched, making his 81 walks less tolerable.

The Phillies feared that the pitcher, who was about to turn 30 years old, may have been a flash-in-the-pan during his rookie campaign. Hoping to grab some value for him while it existed, GM Bob Carpenter crafted the trade with the Giants.

Jack Sanford trade one of worst in Phils history
Former Phillies GM Bob Carpenter

In exchange for Sanford, the Phillies received righty starting pitcher Ruben Gomez and backup catcher Valmy Thomas.

Gomez had gone 71-72 and thrown over 1,253 innings across 6 seasons with the Giants.

While not a hard thrower, Gomez didn’t beat himself. He allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, and didn’t have Sanford’s wildness problems.

It seemed like a good deal for the Phillies. They got a guy with a more reliable track record with a longer history of success in exchange for a wild thrower with a temper who appeared might be a one-year wonder.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, to say that it didn’t work out would be an understatement. Over parts of 4 more seasons spread out over a 9 year period, Gomez would pitch just over 200 more total innings.

Thomas lasted just one season as the backup catcher in Philly, and retired after the 1961 season.

Meanwhile, from 1959-63, Sanford would produce an 80-55 record for the Giants, pitching more than 1,200 innings. In all five of those seasons, Sanford pitched more innings than would Gomez pitch in total for the rest of his post-trade career.

In 1962 alone, Sanford went 24-7 with a 3.43 ERA and tossed 265.1 innings, coming in 2nd in NL Cy Young Award voting and 7th in NL MVP balloting. He won 15 games in 1959, 16 in 1963, and made 36 or more starts in each of the 1959-63 seasons.

Finally slipping at age 36 in 1966, Sanford was sold to the California Angels, who transitioned him to a bullpen role. In this new role, Jack Sanford would hang on for a couple more years, even receiving AL MVP votes in 1967.

Sanford finally retired following the 1967 season. He had pitched a dozen years, 9 full seasons after the trade. After leaving Philly he pitched over 1,600 innings and won 107 games.

Why are we visiting with the memory of Jack Sanford and this awful trade for the Phillies? Because today is the trade’s 56th anniversary. The deal which GM Carpenter would call “the worst trade I ever made” went down on this very date in 1958.