Tag Archives: Richie Ashburn

Philography: Tony Taylor

My Philography series of mini-bios highlighting the careers of the most interesting and important individuals throughout Philadelphia Phillies history continues with this 23rd entry.

Links to the previous 22 entries, which include such notables as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Richie AshburnDick AllenJim BunningLarry BowaDarren Daulton and many more can be found below.

In 2002, Tony Taylor became the 24th person overall and the first-ever Hispanic player to be honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He has since been joined by Juan Samuel (2008) and Bobby Abreu (2019) as Hispanic players honored among the franchise immortals.

Sports columnist Milton Richman, who became the sports editor at UPI and was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Taylor Spink Award in 1981, said of Taylor back in 1975: “Tony Taylor has a special way with people. It doesn’t matter who they are, other ballplayers, fans, or the press. He’s to the Phillies what Ernie Banks was to the Cubs.

That “special way” – his friendliness, positive personality, and willingness to share a knowledge of and passion for the game that he loves – is what has always endeared Taylor to Phillies fans, especially those who got to enjoy his years as a player with the team during two stints and a long-time association with the club as a coach and goodwill ambassador.

Taylor played for 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, 15 of those in a Phillies uniform from 1960-71 and then from 1974-76. Though his career ended more than four decades ago, Taylor is still 12th on the Phillies all-time hits, 16th in steals, and 17th in runs scored on the franchise leader boards. Only four men – Schmidt, Ashburn, Bowa, and Jimmy Rollins – have played more games in a Phillies uniform.

Born Antonio Nemesio Taylor Sánchez on December 19, 1935 in Central Alava in the Matanzas province on the island of Cuba, Taylor was raised there and began playing baseball as a young boy. He would eventually get to enjoy the game alongside his younger brother, Jorge.

Central Alava was “a quiet place,” Taylor said in 1970 per a more detailed bio piece on him by Rory Costello and Jose Ramirez for SABR. “Nothing to do but play ball or swim in the river. As a boy I went to school and worked in my cousin’s butcher shop. I liked chemistry. If I didn’t go into baseball, I would have become a chemist for a sugar company.

During the mid-late 1950’s, Taylor turned professional. He was officially a member of the San Francisco Giants beginning in 1954, and played the next few years in both the Cuban professional league and in the U.S. minor leagues, building a reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop.

After playing with Dallas in the Texas League during the 1957 season, the Chicago Cubs selected Taylor from the Giants in the December Rule 5 minor league draft. He was then immediately installed as the Cub’s starting second baseman and leadoff hitter at just age 22.

Taylor’s glove proved far more advanced than his bat during his rookie 1958 season in the Windy City. But that glove was good enough to keep him in the starting lineup. The following year, Taylor’s offensive production took a step forward. His average jumped 55 points to the .280 mark and his slugging percentage rose nearly 80 points, with Taylor nearly doubling his number of extra-base hits.

He opened the 1960 season still as the starter at second base with the Cubs, but that wouldn’t last long. On May 13, 1960, Taylor was dealt to the Phillies along with catcher Cal Neeman, with the Phils sending their starting first baseman, Ed Bouchee and young starting pitcher Don Cardwell to Chicago.

Taylor quickly became a fan favorite at Connie Mack Stadium. He hit .310 over his first 56 games as new manager Gene Mauch‘s starting second baseman with 16 extra-base hits , 17 RBIs, 31 runs scored, and a dozen stolen bases. That performance earned Taylor his lone career National League All-Star nod.

The young Phillies won just 59 games in that 1960 season, finishing in last place in the National League. But over the next few seasons they slowly built a contender under Mauch.

A core group of players that included outfielders Johnny Callison, Tony Gonzalez, and Wes Covington, catcher Clay Dalrymple, shortstop Bobby Wine, and pitchers Chris Short and Art Mahaffey all grew up together during the early 1960’s with the Phillies.

In 1962 the club finished 81-80, their first winning season in nearly a decade. The following year they upped it to 87 wins and a fourth-place finish. Then two big moves set the Phillies up to become legitimate contenders.

A big trade with Detroit in December 1963 brought in the veteran ace starting pitcher that the team needed in right-hander Jim Bunning. And a 22-year-old Dick Allen was handed the starting third base job as a rookie.

The addition of that big arm and bat to the maturing, talented, tight-knit core proved to be an exciting and winning mix and they led the National League for much of that summer. On Father’s Day, Bunning tossed the first Perfect Game in Phillies history as the Phillies downed the Mets by 6-0. An incredible play at second base by Taylor with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning helped make that historic gem at Shea Stadium possible.

Holding a 6 1/2 game lead with just a dozen left on the schedule, the Phillies organization printed up tickets for their first World Series appearance since 1950.

As even Phillies fans who weren’t around to experience the disaster are well aware, that Fall Classic appearance wasn’t meant to be. The team suffered through an infamous collapse, losing 10 straight games and 13 of 15. Though they won their final two games, the 1964 Phillies would finish a tantalizing one game out, in second place.

That group would never win a pennant, but they were a winning ball club. The Phillies enjoyed a winning record for six consecutive seasons from 1962 through 1967. Taylor was a starter during that entire period. As the 1960’s came to a close, that winning core began to age and was traded away, the club’s performance deteriorated on the field, and Taylor slid over to third base. In 1969 the Phillies would win just 69 games.

During spring training in 1970, the SABR bio describes what Taylor called “the biggest moment in my whole life.” His mother and sister, and his sister’s husband and children, arrived in Miami from Cuba. Taylor had been trying to get them out since 1962. “They led a difficult life. They did not believe in the Communists and were not given food and clothing. They had to buy things in the black market.

In that 1970 season the Phillies played their final year at old Connie Mack Stadium. The former Shibe Park had been the club’s home since 1938, and had been the home of the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics from 1909-54. But the brand new Veteran’s Stadium was being built in South Philadelphia and would become the Phillies new home for the 1971 season.

Taylor spent that final year at Connie Mack serving as a utility player at age 34 on a rebuilding Phillies ball club, with youngsters Denny Doyle and Bowa taking over the starting roles in the middle infield.

On a Sunday afternoon in that final summer at the old ballpark, Taylor enjoyed a moment that would live on in Phillies history. It was August 2 and there were just over 10,000 fans at the start. Most were no longer there as the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, trailing the San Francisco Giants by 6-3.

Larry Hisle led off with a double off Giants starter Ron Bryant and Doc Edwards followed with a base hit, moving Hisle to third base. When pinch-hitter Terry Harmon worked Bryant for a walk, the bases were suddenly loaded.

Giants skipper Charlie Fox went to his bullpen, calling in southpaw Mike Davison as Taylor stepped to the plate. In his 13th big-league season, Taylor had just 60 career home runs at that point. This moment would produce number 61 as Taylor blasted the first-ever walkoff grand slam in Philadelphia Phillies franchise history.

Taylor would open the first 1971 season at The Vet still with the Phillies, but would not finish the year with the team. On June 12 he was dealt to the contending Detroit Tigers for a pair of minor league prospects, neither of whom would ever reach the big-leagues. He would serve as the backup to Dick McAuliffe at second base with Detroit over the next three years.

It was with those Tigers where he would make his lone playoff appearances, starting and playing the full Games 2-5 in Detroit’s heartbreaking loss to the eventual World Series champion Oakland A’s. Taylor was just 2-15 in that 1972 ALCS, and went 0-4, striking out twice, in the decisive 2-1 victory for Oakland. In fact, he flew out to center field against Vida Blue for the final out with the tying run on base in the bottom of the 9th inning for the final game at Tiger Stadium.

In December 1973, Taylor returned to the Phillies, signing as a free agent at age 38. He would close out his playing career as a utility player and pinch-hitter over three final seasons in Philadelphia as the club finally returned to contending status in the mid-1970’s. This was when I saw Taylor play in person, in that twilight of his career.

Per the SABR bio, a July 1974 AP account included the following: “All Tony Taylor has to do is stick his head out of the Phillies’ dugout and the fans go wild.” This feeling too was mutual. “I love those people,” said Taylor of the Veterans Stadium fans. “If a guy gives one hundred per cent they cheer for you. They know baseball, and they know whether a player is playing hard or not.”

During an early 1976 slugfest at Wrigley Field, Schmidt drilled home runs in four consecutive at-bats during an 18-16 victory for the Phillies over the host Cubs. Per Larry Shenk, the Phillies Hall of Famer and all-time greatest player used one of Taylor’s bats to blast what proved to the the final game-winner in the top of the 10th inning.

As the 1976 Phillies captured the club’s first National League East Division crown, Taylor missed much of the season’s first three months injured, returning for the stretch run. Between games of a doubleheader in Montreal after the Phillies had clinched the division, Allen gave manager Danny Ozark an ultimatum – include Taylor on the postseason roster or Allen wouldn’t play. The skipper forged a compromise, naming Taylor as a coach for the NLCS in which the Phillies were swept out by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

Following that season, Taylor formally retired as a player and became the Phillies first base coach from 1977 through 1979. Over the winter in 1978-79, Taylor managed the Águilas del Zulia club to a spot in the Venezuelan Winter League finals.

During the 1980 and 1981 seasons, Taylor served as a roving infield instructor. He won the first of three career World Series rings as a member of the organization when the Phillies captured the first championship in franchise history in that 1980 season.

Through most of the 1980’s he bounced around the organization, serving as a minor league manager and a roving instructor. Per the SABR bio, his personal life suffered a setback during this period when Taylor went through a divorce from wife Nilda during this period. He then returned to the big club in the role of first base coach with the 1988 and 1989 Phillies.

Taylor moved on to become a coach with the San Francisco Giants and the expansion Florida Marlins during the 1990’s. In 1999, the Marlins brought him back to the big-leagues where he served in the role of first base and infield coach. During this period he earned a second World Series ring when the Marlins captured the 1997 title. He would get a third when the Fish again won the championship in 2003.

In April 2004, Taylor was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. Following one final season as the Marlins bullpen coach in 2004, Taylor officially and finally retired from baseball. Since that time he has enjoyed his retirement living in Miami, a home for many in the Cuban-American community.

This past August, Taylor attended the Phillies Wall of Fame ceremony at Citizens Bank Park when his friend Abreu was inducted. While in Philly for those Alumni Weekend celebrations, Taylor suffered a series of strokes.

Per a report by Matt Breen in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 83-year-old Taylor wanted to return to Miami, and was transported from Jefferson Hospital to the airport. The Phillies paid for a team of nurses to accompany him and his second wife, Clara, on a private flight home.

The Phillies have done great,” Clara said per Breen. “They were wonderful. He’s doing therapy and progressing really slow but hopefully well.” Numerous former Phillies teammates and club officials, including owner John Middleton, stayed in close touch on his return home. “It was overwhelming…He’s aware of everyone who has been calling,” said Clara per Breen.

That caring and concern from the Phillies organization and fan base is a reflection on the decades of good will built up between themselves and Tony Taylor. Here is to hoping that he is able to recover and continue to enjoy life, again returning one day to walk out onto the field in Philadelphia and continue this long-time genuine love affair.

 

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference

10.17.2014 – Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014 – Mitch Williams

10.31.2014 – Chris Short

11.07.2014 – Von Hayes

11.14.2014 – Placido Polanco

11.21.2014 – Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014 – Dick Allen

12.06.2014 – Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014 – Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014 – Darren Daulton

12.13.2015 – Larry Bowa

1.09.2016 – Sherry Magee

1.26.2016 – Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016 – Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016 – Bob Boone

1.19.2017 – Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017 – Red Dooin

11.29.2018 – Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019 – Jim Bunning

2.10.2019 – Mike Schmidt

12.09.19Steve Carlton

Phillies should change their policy and procedure on retiring numbers

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There is little doubt that Manuel will be joined on the Wall of Fame by a number of his former players. But should a few of those players also have their numbers retired?

 

On the day after Christmas, Matt Gelb of The Athletic continued a conversation that had previously taken place a few times over the last few years. Gelb published a piece that day in which he brought up the question of the Philadelphia Phillies policy on retiring uniform numbers.

The current Phillies unwritten policy was formulated back in the 1990’s. It holds that in order to be considered for a retired number, a player must be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former director of public relations Larry Shenk is reported to have told Gelb for the piece that the policy was the result of an understanding between himself and club executives Bill Giles and David Montgomery.

As Gelb quotes Shenk: “We didn’t sit down and hash anything out. We didn’t put anything in writing. We didn’t take any votes. We just said, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’

It was a bad decision made by just three individuals that has now morphed into an unwritten policy to which the franchise continues to cling.

The policy holds to some standard that says a player must wait until (if?) some group of Baseball Hall of Fame voters decides worthiness.

How many times have we seen the Hall voters get it wrong on a player, only to have a Veteran’s Committee right that wrong a decade or two or more later? So a worthy player who was passed over by original Hall voters has to wait until they are old and decrepit, or worse yet, dead, to have their number retired?

It is time for a new, more formalized procedure to be instituted on the issue of retiring numbers of the greatest and most beloved players to wear a Phillies uniform.

The Phillies should have retired both Tug McGraw‘s number 45 and the number 15 for Dick Allen years ago. They should retire the number 10 as soon as possible, for both Larry Bowa and Darren Daulton.

And one day, the Phillies should also retire the numbers 6, 11, 26 and 35 for Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels.

Now, admittedly this is my own personal opinion. However, it is one that is shared by the vast majority of Phillies fans.

More than the specific worthiness of any individual player, the most important item that needs to be addressed is that the Phillies need to publicly announce that their unwritten Hall of Fame enshrinement policy is to be eliminated.

So, how should the Phillies handle the issue of retiring uniform numbers?

Per Investopedia: “According to the Corporate Library‘s study, the average board size is 9.2 members, and most boards range from 3 to 31 members. Some analysts think the ideal size is seven.

The Phillies organization should impanel a standing Honors Board made up of between seven to nine individuals whose responsibility would be to make final decisions on both the annual Phillies Wall of Fame honorees and also on retired numbers. The makeup of that board at any given time should be made public and available on the team’s official website.

Speaking of that Wall of Fame, yes, it is a great honor to be enshrined among the franchise greats. However, there can be little argument that even among Wall of Famers there are those who can be elevated above the rest due to their combination of outstanding individual playing careers, championship pedigrees, and relationships with the fan base.

Jim Bunning has the uniform number 14 retired in his number. Bunning pitched just six seasons in a Phillies uniform, won 89 games with the team, was a 2x NL All-Star while with the club, was the 1967 NL Cy Young runner-up, and never won a championship here.

Meanwhile, Hamels pitched for most of 10 seasons in Philly. He won 114 games in a Phillies uniform, was a 3x NL All-Star, finished among the top 8 in NL Cy Young voting four times, and was the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS and World Series for the Phillies 2008 title-winning team.

Rollins is the franchise all-time leader in hits. The emotional connection that he has with the fan base is similar to what teammates Utley, Howard, and Hamels enjoy, which stretching further back is what Daulton and McGraw enjoyed in decades before them.

Their skipper, Charlie Manuel, is just as beloved as his star players, perhaps even more so, and should have his number 41 retired by the club. He not only piloted the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship, but also to a 2009 National League pennant, five consecutive NL East Division crowns, and to 780 total victories, more than any other manage in franchise history.

No man has worn a Phillies uniform for more years in more roles than Bowa: world championship player, winning record as a manager after a lengthy losing era, respected and dedicated coach, organizational advisor.

Roy Halladay wore the number 34 and Jim Thome wore number 25, each in parts of four seasons with the Phillies. Each is beloved and respected by the fan base. Retiring their numbers would be popular, and would fit with the current Hall of Fame policy.

But when you consider their actual contributions to the history of the team when matched against the others? Not really a question.

Besides the number 42, which has been retired by all Major League Baseball teams in honor of Jackie Robinson, there are five numbers retired for Phillies greats.

Richie Ashburn (1), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36), and Bunning (14) have their numbers retired.

In my opinion, those six should be joined by 6, 10, 11, 15, 25, 34, 41, and 45 over the next few years. That would give the Phillies 13 retired numbers. When you consider that the New York Yankees have 22 numbers retired and that the Phillies have been around for 137 seasons, it really isn’t alot.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Philography series of Philadelphia Phillies mini-bios to resume

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It was October 2014 and I was writing for another site when I decided to begin a series of mini biographies on important figures in Philadelphia Phillies history.

Over the next few years and across a handful of different writing outlets, that series which I named “Philography” would continue to accumulate entries, a few during each off-season.

This year the tradition continues, beginning next week with what will be the 22nd entry in the Philography series. The new entry will highlight the career of the greatest pitcher in Phillies history, Steve Carlton.

To get Phillies and overall baseball history fans ready, below are links to the previous 21 pieces. These bios will usually key on the individual’s playing career, but I try to provide more personal and professional background if widely available.

I hope that you will find the series increases your enjoyment of baseball and the Phillies in particular, and come back for the new entries. There will be one each month during December, January, February, and March.

Click on the “date” in order to read the Philography piece. Click on the individual name to view their stats page at Baseball Reference.

PHILOGRAPHY SERIES

 

10.17.2014Greg Luzinski

10.24.2014Mitch Williams

10.31.2014Chris Short

11.07.2014Von Hayes

11.14.2014Placido Polanco

11.21.2014Jim Konstanty

11.28.2014Dick Allen

12.06.2014Dick Ruthven

12.12.2014Grover Cleveland  Alexander

12.20.2014Darren Daulton

12.13.2015Larry Bowa

1.09.2016Sherry Magee

1.26.2016Kevin Stocker

2.10.2016Granny Hamner

2.15.2016 – Edith Houghton

12.27.2016Bob Boone

1.19.2017Mike Lieberthal

2.02.2017Red Dooin

11.29.2018Richie Ashburn

2.03.2019Jim Bunning

2.10.2019Mike Schmidt

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

The two greatest defensive plays in Phillies franchise history

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Carlos Ruiz tags out Jason Bartlett in 2008 World Series

For my money it has always been one of the two greatest defensive plays in Philadelphia Phillies history, both of which were made during situations in which the fielders were facing tremendous pressure.

It came during Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Phillies and visiting Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park, and was started by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who will be feted on Friday night when he officially retires with the organization.
You may be able to look back over the history of this now 137-year-old ball club and find more spectacular or technically difficult plays. But it would be hard to find two that combine those aspects of difficulty and spectacle with sheer importance in a championship-level setting.
The players at the center of these two phenomenal defensive moments also just happen to be arguably the most popular players among the fan base in the entire history of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

WHITEY’S STRIKE

The first of those two greatest defensive plays came all the way back in the final game of the 1950 regular season, and was pulled off by Baseball Hall of Famer and Phillies Wall of Famer Richie Ashburn. There were no playoffs in those days. If you finished in first place, you won the pennant and advanced to the World Series.
On that Sunday, October 1 afternoon at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the Phillies were battling the host Dodgers. The two teams were tied at 1-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning. A victory by the home side would mean they would tie for first place, forcing a playoff for the National League pennant.
The first two batters, Cal Abrams and Pee Wee Reese, reached base against Phillies right-hander Robin Roberts. The future Phillies Wall of Famer and Baseball Hall of Famer had turned just 24-years-old the previous day, but was already the ace of the staff. But now he was in trouble, and the pennant was in jeopardy.
Next up for the Dodgers was their own 24-year-old future Hall of Famer, Duke Snider. On the first pitch, Snider sent a clean base hit into center field, where the 23-year-old Ashburn fielded the ball and came up firing.
Abrams never hesitated, rounding third and heading for home as the potential game-tying run. Ashburn’s throw to catcher Stan Lopata was true, and Abrams was out as he slid for the plate. For its importance at that moment, and for what happened next, Ashburn’s strike to the plate may still be the greatest defensive play in Phillies franchise history.
Roberts would intentionally walk the next batter, Jackie Robinson, to load the bases. With the pennant-winning run now in scoring position, Roberts proceeded to get Carl Furillo on a pop fly to first baseman Eddie Waitkus, then retired Gil Hodges on a fly ball to right fielder Del Ennis to wriggle his way out of the jam.
The game moved into the top of the 10th inning, where Dick Sisler would drill a one-out, three-run homer off Don Newcombe to put the Phillies up 4-1. Roberts set the Dodgers down in order in the bottom of the frame, and he was then mobbed at the mound by his ‘Whiz Kids’ teammates in celebration of just the second NL pennant in franchise history.
UTLEY’S DEKE
As stated earlier, this play by Utley took place in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The only reason that I rate it equivalent to the Ashburn play is that it actually took place in the Fall Classic, where plays such as this make the difference between winning and losing an actual championship.
The Phillies led the Tampa Bay Rays by three games to one, and were just a win away from only the second world championship in franchise history. This fifth game between the two teams had been suspended by torrential rains that spilled through the Philadelphia area for the last two days.
The visiting Rays were desperate for a win at Citizens Bank Park. It would give them life, sending them back home to Tampa trailing 3-2 in the series, but with the final two games in front of their home fans.

Jason Bartlett was a heads-up shortstop with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. His daring spring home in the decisive game of the World Series was overcome by Utley’s Deke. (imagesbyferg on Flickr)
In the top of the 7th inning, Tampa Bay right fielder Rocco Baldelli blasted a one-out solo home run off Ryan Madson to tie the game at 3-3. The following batter, shortstop Jason Bartlett, grounded a single to left off Madson. Bartlett was then moved up to second base on a sacrifice bunt, and he stood there as the go-ahead run with two outs.
Up to the plate stepped Rays’ leadoff man Akinori Iwamura. The 28-year-old second baseman had signed with Tampa Bay a year earlier after nine years playing professionally in his native Japan, and was a dangerous contact hitter. Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel countered by bringing in southpaw reliever J.C. Romero to face the left-handed hitting Iwamura.
Romero got in front with a strike. But on the second pitch, Iwamura connected with a breaking ball and grounded it back through the middle. Bartlett had a good lead and took off running. Off the bat, and even as it rushed towards center field, the ball looked like it was a base hit.
Utley was playing Iwamura in the hole, shaded towards first base, and was roughly twenty feet from the ball as it rolled through the infield. But the Phillies then 29-year-old, six-year veteran second baseman bolted smoothly and confidently to his right. He backhanded the ball, and in one motion made a jump-throw in an attempt to get the speedy Iwamura at first.
And then he didn’t. In a play that epitomized Utley’s uncommon baseball instincts, the Phillies second baseman never threw the ball to first. As he cross behind shortstop Jimmy Rollins and the second base bag towards the left field side of the diamond, Utley realized he had no play on Iwamura.
But then he spotted Bartlett breaking for home. In one motion, Utley deked a throw to first, turned on a hop, and fired a one-hopper that was a bit up and behind the third base line to catcher Carlos Ruiz.
The Phillies catcher fielded the ball and dove for Bartlett, who had taken off in a head-first slide attempt to the front of the plate. “Chooch” applied the diving tag to Bartlett’s outstretched shoulder, and umpire Jeff Kellogg stutter-stepped around the pair to pump his fist in the “out” call as the home fans at Citizens Bank Park exploded.
The play has become known by various names to Phillies fans over the years, most frequently as “Utley’s Deke”, even though it has to be pointed out that the fantastic play by Ruiz on the back end is often over-looked.
In the bottom of the inning, Pat Burrell would lead off with a booming double high off the center field wall in what would be his final plate appearance in a Phillies uniform. Two batters later, Pedro Feliz singled home pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett to put the Phillies in front by 4-3. In the 9th, closer Brad Lidge would strikeout Eric Hinske to end it, sinking to his knees where Ruiz, Utley, and their teammates would pile up as World Series champions.
As the Phillies remember and celebrate the many great moments of the brilliant 13 seasons spent by Chase Utley in a Phillies uniform, “Utley’s Deke” is sure to be front-and-center. It is my personal favorite play by “The Man”, and remains one of the two greatest defensive plays in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.

Philography: Mike Schmidt

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Statue of Michael Jack Schmidt, the greatest player in Phillies history, stands outside of Citizens Bank Park

 

This Philography series has now weaved its way through 20 individuals who have played a big part in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise. So it is perhaps fitting that we now take a look back at the career of #20 himself, the greatest player in franchise history, Mike Schmidt.

Philography began with 18 pieces that I wrote during each off-season between 2014-17. Over the last few months I re-introduced the series here at Phillies Nation with two of the players whose actual uniform numbers the Phillies have retired: Richie Ashburn and Jim Bunning.
Entire books can be written – have been written – in order to fully tell the story of one of the greatest players in the history of Major League Baseball. I’m not going to try to do that here. If you are interested in getting in deeper, check out a fine biography at this link written back in 2010 by Rob Maaddi titled Mike Schmidt: The Phillies’ Legendary Slugger.
In order to keep this to a reasonable article-length piece, I will simply rehash the early playing career, and then key on the 1980 highlights of the greatest third baseman in the history of the game, with a little background tossed in here and there. It should make for a great introduction for younger fans, and a fun bit of nostalgia for those who, like me, actually got to see him play.

BEGINNINGS

Schmidt was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and stayed home to play college baseball at Ohio University. He was a shortstop in those days and was selected at that position to the 1970 College Baseball All-America Team after leading the Bobcats to the College World Series.
With the sixth pick in the second round of the 1971 MLB Amateur Draft, the Phillies selected Schmidt at 30th overall. That was just one pick after the Kansas City Royals had chosen a California shortstop by the name of George Brett.
Schmidt described his contract signing process in a 2015 piece by Matt Monagan for MLB.com’s Cut 4:
The next day, Mr. Lucadello (Phillies scout Tony Lucadello) came to the house, pulled in the driveway, opened his trunk and he pulled out a typewriter. He pulled a typewriter out, walked in the house, set the typewriter down, had a piece of paper and said, “We’re prepared to offer Mike $25,000 if he’ll sign with the Phillies right now.” And my father said, “No way. Come back when you can give us $40,000.” We ended up settling on $37,500 and I went out and bought a Corvette for $7,000.
As an advanced college prospect, Schmidt went straight to Double-A Reading that same summer. He appeared in his first 74 professional games there, hitting .211 with eight homers and 31 RBI over 268 plate appearances.
With a full off-season of rest, Schmidt moved up to Triple-A Eugene for the 1972 season and really showed his ability. He slashed .291/.409/.550 while slamming 26 home runs and driving in 91 runs over 131 games.

MONEY FOR A CUP OF COFFEE

That performance earned him a September promotion to a 59-win, last-place Phillies club. The starting third baseman at that time was 25-year-old Don Money, who the Phillies had high hopes for at one point. However, Money hit just .222 with 15 homers that year following up on a 1971 season in which he had hit just .221 with seven homers.
Schmidt didn’t light the world on fire in that first brief big-league cup of coffee. But he got to appear in 13 games, and made eight starts at the hot corner alongside a fiery 26-year-old shortstop by the name of Larry Bowa.
On September 16, 1972 in the first game of a doubleheader at Veteran’s Stadium against the Montreal Expos, Schmidt blasted a three-run homer off Balor Moore for his first career round-tripper. It would turn out to be a game-winner, taking the Phillies from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead that would also end up as the final score that night.
Realizing that the Phillies had their starting third baseman for years to come, general manager Paul Owens swung a deal the very next month, shipping Money, infielder John Vukovich, and pitcher Bill Champion to the Milwaukee Brewers for four hurlers, including veteran Jim Lonborg and George Brett‘s brother, Ken Brett.
Schmidt’s contributions to the 1972 Phillies season, such as they were, were lost on most of Phillies Nation at that time. The big story had been the performance of a new arrival, starting pitcher Steve Carlton. The left-hander won 27 games and the NL Cy Young Award that year for a last place team. Little did anyone know that he and Schmidt would become the cornerstones of great Phillies teams for years to come.

RISE TO CONTENDERS

In his first season as a starter, Schmidt struggled mightily, slashing just .196/.324/.373 with 18 home runs. The Phillies again finished in the basement of the National League East Division, but under new manager Danny Ozark they showed some progress overall, entering September just six games off the division lead.
The 1974 season would prove to be a big step forward for both the team and its young third sacker. Schmidt slashed .282/.395/.546 and led the NL with 36 homers. He also produced 116 RBI, 108 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases, was selected as a reserve for the National League All-Star team and would finish sixth in the NL MVP voting.
On June 10 of that 1974 season in Houston, Schmidt drove an offering from Astros pitcher Claude Osteen that was a no-doubt home run right off the bat. But as the ball soared up and up at the Astrodome it struck a public address speaker that was suspended 117 feet up and 329 feet out from home plate. The ball fell into center field for what ended up as one of the longest singles ever hit.
Sparked by Schmidt’s emergence and the veteran influence of new second baseman Dave Cash the Phillies spent much of June and July of that summer of 1974 in first place. Though the club wilted in the August heat, they still won 80 games for the first time in eight years and ended the season in third place, the highest finish by a Phillies team since 1966.
The 1975 season would see the Phillies take another step forward. The team won 86 games and was tied for first place as late as August 18. The Phillies went 11-7 against the division power at that time, the cross-state rival Pittsburgh Pirates. But the Bucs again pulled away at the end, finishing 6.5 games ahead.
Schmidt had a bit of a fall-off that season, hitting just .249 and seeing his strikeouts total soar to a league-leading 180. But he also led the league for a second straight season with 38 home runs. He and left fielder Greg Luzinski gave the Phillies the most feared combination of sluggers in the game. “The Bull” slashed .300/.394/.540 that year with 34 homers and 120 RBI, making the NL All-Star team and finishing as the NL MVP runner-up.

BECOMING THE BEST

The Bicentennial season of 1976 would finally see the Phillies overtake the Pirates as kings of the east. Led by a rejuvenated Schmidt, the club would romp to a franchise-record 101 regular season victories. They moved into first place on May 14 and would never relinquish the lead, building a 15.5 game cushion at one point and finishing on top by nine games.
Schmidt led the charge for that club, again leading the league with 38 homers and also finishing with an NL-best 306 total bases. On April 17 he blasted four home runs during an 18-16 Phillies victory over the host Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Schmidt was selected for his second NL All-Star team, finished third in the National League MVP vote, and was honored with his first Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence at third base.
In the Phillies first-ever NLCS appearance, Schmidt was shut down over the first two games by Cincinnati. The Reds won both games by 6-3 and 6-2 at The Vet as he went just 1-8 in the two games combined. In Game 3 back at Riverfront Stadium, Schmidt finally broke out with three hits. But the big bats of the Big Red Machine scored three times in the bottom of the 9th, rallying to a 7-6 victory and the National League pennant.
The next three seasons would be a mixture of success and frustration. The Phillies equaled their record 101 wins in 1977, then won 90 games in 1978. They captured the NL East each season, giving them three consecutive division crowns. But the team came up short each year in the National League Championship Series, dropping back-to-back heart-breakers to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Frustrated by the Phillies inability to get over the hump in the postseason, Owens decided to finally go after a big piece in a free agency process that was only a few years old at that point. On December 5, 1978 he signed perennial All-Star Pete Rose, who had helped lead the Reds to World Series titles in both 1975 and 1976.
With Rose on board the Phillies opened 1979 as favorites once again. Things were going as planned early on, as the club built a 3.5 game division lead by early May and were still sitting atop the division on May 27. But then it all came suddenly and unexpectedly crashing down.
Starting on May 28 the Phillies lost six straight games. That began a 38-51 collapse over the next three months. Despite a 19-11 final month the 1979 Phillies would finish in fourth place, a distant 14 games behind the famed “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates team that would go on to become World Series champions.
That victory in the Fall Classic was the second of the decade for the Phillies main division rivals. It was the fifth overall World Series title for Pittsburgh. The Phillies had still never won a single World Series crown in what was then 97 seasons of existence.
From 1977-79, Schmidt cemented his place as one of the true stars of the game. He won the NL Gold Glove Award each season and twice was a National League All-Star. In 1979 his 45 home runs set a new Phillies franchise record, breaking the old mark of 43 set by Chuck Klein all the way back in 1929.
But that 1979 collapse had cost the laid-back Ozark his job. He was replaced by Dallas Green and his no-nonsense, in-your-face. It would be under Green that the team would turn it back around for that 19-11 final month performance.

1980 MANDATE

Green took over as Phillies manager at the end
of the 1979 season. He would drive the
team hard, but it all paid off in the end.
There was only one mandate as the 1980 season began, win a championship. If it failed to happen then an aging Phillies core was likely to see major changes after that season. That core of Schmidt, Bowa, Luzinski, and catcher Bob Boone had been together for most of the decade. They had led the rise to contending status but were also continually falling short in the playoffs.
Coming off their fourth-place finish, the Phillies were not considered division favorites entering the season. Sure enough the Phillies sat in fourth place and were already 5.5 games out on May 10. But by the All-Star break they had scratched and clawed their way back into the race.
For the first time since the opening days of the season, the Phillies took sole possession of first place in the NL East on July 11. And yet that was not a jumping off point.
On July 19 they were swept in a doubleheader by the Atlanta Braves. On August 10 they were again swept in a doubleheader, this time by the Pirates. Counting and between those two sweeps, the club lost 14 of 22 games to fall six off the division lead.
Unlike the prior season, the Phillies refused to die. Victories in eight of nine games at the end of August put them back into the race. It would remain a nail-biter from that point onwards. On the weekend of September 26-28, the Expos won two of three at The Vet to take a half-game lead. Those would be the last games that the Phillies would lose until the season finale.
Over the final week, the Phillies won four straight to even things up. This would set the stage for what may be the most dramatic back-to-back regular season games in franchise history, and Schmidt would play a pivotal role in both contests.

SHOWDOWN NORTH OF THE BORDER

On Friday night, October 3 the Phillies and Expos began a season-closing three game series at Stade Olympique in Montreal with the two teams tied atop the division. Behind Schmidt’s first inning sacrifice fly and sixth inning solo home run, and a tremendous two-inning relief stint from Tug McGraw, the Phillies won the opener by a 2-1 score.
That left the Phillies needing just one win to clinch the division crown. However, a win by Montreal would even things again, setting up a winner-take-all season finale. Rain and extra-innings on that Saturday, October 4 combined to add to the drama as the Phillies trailed by a run heading to the 9th inning of Game 161.
A pair of bang-bang plays at first base, the second on which Schmidt was called out when replay showed he was actually safe, left Bake McBride on second base with two outs. Down to their final out, Boone sliced the second pitch from 40-year-old former Phillies pitcher Woodie Fryman to center. McBride stumbled around third, but still raced home with the tying run.
The two teams remained knotted at 4-4 into the top of the 11th inning. With one out and Rose at first base, Schmidt stepped in against 35-year-old, 14-year veteran Stan Bahnsen. Working the count to 2-0, Schmidt got a fastball on Bahnsen’s third offering “right down the pipe” as Harry Kalas described it on TV and drove it deep out to left field – “He buried it!” as called by Andy Musser on radio – for a 6-4  Phillies lead.
In the bottom of the 11th, McGraw would set the Expos down in order, blowing a fastball by Larry Parrish for the final out. Schmidt led the charge to the mound as the Phillies celebrated their fourth NL East crown in five years. They could be forgiven if they thought that in the NLCS against the Houston Astros, things couldn’t possibly get any tougher, more exciting, or more dramatic. They would also have been wrong.
In what many consider to still be the greatest NLCS of all-time, the Phillies defeated the Astros by 3-2. After Luzinski’s home run gave them a 3-1 victory in the opener at Veteran’s Stadium the next four games would all be decided in extra-innings.
Trailing by two games to one, their backs to the wall with the host Astros needing just one win, the Phillies found themselves trailing by 2-0 entering the top of the 8th inning of Game 4 of that 1980 NLCS. But four straight singles, the last a game-tier by Schmidt to score Lonnie Smith, gave the Phillies the lead. They would ultimately win it in 10 innings to tie the series.
Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS is perhaps the single greatest postseason comeback in Phillies history. Trailing legendary future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan by 5-2 entering the top of the 8th inning, the Phillies rallied for four runs.
Schmidt would play no part in this famous game, going 0-5 and striking out three times, including right in the middle of that rally and again to lead off the top of the 10th inning. The Phillies would win it when Garry Maddox doubled to center with two outs in that 10th frame, scoring Del Unser with the eventual game-winner. Dick Ruthven shut down Houston in the bottom of the frame, and the Phillies were going to the World Series for the first time in 30 years.

WORLD SERIES MVP

The 1980 World Series would provide a showcase for the two players who were drafted at #29 and 30 overall back in 1971. Brett and Schmidt had each developed into perennial All-Stars and both had put up Most Valuable Player seasons that year. Schmidt broke Eddie Mathews‘ NL record by hitting 48 home runs. Brett took a run at becoming the first player to hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, finishing at the .390 mark.
In that Fall Classic, the Phillies would finally capture the first championship in franchise history. They defeated Brett and the Royals by four games to two. Schmidt led the way with two homers, seven RBI and six runs scored, capturing the World Series Most Valuable Player honors.
With Game 2 at The Vet tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Schmidt doubled off Royals closer Dan Quisenberry to score McBride. He then rumbled home on a base hit by Keith Moreland, giving the Phillies a 6-4 victory and a 2-0 series lead.
The Royals battled back to win the first two in Kansas City to tie the series, and took a 3-2 lead into the top of the 9th inning of Game 5, looking to take the series lead. Schmidt came through again. He led off the inning with a base hit against Quisenberry and when Unser followed with a double into the right field corner, Schmidt raced all the way around from first to tie the game. Unser would later score on a Manny Trillo double, and the Phillies were one win away.
In the climactic Game 6 it was Schmidt’s two-run single in the bottom of the 3rd inning that opened the scoring. Steve Carlton delivered a strong seven-inning effort and then turned the ball over to McGraw, who by that point was running on fumes. But Tug battled through the final two innings, finally striking out Willie Wilson to end it. Schmidt led that charge, leaping up into McGraw’s arms as their teammates swarmed them.

THE 1980’S

Of course, that is far from the end of the Mike Schmidt career or story, but I’m going to begin to wind to a close with mostly summations. As I said at the beginning, his is a story worth of a book.
Over the rest of the 1980’s, Schmidt would mostly continue as one of baseball’s superstar players. He captured NL MVP honors in 1980, 1981, and 1986. He was a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger winner from 1980-84 and again in 1986. He was an NL All-Star in eight of the decades ten seasons.
The Phillies returned to the playoffs in 1981, and to the World Series in 1983. But that 1980 world championship would be the only title won by the team during his 18-year career.
A milestone was reached on April 18, 1987 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. With the Phillies trailing the host Pirates by 6-5 in the top of the 9th inning, Schmidt came to the plate. Juan Samuel was at third base as the potential tying run, and Von Hayes stood on first as the go-ahead run.
Bucs pitcher Don Robinson fell behind Schmidt by 3-0, and then tried to sneak a fastball past him. It was a huge mistake. Schmidt crushed the pitch deep out to left field for a three-run homer that put the Phillies on top. Not only that, but it was career home run #500 for Schmidt, making him just the seventh player in Major League Baseball history to reach that plateau.
As the decade was drawing to a close, Schmidt entered the 1989 season as a 39-year-old who recognized that his once-dominating skills were clearly deteriorating. That had become somewhat noticeable as early as 1985, when the team had asked him to move over to first base temporarily at age 35 to accommodate young third baseman Rick Schu.
Schmidt bounced back from that slight indignity to have two of his best all-around seasons in 1986 and 1987. The Phillies won 86 games in that 1986 campaign. It would have been good enough for a Wildcard berth, if one existed at that time. Since it did not, that only left the team as distant runners-up in the NL East race to a 108-win New York Mets team that would go on to capture the World Series.

ENDING OUT WEST

On May 29, 1989 the Phillies were in San Diego to start the final series of a long west coast road trip. The team had lost five games in a row and 10 of their last 12 contests overall. The team was 8.5  games off the division lead already, 10 games under the .500 mark, and struggling through what would clearly be a third consecutive losing season, their fourth in five years.
The previous day at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Schmidt had taken an 0-3 collar. It would be the final game of his storied career. In his final plate appearance in the top of the 9th inning, Schmidt drew a walk from Mike LaCoss. He would advance to second base, and was running to third as Curt Ford grounded into a game-ending double play. Schmidt would turn and walk off a big-league field for the final time as an active player.
Of course, no one knew that at the time. It was not until an emotional press conference upon the team’s arrival in San Diego the next day that a tearful Schmidt would stand at his locker with Ashburn beside him and announce his retirement.
Despite his announcement, baseball fans voted him as the starting third baseman for the National League All-Star team. Schmidt declined to play but would don the Phillies uniform one more time in order to take part in pre-game introduction ceremonies.

STATISTICS AND HONORS

Over the course of his career, Schmidt slashed .267/.380/.527 with 548 home runs. That home run total left him seventh on baseball’s all-time list at the time of his retirement behind only Hank AaronBabe RuthWillie MaysFrank RobinsonHarmon Killebrew, and Reggie Jackson.
Schmidt also compiled 2,234 hits with 1,595 RBI while scoring 1,506 runs. He won three National League Most Valuable Player awards, the 1980 World Series MVP, and was a 12x NL All-Star. He was honored with 10 Gold Gloves and a half-dozen Silver Slugger awards. He received NL MVP votes for nine seasons in which he didn’t win the honor, including finishing third twice.
In January 1990, Schmidt was named as the 1980’s Player of the Decade by The Sporting News. The Phillies officially retired his number 20 during a ceremony at Veteran’s Stadium on May 26, and he was inducted that year as the 12th person on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
Five years after his retirement, Schmidt was elected on the first ballot for enshrinement to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 96.5% of the vote. He would be joined in the induction ceremonies that summer by Ashburn, who had been voted in by the veteran’s committee.
In 1997, Schmidt was voted by the Baseball Writers Association of America as the third baseman on their Major League Baseball All-Time Team. Two years later, The Sporting News published their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, ranking Schmidt at #28. He was the highest-ranked third baseman and highest player whose career began after the 1967 season. He was also elected in 1999 to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
When the Phillies opened the new Citizens Bank Park for the 2004 season, Schmidt was one of four players honored with a statue at the new ballpark, joining his teammate Carlton, along with Ashburn and Robin Roberts. A decade later his collegiate #10 was retired by his alma mater at Ohio University.

A PHILLIES ICON

Schmidt has remained active with the Phillies community since his playing days. In 1990 he was a commentator during Phillies broadcasts on the old PRISM cable TV network. Since 2002 he has frequently appeared at Phillies spring training to help work with the players, a role he will fill once again this year in Clearwater.
Just last spring, Schmidt expounded on his way of thinking during an interview with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com:
Assuming you have a pretty good base for hitting mechanically, I believe you’ve got to be a thinking man’s hitter. I don’t believe in freelancing, which is what I call it, when you go to home plate and you see the ball and hit it. I don’t believe in the see the ball and hit it approach. Just going to home plate, ‘If he strikes me out he strikes me out, if I get a hit, I get a hit.’ I believe in a plan for each day. If you don’t want to do that, I don’t think you’re on the right track toward reaching your potential. Everybody told me I thought too much when I played, but I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for my crazy brain taking me to different levels.
He managed the High-A Clearwater Threshers during the 2004 season, and then Schmidt served as the third base coach for Team USA which included Phillies players Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino at the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
In June of 2014, Schmidt was on hand as Rollins passed him to become the Phillies all-time hits leader. Schmidt remains second on that list today. He is the franchise all-time leader in games played, home runs, RBI, runs scored, walks, and strikeouts. Schmidt is also second in at-bats, third in slugging percentage and fifth in OPS on the club’s all-time list.
Schmidt had yet another honor bestowed on him in a vote by fans back in 2006. In what was known as the DHL Hometown Heroes event that year, Schmidt beat out Ashburn, Carlton, Klein, and Roberts in fan voting for the greatest player in Phillies history. The only players to receive more overall votes with their team were Aaron, Ruth, Brett, Tom Seaver of the Mets, and Ty Cobb of the Tigers.
Starting in 2014 and continuing into the upcoming 2019 season, Schmidt has joined the Phillies television broadcasts for weekend home games, providing color commentary. Fans of a new generation are enjoying listening to the insights, opinions, and anecdotes during those “Weekend with Schmidt” telecasts from the greatest player in Phillies history.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Philography: Mike Schmidt