Tag Archives: SABR

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 defense improving, led by trio of Gold Glove Award candidates

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No Phillies player has won a Gold Glove since 2012

The Philadelphia Phillies are currently one of the most inconsistent contending teams in Major League Baseball.

The biggest problem for the team in getting on a long winning run has been consistently poor pitching from both the starters and the bullpen group.
Offensively, they are a middle of the pack team, with the Phillies run production having fluctuated wildly all year long. The club’s hitters are collectively tied for 15th among the 30 MLB teams with 4.81 runs scored per game.
The one area of the game at which the Phillies have been solid this year is on defense. The gloves are currently tied for sixth in the NL in fielding percentage, having committed 55 errors, tied for fifth-lowest in the league.
The SABR Defensive Index of individual player performances was released through games of July 7, just about 10 days ago. For the seventh consecutive season in 2019, the SDI will be used to help select the winners of the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. The SDI accounts for approximately 25% of the Gold Glove selection process, added to votes from the managers and coaches.
Based on the SDI as of July 7, the Phillies have three players who are legitimate National League Gold Glove Award contenders. Those three are right fielder Bryce Harper, catcher J.T. Realmuto, and perhaps surprisingly to some, left fielder Jay Bruce.
All three of those Phillies players are ranked second by the SDI at their positions. Harper’s 3.7 mark trails well behind the 7.6 of Dodgers right fielder Cody Bellinger and his 7.6 SDI rating. In left field, Bruce’s 4.4 is right behind the 4.7 of positional leader David Peralta of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

J.T. Realmuto might be the best chance for a Phillies player to actually win a Gold Glove Award in 2019. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)
Realmuto, the one Phillies representative on this year’s NL All-Star team, has an 8.5 SDI. That is the third-highest mark in the entire National League among all players. Unfortunately, one of the two ahead of him is San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges and his 9.1 mark.
Aside from those three, the rest of the Phillies defenders do not fare as well. Shortstop Jean Segura has a positive mark of 0.8, which places him at 8th among the 17 players rated. Maikel Franco has a -1.3 rating, putting him at 13th of the 19 third basemen rated.
At second base, Cesar Hernandez has a -1.2 rating, putting him 14th of 16 ranked players at the keystone position in the National League. Out in center field where Scott Kingery is played out of position on most days, the club’s future second baseman carries a -1.3 rating, putting him at 13 of 18 ranked players.
On the mound, Aaron Nola‘s 1.2 and Jake Arrieta‘s 0.6 make them the only Phillies pitchers in positive territory. They rank as tied for 11th (Nola) and 19th (Arrieta) respectively. Nick Pivetta has a -0.3 rating and Zach Eflin a -0.5 as the only other two Phillies pitchers on the NL list.
With these pure stats only accounting for one-quarter of the vote, reputation among players and coaches continues to provide the largest influence in the actual final selection of the Gold Glove Award winners.
Considering that key factor, Realmuto, widely considered the top all-around defensive catcher in the game by many, has the best chance to actually take home hardware after the season ends. None of the three leading Phillies contenders has ever captured a Gold Glove Award.

The last Phillies player to be awarded a Gold Glove was Jimmy Rollins, who took home the honors at shortstop back in 2012. It was a fourth career NL Gold Glove for JRoll, who previously was honored for three straight years from 2007-09. Mike Schmidt (10) and Garry Maddox (8) have won the most Gold Glove Awards in club history.

Philography: Richie Ashburn

Ashburn was a part of the Phillies organization
for 47 years as a player and broadcaster
Four years ago, I began writing a series of Philadelphia Phillies mini-biographies. The series was inspired by my twin interests in the Phillies ball club and the subject of history in general.
What I decided to call my “Philography” series was never meant to present a comprehensive life story on each player. I just wanted to learn for myself a bit more about each player’s background and accomplishments, how they fared either before coming to or after leaving the Phillies, and share that with other fans.
In the beginning this off-season series was scattershot, covering a wide range of players across the team’s now 136-season history. In the winter of 2015-16, I keyed on shortstops. Last year it was the catching position.
What has now grown to an 18-chapter series will extend by five more over the next couple of months. This year, I have chosen to cover some of the most important players in Phillies history. The five players who have both played with the team and who also have actually had a uniform number retired by the club.
Those five ball players will be presented in numerical order, beginning with this piece on Richie Ashburn. During December and January, Philography stories will cover the careers of Jim BunningMike SchmidtSteve Carlton, and Robin Roberts.
Donald Richard “Richie” Ashburn was born on March 19, 1927 in the small town of Tilden, Nebraska. Tilden lies exactly in the middle of nowhere, about 150 miles northwest of Omaha. He had a twin sister named Donna, and so their dad Neil and mom “Tootie” began calling him by that takeoff on his middle name.
Ashburn’s father was a huge influence on his early life, particularly on his gravitation towards sports in general and baseball in particular. In a fine piece for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Seamus Kearney describesthe relationship as follows:
Ashburn’s father…played semipro baseball on the weekends…Neil Ashburn had a very close relationship with his athletically-inclined son – he encouraged Richie in his boyhood activities and steered the boy throughout his developmental years. Ashburn tried to play all the sports – except football; his father ruled that out because of the threat of injury, but baseball and basketball were his favorites. He began playing baseball in 1935 as an 8-year-old in the Tilden Midget Baseball League under the tutelage of Hursel O’Banion. He played catcher because his father thought it would be the quickest way to get him to the major leagues, and he batted left-handed because his father said his speed would give him a better jump to first base…
Richie played both baseball and basketball for his high school team and also played American Legion ball. Even out in the sticks of Tilden, talent like Ashburn’s didn’t escape the eyes of baseball scouts. He was signed three different times by big-league organizations.
The Phillies were fortunate that those first two signings didn’t work out. The Cleveland Indians first inked Ashburn at age 16, but that deal was nixed by the Commissioner as teams were prohibited then from signing high schoolers. He then was signed by the Chicago Cubs, but that deal was also shot down due to an illegal contract clause.
In 1945 at age 18, Ashburn had a contract approved with the Phillies. Kearney’s SABR bio quotes the Phillies scout who finally signed him, Ed Krajnick: “Something tells me this is about the most important deal I ever made.”

Ashburn would spend the 1945 and 1947 seasons playing with the Phillies farm club in Utica, New York. During those seasons his teammates first hung the nickname “Whitey” on him, owing to his extremely light hair. The nickname would stick for the rest of his life.
He missed the 1946 campaign entirely after being drafted into the U.S. Army and being sent to serve in, of all places, Alaska. On his 1947 return the fleet-footed Ashburn hit .346 in the Eastern League at nearly five years the junior of most players.
Ashburn would never play another day in the minors. He impressed enough to open the 1948 season as the Phillies starting center fielder, a position that he would hold down for a dozen years.
During that rookie campaign, Ashburn hit .333 with a .410 on-base percentage, stole 32 bases, and finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Al Dark and Gene Bearden. He was also a National League All-Star for the first of what would be five times in his career and received MVP votes for the first of eight years.
In 1950, the 23-year-old Ashburn led all of baseball with 13 triples as the Phillies youthful ‘Whiz Kids’ won the National League pennant, moving the franchise into the World Series for the first time in 35 years.
On the final day of that 1950 season, Ashburn produced one of the two greatest defensive plays in franchise history (Utley’s Deke in the 2008 World Series being the other.)
The Phillies took on the Dodgers in Brooklyn in that season finale, with the ‘Whiz Kids’ holding a one-game lead. A win for the host Dodgers would force a one-game playoff between the two clubs for the pennant.
The two teams exchanged single runs in the 6th inning and then rode ace pitchers Robin Roberts and Don Newcombe into the 9th inning. Newcombe set the Phillies down in the top of the 9th, and the so the Dodgers came to the plate with a chance to win it.
Cal Abrams led off with a walk, moving to second base when Pee Wee Reese followed with a single to left. That brought Duke Snider to the plate. The Dodgers three-hole hitter delivered what seemed a sure game-winning, standings-tying base hit to center.
But Ashburn had other ideas. He charged, fielded the base hit cleanly, and fired home. Backup catcher Stan Lopata took the throw and tagged Abrams, who tried to dance around him, for the first out. The Phillies were still alive.
Following an intentional walk to Jackie Robinson to load the bases, Roberts coaxed Carl Furillo to pop out and then retired Gil Hodges on an easy fly to right field to get out of that 9th inning jam.
The two teams now moved on to extra-innings. Roberts helped himself by leading off the top of the 10th frame with a base hit. When Eddie Waitkus followed with a single the Phillies had a threat of their own going.
That brought Ashburn to the plate. He tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt, a play that he would later admit to despising. It failed, as Newcombe pounced on the ball and threw to force Roberts out at third base.
Up to the plate stepped the Phillies own three-hole hitter now and Dick Sisler wouldn’t let his club down. Sisler delivered what would prove to be the most dramatic and important hit in the first 97 years of Phillies franchise history, blasting a three-run homer over the left field wall at Ebbetts Field.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, Roberts retired Roy CampanellaJim Russell, and Tommy Brown in order. The Phillies exploded out of their dugout as Ashburn and his mates on the field rushed in for the celebration, mobbing their ace on the mound.
The Phillies would advance on to the 1950 World Series where they would face Joe DiMaggioYogi BerraWhitey Ford, and the powerful New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers would sweep the Whiz Kids in four straight. But it was a hard-fought series, with the Yankees taking each of the first three by a single run.
Ashburn went just 3-17 (.176) and wasn’t much of a factor in that 1950 Fall Classic. His lone strong performance came in Game 2 at Shibe Park. That day he went 2-5, including a first inning double after which he was left stranded. His sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 5th inning tied the game at 1-1.
In the bottom of the 8th with the game still tied, Ashburn led off with a successful bunt single down the third base line. Sisler tried to bunt him over, but Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds jumped on the ball quickly, turned, and fired to shortstop Phil Rizzuto, forcing Ashburn out at second base. The next batter would roll into a double play and the Phillies would lose 2-1 when DiMaggio led off the top of the 10th with a home run.
Though they lost that World Series, the Phillies appeared to be a team on the rise. It was not to be, as the club fell to just 73 wins and fifth place in the eight-team National League the following season.
After the team won just 66 games in his rookie season of 1948, the Phillies would finish with a winning record in four of the next five years. But over Ashburn’s final six seasons in Philadelphia there would be just two .500 finishes and no more winning teams.
There was an interesting incident that took place in 1957 involving Ashburn. On August 17 at Connie Mack Stadium, Ashburn ripped a foul ball into the stands, breaking the nose of Alice Roth, who was the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth.
Then incredibly as Roth was being carried from the stands on a stretcher, the game resumed, and Ashburn sent second foul rocket into the stands, striking her yet again. The two would ultimately strike up a friendship, and the Roth’s son would become the Phillies bat boy.
In a dozen Phillies seasons, Ashburn produced 2,217 hits which is still the third-highest total in franchise history behind only Jimmy Rollins and Schmidt. His 946 walks are tied for third, his 1,114 runs scored are fourth, and his 97 triples are fifth in club history.
Ashburn would accumulate a .311 career batting average and .394 on-base percentage during his Phillies years, eighth in both categories. Among players of recent vintage, only Bobby Abreu and John Kruk can boast of better OBP marks, and none has a higher batting average.
He would scatter three more NL All-Star appearances throughout the decade: 1951, 1953, and 1958. He led all of baseball in hits in both ’51 and ’58 and the NL in 1953.
Ashburn led baseball in triples in both 1950 and 1958. Twice he led the senior circuit in batting average, his .350 mark in 1958 leading all of baseball. Four times he led in on-base percentage.
Hall of Famer James Cool Papa Bell was a famed Negro Leagues player who is widely considered to be the fastest man to ever play the game of baseball. It was once said of him that he was so fast that he could turn out the lights and be in bed before it got dark. Bell is rumored to have once called Ashburn the “fastest white man” that he ever saw.
On January 11, 1960 in the dead of winter, Ashburn was traded by the Phillies to the Chicago Cubs, ending his time as a Phillies player for good. In exchange the Phillies received a three-player package. It included the man who beat him out for that 1948 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Alvin Dark, as well as pitcher John Buzhardt and infield prospect Jim Woods.
The deal would prove to have not much impact for either club. Buzhardt had a couple of 200-innings seasons as a Phillies starting pitcher, but they were losing campaigns for him and the club.
Ashburn played well for much of his two seasons in the Windy City, especially that first 1960 season when he hit .291 with 99 runs scored, 16 steals, and led the NL with 116 walks. But the Cubs finished in seventh place both years.
On December 8, 1961 the expansion New York Mets would purchase Ashburn’s contract from Chicago. In what proved to be his final big-league season, Ashburn hit .306 with a .425 on-base percentage and a dozen stolen bases, making his final NL All-Star team at age 35.
But that Mets team was one of the worst in Major League Baseball history. They went just 40-120, and their .250 winning percentage remains the lowest in MLB over the last 83 years. After that debacle and facing the prospect of aging as a bench player for them, Ashburn hung up his spikes.
Though Ashburn was done playing, he wasn’t away from the game for long. The Phillies were looking for a new color man for their radio and television broadcasts for the 1963 season. The job was first offered to Roberts, but the pitcher was still active and wanted to continue playing. He recommended Ashburn, and the rest is Philly broadcasting history.
Ashburn joined Bill Campbell and By Saam in the booth for his first nine years, including the ill-fated 1964 Phillies collapse season. Then in 1971 the Phillies opened a brand new ballpark, Veteran’s Stadium, and also hired a replacement for Campbell by the name of Harry Kalas.
Kalas was 35-years-old and had been on the Houston Astros broadcasting team ever since the Astrodome opened in 1965. He was lured to Philly by a greater contract, and joined Ashburn and Saam for that first year of The Vet. Saam would remain into the 1976 season before retiring, but the Ashburn-Kalas relationship would endure for decades.
The pair became legendary as “Harry and Whitey” for two generations of Phillies fans. Kalas was the quick-tongued play-by-play guy, Ashburn the homespun-humor color man with a players perspective. They were a tremendous team and perhaps even greater friends.
One of the famous regular routines when broadcasting home games involved Celebre’s, a pizza shop located not far from the ballpark area. During a few late-running games, Ashburn asked on-air whether his friends at the shop were listening. Within a short time a couple of pies would show up at the broadcast booth.
When the team asked him to stop since Celebre’s was not an official sponsor, Ashburn got around it as only he could. If he desired a delivery, during acknowledgements of fan birthdays Ashburn began to wish a happy birthday to “the Celebre twins, Plain and Pepperoni.
They called games together as the Phillies grew into a consistent contender in the late-1970’s, finally winning the franchise first-ever World Series crown in 1980. Ashburn and Kalas would then cover Phillies pennant winners together in 1983 and again in 1993.
In his personal life, Ashburn was married to the former Herberta Cox. Known as ‘Herbie’, the couple would have six children and remain married their entire lives. According to Kearney, the two separated in 1977, but would remain married. They shared the grief when in 1987 their daughter was killed in a car crash.
As all retired players at that time, Ashburn had spent 15 years on the ballot for possible induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was not selected by the voters in any year, fell off the ballot, and was then considered only by the Veteran’s Committee.
Per Kearney, it was two men in particular, Steve Krevisky and Jim Donahue, who took up the banner for Ashburn’s worthiness:
Krevisky would appear at every New England SABR gathering and expound on Ashburn’s qualities, especially educating attendees on his defensive statistics but also pointing out that Richie had the most hits of any major leaguer during the 1950s. Donahue organized his campaign around overturning the 60 percent rule, one time forwarding 55,000 postcards to the Hall of Fame. Both men’s efforts paid off and the rule was overturned in 1993.
Ashburn had other supporters as well, and the drum began to beat louder for his worthiness into the mid-1990’s. Finally in 1995 he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
By an incredible stroke of timing, Ashburn would be enshrined at the same ceremony as Schmidt, the greatest player in Phillies history. Ashburn had the honor of broadcasting the entirety of Schmidt’s 1972-89 playing career.
Ashburn’s mother would later state that he planned on retiring following the 1997 season. He would not make it. On September 9, 1997 the Phillies were winding down the season, playing a series in New York against the Mets.
The previous night, Ashburn and Kalas had called a big Phillies 13-4 win at Shea Stadium highlighted by soon-to-be-named NL Rookie of the Year Scott Rolen‘s 18th home run. Ashburn went back to his hotel room following the game. Kearney described what happened next as follows:
Later that night he reached out to a Phillies official, complaining that he didn’t feel well. At 5:30 A.M. on September 9, 1997, Ashburn was found dead in his hotel room.”
 
The Phillies and the city of Philadelphia came together to plan a public memorial service for the beloved broadcaster. Thousands of family, fans, players, celebrities, and others in the game attended the wake held at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park.
Kalas soldiered on in the booth after the passing of the friend he called “His Whiteness” for more than 11 years, joined in the booth by a number of on-and-off partners that would include Chris Wheeler and Larry Anderson. He and Wheeler were in the booth together as the Phillies finally won their second World Series crown in 2008.
In 1979, Ashburn’s uniform number “1” during his Phillies playing days became the first ever retired by the club. That same summer, Ashburn became just the second man honored with a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame after his former teammate Roberts had been the inaugural enshrinee the prior year.
When the Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park for the 2004 season, Ashburn was not only remembered, he was featured prominently. His statue can be found as the centerpiece of the walkway food and gathering area beyond the outfield stands known as Ashburn Alley.
For those of us who got to enjoy him over the airwaves for many years, Whitey Ashburn will never be forgotten. Especially in his partnership with Harry Kalas. I have often said myself that in my heaven, Harry and Whitey will be calling Phillies games for as long as the team and the game exists.
NOTEfor an even more detailed read on Whitey’s life and career, please take an opportunity to enjoy the SABR bio from Seamus Kearney at that link

Wilson Ramos appears ready to take over Phillies starting catcher role

Ramos turned 31 years old last week
When the Philadelphia Phillies acquired all-star catcher Wilson Ramos from the Tampa Bay Rays at the July 31 trade deadline it was with the full knowledge that he was slightly damaged goods.
Ramos went on the DL while with Tampa just before he was scheduled to start for the American League in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game. He last played on July 14 with the Rays, going 1-3 with a double and two RBI that day.
A native of Venezuela who just turned 31 years old last week, Ramos in his ninth big league campaign. He is due to become a free agent this coming off-season.
Prior to suffering the injury to his left hamstring, Ramos was slashing .297/.346/.488 with 14 home runs, 14 doubles, and 53 RBI. 
Alfaro is slashing .249/.309/.382, while Knapp has a .217/.310/.354 line. The two have combined for 11 homers, 21 doubles, and 42 RBI.
Alfaro has a cannon for an arm from the catching position. However, both he and Knapp have proven less-than-adequate at handling balls in the dirt and other slightly wild offerings from the pitching staff.
Ramos is not considered a strong defensive catcher either. Per the SABR Defensive Index from the first half of this season he was ranked 13th among American League backstops with a -0.8 SDI. By comparison, Alfaro was ranked 9th in the NL with a -0.3 SDI. But Ramos has thrown out more than 30% of attempted base stealers who have chosen to run on him.
Matt Breen, who covers the Phillies for Philly.com and their print resources, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, tweeted this afternoon that Ramos was in Philadelphia and would be activated for the Phillies game with the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday evening.
Wilson Ramos is in Philadelphia and should be activated today from the DL. A needed addition for a lineup averaging 2.28 runs per game in last seven games.
Ramos would definitely provide the Phillies with far more experience and a more consistent offensive history, as Corey Seidman at NBC Sports Philadelphia noted:

“He’s not just a good hitter for a catcher — he’s a good hitter, period. He drives the ball consistently and doesn’t strike out much. Ramos has struck out in 17 percent of his career plate appearances. Jorge Alfaro has struck out a whopping 36 percent of the time.“

Per Marc Topkin at the Tampa Bay Times, Ramos is expected to be looking for a contract somewhere in the three-year, $40 million range in the coming off-season. With other needs to fill, that may be a bit pricey for the Phillies for a catcher in his ages 31-33 seasons.

It remains to be seen whether Ramos will prove to be just a rental. But if he stays healthy, he could prove to be a valuable one for a Phillies team that appears to be slightly ahead of schedule in their attempt to return to contending status.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Wilson Ramos reportedly to be activated today, should become Phillies starting catcher

Defense a major problem as Phillies fight to hold on to NL East lead

Defense not a Phillies strong suit at present
Fans who have followed the Philadelphia Phillies closely this season continue to shake their heads in amazement that the club remains tied for first place in the National League East Division in late July.
Those fans who do more than simply watch news highlights and follow the results and standings know that the defensive baseball played by this team on a nightly basis is sloppy at best and can be downright atrocious at times.
It has been more than simply the easy-to-follow fielding and throwing errors. Passed balls, pick-offs thrown away, and wild attempts to throw out opposing runners as they try to steal a base have been part of the equation as well.
Errors of commission. Errors of omission. The 2018 Philadelphia Phillies have been guilty of it all on a far-too-frequent basis.
Still, there have been some defenders of this team and its defensive abilities. Every time that Odubel Herrera runs down a ball in the gap or makes a diving catch, some allude to his hustle and range. Maikel Franco bare hands a slow roller and guns out a runner at first base, there are comparisons to Mike Schmidt.
It’s frankly enough to make one wonder if these folks have actually ever seen a fundamentally strong defensive baseball team.
I was spoiled. I grew up on a Phillies team in the 1970’s which included the best collection of defensive talent at one time in franchise history. Schmidt at third base. Larry Bowa at shortstop. Manny Trillo at second base. Bob Boone behind the plate. Garry Maddox in center field.
Schmidt won 10 career Gold Gloves at the hot corner, including nine straight from 1976-84. Bowa won a pair and was robbed of maybe a half-dozen more by voters who were often swayed by offensive statistics in those years.
Maddox earned his moniker “The Secretary of Defense” by winning eight Gold Gloves in a row in center field from 1975-1982. “Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by Garry Maddox” was how bumper stickers of the day described his play.
In four seasons with the Phillies, Trillo captured a trio of Gold Gloves. Boone won his first pair of seven career Gold Gloves while with the Phillies.
You don’t have to go back that far, however, for great Phillies defensive play. One of my all-time favorite players was Scott Rolen. While some fans who were around in the early-2000’s will always hold a grudge against Rolen for his outspoken desire to get out of town, the fact is that he was one of the greatest defensive third basemen in the history of the game. Rolen won half of his eight career Gold Gloves during his Phillies years.
Jimmy Rollins has four Gold Glove Awards sitting at home on his crowded trophy shelf. Shane Victorino also has four, including three earned while patrolling center field at Citizens Bank Park with the Phillies.
So, you have to excuse me if I find this current group turning my stomach. Now, it’s easy to make off-hand comments calling these current Phillies a poor defensive team. But do the statistics back up such a claim? As it turns out, they do.
On Monday, prior to the opener of the current series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) revealed their Defensive Index rankings for the first half of the 2018 Major League Baseball season.
SABR describes the Defensive Index compilation process and significance as follows:

“The SABR Defensive Index draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts. The three metrics representing batted ball data include Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, Ultimate Zone Rating developed by noted sabermetrician Mitchel Lichtman, and Runs Effectively Defended based on STATS Zone Rating and built by SABR Defensive Committee member Chris Dial. The two metrics included in the SDI originating from play-by-play data are Defensive Regression Analysis, created by committee member Michael Humphreys, and Total Zone Rating.”

They also added that the SABR Defensive Index “accounts for approximately 25 percent of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process that will be added to the votes from the managers and coaches.
So how do the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies regulars stack up at their respective positions? If you guess “not too well”, you can count yourself a winner.
Forget the American League, and let’s see how the Phillies defenders rate when compared only to their counter-parts among the 15 clubs of the National League.
Players who have appeared as regular starters with this year’s Phillies team through games of July 15 were ranked within the NL as follows:
Jake Arrieta (9), Vince Velasquez (20), Nick Pivetta (28t), Aaron Nola (44t), Jorge Alfaro (9), Carlos Santana (6), Cesar Hernandez (12t), Scott Kingery (11), Franco (16), Rhys Hoskins (15), Herrera (13), Aaron Altherr (10t), Nick Williams(15).
The highest-ranked Phillies defender within his position is Santana. His defense was supposed to be one of the big selling points when he signed as a free agent last winter with a $60 million commitment over three years.
But the 32-year-old is only ranked 11th at the position when considering all big league first basemen. No longer in his prime, fans should not expect that Santana’s first-ever career Gold Glove Award will come as a member of the Phillies.
As a group, the team is ranked 14th of the 15 National League clubs in fielding percentage. They are in the middle of the MLB pack, tied for 17th, in double plays turned.
In last night’s 7-6 loss to the Dodgers, there were no official errors charged to the Phillies defense. But a pivotal ninth inning wild pitch was charged to reliever Seranthony Dominguez. It could just as easily have been ruled a passed ball against Alfaro. Maybe should have been ruled that way.
The Phillies are trying to build a sustained winner. Their current place in the MLB standings shows them ahead of schedule. If they wish to remain ahead of schedule and stay atop the divisional standings, changes will be needed to improve those defensive metrics. But when you’re winning, recognizing and acting on necessary change can prove to be a difficult proposition.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies defense has been bad this year – really bad