Tag Archives: Wall of Fame

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

Philography: Steve Carlton

Embed from Getty Images

Carlton has been honored by the Phillies as a member of the franchise Wall of Fame and with a statue outside of Citizens Bank Park

 

This is the 22nd entry in the Philography series of mini-bios highlighting the careers of the most interesting and important individuals throughout Philadelphia Phillies history.

Links to the previous 21 entries, which include such notables as Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn, Dick Allen, Jim Bunning, Larry Bowa, Darren Daulton and many more can be found below.

It is a simple matter of fact to state that Steve Carlton is the greatest pitcher to ever pull on a Philadelphia Phillies jersey.

“Lefty” was enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1989, just a year following his retirement from baseball. He was also a first ballot enshrinee when eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame five years later in 1994.

Steven Norman Carlton was a South Florida kid, born and raised in Miami. He played Little League ball and then at North Miami High School, even staying home to play his college ball at Miami-Dade College where he was used primarily as a relief pitcher.

It was while still a college student that Carlton signed his first professional contract, receiving a $5,000 bonus to ink a deal with the Saint Louis Cardinals.

Chuck Hixson for 247 Sports noted in a May 2017 piece that the Cardinals nearly passed on signing Carlton, relating the following story from an unnamed scout:

Chase Riddle was the Cardinals scout that signed him, and when he had him pitch for the Cardinals brass, they weren’t overly impressed. Riddle practically threatened to quit if they didn’t sign him, and really stuck his neck out to get him signed.”

Hixson also quotes Carlton himself in his piece, which was written on the occasion of an appearance at a home game in 2017 for the Phillies Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliates:

“...I didn’t really even know about the big leagues until I was a senior in high school. North Miami is rural, they have college football and horse racing, so that was all that I knew. I didn’t really know what was going on...”

Carlton’s talent was unmistakable from the get-go, as he rolled through three levels of the Cardinals minor league system during his first pro season of 1964. That summer, Carlton went 15-6 and reached Double-A at just age 19, giving up just 118 hits over 178 innings with 191 strikeouts and a 2.22 ERA.

At age 20, Carlton made his big-league debut the following season. He pitched in 15 games for Saint Louis that year, including his first two starts in Major League Baseball. Carlton described his first-ever outing on a mound with the Cardinals this way:

My major league debut came at old Busch Stadium on Grand Avenue in St. Louis, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first pitch I threw was to third baseman Bob Bailey. It was a fastball, low and away. He ripped it for a home run down the left field line. I said, ‘Damn, that was a pretty good pitch.”

Among those early outings were a pair of appearances against the Phillies. On May 8, 1965 at Connie Mack Stadium, Carlton would first face the club with which he would ultimately become most famously associated. Entering in the bottom of the 7th inning, Carlton got Tony Gonzalez to ground into a force out and then struck out Clay Dalrymple swinging to end the frame.

After making nine more appearances with the 1966 Cardinals, Carlton earned a spot in their starting rotation for the 1967 season. He would go 14-9 over 30 games, 28 of those as starts, and helped Saint Louis to win 101 games and the National League pennant.

With the Cardinals leading the Boston Red Sox by three games to one in the World Series, he was given the start for Game 5 at Busch Stadium by manager Red Schoendienst. Carlton tossed six shutout frames, leaving with the Cards trailing 1-0 in a game they would end up losing by 3-1. On the mound that day for Boston shutting Saint Louis out on three hits was his future Phillies rotation mate, Jim Lonborg.

When the series returned to Fenway Park, Boston tied things up with an 8-4 victory. But Bob Gibson then bested Lonborg for his third win of the Fall Classic in Game 7, and the Cardinals became world champions, earning Carlton his first World Series ring.

Over the next four years with Saint Louis, Carlton developed into one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball. He was a National League All-Star in 1968, 1969, and again in 1971. Just entering his prime at age 26, Carlton had already won 77 big-league games.

His 1970 season was marred by a contract dispute over which Carlton held out and missed spring training. When the season got underway, he suffered through an underwhelming 10-19 campaign.

After he rebounded with his first 20-win season in 1971, Carlton again demanded a raise. In those final years just prior to baseball’s reserve clause being eliminated and free agency instituted, he had little recourse but to hold out once again.

Gussie Busch, who had made a fortune with Budweiser beer and the Anheuser-Busch Companies, was the Cardinals owner from 1953 until his death in 1989. Busch was an old-school owner who had little time for what he felt were prima donna players trying to force his hand.

Instead of paying up, Busch ordered that Carlton be traded by general manager Bing Devine. So, as spring training was underway, Devine made a fateful deal. On February 25, 1972, Carlton was traded to the Phillies straight-up for right-handed pitcher Rick Wise.

There was no free agency, so he didn’t have the freedom to say, ‘Sign me or else.’ He was being very difficult to sign for the ridiculous amount of $10,000 between what he wanted and what we’d give him,” said Devine. “Many times Mr. Busch gave me a little leeway in the budget, but in the case of Carlton, Mr. Busch developed the feeling that Carlton was a ‘smart-aleck’ young guy, ‘and I’m not used to having young smart-alecks tell me what do.

Wise was no slouch. He was coming off a 17-win season with the Phillies at age 25 during which he was selected to his first National League All-Star team. Having made his big-league debut with the club at just age 18 during the ill-fated 1964 season, Wise was considered a solid and rising starting pitcher in his own right.

In fact, Wise would win 16 games for Saint Louis each of the next two seasons, and was again selected to the NL All-Star team in 1973. The Cardinals would end up packaging him with outfielder Bernie Carbo in a trade to the Red Sox in October 1973 for star outfielder Reggie Smith. Wise would ultimately pitch for 18 years in the big-leagues, winning 188 games with five different clubs.

The Phillies would, however, clearly get the best of this deal. In his first season with the club, Carlton would fashion one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history. He went 27-10 with a last place Phillies team that won just 59 total games. That made for 45.8% of the club’s 1972 victories. Carlton allowed just 257 hits over 346.1 innings across 41 starts with 310 strikeouts.

It would all add up to the first of what would ultimately be four National League Cy Young Awards for Carlton, this one in a unanimous vote. He was also selected to his fifth NL All-Star team, and came in 5th place in the NL MVP voting as well.

Auggie Busch traded me to the last-place Phillies over a salary dispute,” he said. “I was mentally committed to winning 25 games with the Cardinals and now I had to re-think my goals. I decided to stay with the 25-win goal and won 27 of the Phillies 59 victories. I consider that season my finest individual achievement.

Over the next three years the Phillies began to slowly emerge as contenders. A homegrown group of young players developing from the minor leagues which already included left fielder Greg Luzinski and shortstop Larry Bowa would be joined by third baseman Mike Schmidt and catcher Bob Boone.

Carlton was solid but unspectacular during the 1973-75 seasons, going a combined 44-47 with 759 hits allowed over 839.2 innings while striking out 655 batters. He was an NL All-Star during a 16-win campaign in the 1974 season.

It was during this period that, feeling he was receiving unfair criticism from the local press, Carlton stopped talking to the media. In later years he would speak about the situation as follows:

I was tired of getting slammed. To me it was a slap in the face. But it made me concentrate better. And the irony is that they wrote better without access to my quotes…I took it personal. I got slammed quite a bit. To pick up the paper and read about yourself getting slammed, that doesn’t start your day off right.

In 1976, the Phillies broke through to win their first-ever National League East Division crown. Carlton won 20 games at age 31 on a staff that included fellow veterans Lonborg and Jim Kaat and a pair of talented 22-year-olds in Larry Christenson and Tom Underwood.

The Phillies would get swept out of the National League Championship Series in three straight games by the Cincinnati Reds. That was the heyday of the ‘Big Red Machine‘, and Carlton took the loss in the opener. He yielded four earned runs on seven hits in the game, including a sixth-inning two run homer off the bat of George Foster to break a 1-1 tie.

Carlton would finish fourth in the NL Cy Young voting that year. Both he and the club would do even better the following season.

In 1977, the Phillies set a franchise record with 101 regular season wins. For his 23-10 season, Carlton was an NL All-Star for the sixth time. He then was awarded a second career Cy Young, finishing 5th in the NL MVP voting once again.

However, the Phillies would again fall short in the National League Championship Series. This time it was the Los Angeles Dodgers knocking them out in four games. Included was the infamous ‘Black Friday‘ of Game 3, which set up Carlton’s start in Game 4.

In that Game 4 start, Carlton lasted just five innings on a miserable, rainy night at Veteran’s Stadium and the Dodgers eliminated the Phillies in front of their disheartened fans. Carlton allowed two runs with two outs in the 5th inning thanks largely to his second walk of the frame and a wild pitch, turning a 2-1 deficit into the final 4-1 margin of defeat.

Over the next two seasons of 1978-79, Carlton would fashion a combined 34-24 record. He was a 1979 NL All-Star, and stretched a personal streak of seasons during which he made more than 30 starts out to a dozen straight.

The Phillies tied the franchise mark with another 101-win campaign in 1978. But once again the Dodgers knocked them out in the NLCS in four games. Carlton wasn’t at his best when he was credited with the win in Game 3. But he helped himself with a home run and the Phillies bats exploded for their lone victory of the series, a 9-4 win at Dodger Stadium.

The 1979 season began with great promise. The Phillies were three-time defending NL East champions. They had signed free agent Pete Rose to help get them over the playoff hump during the off-season. They got off to a solid start, and the club wasa still tied for first place as late as May 27.

But there would be no playoffs in 1979. The Phillies would collapse thanks in part to a string of injuries. Following a legendary 23-22 shootout win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 17, they stood at 24-10 with a 3.5 game lead in the division. From that point onward, the Phillies would go just 60-68. They finished in a disappointing fourth place, 14 games behind the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

As fallout from that collapse, manager Danny Ozark was fired late in the 1979 season. The laid-back ‘Wizard of Oze’ was replaced by director of player development Dallas Green, who displayed much more of a confrontational personality.

It was Green’s mandate from the front office to figure out which players were the problems, weed them out, and make changes to try and get the club over the hump to a title. Green made it clear that in 1980 the Phillies would either finally produce a championship, or the club would be broken up.

Carlton would produce his best season since 1972. He went 24-9 with a 2.34 ERA, allowing just 243 hits over 304 innings across 38 starts with a league-leading 286 strikeouts. The result was his third career Cy Young Award. The Phillies would emerge from a dramatic final week of the season with their fourth NL East crown in five years.

Carlton drew the starting assignment for Games 1 and 4 of what turned into perhaps the greatest National League Championship Series in history. The Phillies would defeat the Houston Astros in the full five games, all close, with the last four all reaching extra innings.

In the opener, Carlton went seven innings and allowed just one run in a 3-1 victory at Veteran’s Stadium. With the Phillies then trailing by two games to one and their backs to the wall, Carlton went 5.1, allowing two runs in Game 4. The Phillies would rally to win in 10 innings to force a decisive fifth game in Houston.

The Phillies finally ended their NLCS frustrations with an epic Game 5 comeback victory over Nolan Ryan and the Astros. The first National League pennant for the club in 30 years allowed them to move on to face future Hall of Famer George Brett and the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

In the Fall Classic, the Phillies would win both of Carlton’s starts, each coming at The Vet. The first was a come-from-behind 6-4 win in Game 2, when the Phillies scored four times in the bottom of the 8th inning to rally for a victory that put them up two games to none.

The Royals rallied to take two games back in Kansas City to tie the series, but the Phils rallied from behind to win Game 5. With the Phillies leading 3-2 in the Fall Classic and just a win away from the first world championship in franchise history, it was Carlton who took the mound for Game 6 back in Philadelphia.

On October 21, 1980 at Veteran’s Stadium, Carlton went seven strong innings, holding Kansas City to one run on four hits while striking out seven batters. When the first two Royals batters reached base to start the top of the 8th, Green pulled him in favor of Tug McGraw.

McGraw would eventually load the bases and surrender a sacrifice fly, narrowing the Phillies lead down to 4-1. But he got the dangerous Hal McRae to ground out to second base with the bases loaded to end that threat.

In the top of the 9th, the Royals again loaded the bases, this time with just one out. McGraw then got Frank White on a foul pop near the Phillies dugout on which Pete Rose made a heads-up play for the second out. And then, on a 1-2 pitch, the Tugger pumped a fastball past Willie Wilson for the final out. For the first time in their history, the Phillies were the world champions of baseball.

Pete Rose came over to the Phillies in ’79 and he became the catalyst that helped us to put it all together,” said Carlton. “His example on the field and his leadership helped to bring everybody’s play up a notch. Hopefully, Pete will be reinstated by Baseball and he will have his rightful place in baseball history, a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

The following year would be a strike-shortened season in Major League Baseball. Carlton had a fantastic year, going 13-4 with a 2.42 ERA and 179 strikeouts over 24 starts despite losing more than two months to the labor strife. He would finish 3rd behind Fernando Valenzuela and Tom Seaver in an extremely tight Cy Young vote.

That vote for the NL’s best pitcher would not be as tight in 1982. Carlton captured his fourth and final career Cy Young Award with a 23-11 campaign in which he struck out 275 batters over 283.2 innings across 37 starts.

On September 13 of that 1982 season, Carlton struck out a dozen Cardinals and homered during a victory at Veteran’s Stadium. He is the only pitcher to homer during a complete game shutout in three different decades. Carlton accomplished that feat four total times.

Unfortunately, the team would crumble down the stretch. Leading the NL East as late as September 13, the Phillies would go just 9-10 over the final weeks. They finished in second place, three games behind Carlton’s old Saint Louis team. The Cards would go on to capture their first world championship since his trade.

The Phillies would have one last hurrah in 1983. With a veteran-laden squad nicknamed ‘The Wheeze Kids’, the Phillies got hot in September and pulled away, winning the club’s fifth division title in eight years.

On September 23, Carlton enjoyed a major career milestone when he struck out a dozen over eight innings against the Cardinals in Saint Louis for the 300th victory of his career.

In the NLCS, the Phillies exorcised their 1970’s demons, beating back the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games. Carlton won both Game 1 and Game 4 with a pair of stellar outings, allowing a total of just one run on 13 hits over 13.2 innings with 13 strikeouts.

With the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles then knotted at a game apiece, Carlton would pitch well in Game 3  at Veteran’s Stadium. But it would be a fellow future Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer, who would earn the pivotal victory. Palmer tossed a pair of shutout relief innings as the Orioles won 3-2.

Led by series MVP catcher Rick Dempsey, future Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray, and a rookie shortstop named Cal Ripken Jr the O’s would go on to down the Phillies in five games in that 1983 Fall Classic.

It had been a great run of a winning decade for both Carlton and the Phillies, but it was coming to an end. He won 13 games and made 33 starts in 1984 at age 39. The Phillies were tied for first place on July 2, but would finished just .500 at 81-81 and in fourth place.

During the 1982-84 seasons, Carlton became involved in an ongoing battle for the top of Major League Baseball’s all-time strikeouts list. The record had been held for decades by Walter Johnson. Over that three year period Carlton, Ryan, and Gaylord Perry would duel for the top spot. Ryan would ultimately last the longest and remains the all-time strikeout king, the only man to surpass the 5,000 career mark.

Carlton’s signature pitch was a wipeout slider. It was a pitch he had developed during an exhibition series of games in Japan following the 1968 season, and one which was unhittable when he was on. He once described throwing the pitch in this manner:

It just rolls off of your index finger and begins it’s spin, which will take it down and across the plate. Just remember not to twist your elbow or wrist. It should be thrown, with the wrist and grip set, just like your fastball, slightly off center – with the same velocity and intensity.

His string of 16 consecutive seasons (not counting the 1982 strike-shortened year) making at least 30 starts finally came to a grinding halt when Carlton missed more than two months with an injury in the summer of 1985. He went just 1-8 over 16 starts that year at age 40, and it appeared to be the end of the line.

Carlton came back in 1986 for what would prove to be his swan song in Philadelphia. He ended up making just 16 starts that year for the Phillies, going 4-8 with a 6.18 ERA.

On June 21, 1986 against his old Cardinals team, Carlton made his final start in a Phillies uniform. He surrendered six earned runs over five innings at The Vet. But while he struck out six batters, he also walked six.

GM Bill Giles would hand him his release just three days later, bringing Carlton’s time with the club to an end after a mostly dominating decade and a half.

The San Francisco Giants were in first place in early July. Their general manager Al Rosen felt that Carlton could provide another veteran for his team’s rotation to help carry them to the playoffs, and signed him to a contract. But Carlton would make just six starts by the Bay before San Francisco realized he had nothing left. They released him on August 7.

Before he left, Carlton provided San Francisco with one big moment. On August 5 at Candlestick Park in his final appearance in a Giants uniform, Carlton struck out Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds. It was the 4,000th strikeout of his career and he joined Ryan as the only members of the 4,000 Strikeout Club to that point.

Five days later it was the Chicago White Sox turn to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle. Under first-year GM Ken Harrelson and new manager Jim Fregosi, the Chisox were going nowhere. They decided to give Carlton a shot as a late-summer drawing card.

Carlton finished out that 1986 season making 10 starts with the White Sox. Maybe it was the aid of the Designated Hitter taking the toll of batting and running the bases off the aging lefty, but something was different over in the American League. Carlton recaptured some of his old magic as he went 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA, allowing just 58 hits over 63.1 innings. He pitched into at least the 7th inning on seven occasions.

A free agent that off-season, his late season success with Chicago was enough to entice the Cleveland Indians into a one-year deal. Carlton would appear in 23 games, 14 of those starts, before the Tribe dealt him to a Minnesota Twins club that was competing for an AL West crown under GM Andy MacPhail and manager Tom Kelly.

As with San Francisco, there would be one historic moment during his time in Cleveland. On April 14 he came on in relief of 48-year-old starting pitcher Phil Niekro. The duo thus became the first teammates who were also 300-game winners to appear in the same game. This would also prove to be Carlton’s lone career appearance at Yankee Stadium. He had been selected to the NL team for the 1977 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium but did not play.

Carlton paid early dividends after arriving in Minnesota, pitching the Twins to a key victory with a big August 8 effort in a showdown with the Oakland A’s at the Metrodome. Minnesota led Oakland by two games in the standings at the time. Carlton turned back the clock at age 43, going 8.2 innings while scattering seven hits in a 9-2 victory. It was the 329th win of his big-league career, and would also prove to be his last.

Minnesota would finish four games ahead of the A’s and two ahead of Kansas City to capture their first-ever AL West crown. The club would then go on to capture the ALCS in five games over Detroit, and then stun the Saint Louis Cardinals in seven games to win the second World Series in franchise history, their first since moving to the Twin Cities in the 1961 season.

Carlton was not on the Twins postseason roster for that October championship run, but he would earn his third World Series ring with a third different organization following his earlier wins with the Cards in 1967 and Phillies in 1980.

He would come back to make four April appearances with the Twins, the first three in relief, at age 44 before finally calling it quits. Minnesota was classy enough to give Carlton one final starting outing before he bowed out.

On April 23, 1988 the big left-hander took the mound on a Saturday night in front of more than 40,000 fans at the Metrodome. It wasn’t pretty. The Indians scored four times off him in the 1st inning en route to a 10-2 victory.

Carlton allowed nine runs that night, eight of them earned, over five innings. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced, a second baseman who Phillies fans might remember by the name of Julio Franco. Carlton also surrendered a pair of home runs, one of those to a man who would become infamous in Phillies lore a few years later by the name of Joe Carter.

Carlton was officially given his final release from the Twins on April 28, 1988. While he was willing to continue pitching, no one offered him a contract.

The following spring, Carlton was offered use of their training facilities by the New York Yankees. But with no guarantee of even a spring training invitation, he finally opted to retire.

For the vast majority of his career in Philadelphia, Carlton, the greatest pitcher to ever don the Phillies uniform, was a teammate of Mike Schmidt, the greatest all-around player to ever wear that same uniform. Schmidt would hang up his cleats early in the 1989 season.

He’s the best third baseman that I ever played with, and maybe of all-time,” said Carlton. “Obvious Hall of Famer, even then. He retired while on top of his game. I thought for sure he was going to hit 600 home runs.

Fellow Phillies Wall of Famer and Baseball Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn is a Philadelphia baseball icon. He was a radio and television broadcast color man for the entirety of Carlton’s career, and had this to say about the left-hander:

Lefty was a craftsman, an artist. He was a perfectionist. He painted a ballgame. Stroke, stroke, stroke, and when he got through (pitching a game) it was a masterpiece.

In addition to his four Cy Young Awards, Steve Carlton finished among the top four in that voting on two other occasions. He was a 10-time National League All-Star, and was also the 1982 NL Gold Glove Award winner.

Carlton was an all-around player as a pitcher, priding himself on his defense and hitting prowess. He holds the all-time MLB record with 144 base runners picked off. Carlton hit .201 over his career with 13 home runs, 49 doubles, six triples, and 140 RBIs.

Happily retired to a 400-acre ranch in Durango, Colorado since his playing days ended, Carlton is content with a lifestyle led mostly out of the limelight. He was married to ex-wife Beverly for 33 years and they had two sons together, but the two divorced in 1998.

I came to Durango in 1989 to get away from society,” he told Pat Jordan for Philadelphia Magazine in 1994. “I don’t like it where there are too many people. I like it here because the people are spiritually tuned in. They know where the lies fall.

Carlton makes the occasional trip for a Phillies, Hall of Fame, or other baseball reunion event, but otherwise doesn’t have much time for the game. He was quoted in that Hixson piece from May 2017 on his lifestyle:

I don’t really know the players any more, I don’t follow it. I know some of the coaches, but I’ve moved on, I’ve got other stuff to do. I owned it for 24 years, I played it, so I don’t need to do it again. I’ve moved on to other things…I do as little as possible. I have an orchard and I watch the apples grow. I’m in the forestry program for the good of the nation and the planet; before Al Gore was green, I was green. I have my solar and an orchard of about 150 fruit trees and I plant trees under the forestry program.

Tim McCarver is renowned as a Hall of Fame baseball analyst and broadcaster to many younger fans of the game for his work over the last few decades. However, McCarver also played the game for a long time. In fact, he is one of the few to ever appear as an MLB player in four different decades.

McCarver and Carlton were teammates with Saint Louis from 1965-69, then again with the Phillies at the start of 1972, and finally from 1975-80. During that last stretch of seasons, McCarver became known as Carlton’s “caddy”, often catching many of his stars even though the club had an All-Star starting catcher in Bob Boone.

The relationship between Carlton and McCarver, who won the World Series together in 1967 with the Cardinals and then again in 1980 with the Phillies, was  extremely close.

When Steve and I die, we are going to be buried in the same cemetery, sixty feet, six inches apart,said McCarver.

Thankfully, both men are still with us today. McCarver turned 78 back in late October. Carlton will turn 75 years old just a few days before Christmas. I wonder if they’ve purchased that unique burial plot yet?

 

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

Bobby Abreu thanks Phillies fans and organization in Wall of Fame speech

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Dan Baker was emcee as Phillies honored Bobby Abreu

The Philadelphia Phillies made 1997-2006 outfielder Bobby Abreu the 41st honoree on the franchise Wall of Fame in a ceremony prior to Saturday night’s game with the Chicago White Sox at Citizens Bank Park.

An introductory speech from his 2001-04 manager, fellow Wall of Famer Larry Bowa, was followed by the plaque honoring Abreu being unveiled by his 2000-06 teammate and another fellow Phillies Wall of Famer, Jimmy Rollins.

Abreu then stepped to the microphone himself: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

 

He then paused, clearly overcome by the emotion of the moment.
As the crowd roared their support, he went on: “I want to thank all of you for being here. Thank you, God, for this great moment. I want to thank my family, the front office, the media, my teammates, my coaching staff, my people in Venezuela, and you, the fans.
For the full ceremony, and the full speech delivered by Abreu, enjoy the below video:
Enjoy the entire Bobby Abreu Wall of Ceremony:https://www.pscp.tv/w/cBYPlTY4MTg4NHwxZGpHWHBsQWtFZUdacoAu71AiHbIATUUSupprh-oUjckMvADPedqu-V9SZvA=?t=13s 

 

 

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Phillies honor Bobby Abreu with place on the Wall of Fame

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Bobby Abreu joins the immortals on the Phillies Wall of Fame

The Phillies are honoring 1998-2006 outfielder Bobby Abreu prior to the game on Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox by enshrining him on the franchise Wall of Fame.

In a special pre-game ceremony, numerous past Wall of Fame honorees are expected to be on hand, including the franchise’ all-time greatest player, Mike Schmidt.
Abreu played in parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 1998-2006. He is currently 2nd in walks, 4th in doubles, 7th in extra-base hits and stolen bases, 10th in runs scored, 11th in home runs and RBIs, and 14th in hits on the Phillies all-time leader boards.
His .303 career batting average across 1,353 games with the Phillies is the second-highest of any player who has performed with the team over more than half a century, trailing only the .309 mark produced by fellow Wall of Famer John Kruk. His .416 on-base percentage is the fourth-best of any player during their Phillies career, and Abreu’s .928 career OPS with the Phillies is second in franchise history only to the great Hall of Famer and Wall of Famer, Chuck Klein.
Abreu is a native of Venezuela who was signed by the Houston Astros as a 16-year-old amateur free agent in August 1990. He received his first big-league promotion for a 15-game cup of coffee in September 1996.
He appeared twice against the Phillies that month, lining out to center fielder Ricky Otero as a pinch-hitter for Billy Wagner in a 10-8 Phillies victory at the Astrodome on September 11 in his first game against them.
In 1997, Abreu made the team out of spring training, and stayed with Houston through May. He returned for five games in July, and then was called up again in September, appearing in another 14 games. Against the Phillies he went 4-17 with two runs and two RBIs over five games. He would also pinch-hit, going 1-3, in all three games of the Astros sweept at the hands of the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

Abreu as a 24-year-old in his first season with the Phillies in 1998.(Roger H. Rangel)
That fall, Major League Baseball expanded to include a pair of new teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now just “Rays”) and an Expansion Draft was held. Abreu, left unprotected by the Astros, became the sixth player chosen overall, the third by Tampa Bay.
Abreu would never play a single game with those original Devil Rays. In fact, he would never get to the Sunshine State at all. On the same day that he was selected in that draft process, the Phillies traded away shortstop Kevin Stocker to acquire Abreu from Tampa.
Stepping into what was a rebuilding Phillies lineup in the 1998 season, the 24-year-old Abreu made an immediate impact by slashing .312/.409/.497 with 17 home runs, 52 extra-base hits, 74 RBIs, 68 runs scored, and 19 steals.
The following year he received NL MVP votes after leading all of baseball with 11 triples. Abreu slashed .335/.446/.549 with 66 extra-base hits, 118 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases in that 1999 campaign, finishing third in the National League batting race. In 2000, Abreu became the first Phillies outfielder since Greg Luzinski in 1979-80 to produce back-to-back 20-homer seasons.
Abreu remained an impact player over the next few years as the Phillies slowly began to build a contending roster around him. He produced a 30-30 season in 2001 (31 HR/36 SB), led the National League in doubles in 2002, and would drive in over 100 runs in four of five seasons between 2001-05. He would also score 100 or more runs in all but one year between 1999-2005, crossing the plate “only” 99 times in the 2003 season.
In both 2004 and 2005, Abreu was recognized as a National League All-Star. He was awarded the NL Silver Slugger for right fielders following the 2004 season when he banged 30 home runs and 78 extra-base hits, drove in 105 runs, scored 118, and stole 40 bases. On April 12, 2004, Abreu left his mark on Phillies history when he clubbed the first-ever home run at brand new Citizens Bank Park.
At the National League All-Star Game held at Comerica Park in Detroit, Abreu was entered in the Home Run Derby, becoming just the second Phillies player ever selected to participate, following teammate Jim Thome the previous year.
Not only did Abreu participate in that 2005 Home Run Derby, he put on a legendary show, setting what were then records of 24 homers in a single round and 41 overall. Following that 2005 season, Abreu was awarded the National League Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence in right field.
Turning age 32 and with the Phillies looking to get more playing time for emerging 25-year-old outfielder Shane Victorino, Abreu was sent along with pitcher Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees for a package of four prospects at the 2006 MLB trade deadline.
Abreu get to play with the five straight National League East Division champions. And, of course, he wouldn’t be a part of the 2008 Phillies team that won the World Series. But still living in the area in Marlton, New Jersey when Brad Lidge sank to his knees and was piled upon by a number of Abreu’s former teammates on that glorious October night, he and his wife popped a bottle of champagne in celebration all the same.
I know how hard they worked,” Abreu said per Michael McGarry of the Press of Atlanta City. “I was a part of it. I have Phillies in my heart. I wasn’t there at that moment. But I was at my house celebrating.
None of the prospects received by the Phillies in that deal ever amounted to anything. Lidle would tragically die in a private plane crash just months later. But Abreu kept on hitting, driving in over 100 runs in that 2006 season, and then again for the Yankees in 2007 and 2008, receiving AL MVP votes in each of those last two seasons.
Just as he wasn’t with the ’08 Phillies champs, Abreu would not be part of the Yankees team that downed the Phillies in the 2009 World Series either. He became a free agent following the 2008 season and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. There, Abreu enjoyed one final 100 RBI season in 2009, and a final 20 homer season in 2010.
While with the Yankees and Angels, Abreu did finally got a lengthy taste of postseason play. He appeared in all eight Yankees ALDS games in both 2007-08, blasting his only-ever playoff home run against Cleveland on October 8. 2007.

Abreu enjoyed his final productive big-league seasons with the Angels from 2009-12. (Keith Allison)
With the Angels he appeared in all three of their 2009 ALDS sweep of the Boston Red Sox, rapping out three hits in the clincher. He then faced his former Yankees team in the ALCS, going just 4-25 with two RBI and falling two wins shy of meeting the Phillies in that 2009 Fall Classic. It would be Abreu’s last appearance in the postseason.
The Angels released him at age 38 in April of 2012. A week later he caught on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was a teammate of Victorino’s on a team that finished in second place in the NL West, two games shy of an NL Wildcard berth.
Abreu sat out the entire 2013 season as he contemplated retirement. But back home he participated in the Venezuelan Winter League and enjoyed success, hitting .322 with Caracas. In January 2014, Abreu signed with the Phillies and went to spring training in Clearwater with his old organization.
The Phillies reunion wouldn’t last. Abreu was released at the end of Grapefruit League play. However, just days later he caught on with the New York Mets. He would appear in just 78 games with the Mets in a final big-league season at age 40, after which Abreu finally hung up the spikes.
In a last hurrah, it would all come full circle for Abreu. His final career at-bat would come against the team that had signed him more than two decades earlier, the Houston Astros. With two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning on Sunday September 28 at Citi Field, Abreu lined a base hit to left off Nick Tropeano. He was pinch-run for by Eric Young, and road off into the baseball sunset.
Abreu becomes the 41st individual enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He joins former teammates already enshrined on the Wall in Mike Lieberthal (1998-2006), Pat Burrell (2000-06), Curt Schilling (1998-2000) and Thome (2003-05), as well as Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel, who were two of Abreu’s managers in Philadelphia.
Abreu’s career in a Phillies uniform also overlapped with a number of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies, including Jimmy Rollins (2000-06), Chase Utley (2003-06), Ryan Howard(2004-06) and Cole Hamels (2006), all of whom will one day find themselves enshrined.
There is a chance that Victorino (2005-06), Carlos Ruiz (2006), Ryan Madson (2003-06), Brett Myers (2002-06) or Randy Wolf (1999-2006), all of whom played with Abreu in Philadelphia, could also one day wind up honored on the Wall of Fame.
Bobby Abreu was a key offensive performer during the late-1990’s when the Phillies were a rebuilding National League doormat. He became an All-Star player as the club built a winning roster through the early-mid 2000’s, but was dealt away just as the club was prepared for a long run of division titles.
Abreu should be remembered as the dynamic power-speed combo player that he was in those early years with the Phillies, and for his performance during those tremendous years he is a worthy Wall of Fame enshrinee.

Could Cole Hamels pass back through Philly on his way to Cooperstown?

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Hamels built the foundation of his career over a decade with Phillies

Want the latest in a recent series of hot takes that I’ve been espousing? Here goes: former Phillies star pitcher Cole Hamels is going to one day be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He is one of 10 active players in Major League Baseball who, I believe, will be easy choices once the voting members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America get a chance to cast ballots for them.
Hitters in the group are Albert PujolsMiguel CabreraRobinson Cano, and Mike Trout. The pitchers are Justin VerlanderZack GreinkeClayton KershawC.C. SabathiaMax Scherzer, and Hamels.
Now, I’m not saying that these are the only players currently active who will one day end up enshrined at Cooperstown. These 10 will certainly be joined by a number of others. I am really close on calling guys like Joey Votto and Chris Sale no-doubt HOFers. But I’m just not quite there yet.
Hamels should have few questioning his qualifications once the time comes. That will be especially so should he post two more years after this one that are in any way comparable to his career norms. Those will be his ages 36 and 37 seasons, and there is no sign that he is slowing down.
On Tuesday at Wrigley Field, Hamels became just the 10th left-hander to reach the 2,500 career strikeout mark. Four of the other nine, Randy Johnson (4,875), Steve Carlton (4,136), Tom Glavine (2,607), and Warren Spahn (2,583) are already Hall of Famers. Hamels and Sabathia, who has now surpassed the 3,000 mark, will surely join them one day.
In his next start, Hamels will pass Christy Mathewson for 36th place on the all-time Major League Baseball strikeout list. Before the year is out, he should pass three more Hall of Famers: Tim KeefeBob Feller, and Spahn. He could also pass two fellow lefties, Glavine and Chuck Finley, by the end of this season. That would move him into the top 25 all-time.
Hamels also has a solid postseason record on his resume. Over 17 appearances, 16 of those starts, he is 7-6 with a 3.41 ERA and has allowed 83 hits over 100.1 innings with a 93/27 K:BB ratio. 11 of the 16 have been of the Quality Start variety.
Hamels is enjoying yet another outstanding season this year in his first full season with the Chicago Cubs. He has a 6-2 record with a 2.85 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, and a 91/32 K:BB ratio while allowing just 76 hits over 91.2 innings across 15 starts.
Should he remain healthy, the lefty will be passing the 3,000 career strikeouts mark sometime in the summer of 2021. He also should be approaching or passing the 200-win mark at that point.
His career highlights will only provide an exclamation point to what will be substantial statistical milestones. Hamels was the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 NLCS and World Series. He tossed a no-hitter in his final start with the Phillies in July 2015. He is almost assuredly headed towards his fifth NL All-Star appearance.
Hamels has finished among the top ten in Cy Young Award voting four times. He appears primed to finish there again this season, and actually could take a real run at finally winning the honors. Among active pitchers, he is fifth in career B-R Pitching WAR (58.6) behind only Verlander, Greinke, Kershaw, and Sabathia.
Speaking of Cy Young, Hamels is on pace to pass the legendary pitcher himself on his way into the all-time top 20 at some point in that 2021 season.
He was quoted as follows by Jordan Bastian at MLB.com after the game in which he reached that 2,500 K’s mark:
It’s a special moment…It blows me away. I’m fortunate to be in this position. I obviously want to keep continuing and doing it as long as I possibly can.
While the question of whether or not Hamels will one day be a Hall of Famer is almost certainly answered already, there is an interesting question remaining; For which team will Hamels be pitching when he reaches that 3,000 strikeout mark?
Hamels is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season. He is making $20 million in the final year of a six-year deal that included a club-option season which he signed while still a member of the Phillies back in July 2012.
When he signed that deal, he still had teammates with whom he had gone to war for years with, some of whom he had won a championship with like Jimmy RollinsChase UtleyRyan HowardCarlos RuizRoy Halladay, and Shane Victorino. The Phillies rotation still included Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
Hamels was quoted by the Associated Press at the time of the signing:
I understand that free agency is great, those opportunities of the unknowing. But this is the place that I call home and want to call home for a really long time. I grew up watching Tony Gwynn play and he made San Diego his home for his entire career. That’s ultimately what I want to make here in Philadelphia.”
But Victorino would be gone in less than a week. The careers of both Halladay and Lee would be cut short in less than two years. It would all fall apart so quickly for what had been a glorious era in Phillies baseball.
The other pieces of that 2008 World Series team were sent away or retired. Finally, Hamels himself was shipped off to the Texas Rangers on July 31, 2015 along with reliever Jake Diekman in exchange for a six-player package.
While for a couple of years it appeared that the Phillies had gotten a good haul for their former ace, time has not been kind to that package. Now it almost certainly could be said that the Phillies lost that trade.
Would Hamels make what would be hailed by fans as a triumphant return to the City of Brotherly Love next year? As a veteran left-hander who still appears to have 2-3 good seasons left him, he would appear to fit in perfectly with what will surely be a team that is looking to win immediately.
If Hamels does indeed reach free agency, there will be other serious suitors for his services. He has always been a target in the past of the New York Yankees. His hometown San Diego Padres would almost certainly be looking for a veteran to lead their young rotation, and want to win now as well after signing Manny Machado this past off-season.
The Cubs certainly like what they see, and would presumably love to keep him around. But with youngsters coming through their organization and considering his age and likely contract demands, there appear to be no talks happening regarding an extension at this point.
Whomever Hamels pitches with in the final few years of his career, that team will be getting a future Hall of Famer. And no matter which club that may be, his plaque at Cooperstown will certainly feature him wearing a Phillies cap. In addition to his enshrinement there, fans will get to fete him once again when he is installed on the Phillies Wall of Fame, something that should happen roughly a decade from now.