100 Greatest Phillies

Top 100 Greatest Phillies Roundup

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, March 27, 2009 11:50 AM Comments: 9

With the unveiling of Mike Schmidt as the Greatest Phillie of All Time, the top 100 list draws to a close.  Many thanks to Tim for compiling the list and more importantly the stories on each player – quite a collection.  For reference, the full list of the 100 Greatest Phillies is available here.

The end of the list also means that it is time to announce the winners of the Guess the Top 10 contest.  Out of 200 entries only 2 people came close. Reid from Washington, DC and Mick from Essex, CT both correctly identified the top 6 Phillies according to the list.  They will receive Phillies Nation t-shirts for their prognostications.  Thanks to everyone who participated.


100 Greatest Phillies: 1 – Mike Schmidt

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 26, 2009 08:08 PM Comments: 58

Mike Schmidt
Third Baseman

Career w/Phillies: .267 AVG / 548 HR / 1,595 RBI / 174 SB

These days, 548 home runs doesn’t seem so grand. It seems each season another hitter who dumped balls into seats during the 1990s surpasses Mike Schmidt’s now mortal total of 548. But a closer examination of Schmidt’s career shows you why those 548 mean much more. Take the nine Gold Glove awards at third base. Take the 10 winning seasons under Schmidt’s reign. Take the 18 seasons in a Phillie uniform, still a franchise record. Always a Phillie, never intimidated, and never surpassed, Mike Schmidt is the greatest third baseman in baseball history and, yes, the greatest Phillie of them all.

It’s a forgone conclusion for most. Sure, you can consider Steve Carlton or Pete Alexander or Ed Delahanty. But Schmidt is the gold standard at third base — his combination of raw power, clutch performance, baseball intelligence and defensive gracefulness remains untouched at the hot corner. Eddie Matthews had the bat; Brooks Robinson had the glove. Alex Rodriguez had the bat and some glove; Scott Rolen had the glove and some bat. But Schmidt had everything.

Scouted on a ballfield in Canton, Ohio, and drafted by the Phillies in 1970, Schmidt rapidly ascended to Philadelphia an incredibly raw player. Anthony Hewitt raw. He hit under or at .200 his first two seasons with the Phillies, striking out a ton, taking his licks. He finally jumped into the starting role for good in 1973, and very quickly assured fans he was the guy for a little while.

The power came first; the glove was right there. Now flashing a trademark mustache, Schmidt swatted 36 home runs and drove in 116 in 1974. As Schmidt progressed, so did the Phillies — pitcher Steve Carlton bolstered the staff while a growing contingency around Schmidt (Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Greg Luzinski) settled into their roles. By 1976 the Phillies were not just a playoff team, but a downright buzzsaw. Inexperience and a little lack of that extra something kept the Phils from grabbing a pennant.

As Schmidt ran through his elite prime the numbers raced up. 38 home runs in 1975. 38 more in 1976. Another 38 in 1977. He led the league in bombs from ’74-’76. His average also climbed from .249 in ’75 to a respectable .274 in ’77. Even more impressive — his on-base percentage rose toward .400, mainly because of high-walk seasons. He even stole close to 30 bases twice. And of course, the Gold Gloves started in 1976.

But as the 1970s closed, Schmidt’s game stalled. An uncharacteristically poor 1978 signaled a possible downfall. But Schmidt returned in 1979 with a 45-homer season, second in the National League. His best was yet to come.

1980 was special for Schmidt. He hit a career-high 48 homers, drove in a career-high 121 and hit a very nice .286. His game also transcended into a clutch game, as he belted the home run that won the National League East for the Phillies. Seven wins later, Schmidt was a regular-season MVP, a World Series MVP (two homers, seven RBI) and a champion.

Meanwhile his defense was becoming legendary. He tracked balls like a Hoover, glided across the Veterans Stadium turf as he made tough plays look simple, and even maxed out his body many times for the sake of making an out.

Truly, no player made baseball look so easy as Mike Schmidt.

His game took off even more in 1981, despite a strike shortening the season. He hit .316 with 31 homers and 91 RBI in just 102 games. He easily won his second MVP award as Phillie fans wondered just how good that season could’ve been. Luckily, Schmidt returned with more treats as the ’80s continued.

A 35-homer season was helped by a .280 average in 1982. He hit another 40 bombs in 1983, rattling off a slew of 30-homer seasons after that. His apex in this run would be 1986, a 37-homer, .290 average season that landed Schmidt his then-record third MVP award. In the later stages of his career Schmidt had fancied himself an average hitter, striking more than 150 hits per season consistently while striking out less than 120 times per season consistently. With age came finer play.

But in 1988, Schmidt injured his rotator cuff, shortening his season terribly. The writing was already on the wall, and in 1989 Schmidt played poorly. He was hitting .203, unquestionably having his worst season since 1973. After a game in San Diego, Schmidt decided he couldn’t do anymore.

Years of shutting himself off from the fans and even the media poured out as Schmidt said only this in a press conference:

“Some 18 years ago I left Dayton, Ohio with two very bad knees … and a dream to become a major-league baseball player. I thank God that dream came true.”

He completely broke down.

After a moment, Richie Ashburn moved to console Schmidt as he painfully cried away his career.

The legacy lives on: Thirteen 30-homer seasons. Nine 100-RBI seasons. More than 2,200 hits. More than 1,500 runs scored. Ten Gold Glove awards. Three Most Valuable Player awards. And of course, those 548 home runs.

Sure Barry Bonds and Co. have surpassed titans like Schmidt. But to this day, you can still contend that, again, no one made it look easier than Michael Jack.

Comment: There ain’t nothin’ more to say. This list is outta’ here.


100 Greatest Phillies: 2 – Steve Carlton

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, March 25, 2009 06:19 PM Comments: 53

Steve Carlton
Starting Pitcher

Career w/Phillies: 3697.1 IP / 241-161 / 3.09 ERA / 3,031 K

There are pitchers. There are Hall of Fame pitchers. And then there’s Steve Carlton.

Unquestionably one of the select few legends in pitching history, Carlton racked up awards, placed high on leaderboards and generally outclassed every hitter he faced during his career. Fifteen seasons of that career came as a Philadelphia Phillie.

How they found him is as much legend as the man himself: The Cardinals had trouble negotiating a contract for Carlton, so they angrily traded him to the Phils for their young ace, Rick Wise. While Wise would remain a solid starter for another decade, Carlton would become arguably his era’s best pitcher. Without a doubt, the Phils won a bounty.

The bounty began in Carlton’s first season, maybe … just maybe … the greatest single pitching season in baseball history. Ladies and gentlemen, the numbers:

346.1 IP, 27-10, 310 K, 87 BB, 1.97 ERA. Cy Young award. All-star berth. And of course, the distinction of having the highest percentage of his team’s wins in one season. The Phils won 59 games. In the games Carlton lost, not once could the Phils score more than four runs. It’s likely he could’ve finished the season with something like a 32-5 record. Just saying.

1972 must’ve taken a toll on Carlton because 1973 was his worst season until 1986. That year he went just 13-20 with a 3.90 ERA. Not terrible at all, but by Carlton’s standards, not good. From there he rattled off a slew of solid campaigns: 16-13, 3.22 in 1974; 15-14, 3.56 in 1975; 20-7, 3.13 in 1976. That year, the first Phillies playoff appearance since 1950, was the first indicator of Carlton’s burgeoning Hall of Fame rally. By this point he had captured the attention of Pirates all-world slugger Willie Stargell, who famously said “Hitting him is like trying to drink coffee with a fork.”

That’s because of Carlton’s specialty pitch: the slider. By 1976 it had become weapon No. 1 in Lefty’s arsenal. He threw it up, it turned down. It looked like a fastball, it was nothing of the sort. Hitters hated it. Fans loved it. Carlton honed his craft so well that by the late 1970s, he simply dominated on the mound. There was no setback.

In 1977 Carlton rolled off his second Cy Young campaign, finishing 23-10 with a 2.64 ERA. The 1978 and ’79 seasons seemed like off years, yet he still combined for a 34-24 record with an ERA hovering in the 3.20 range.

Then Lefty punched right back in 1980. As he entered the 35th year of his life, Carlton became a master pitcher, fooling hitters while coldly sizing them down. He finished the season 24-9 with a 2.34 ERA, earning his third Cy Young award. He then went 3-0 in the postseason, helping to lead the Phillies to their first world championship.

The swagger continued in 1981, as Carlton finished the strike-shortened season with a 13-4 record. He wouldn’t have the same postseason success against the Montreal Expos in the division series, losing both games he started. But 1982 was a fine season, as Carlton went 23-11 with a 3.10 ERA, earning his fourth Cy Young. Then a record, Carlton would be passed by Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens in that statistic.

From there Carlton’s career would slowly skid to a halt. He went 15-16 for a pennant-winning 1983 team, then 13-7 for a poor 1984 team. A horrendous offense made him 1-8 in an injury-shortened 1985, and the arm completely fell off in ’86, as Carlton started the season with a 6.18 ERA for the Phillies. Reluctantly, the Phils released Lefty, who thought he could still hang on. He signed with the Giants, then retired. Then he came back with the White Sox to finish 1986. He came back in ’87 with the Indians, then was released, before signing with the Twins, who left him off their postseason roster. He remained with the Twins in ’88 and tried to come back for ’89, but nobody would take him.

Most try to erase the final seasons of Carlton’s career, but whatever the case, his legacy is firm. He finished with 4,136 strikeouts, fourth all time. He also recorded 329 wins, 11th all time. He’s the franchise leader in almost every pitching category. Among lefties, he’s usually mentioned in the first breath. With the nickname Lefty, how could he not? He became a Hall of Famer in 1994, earning one of the highest election votes ever. Very guarded, very quiet, very focused, Steve Carlton – more than anything – was just plain legendary.

Comment: What else can be said about Lefty? Could be one of the five greatest pitchers in baseball history. Dominant for more than a full decade. Record-breaking. Well deserved of the honor of second-greatest Phillie of all time.

And you all know No. 1.


100 Greatest Phillies: 3 – Robin Roberts

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 24, 2009 06:03 PM Comments: 46

Robin Roberts
Starting Pitcher

Career w/Phillies: 3739.1 IP / 234-199 / 3.46 ERA / 1871 K

For Robin Roberts, pitching was a piece of cake.

“Too many people try to make it more complicated than it really is,” he said once. If the thousands of other men who toed the rubber felt the same way, then Roberts wouldn’t be that special. Instead, No. 36 is a Hall of Famer, a living legend and practically … almost … the greatest pitcher in Phillies history. The man who made it look so easy is truly a Phillie legend.

Making his Phillie debut at age 21 in 1948, Roberts gave up just 52 earned runs in 20 starts that first season. Immediately touted as a upcoming star, Roberts didn’t disappoint, going 15-15 with a 3.69 ERA in his second season. Better things was surely ahead for the right-hander.

Roberts handled a quick, moving fastball that breezed by hitters’ bats too often. But he also threw that baby across the plate – his career high for walks in a season is an incredibly low 77, which he recorded in just his third season, 1950.

That 1950 season was Roberts’ breakthrough, despite the high walk total. It was his first 20-win season, going 20-11 with a 3.02 ERA and 146 strikeouts. He was awarded his first all-star berth, as well. The season would set a benchmark for Roberts that he would outdo almost every subsequent season. For the next five seasons he won at least 21 games (leading the National League in wins four-consecutive seasons). His ERA, for a while, would continuously decrease. His strikeout totals would increase. He’d lead the league five-consecutive seasons in complete games.

The apex of Roberts’ career came in 1952. That season he won 28 games, recording a 2.59 ERA while walking just 45 hitters. As he started 39 games (and finished 30), that’s very close to one walk per nine innings. Pretty good stuff. Of course, he’d continue his dominance in 1953 with a 23-16, 2.75 ERA season. By this point he was starting close to 45 games per season.

But that workhorse mentality got the best of him, as Roberts’ shoulder began to feel the pains of labor. The velocity of his fastball died a bit, allowing hitters to catch up and bash him enough. As a result he suffered a bit more between 1956 and 1960, though he still won his share of games (73 in that five-year span). Still, Roberts got around a good lot, something he never enjoyed.

“I never slept when I lost. I’d see the sun come up without ever having closed my eyes. I’d see those base hits over and over and it would drive me crazy.”

Luckily not too crazy, but it could’ve been easy: The 505 homers Roberts turned to watch remain the most surrendered by a pitcher in baseball history.

After a 1-10 shellacking in 1961, the Phillies released Roberts. He could’ve toiled for a few more seasons; instead, he improved himself as a finesse pitcher, racking up a few solid seasons and likely securing his Hall of Fame election. He hung up the cleats in 1966 and was already a Phillies retired number. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Piece of cake, huh?

Comment: For six seasons, Roberts was damn near untouchable; he was clearly the best pitcher in baseball during that span. Otherwise, he had a few more solid seasons, earning himself easy top 10 placement and more. For his dominance, his loyalty, his hand in a pennant – all of that, he’s clearly in the Phillies Mount Rushmore. But he comes in at No. 3. You know who remains.


100 Greatest Phillies: 4 – Ed Delahanty

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, March 23, 2009 05:34 PM Comments: 12

Ed Delahanty
1888-1889, 1891-1901

Career w/Phillies: .348 AVG / 87 HR / 1286 RBI / 411 SB

Hits: Third all time.
Batting average, runs scored, Runs batted in, total bases, stolen bases: Second all time.
Doubles, triples: First all time.

These are the statistics that define the Phillies career of Ed Delahanty, the imposing outfielder who was likely the greatest hitter in baseball history until Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth came along.

Delahanty was signed by the Phils after the team lost second baseman Charlie Ferguson, who died from typhoid fever in 1888. It took Delahanty a few years to get his offense going, and though he moved to the Player’s League in 1890, he returned to the Phils for the 1891 season when the Player’s folded. Very soon his career really took off.

In 1892 Delahanty hit .306. In 1892 the average lifted to .368, setting off a decade of dominance in the National League. He hit over .400 three times, including a league-leading .410 in 1899. That season may be his finest – he recorded a league-high 238 hits, accumulating 338 total bases. He also attained an unthinkable .500 on-base percentage in 1895.

Delahanty was also a revered power hitter, slamming 19 in 1893 and 13 in 1896, both league-best totals. He regularly drove in more than 100 runs per season, regularly scored more than 100 runs per season and had 10-consecutive 20-steal seasons. He even stole 58 bases in 1898. He could do it all.

After hitting .354 in 1901, Delahanty moved to the Washington Senators, but his career and life were cut tragically short. On July 3, 1903, Delahanty was traveling to New York from Detroit (supposedly deciding to jump from the Senators to the Giants), and was acting belligerently before being kicked off the train. He reportedly was crossing the International Bridge in Buffalo when he jumped over and into the water below, dying of drowning.

But reports conflict, and the mystery remains whether Delahanty jumped over, or was pushed, or was accosted – maybe by a robber. It’s a sad mark on what was an unbelievable baseball career.

Comment: “Big Ed” is one of the greats. Yes, now we’re in bona-fide epic territory here. Delahanty had a decade of pure superb play as a Phillie. His numbers are a big bloated for their time, but he remains one of – if not the best player of his era.


100 Greatest Phillies: 5 – Grover Cleveland Alexander

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, March 22, 2009 04:00 PM Comments: 30

Grover Cleveland Alexander
Starting Pitcher
1911-1917, 1930

Career w/Phillies: 2,492 IP / 190-88 / 2.12 ERA / 1,403 K

Born during the first term of the Grover Cleveland presidency, he was actually named Grover Cleveland. Pete was a nickname. Let’s get that out of the way.

Now then: Grover Cleveland Alexander is unquestionably one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. And the Phillies were lucky enough to call him theirs during his best years.

He was signed in 1907 ($50 per month) but was beamed, setting his career back a few years. Finally making his major league debut in 1911, Alexander quickly established himself as a premiere pitcher. His rookie season doesn’t even have to be explained: 367 innings, 28-13, 2.57 ERA, 227 strikeouts, seven shutouts, 31 complete games. He’d only improve.

He won 19 games in 1912, 22 games in 1913 and 27 games in 1914. His ERA hit a career-low 2.38; all this was setting him up for a season for the ages.

The 1915 season was the first great season in Phillies history, as they won their first National League pennant behind Alexander’s golden arm. His statistics are otherworldly: 376.1 innings, 31-10, 51 earned runs in 49 games. Seriously. His ERA: 1.22. 241 strikeouts, 64 walks. He won the pitching Triple Crown, the first of his three (two with the Phillies). All this, and he only went 1-1 in the 1915 World Series against the Red Sox.

The 1916 season was almost as good. Pitching a career high 389 innings, Alexander went 33-12 with a 1.55 ERA and a career-high 16 shutouts. He also walked just 50 batters. His 1917 was also pretty incredible: 30-13 with a 1.83 ERA. But Alexander was feared to be drafted into World War I, and Phillies owner William Baker needed money, so the Phils traded Alexander to the Cubs for a few players, including the great Pickles Dillhoefer. Alexander was drafted into the war, reducing his 1918 season to three games (all complete games), but returned in 1919 and supplied Chicago with another seven fine seasons.

Alexander had a stint with the Cardinals, which included a 21-10, 2.52 ERA performance at age 40 and possibly his greatest moment: closing out the 1926 World Series for the Cards over those Yankees. In 1930 Alexander was traded back to the Phillies to finish his career. At age 43 he went 0-3 with a 9.14 ERA. The flame had died.

Amazingly, Alexander was a notorious drunkard who also suffered from epilepsy. He was soft spoken and introverted. And yet when he took that mound, he dominated. Flat-out dominated. He died in 1950 at age 63, but remains the National League’s second-winningest pitcher. He also holds the NL record for most shutouts, and the baseball record for most shutouts in a season. He recorded one-third of the Phillies wins during his tenure in Philadelphia.

Comment: Grover Cleveland Alexander was incredible. Simply incredible. It’s certainly debatable whether he’s the greatest Phillie, but a few more years in Philly would’ve helped his case. As it stands, his eight seasons in Philadelphia (really the first seven) remain seven of the greatest pitching seasons ever recorded.


100 Greatest Phillies: 6 – Richie Ashburn

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 21, 2009 04:15 PM Comments: 27

Richie Ashburn

Career w/Phillies: .311 AVG / 22 HR / 499 RBI / 199 SB


Richie Ashburn typified Philadelphia — a somewhat awkward slice of information considering Ashburn was a Nebraskan-born farm boy. But his brand of humility, wit, character and hustle made him a Philadelphian through and through. The mark he made on Philadelphia baseball isn’t measured easily, but it permeates even today.

The Phillies signed Ashburn as an amateur free agent in early 1945. He made it to Philadelphia in 1948, hitting .333 as a cagey 21-year-old. He also stole a career-high 32 bases and recorded a splendid .410 on-base percentage in 117 games. Already Ashburn’s career was off to a fast start.

Now, Ashburn was not a home run hitter. He was not a run producer. He really wasn’t big on extra-base hits (though he was a regular league leader in triples). But he got on base, he ran, he scored. His 1114 runs scored are good for third in franchise history; his .390 OBP is sixth in club history. Moreover, he patrolled center field like no other, using his speed and expert eye to track down anything that came into his field of vision. Bill James’ range factor statistic measures the ability of a player to participate in outs; Ashburn has three of the top 10 range factor seasons ever in center field and may very well be the most prolific defensive center fielder of all time.

His best season may have been 1951, when Whitey hit an outstanding .344 (221 hits) while driving in a career-high 63. He’d eclipse the 200-hit mark twice more as a Phillie, but consistently stay above 170 hits per season. He’s the 1950s hit leader with 1,875.

Ashburn had another amazing season in 1958, hitting .350 with 13 triples. Sadly, that would be the last outstanding year for Ashburn as a Phillie. After a mediocre 1959 season, Whitey would be traded to the Cubs for John Buzhardt, Alvin Dark and Jim Woods. He’d have two OK seasons in Chicago before signing with the Mets for the 1962 season. That worst team ever (40-120) was his final team.

Of course, Ashburn’s true character had yet to blossom. Whitey started a gig as a broadcaster, and the Phillies brought him back to the city to be Byrum Saam’s partner for Phillies games during the 1960s. Quickly, Ashburn asserted himself as a knowledgeable student of the game, but moreover, a caring man of the people. Soon the Phils brought in a young Harry Kalas to be his partner, and the combination was like peanut butter and jelly. Kalas’ gravelly drawl depicted the scene while Ashburn’s quips and cuff reactions flavored the moment. Through it all was laughter, stories, a love of free food and “Birthday wishes to Ethel Gorman of Norristown. Eighty-two years young today.” Richie Ashburn was our uncle every summer day and night.

In 1995 Ashburn was elected to the Hall of Fame, joining the Hall with Phillie legend Mike Schmidt. A sea of red greeted the two in Cooperstown — 25,000 people (at the time the largest assembling in Cooperstown history); probably, all of those 25,000 were there for Whitey.

On September 9, 1997, Ashburn and Kalas called a Phillies-Mets game at Shea Stadium. Like usual, the two signed off by telling fans to join them the next night for another Phils game. Ashburn never made it, dying from a heart attack after the broadcast. His death set off a wave of mourning throughout the Philadelphia era; truly, nobody was loved quite like Whitey. And he really did typify Philadelphia.

Comment: Even if Ashburn wasn’t a beloved man, his numbers spoke for themselves. He was a pure hitter with blinding speed and terrific defense. A true baseball legend. And a great man.


100 Greatest Phillies: 7 – Dick Allen

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, March 21, 2009 09:21 AM Comments: 36

Dick Allen
Third Baseman
1963-1969, 1975-1976

Career w/Phillies: .290 AVG / 204 HR / 655 RBI / 86 SB

Despite the controversy, and despite the casualties, Dick Allen was indisputably one of the best athletes to have ever competed in the sport.

The Phillies signed Allen as an amateur free agent in 1960, and he went through the minors, but with some bumps. In Little Rock, parades were held in protest of Allen playing there. He still dominated. In 1963 he had a cup of coffee with the Phillies, and while fans knew Allen could hit, nobody was prepared for his rookie 1964.

That 1964 season was special for multiple reasons, but Allen might have been the greatest saving grace. Check out these numbers: .318 AVG / 38 2B / 13 3B / 29 HR / 91 RBI / 125 R. Allen paced the ’64 Phils to that second-place finish, and set himself up for a great long career in Phlly.

But it wouldn’t be that long. Sadly, a fight with Frank Thomas in 1965 turned in Allen’s face despite allegations that he wasn’t the initiator. Meanwhile, fans threw garbage onto the field and yelled racial epithets at him. He didn’t make things any easier, being a somewhat guarded and misunderstood individual. The recipe for disaster was set pretty early.

Still, Allen could hit. His swing was massive and yielded some of the longest home runs ever seen in baseball. He hit 20 homers in 1965, then a career-high 40 in 1966. That season he also drove in 110 while hitting .317. He then hit 23, 33 and 32 homers, respectively, between 1967 and ’69. He stole a career-high 20 bases in ’67, too. He was regularly among league leaders in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored.

Allen finally demanded to be traded from Philadelphia, and in 1970 the Phils sent him to Saint Louis for Curt Flood. But Flood — a black player with much the same reservations as Allen — didn’t want to come to Philly. Of course, that set free agency into motion.

After some solid years in Saint Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago (winning an MVP for the White Sox in 1972), Allen returned to the Phillies in 1975 and ’76, hitting another 27 home runs while contributing to a division-winning team. He retired in 1977; since retiring, his teammates and coaches have revealed that Allen was in no way the negative player many considered him to be. On the contrary: Most players looked at Allen as a leader and mentor.

Allen is a borderline Hall of Famer who hasn’t found enshrinement. The debate rages today.

Comment: Whether Allen is a Hall of Famer makes no difference; as a Phillie, Allen was fantastic. He was an incredible hitter with outrageous power and athleticism. His rookie season alone could put him on this list. And seeing as Allen hit during the pitchers’ era, there’s no doubt he was an all-time great. A top 10 player for sure.


100 Greatest Phillies: 8 – Chuck Klein

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 19, 2009 02:00 PM Comments: 68


Chuck Klein
1928-1933, 1936-1939, 1940-1944

Career w/Phillies: .326 AVG / 243 HR / 983 RBI / 71 SB

Born in Indianapolis in 1904, Chuck Klein earned the nickname “The Hoosier Hammer.” And boy, was he a ballplayer.

The Phillies luckily received Klein. Bashing the ball in 1928 for the Cardinals’ Fort Wayne, Ind., farm team, Klein was about to reach Saint Louis. But Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered the Cards to relinquish the Fort Wayne team because they had two teams in the same minor league; Klein was out for bidding. Somehow, someway, the Phillies actually outbid the Yankees for Klein; instead of joining Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the Bronx, Klein would become a Phillie legend.

Klein finished 1928 by hitting 11 home runs for the Phillies, and in 1929 he broke out. He slammed 43 homers, drove in 145 and hit .356. In 1930 he hit .386 with 40 bombs and 170 RBI. Consistently among top performers hitting the ball, Klein came down to Earth a little in 1931, merely hitting 31 homers and driving in 121, but both totals led the National League. His .337 average wasn’t good enough to win a Triple Crown. He came close again in a spectacular 1932 season, hitting .348 (3rd), homering 38 times (1st) and driving in 137 runs (2nd), but it would all come together in 1933. (Still, he led the league in steals that year with 20, earning himself a NL MVP award).

In 1933 Klein hit .368 with 28 home runs and 120 runs batted in, all leading the league and earning himself a Triple Crown (but not the MVP award). It would show that Klein benefited greatly from the Baker Bowl’s short right field, as Klein’s numbers decreased considerably upon arrival in Chicago in 1934.

Klein would return to the Phils twice. Between 1936 and ’39 he had a few nice seasons (104 RBI in ’36, .325 in ’37) but nothing near his totals of his glory years. The Phils would release Klein in ’39, but he’d return again in 1940 as a sporadic pinch hitter and platoon player. After a seven-home run campaign in ’40, Klein dwindled to a shell of his former self. He remained in Philadelphia after retiring, running a bar but drinking heavily. He died in 1958 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

And for all the offense Klein exhibited, he was also a strong defensive player, regularly achieving more than 20 assists per season in left field. As far as all-around ballplayers are concerned, Klein was one of the best early ones.

Comment: I wrestled with the ordering of Klein and No. 7 on the list, so they could go either way. I took points off Klein for evaporating so quickly upon his first return to Philadelphia; he truly got help from his ballpark. Still, he was a prodigious player and deserves a top 10 ranking.


100 Greatest Phillies: 9 – Sam Thompson

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, March 18, 2009 02:30 PM Comments: 15

Sam Thompson

Career w/Phillies: .333 AVG / 95 HR / 957 RBI / 189 SB

Fifth in franchise runs batted in and fourth in franchise batting, Sam Thompson was the first great Phillies hitter. Purchased by the then-Quakers for $5,000 (from the Detroit Wolverines), Thompson wasted no time. He drilled a career-high 20 home runs and drove in 111 in 1889. The next year Thompson hit .313, and in subsequent years his average would increase greatly. By 1893 Thompson was hitting .370, and in 1894 he had his best season yet, hitting .407 with 13 HR and 141 RBI. In 99 games.

Yes, 99 games.

That was also the season all four Phillies outfielders (Thompson, Billy Hamilton, Ed Delahanty and Tuck Turner) hit over .400, maybe comprising the greatest outfield in baseball history.

1895 proved to be the fruition of Thompson’s offensive skills. He hit an impressive .392, smashing 18 and driving in a franchise record 165. (That was in 119 games.) That record held up almost 40 years until Chuck Klein topped it in 1930. Interestingly, his career high was 166, which he had in 1887 for Detroit. That stood as a baseball record until Babe Ruth broke it in 1921. Thompson also hit for the cycle that season against Louisville, one of seven Phillies to ever achieve that feat.

Back problems forced retirement’s hand, and Thompson went back to Detroit to finish his career with the proper Motor City team, the Tigers.

Comment: We can’t argue this, can we? Thompson was an incredible hitter who kept a high batting average, displayed enormous power for his time and could even run a bit. And he was part of that legendary outfield (yes, there is one to go on that list). Heck, Thompson may have been a great leader, too. But we do know Thompson is a legend, a Hall of Famer, and a great, great Phillie. This is your No. 9.

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