Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Forty Greatest Philadelphia Phillies of All Time, Part 2: ##31-40

The 1915 National League Champion Phillies

Before beginning my countdown, there is one player whom I inexplicably left off my list of players who either played too few years in Philly or whose best years occurred elsewhere. I am speaking of Francis Joseph "Lefty" O' Doul, who left an indelible mark despite being a denizen of North Broad Street's Baker Bowl for only two years. O'Doul, a native of San Francisco, began his Major League career as a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees (1919-20, 1922) and Boston Red Sox (1923), with little success, compiling a cumulative 4.83 ERA. After hurting his arm, the New York Giants sent O'Doul back to San Francisco to turn him into a power-hitting outfielder for their Seals affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. He finally made his way back to the Major Leagues at the age of 31 in 1928, when he hit 8 homers and batted a respectable .319 for the Giants. After the season he was dealt to the lowly Phillies where he teamed with Chuck Klein and Don Hurst and terrorized NL pitching for two bizarre seasons. O'Doul had his two greatest seasons in Philly, but with little team success. He and Klein, in particular, were the primary reasons why the team batted more than .300 in both 1929 and 1930. Nevertheless, the team finished in 5th place in '29 with a 71-82 record, and dead last in '30 with an abysmal 52-102 record. But O'Doul was remarkable those two seasons. In '29 he led the NL with 254 hits, a .398 batting average, and .465 (!) OBP, smashing 32 homers, slugging .622, and driving in 122 runs. For his efforts he finished second to the immortal Rogers Hornsby in the league's MVP voting. In 1930 he was nearly as good: 202 hits, 22 home runs, 97 RBI, .383 BA, 453 OBP, and .604 slugging pct. The Phillies showed their appreciation by unceremoniously shipping him after the season to the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers), where he continued to terrorize the NL's overmatched hurlers, winning the batting title again in 1932 (.368) en route to a .349 career average.

Now, here are numbers 31-40 in my list of the greatest players who ever played for the Philadelphia Phillies.

40. Curt Simmons (SP, 1947-60)

Simmons in 1949
Curt Simmons, hailing from Egypt, PA (near Allentown) was a 3-time All Star and Robin Roberts's southpaw counterpart on the famous 1950 "Whiz Kids" Phillies team that won only the team's second National League pennant. That year, despite National Guard call-uos in July and September (the latter finishing his season in the midst of a pennant race) he compiled a 17-8 record with 11 complete games in 27 starts, with a 3.40 ERA. Military service cost him the 1951 season, but he picked up in 1952 just where he had left off, compiling a 14-8 record with a 2.82 ERA (130 ERA+) and tying for the league lead with 6 shutouts. Over the following two years Simmons won 30 games for the declining Phils, in 1954 pitching 253 innings with 21 complete games and 3 shutouts. His 14-15 record belied his effectiveness, as witnessed by his splendid 2.81 ERA (144 ERA+). Declining effectiveness in the late '50s led to his departure to St. Louis, where he enjoyed a few more productive years before calling it quits after the 1967 season. In his career he compiled a 193-183 record with a 3.54 ERA. He won 115 of those games for the Phils.

39. Shane Victorino (CF, 2005-12)

The "Flyin' Hawaiian" was one of most electrifying players to play for the Phillies in their second "glory period" between 2007-11. He was also one of the most frustrating, never living up to the potential I, at least, believed he had. He was a superb defensive outfielder (though not, as disgraced former Daily News columnist Bill Conlin once claimed, the best defensive centerfielder in team history), winning three gold gloves patrolling the Bank's shallow confines. He also led the league in triples twice and stole more than 30 bases 4 times. He could also flash some power, especially in clutch situations (who can forget his grand slam off C. C. Sabathia in game two of the NLDS in 2008 or his 2 homers against the Dodgers in the 2009 NLCS?). In his finest season, 2011, he hit 27 doubles, 16 triples, and 17 home runs in only 132 games. Yet, for all his speed and ability, he never hit .300. For his Phillies career, he hit .279 in 987 games, scored 582 runs, hit 88 homers, and stole 179 bases.

38. Bob Boone (C, 1972-81)

Both glory periods of Phillies history (1976-83, 2007-11) were powered by home-grown talent (does current GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. appreciate this fact?). So it was with Bob Boone, the sturdy and steady, if unspectacular, backstop of the 1970s Phils. Boone never hit more than 12 homers (1978), drove in more than 66 runs (1977), or hit higher than .286 (1979), but he made three NL all star teams in his decade in South Philly. The reason? His defense. A master handler of pitchers, Boone won two gold gloves with the Phillies (1978-79), being blocked by the immortal Johnny Bench from winning any others (he would go on to win 5 more in the AL after moving to California in 1982). And he had a knack for the big hit. In the 1980 World Series, he hit .412 and drove in 4 runs against the Kansas City Royals.

37. Pat Burrell (LF, 2000-2008)

What might have been ... Pat Burrell was a strapping, 6'4'', 235 lb. leftfielder from the San Francisco Bay area and the University of Miami, who was taken by the Phillies as the first overall pick of the 1998 draft (and hence forever will be the anti-J. D. Drew for Phillies fans). In his debut in 2000, he hit a towering 435 foot triple to the mound in deepest centerfield at Houston's Enron Field. After his third and greatest season, 2002, in which he hit 37 homers, drove in 116 runs, and batted .282, he signed a six-year contract with the Phils, and promptly had his worst season for the team, with 21 homers and a paltry .209 average. In 2004, however, he made something of a comeback, hitting 24 homers in 448 at bats and batting a more respectable (and, as it would turn out, a very Burrell-like) .257. But that year was marred by a bad wrist injury from which he never fully recovered. Nevertheless, he came back with a bang in 2005, hitting 32 homers, driving in a career-high 117 runs, batting .281, and finishing 7th in the NL MVP voting. The following three seasons were extraordinarily consistent in their outcomes: between 29-33 homers,.250-.258 in batting, and .502-.507 in slugging. And he had a great eye, twice walking more than 100 times and even achieving a .400 OBP in 2007. Despite his lumbering gait in leftfield (something of a tradition in Philadelphia), he had a rifle throwing arm, gunning down 18 runners in 2001, after which teams learned their lesson and rarely challenged him. But his maddening inconsistency and developing foot problems marred these final seasons with the team. For example, his splits in 2007 were as follows: 1st half—11 HR, 30 RBI, .215; 2nd half—19 HR, 60 RBI, .295. 2008 was the mirror image: 1st half—23 HR, 57 RBI, .275; 2nd half—10 HR, 29 RBI, .215. In the 2008 World Series, he hit an abysmal .073. But his one hit was a very big one. In what proved to be the final at bat of his Phillies career, he hit a double off the centerfield fence in the driving rain off J. P. Howell. Eric Bruntlett, who pinch ran for Burrell, ended up scoring on an infield hit by Carlos Ruiz to provide the deciding run in the World Series clinching victory. For the 1306 games of his Phillies career, Burrell hit 251 home runs, drove in 827 runs, batted .257, and slugged .485. What might he have done were it not for those wrist and foot injuries?

36. Tug McGraw (RP, 1975-84)

The picture says it all. That is Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw, father of Tim, rejoicing after striking out Willie Wilson at Veterans Stadium for the final out of the 1980 World Series on 21 October 1980. When acquired by the Phillies in 1975, McGraw was already a household name, starring in the bullpen for the Mets on the World Series champion team of 1969 and their pennant winning club of 1973. But as great as his 1969-72 seasons were, nothing would compare to 1980, when he arguably proved as important to the surging team's divisional crown (they were in 3rd place as late as August 30 and in 2nd as late as October 1) as the transcendent MVP Mike Schmidt and Cy Young winner Steve Carlton. After September 2, when he allowed a run against the Giants, McGraw pitched in 15 of the team's last 32 games, a stretch spanning 26 innings. And he allowed a grand total of 0 runs, striking out 22 and walking only 2 (both in an 8 September game against Pittsburgh). For the season he had a 5-4 record and a minuscule 1.47 ERA. He slipped somewhat in the playoffs (I once heard him claim he was running on fumes by that time), allowing 4 runs in 8 innings and losing a game against Houston in the NLDS, but rebounded in the World Series, posting a 1-1 record and 1.17 ERA in 7.2 innings over 4 games, striking out 10. For his Phillies career, the Tugger posted a 49-37 record with a 3.10 ERA (120 ERA+) and 94 saves. But I will never forget that magical night in South Philly with cops on horseback ringing the outfield warning track. It was the best night of my sports life, and the Tugger played the leading role.

35. Tony Gonzalez (OF, 1960-68)


The diminutive Cuban (5'9", 170 lbs.) is rarely remembered these days, but he was a formidable line drive hitter with occasional power and a fine defensive outfielder who twice led the NL in fielding percentage, going the entire 1962 season without making an error. Gonzalez batted over .300 three times for the Phils (1962, 1963, and 1967, when his .339 average placed second behind Roberto Clemente's .357) and hit 20 homers in 1962. In his 9 years in North Philly, Gonzalez batted .295 despite playing in a pitcher-friendly era. His OPS+ of 123 and WAR of 24.4 during those seasons (the latter more than Ryan Howard) put his numbers in perspective when compared with those compiled in the last two, pitcher-unfriendly, decades.

34. John Kruk (1B, 1989-94)

The "Krukker," as the late, lamented Harry Kalas dubbed him, is perhaps the most fondly remembered of the "Macho Row" who propelled the Phillies to the 1993 NL pennant.  A formidable line drive hitter with a keen eye (he walked 203 times, with OBPs of .423 and .430 in 1992-93), Kruk never batted less than .291 for the Phils, hitting over .300 four times in his six years with the team, including a .316 mark in the pennant-winning '93. All told, the .300 career hitter batted .309 for the Phillies with an OPS+ of 138. He may not have been an athlete, as he famously stated when confronted about his portly stature and unhealthy habits, but he sure was a great ballplayer.

33. Larry Bowa (SS, 1970-81)

Larry Bowa, with all due apologies to Jimmy Rollins, is the greatest defensive shortstop I ever saw play for the Phillies. He was a 2-time Gold Glover and 5-time All Star who made up for his diminutive stature (5'10", 155 lbs.) with a fiery disposition, fierce competitiveness, and steady reliability that more than made up for lack of flash. Never a great hitter—indeed, in his first four seasons he hit a total of 1 home run, never hit as many as 20 doubles in a season, and never hit higher than .250, bottoming out at .211 in 1973—he nonetheless worked to the point where he became a serviceable, and at times valuable, player at the plate and on the bases. In 1974, his first All Star season, Bowa scored 97 runs, stole 39 bases, and raised his average to .275. The following season he chalked up his one and only .300 season, batting .305 for the rapidly improving team and finishing 22nd in the MVP voting. Perhaps his finest season came in 1978, when he won his second Gold Glove, hit .294, stole 27 bases and finished 3rd in the MVP voting. In 1980, his age (34) was starting to show, as he hit only .267 and scored 57 runs. Not surprisingly, however, he rose to the occasion in the postseason, hitting .316 in the NLCS against Houston and .375 in the World Series against Kansas City. More importantly, he played a major role in the Phils' victory in Game 1 when, trailing 4-0 in the 3rd inning, he singled and, going against conventional wisdom, stole second base, igniting a 5-run rally that propelled the team to a 7-6 victory and the franchise's first World Series championship. For his career in Philly, the fiery Bowa amassed 1798 hits, scored 816 runs, stole 288 bases, and batted a respectable .264. Not bad for a guy many deemed too small and slight to make it in the Major Leagues.

32. Spud Davis (C, 1928-33, 38-39)


Spud Davis is one of the great forgotten Phillies. In his 8 years for the team, he batted over .300 six times, topping out at .349 in 1933, after which, in grand Philadelphia tradition, he was swapped to St. Louis for fellow catcher Jimmie Wilson, who had hit just .248 and .255 his previous two seasons. In his 8 years in Philadelphia, Davis hit .321. For his 16-year career, Davis batted .308, behind only Joe Mauer (.329), Mickey Cochrane (.320), Bill Dickey (.313), and Mike Piazza (.313) among all-time catchers.

31. Greg Luzinski (LF, 1970-1980)

Greg "The Bull" Luzinski had, with the possible exception of Richie Allen and Ryan Howard, the most pure power of anyone ever to play for the Phillies. He showed glimpses of his potential with the abysmal, 59-win 1972 team, when, at the age of 21, he hit .281 with 18 home runs and 33 doubles. The following year he improved with 29 homers, 97 RBI, and a .285 average. But it was the four year stretch between 1975-78, during which the Phils twice won 101 games and captured three consecutive divisional crowns, that he reached his peak. In those four seasons, he hit 129 home runs, drove in 446 runs (leading the NL with 120 in '75), and batted .299 (topping out at .309 in '77). In each of these seasons, despite his lumbering defensive deficiencies, he made the All Star team and finished no lower than 8th in league MVP voting, finishing second in both '75 and 77. But, as is all too common with players of his bulk, decline set in early. By 1980, at the age of only 29, he had slumped to 19 homers and a .228 average, prompting a trade to the White Sox, for whom he put in three more serviceable seasons before a 13 homer, .238 season in 1983 led to his retirement at the age of 33. For his Phillies career, Luzinski 223 homers (out of the 307 he hit total), drove in 811 runs, batted a respectable .281, and slugged .489. He compiled an oWAR of 28.2 and an OPS+ of 133. 

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