25 Unheralded Stars from the 'Dark Days' of Philadelphia Phillies Baseball
Life has been sweet for fans of the Philadelphia Phillies gifted with short-term memory. The club has reeled off five straight division titles, won a World Series and has grown to become one of the most dominant forces in the sport of baseball.
It hasn't always been that way. Not even close.
Fans with a long-term memory will recall that the Phillies were, once upon a time and several times over, one of the worst teams in baseball. They struggled with a number of issues, including terrible ownership, almost no source of revenue, a downtrodden ballpark and a payroll that would make today's Tampa Bay Rays seem like high-rollers.
The result of that off-the-field struggle was an obvious on-the-field catastrophe. The Phillies failed to field teams capable of winning anything, let alone a title, and played several periods of baseball that were hard to watch. The Phillies have had their share of dark days indeed.
However, though they, as a whole, were comparable to the Bad News Bears at times, the Phillies still managed to find their diamonds in the rough. In their dark days, the Phillies found a number of very good players, players who often fail to receive the recognition they deserve because of the time period they played in.
May they be unheralded no longer.
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Parameters for Inclusion
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While composing this slide show, I struggled a bit with just who should be included for this list. Before we kick off the rankings, it is important to set up a couple of parameters. Defining just what constitutes as the "dark days" of Phillies' history and what constitutes an "unheralded" players should help us along.
Dark Days: For the sake of this list, I am considering any stretch of time in which the Phillies posted five or more consecutive seasons of .500 baseball or below. Different people will consider "dark days" differently, so for argument's sake, those are the parameters of this list.
In order for a player to be eligible for this list, he had to play the bulk of his career in the "dark days," which I have defined as:
However, a player must also have been...
Unheralded: Remember, not just anyone was eligible for this list. These players must have been "unheralded" as well, meaning that they played without a general amount of fanfare. I did make a few exceptions on this list for players I considered to be underrated or unappreciated for their contributions, but this is also the reason you won't see some familiar names.
For example, Darren Daulton played in some "dark days." However, calling him "unheralded" would be inaccurate. The same concept applies for players like Chuck Klein, Robin Roberts, Curt Schilling and so on and so forth.
So with those parameters established, let's get to some honorable mentions.
So with those parameters in mind, I came up with a long list of players, but only had room for 25 guys. The following list of players are guys that fit the parameters, but didn't quite make the list.
- Pinky Whitney (1928-33; 1936-39)
- Ron Northey (1942-47; 1957)
- Turk Farrell (1956-61; 1967-69)
- Ricky Bottalico (1994-98; 2001-02)
- Willie Montanez (1970-75; 1982)
25. Mike Lieberthal (1994-2006)
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The Line: .275 / .338 / .450, 150 HR
A former first-round draft pick, Mike Lieberthal was one of the best Phillies to play during the 1990s and into the 2000s, and one of the few unfortunate men on this list to have played between years where the Phillies appeared in the World Series (1993 and 2008) without having appeared in a postseason game himself.
One of the best offensive catchers of his day, and arguably the best offensive catcher in the history of the Phillies, Lieberthal appeared in two All-Star Games and also won a (questionable) Gold Glove. He spent all but one of his 14 seasons behind the plate for the Phillies.
24. Juan Samuel (1983-89)
The Line: .263 / .310 / .439, 100 HR
Juan Samuel spent the first seven seasons of his MLB career as a member of the Phillies, and they weren't exactly his best seasons. He posted alarming strikeout rates at the plate, leading the league in that category in four consecutive years at one point.
Nonetheless, Samuel began to find his way at the plate, using his speed to disrupt the rhythm of the game for the opposition. Working at the top of the lineup, he got to the plate frequently. He also managed to lead the league in triples twice as a member of the Phillies.
He'd later be traded to the New York Mets as part of the deal that landed the Phillies Lenny Dykstra.
23. Ed Bouchee (1956-60)
The Line: .280 / .378 / .445, 41 HR
Ed Bouchee didn't have a long career in the MLB, lasting just seven seasons, but four and a half of those years were spent with the Phillies, and the former first baseman managed to put up some impressive numbers.
After finishing in second place to teammate Jack Sanford in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in his first full season in the MLB in 1957, Bouchee would go on to become a big part of the Phillies lineup. He had excellent on-base skills and knew how to work the count.
The Phillies would later trade him to the Chicago Cubs in a deal that landed them fan-favorite Tony Talyor. He'd later spend just one season with the New York Mets, their inaugural season, after being selected in the expansion draft.
22. Dave Hollins (1990-95; 2002)
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The Line: .257 / .361 / .434, 67 HR
In some circles of the Phillies universe, Dave Hollins isn't really an unheralded player. However, going through the large list of players that I had compiled when I first started writing this list, he was one of the players that stuck out the most.
A former Rule 5 Draft pick from the San Diego Padres, Hollins was able to settle in and fly somewhat under the radar with guys like Darren Daulton, John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra driving the offense. Playing third base, Hollins was a significant contributor.
He had OK power for a corner infielder, but Hollins' strongest skill-set was his ability to work the count and find ways to get on-base.
Though the Phillies would later deal him to the Boston Red Sox, he would return to Philadelphia for a final stint in 2002, though he'd appear in just 14 games.
21. Don Hurst (1928-34)
The Line: .303 / .382 / .488, 112 HR
The Phillies acquired Don Hurst from the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1928 season, and the first baseman would go on to become one of the best at the position for the Phillies in their history.
Hurst would spend six-and-a-half seasons with the Phillies, settling in as one of the club's best hitters during his tenure. He had very strong on-base skills and solid power, and during his best season in 1932, he led the league in RBI and finished seventh in MVP voting.
The Phillies would later send him to the Chicago Cubs to acquired Dolph Camilli, who will appear later on this list.
20. Stan Lopata (1948-58)
The Line: .257 / .355 / .459, 116 HR
Signed as an amateur free agent in 1946, Stan Lopata would go on to become the Phillies catcher for most of the next decade after making his MLB debut in 1948, playing first base occasionally as well.
Though he wasn't exactly a whiz at the plate, Lopata found ways to get on base and be productive from the catcher's position. He had average power that would peak late in his career, and by all accounts, was a solid defensive catcher.
A two-time All-Star, the Phillies traded Lopata to the Milwaukee Braves late in his career, but the return proved to be underwhelming. To this date, Lopata remains one of the more underrated players in the club's history.
19. Johnny Moore (1934-37)
The Line: .329 / .375 / .492, 55 HR
When the Phillies acquired Johnny Moore from the Cincinnati Reds, they were making one of the most underrated deals in franchise history. Though they didn't send much talent the other way, Moore and Syl Johnson, a pitcher, would go on to become two of the organization's most underrated players.
Moore spent a little more than three seasons with the Phillies, playing the outfield. He had good power for the day, and overall, was just a solid all-around hitter, with the ability to find his way on base, creating and driving in runs.
He'd later be purchased from the Phillies by the Chicago Cubs.
18. Spud Davis (1928-33; 1938-39)
The Line: .321 / .374 / .449, 53 HR
The Phillies liked Spud Davis so much that they traded for him twice.
The first time around, the Phillies acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the deal that also brought Don Hurst to Philadelphia. Davis would spend six seasons in Philly, his best in 1933, when he finished 25th in the league's MVP voting.
With contention nowhere near the horizon by 1933, the Phillies traded Davis, only to reacquire him a few years later for a second stint of two seasons. Of course, those extra two years were considered "dark days" as well, and Davis was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates shortly thereafter.
17. Schooboy Rowe (1943-49)
The Line: 52-39, 3.54 ERA
Schoolboy Rowe was a member of the Phillies throughout most of the 1940s and just missed a run at the World Series as a member of the 1950 "Whiz Kids," but then again, employing a 39-year-old pitcher wasn't really their style.
With that being said, Rowe had his fair share of success with the Phillies. He was once named to the All-Star team and twice finished with votes for the league's MVP Award.
After a mediocre season in 1949, however, both he and the Phillies came to the realization that his career was drawing to a close, and Rowe was released.
16. George Harper (1924-26)
The Line: .323 / .376 / .528, 41 HR
Nowadays, all of the game's prospect talk centers around Washington Nationals super-prospect Bryce Harper, but once upon a time, the Phillies had a Harper of their own.
That man's name was George Harper, an outfielder who was acquired by the Phillies from the Cincinnati Reds. Though he spent just three seasons with the Phillies, those three seasons were highly productive. In those three seasons, Harper's lowest OPS was .865, and in 1925, he finished 18th in the league's MVP voting.
The Phillies would later trade him to the New York Giants as part of a massive three-team deal.
15. Rick Wise (1964-71)
The Line: 75-76, 3.60
Most of today's Phillies fans recognize Rick Wise as the man who was once traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitching legend Steve Carlton. However, what those fans fail to realize is that Wise was also the ace of the Phillies own pitching staff for several seasons.
Though he pitched in what would be considered "dark days," Wise was a bright spot for the Phillies. The man once tossed a no-hitter and hit two home runs in the same game!
That phenomenal no-hitter was the defining moment of a solid career for Wise, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Phillies. He appeared in one All-Star Game for the club before being traded to the Cards.
14. Ray Benge (1928-32; 1936)
The Line: 58-82, 4.69 ERA
Don't let those statistics at the top of this slide fool you. Ray Benge was a very good pitcher during his tenure with the Phillies.
Acquired in one of the earliest forms of the Rule 5 Draft, Benge was inserted into the Phillies rotation and right away began logging a ton of innings. Benge's record, helped on by a lack of offensive support, led him to become one of the most unappreciated pitchers in the club's history.
He would later be traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers, and though he would later return to the Phillies, Benge would never get the appropriate respect he deserved for his work.
13. Cy Williams (1918-1930)
The Line: .306 / .380 / .500, 217 HR
In one of the greatest transactions in franchise history, the Phillies sent Dode Paskert to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Cy Williams, who would patrol center field for the Phillies for the next 13 seasons.
One of the most underrated players in franchise history, Williams was an exceptional hitter. For the time period in which he played, the centerfielder had exceptional power and hit more than 200 home runs as a member of the Phillies.
In 1926, Williams led the league in OPS, and in two different seasons, he finished within the top 25 of the league's MVP voting.
12. Terry Mulholland (1989-93; 1996)
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The Line: 62-57, 3.81 ERA
For most of his career, Terry Mulholland was known as a journeyman. He never wore a single uniform for long and never had an abundance of success in one place. However, Mulholland had some of the best years of his career in Philadelphia.
The Phillies acquired him from the San Francisco Giants and slotted him into the starting rotation early in the 1990s, where he had a fair amount of success.
In 1990, Mulholland tossed a no-hitter, and a few seasons later, was named to his first, and only, All-Star Game.
11. Jimmy Ring (1921-25; 1928)
The Line: 68-98, 4.47 ERA
Jimmy Ring is another player whose record should indicate that he was a victim of circumstance than a bad pitcher. Pitching in a time period where the Phillies didn't do much hitting, Ring posted a terrible record, but pitched much better than that.
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds, the biggest obstacle in Ring's path to success was his control. He led the league in walks four different times and five different times in wild pitches.
However, Ring also had the ability to log a ton of innings and keep his team in the game despite the lackluster lineup behind him.
10. Jim Eisenreich (1993-96)
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The Line: .324 / .381 / .453, 24 HR
For many fans, Jim Eisenreich is a source of inspiration. Diagnosed with Tourrette syndrome, he was forced to temporarily retire several times in his career, but also returned to the diamond several times to contribute to a couple of good clubs.
As it turns out, though he spent four seasons with the Phillies, Eisenreich would play on just one successful club in 1993, but that didn't stop him from being one of the club's lone bright spots in the early to mid-1990s.
Playing all three outfield positions, Eisenreich posted a surprisingly strong OPS of .833 and remains one of the club's underrated players to this date.
9. Jack Sanford (1956-58)
The Line: 30-21, 3.61
The Phillies may have given up on Jack Sanford a little too soon.
Signed as an amateur free agent, Sanford made a strong debut with the Phillies in 1956, and a year later, he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in his first full season. The year after that, Sanford took a big step backwards, and, in hopes of recouping some value, the Phillies traded him to the San Francisco Giants.
In 1962, he would finish in second in the NL's Cy Young voting and twice finished within the top 25 for the league's MVP Award.
8. Von Hayes (1983-91)
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The Line: .272 / .363 / .427, 124 HR
After sending five players to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for his services, the Phillies certainly had high hopes for young outfielder Von Hayes. Once tabbed as the man who would change the direction of the franchise, Hayes may not have been able to accomplish that, but he certainly was one of the best hitters in the history of the organization.
Joining the Phillies for a run to the World Series in 1983, Hayes wouldn't play a significant role until the next year, which many considered his breakout season. He would appear in one All-Star Game, and in 1986, finished eighth in MVP voting.
Hayes would be out of baseball by the time the Phillies made it back to the World Series in 1993.
7. Hal Carlson (1924-27)
The Line: 42-48, 4.13 ERA
Hal Carlson made his debut with the Phillies in 1924, and in total, would spend parts of four seasons as a member of the Phillies. Like a few of the other old-time pitchers on this list, Carlson was much better than his numbers indicate.
In his final full season with the Phillies in 1926, Carlson received votes as the league's MVP, and though he didn't win the award, his recognition was something to behold in and of itself. In 1925, he would lead the league in shutouts with four.
Just a few seasons later, the Phillies would ship him to the Chicago Cubs for an underwhelming return.
6. Dolph Camilli (1934-37)
The Line: .295 / .395 / .510, 92 HR
Though he spent just four seasons with the Phillies, it didn't take long for Dolph Camilli to become one of the best first basemen this organization has ever seen, and it shouldn't be hard to understand why: The man could flat-out hit.
Very few areas of his game were lacking. Camilli had excellent contact skills, on-base skills and an outstanding eye at the plate. Add to that a bit of power, and you have all of the makings of a future MVP, an award that Camilli would win after he left the Phillies.
In his time with the Phillies, Camilli would receive votes for the award twice, but would be traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers before he reached his full potential.
5. Scott Rolen (1996-2002)
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The Line: .282 / .373 / .504, 150 HR
For a long time, I wasn't going to put Scott Rolen on this list because of his track record, but then I got to thinking.
Was Scott Rolen every truly accepted for how great he was with the Phillies?
One of the best defensive third basemen of his generation, Rolen was certainly no slouch at the plate either. After winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1997, he would appear in an All-Star Game for the Phillies and win at least one Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award.
4. Dick Allen (1963-69; 1975-76)
The Line: .290 / .371 / .530, 204 HR
Dick Allen gets the same caveat as Scott Rolen.
Quite arguably the most underrated player in the history of the Phillies organization, Allen also won a Rookie of the Year Award in his first full season with the Phillies, the first of a number of achievements.
Allen would reel off three straight All-Star appearances, also receiving votes for the MVP Award. However, off-the-field issues and character questions would lead the Phillies to deal Allen, and though he would later return to the Phillies and have a fair amount of success, he never got the recognition he deserved.
3. Curt Davis (1934-36)
The Line: 37-35, 3.42 ERA
Though his record hovered around .500 and he spent just three seasons with the Phillies, Curt Davis had some of the best years of his career with the club. In each of the first two seasons of his career, he received votes for the MVP Award, and though he never won, it was a sign of things to come.
Sadly enough, the greatest contribution he made to the Phillies came when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for one of the greatest hitters in baseball history: Chuck Klein.
2. Bobby Abreu (1998-2006)
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The Line: .303 / .416 / .513, 195 HR
Bobby Abreu is a player that I'm sure never got the respect he deserved as a member of the Phillies.
Acquired from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for former shortstop Kevin Stocker, Abreu would go on to become one of the greatest five-tool outfielders in the history of the organization.
Following a breakout season in 1999, Abreu would go on to receive votes for the MVP Award in the following season, and with the Phillies, received votes for the award in three seasons overall.
Abreu was twice an All-Star with the Phillies and winner of both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. In spite of his on the field contributions, some questioned his clubhouse character, and Abreu was traded to the New York Yankees in 2000.
1. Lefty O'Doul (1929-30)
The Line: .391 / .460 / .614, 54 HR
I decided to spice things up with the final ranking on this slideshow.
Lefty O'Doul spent just two seasons as a member of the Phillies, but boy, were they a pair of incredible years. In his first season with the Phillies, O'Doul hit 33 home runs and posted an OPS of 1.087, finishing second in the league's MVP voting to some guy by the name of Rogers Hornsby.
That season, he led the league in hits, batting .398 and posting an OBP of .465, leading the league in both categories.
A year later, he had an equally impressive season—his last with the Phillies. He would be traded to the Brooklyn Robins for several players, none of whom would make the deal worthwhile.