Philadelphia Phillies Favorites: The Ten Greatest Players They Let Get Away
The Philadelphia Phillies are one of the greatest teams in baseball today.
However, they weren't always as good as they are now due to many poor trades, missed opportunities and terrible decisions that helped make them become the last place team they used to be.
All in all, on this list are nine Hall of Famers and a player that may reach Cooperstown once his career is over.
10. Dave Bancroft
The Phillies bought the contract of minor leaguer Dave Bancroft before the 1915 season. Though he helped them win the pennant that year, he didn't have a good career in Philadelphia, batting only .251 over six years.
In 1920, the Phillies traded Bancroft to the New York Giants where things began to turn around for him. He batted .300 five times over the next six years with the Giants and Boston Braves. His career began to go south after that and he was out of baseball by 1931.
Bancroft was elected in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
Career Stats: .279 BA, 2004 H, 32 HR, 591 RBI, 145 SB, 1048 R
9. Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling is one of the few people on this list that actually had a good career with the Phillies.
The Phillies acquired Schilling in a trade with the Astros and they changed him from a reliever to a starter and from 1992 to 1999 he dominated opposing hitters while wearing a Phillies uniform. He struck out more than 300 batters in a season twice during that span. Sadly, he was playing on a last place team.
In 2000, Schilling was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. There, he won more than 20 games in consecutive years. He was also named co-World Series MVP along with Randy Johnson.
He was then traded to the Boston Red Sox with whom he's won 53 games over four years, including 21 games in 2004 and a World Series ring.
Career Stats: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 3116 K, 3261.0 IP, 1.137 WHIP
8. Eppa Rixey
Eppa Rixey was the Phillies' first dominant left-handed pitcher. He also had a good career in Philadelphia, even though his record won't show it.
He signed with the Phillies in 1912 and had good rookie and sophomore years. He struggled in 1914, but rebounded in the Phillies' pennant-winning season of 1915.
He had the best year of his career in 1916, posting an ERA of 1.85 and a record of 22-10. Over the next three years, his ERA remained low, but he didn't have much run support, which resulted in losing records.
He finally got out of Philadelphia in 1921 and went on to star with the Cincinnati Reds. He won 179 games for them and posted an ERA of 3.33 over the next 13 years.
Rixey was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963.
Career Stats: 266-251, 3.15 ERA, 1350 K, 4494.2 IP, 1.272 WHIP
7. Ryne Sandberg
Ryne Sandberg was drafted in the 20th round of the 1978 draft by the Phillies. He made his major league debut with the Phillies three years later. He only had six at-bats that year.
Sandberg was then traded with shortstop Larry Bowa to the Chicago Cubs for Ivan DeJesus. His career was jumpstarted after he was traded. He was the Cubs' starting third baseman in 1982 but switched over to second base in 1983. He stayed there for the 14 years.
He was a Gold Glove winner from 1983 to 1991, an All-Star from 1984 to 1993 and a Silver Slugger winner in 1984 and '85 and from 1988 to 1992. He also won the 1984 MVP Award.
Sandberg was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Career Stats: .285 BA, 2386 H, 282 HR, 1061 RBI, 344 SB, 1318 R
6. Fergie Jenkins
Fergie Jenkins signed with the Phillies in 1962 as an amatuer free agent. He made his debut in 1965 and and pitched in seven games for the Phillies.
The next year, he pitched in only one game for the Phils before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He was mostly a reliever for them that year.
The next year, his first full year as a starter, he won 20 games, struck out 236, and pitched 20 complete games. He won twenty or more games over the next four years. He also threw 20 or more complete games, including 30 in 1970, during that span as well.
He won a career high 25 games for the Texas Rangers in 1974 and threw 29 complete games. He then would go on to pitch for the Red Sox in 1976 and '77, only to return to Texas again.
In 1980, Jenkins was banned from baseball due after being caught with drugs in an airport. He was reinstated after the ban was reviewed.
In 1982, Jenkins returned to the Cubs. He retired in 1983.
Jenkins was elected in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
Career Stats: 282-226, 3.34 ERA, 3192 K, 4500.2 IP, 1.142 WHIP,
5. Al Kaline
Al Kaline tried out for the Phillies in 1953 and impressed them. They were offering a $100,00 signing bonus to one player. The decision was between Kaline or pitcher Tom Qualters.
They chose Qualters.
Qualters didn't win a single game in the majors... but he did earn $100,000.
Kaline signed with the Detroit Tigers that same year. From 1954 to 1974, Kaline dominated pitchers.
The Phillies could've really used him during the '60s, but hey, everyone makes mistakes. The Phillies just made the most. (This list wouldn't exist if they didn't.)
Kaline was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
Career Stats: .297 BA, 3007 H, 399 HR, 1583 RBI, 137 SB, 1622 R
4. Nap Lajoie
Nap Lajoie makes a very strong case for the greatest second baseman of all-time, and the Phillies let him get away.
But hey, it wasn't entirely their fault. He left on his own.
After batting .345 over five seasons with the Phillies to begin his career, Lajoie decided to switch over to the newly formed American League like other disgruntled National Leaguers.
His first year in the American League was with the Phillies' cross-town rivals, the Athletics. Lajoie had an incredible year. He lead the league in batting (.426), hits (232), home runs (14), RBI (125), runs scored (145), and doubles (48).
He then requested to test the free agency market and joined the Cleveland Bronchos (later named the Indians.) He led the league in hitting over the next three years.
All in all, Lajoie batted over .300 sixteen times during his career. He batted over .350 nine times.
Lajoie was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
Career Stats: .338 BA, 3242 H, 83 HR, 1599 RBI, 380 SB, 1504 R
3. Pete Alexander
Pete Alexander was the Phillies second star pitcher (the first being Charlie Ferguson.) He joined the Phillies in 1911 and had the greatest rookie year by a pitcher in the history of baseball. He won 28 games and posted an ERA of 2.57.
Over his first seven seasons with the Phillies, he led the league in wins six times, strikeouts five times, and ERA twice. He won the Pitching Triple Crown in 1915 and 1916, and just missed a third one in 1917 when second in ERA.
Alexander was drafted into the army to fight in World War I after the 1917 season. The Phillies feared Alexander may get injured during fighting and traded him to the Chicago Cubs. Another reason, they claimed, was that Alexander was a drinker, which was true. But after many years, they admitted it was for financial reasons.
In 1919, Alexander led the league in ERA, and in 1920, he won another Pitching Triple Crown. He continued to pitch well over the rest of his career.
Sadly, Alexander began to drink more and more as the years wore on, which affected his playing.
In 1930, Alexander rejoined the Phillies after winning the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1926 and the NL pennant in 1928. He pitched in nine games. After his MLB career was over, he joined the House of David, a prominent barnstorming baseball club.
Alexander was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.
Career Stats: 373-208, 2.56 ERA, 2198 K, 5190 IP, 1.121 WHIP
2. Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski, also known as "Yaz", tried out for the Phillies and was offered a $90,000 signing bonus. Yaz's father asked for another $10,000 to even it out at $100,000.
Now, I'm not exactly sure what the Phillies financial situation was when this tryout occured, but I'm pretty sure now every Phillies fan would agree $10,000 (a measely $10,000) would be worth a great player like Yaz.
As I'm sure you all know, or can figure out at least, that the Phillies declined. This is the second Hall of Famer on this list that the Phillies let slip away during a tryout, and it's not the last one. (Just wait 'til you see who's number one.)
Anyway, we all know the story. Yaz signed with the Red Sox, played incredibly, won the MVP Award in 1967 and became the last player to win the Triple Crown that same year.
Yaz batted over .300 six times during his 23 year career, hit more 40 or more home runs three times, and knocked in more than 100 runs five times. The only thing he didn't do is win a World Series.
Yastrzemski was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Career Stats: .285 BA, 3419 H, 452 HR, 1844 RBI, 168 SB, 1816 R
1. Hank Aaron
Yes, the Phillies had a shot to get Hank Aaron. I don't really think they like to remember it either.
The Phillies gave Aaron a tryout and afterwards said, "Don't call us, we'll call you."
They never did.
In my mind, there can only be one reason. I'm almost positive that Aaron didn't have a bad tryout because, well, it's Hank Aaron.
Let's look at the facts. The Phillies were the last National League team to sign an African American player. They signed John Kennedy in 1956, 9 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Also, the Phillies were one of the worst teams towards Robinson.
Roy Campenella, another Hall of Famer, often tried to get the Phillies interested in his services. Every time though, they said no.
The book "Tales from the Phillies Dugout" by Rich Westcott discusses these issues.
Anyway, the rest is history.
Aaron was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Career Stats: .305 BA, 3771 H, 755 HR, 2297 RBI, 240 SB, 2174 R