Tony Phillips, Former MLB Star, Dies at Age 56

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2016

Rain drops cover the Major League Baseball logo before the start of Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals lead the series 2-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Former Major League Baseball utility man Tony Phillips has died at the age of 56 due to a heart attack.  

The Oakland Athletics, whom Phillips spent most of his career playing for, announced his death Friday on Twitter.

For the modern MLB crowd who may not be familiar with Phillips, he was basically Ben Zobrist from 1982-1999. 

Phillips played every position in his career except pitcher and catcher. He wasn't a tremendous power hitter in his day, breaking the 20-homer barrier once (1995), but he had an outstanding eye at the plate.

The 18-year veteran led the American League in walks twice (1993, 1996), had five seasons with at least 100 walks and 11 seasons with an on-base percentage over .350 and won a World Series with the A's in 1989. 

In addition to his accomplishments, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Phillips holds the distinction of being Mariano Rivera's first strikeout victim in 1995. 

Passan also shared a story about speaking to Phillips regarding that strikeout after Rivera announced he was retiring in 2013. Phillips told Passan (Warning: Some language is NSFW) at the age of 54 he would take a walk or get a hit, but Rivera "ain’t gonna punch me out."

Phillips did add another possible outcome to the story about a rematch with Rivera, per Passan:

Phillips' career ended after the 1999 season. He had a .266/.374/.389 slash line with 360 doubles and 160 home runs in 2,161 games for the Athletics, Detroit Tigers, California/Anaheim Angels, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. 

While not one of the biggest MLB stars at any point in his career, Phillips was the kind of player every team loved to have. He could literally play anywhere on the field and had such a good approach at the plate to get on base for the big hitters behind him to do more damage.


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