Ed Delahanty, Billy Hamilton, and Sam Thompson. Or to some, “The Greatest Outfield Ever”. They are all Hall of Famers and have a lot in common.
Delahanty began his career with the Phillies in 1888. After a rough start, he went to the Players League. He came back to the Phils after the league folded.
Hamilton also began his career in 1888, but he began with the Kansas City Cowboys. He received minimum playing time that year but started in his sophomore year. After the Cowboys left the American Association after the 1889 season, Hamilton joined the Phillies in 1890.
By the time Thompson joined the Phillies, he had already made a name for himself. He joined the Phils in 1889. He was the oldest of the three.
They began playing together in 1891. Hamilton, the catalyst of the group, hit .340 while Thompson, the power hitter, hit .294. Delahanty his worst season that year. He batted .243.
The next year they all batted over .300. In 1893, they reached new heights. Hamiltonbatted .380, Thompson batted .370, and Delahanty batted .368.
In 1894, the three of them had their best year. They all batted over .400, a feat that hasn’t been done twice. This is the year they are most noted for being the greatest outfield ever.
The last year they spent together was 1895. Delahanty again batted over .400 while Hamilton batted .389 and Thompson batted .392. Hamilton was traded after that year for Billy Nash.
Thompson spent three more years with the Phillies, but then called it quits.
Or did he?
In 1906, he played eight games for the Detroit Tigers. Delahanty played six more years for the Phils and then jumped to the American League. In 1903, he died when he fell off of a bridge and into the Niagara River.
Did you know that the Phillies had a chance to create an outfield better than the Hamilton-Delahanty-Thompson trio? It’s true. They would have had Richie Ashburn, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, and Carl Yastrzemski.
Ashburn was already with the team. Aaron had a tryout and they said, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” The Phils never called. Kaline also impressed the Phils at a tryout, but they were interest in a young pitcher named Tom Qualters. The Phils chose Qualter, who never won a game for them. Yaz was offered $90,000 signing bonus after he tried out, but his father asked for an extra $10,000. The Phils denied.
What would have been better: Hamilton, Delahanty, and Thompson? Or Ashburn, Kaline, Aaron, and Yastrzemski? We may never know.