Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard and the 10 Best First Basemen in Team History

Adrian FedkiwAnalyst IIIJuly 15, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard and the 10 Best First Basemen in Team History

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    During his magnificent 18-year career, Mike Schmidt played mostly third base and some shortstop.

    In 1985, the Phillies moved him to first base to give 23-year-old Rick Schu an opportunity to start at third. The experiment didn't last a full season, and Philadelphia traded him to Baltimore in 1988.

    Pat Burrell started his career at first base due to an injury to opening day starter Rico Brogna.

    "Mr. Five for One" Von Hayes played the outfield mostly during his tenure with the Phils, but from 1986-1988, he started a majority of his games at first base.

    Some other notable names who played some part-time first base include Dick Allen, Ed Delahanty, Nap Lajoie, Willie Montanez and Dave Hollins.


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10. Dick Sisler

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    Years: 1948-1951

    Phillies Career: .287/.352/.421, 39 HR, 241 RBI, 227 R, 3 SB

    Best Year 1950: .296/.373/.442, 13 HR, 83 RBI, 79 R, 1 SB

    Dick Sisler played both the outfield and first base, but because he had more career starts at first base, I decided to put him on the first base list.

    The Phillies battled with the Dodgers all-season long for the 1950 NL Pennant, and they met in the final game of the regular season in a de facto playoff game.

    After Richie Ashburn threw Cal Abrams out at home in the bottom of the ninth to save the season, Sisler hit the go-ahead three-run home run in the 10th to give the "Whiz Kids" the eventual 4-1 win and the NL Pennant.

9. Bill White

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    Years: 1966-1968

    Phillies Career: .258/.341/.402, 39 HR, 176 RBI, 148 R, 22 SB

    Best Year 1966: .276/.352/.451, 22 HR, 103 RBI, 85 R, 16 SB

    After the historic collapse of the 1964 Phillies, the organization was looking for a quick fix by trading for veterans.

    Bill White spent eight spectacular seasons in St. Louis before he arrived in Philadelphia.

    In 1966, White became the first first baseman to drive in over 100 runs since Dolph Camilli in 1936.

    Unfortunately, White tore his achilles tendon during spring training in 1967 and was never the same player again. 

8. Jim Thome

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    Years: 2003-2005

    Phillies Career: .260/.386/.543, 96 HR, 266 RBI, 234 R, 0 SB

    Best Year 2003: .266/.385/.573, 47 HR, 131 RBI, 111 R, 0 SB

    In retrospect, the Jim Thome signing was a big mistake.

    He held Ryan Howard back, but Thome did put up monster numbers in just three years with the Phillies.

    Howard finally got his chance when Thome injured his elbow in 2005. Philadelphia placed Thome on the DL on July 1, and Howard's three month rampage garnered him the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

    After the season, the Phillies dealt Thome to Chicago for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood.

    Just like the Phillies are doing with Clearwater first baseman Jonathan Singleton now, the Phillies experimented with Howard in the outfield during 2005 spring training.

    In a tidbit, Thome became the first Phillie to participate in the Home Run Derby. This led to six straight seasons of Phillies who took part in the exhibition: Bobby Abreu (2005), Ryan Howard (2006,2007, 2009) and Chase Utley (2008).

7. Deron Johnson

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    Years: 1969-1972

    Phillies Career: .251/.333/.442, 88 HR, 304 RBI, 213 R, 4 SB

    Best Year 1971: .265/.347/.490, 34 HR, 95 RBI, 74 R, 0 SB

    Greg Luzinski was primarily a first-baseman when he was drafted, but with Deron Johnson at first, Luzinski converted to the outfield so he could get to the Bigs quicker.

    Johnson was a very free-swinger and finished in the top 10 in strikeouts in three of his four seasons in Philadelphia.

    Pete Rose, a teammate of Johnson's from 1963-1967, claimed that he never saw a player hit the ball harder than Deron Johnson. He finished fourth in the NL 34 long balls in 1971.

6. Don Hurst

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    Years: 1928-1933

    Phillies Career: .303/.382/.488, 115 HR, 610 RBI, 510 RBI, 41 SB

    Best Year 1932: .339/.412/.547, 24 HR, 143 RBI, 109 R, 10 SB

    In 1932, many sports writers compared the tandem of Chuck Klein and Don Hurst to the Yankees duo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

    The Phillies duo combined for 737 total bases as opposed to the Yankee legends' 672.

    That year, the Phillies scored the most runs in the league, but also gave up the most. They finished at 78-76.

5. Dolph Camilli

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    Years: 1934-1937

    Phillies Career: .295/.395/.510, 92 HR, 333 RBI, 347 R, 23 SB

    Best Year 1937: .339/.446/.587, 27 HR, 80 RBI, 101 R, 6 SB

    During the 1930's, the Phillies were well known for selling their players for cash. Dolph Camilli was a throw-in in a deal that sent Don Hurst to the Cubs for $30,000 and the aforementioned Camilli.

    Camilli turned out to be a "diamond in the rough."

    Before the start of the 1938 season, Phillies club president Gerry Nugent sold Camilli to the Brooklyn Dodgers for $50,000 and Eddie Morgan. Morgan never played for the Phillies.

    Camilli wound up winning the NL MVP Award in 1941, hitting .285 with 34 home runs and 120 RBI.

    Due to the Phillies ownership continually shipping away players for cash, from 1918-1948, the Phillies finished above .500 just once.

4. Pete Rose

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    Years: 1979-1983

    Phillies Career: .291/.365/.361, 8 HR, 255 RBI, 51 SB, 390 R

    Best Year 1979: .331/.418/.430, 4 HR, 59 RBI, 103 R, 20 SB

    After three consecutive losses in the NLCS from 1976-1978, general manager Paul Owens felt that the window towards winning a World Championship was closing.

    After a bidding war, Owens acquired Pete Rose in 1979.

    Rose didn't have much athletic ability, but he was called "Charlie Hustle" for a reason.

    He had outstanding hand-eye coordination. As a switch hitter, he sprayed the ball around. He rarely struck out and had a great knack of fouling balls off to keep at-bats alive. 

    He possessed amazing and aggressive instincts on the bases and often ran to first base when he drew a walk. Rose inspired his teammates due to his style of play, and many have stated that he was the missing link to the Phillies winning a World Series crown in 1980.

3. John Kruk

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    Years: 1989-1994

    Phillies Career: .309/.400/.461, 62 HR, 390 RBI, 403 R, 33 SB

    Best Year 1993: .316/.430/.475, 14 HR, 85 RBI, 100 R, 6 SB

    This coming August 12, John Kruk will become the second Phillies Wall-of-Fame member of the memorable 1993 National League Championship winning team. Darren Daulton earned the honor last year.

    In Kruk's book, there's a funny story of when Kruk ate a big meal at a restaurant, guzzled a couple beers and smoked a few cigarettes.

    A lady recognized Kruk and laid into him. She said that he should be taking better of his body.

    Kruk responded, "I ain't an athlete, lady. I'm a baseball player."

    That's just the way he was. He ate what he wanted, drank what he wanted and grew his hair how he wanted.

    It never affected his play.

    His patience, love of the game and clutch-hitting made him one of the most beloved Phillies of all-time.

2. Fred Luderus

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    Years: 1910-1919

    Phillies Career: .278/.340/.404, 83 HR, 630 RBI, 557 R, 55 SB

    Best Year 1915: .315/.376/.457, 7 HR, 62 RBI, 55 R, 9 SB

    Fred Luderus wasn't the best of fielders, as he pulled his fair share of Bill Buckner mishaps, but he made up for his lack of defense with his bat.

    The Boston Red Sox defeated the Phillies in the 1915 World Series 4-1.

    As a team, the Phillies struggled to hit, as they averaged just .182 as a team. Their premier power-hitter Gavvy Cravath hit just .125.

    Luderus hit a team high .442 in the series.

1. Ryan Howard

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    Years: 2004-Current

    Phillies Career: .277/.370/.563, 271 HR, 820 RBI, 599 R, 19 SB

    Best Year 2006: .313/.425/.659, 58 HR, 149 RBI, NL MVP

    Ryan Howard is the most overrated and underrated player in Phillies history.

    Howard quickly bursted onto the scene and became a victim of his own success.

    He's one of three MLB players to win the Rookie of the Year Award and MVP Award the following season. Cal Ripken did it in 1982 and then 1983, while Dustin Pedroia did it in 2007 and 2008. It should also be noted that Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) won both awards in the same season.

    He reached 100, 150, and 200 homers in fewer at-bats than any player in baseball history. His four straight seasons of at least 45 home runs and 135 RBI (2006-2009) and matched by just two sluggers in MLB history...Sammy Sosa and Babe Ruth.

    Does he strike out too much? Yes... but so did Mike Schmidt.

    Did the Phillies overpay for him? Yes...but locking up a premier power hitter is crucial to the middle of a line-up. Not only does he rack up the RBI, he gives the No. 3 and 5 hole hitters better pitches to hit. Jayson Werth is a perfect example, at least so far.

    Once his extension kicks in, only Alex Rodriguez will be making more money than him.

    I'll say this about the guy. He hasn't gotten overweight and lazy since he signed the extension. He's shed a lot of weight and has really improved his defense. He does need to give Lester Hayes a call, so he could put some stick-em in his first base mit.

    Whether you're a fan of his or not, he's the best first baseman in Phillies history.

    Just be glad that then Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi didn't pull the trigger on a Howard for Ted Lilly deal.