Stargell’s Legendary Blast

With the Phils taking on the Pirates this weekend, I thought we’d revisit the longest home run ever hit in Veteran’s Stadium. Remarkably, the longest homer ever hit there came just 3 months into its 33 year history. Others came close (Thome missed it by a few feet), but no-one ever went further at the Vet.

The Phils were on their way to a last place finish in 1971, while the Pirates were on their way to a World Series championship. So nobody was surprised by the 14-4 drubbing the Pirates laid on the Phils on June 25th. But the final score was a mere footnote to the blast Willie Stargell hit off of Jim Bunning. The left-hander launched one into the right field seats, and over 30 years later, the Phils on the field that day remembered it clearly. Said Bunning, who served up the meatball:

The Stargell Star was a high slider that I used to get Stargell out on, only I didn’t throw it hard enough and didn’t get it in. It got over the fat part of the plate. He couldn’t hit it any further.”

Said Larry Bowa:

“That ball was still going up. As an infielder, when a guy hits one that you know is a home run, you give it a casual look. When he swung, you didn’t take your eyes off it because you wanted to see where it was going. It was majestic.

“I couldn’t believe how far that ball went. It would take me three swings to get one up there — from second base.”

Here’s a couple of photos that give you some perspective of how far he hit it. In the first one, taken from home plate, the color area is the section where he hit the ball..and keep in mind, everyone agreed that it was still gaining speed when it hit the stands. The star marking the section where he hit it is in the upper right of the 2nd pic.

 


Philly Sports Memories: John Finger

Here’s Part 2 of our Ongoing Segment called Philly Sports Memories (To read Part One, from Phillie Nation’s Nick Staskin, click here.). Today we hear from John Finger, who has been writing about the Phillies for Comcast SportsNet since 2000, and has been a fan since way before that. He grew up in Lancaster, and was a fan of  the Phillies as a kid. He has been on hand for a lot of the biggest moments in Philly sports history, as well as a few big moments in Orioles history. Here he discusses a few of his favorites. You can read more from John on his blog, Finger Food

When you write about sports for a living, oftentimes extraordinary events are just another day at the job. For instance, after Roy Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history, I spent my time after the game talking to the vanquished Cincinnati Reds. Moreover, it seemed as if they were more awed than humilated.

I also saw Allen Iverson pour in 47 points in a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals as well as Michael Jordan’s very last NBA game and just the second World Series title by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Those definitely stand out.

I saw “For who, for what,” and the 4th-and-1 play against the Cowboys.

However, baseball games always seem to resonate a little more and usually it’s the last games of the season.

To me, there has always been way too much aggrandizing about Opening Day in baseball. Opening is just the first of 162 and rarely has any true impact on the season. Better yet, unless it’s totally extraordinary, Opening Day is never memorable.There is no significant action.

But the last game of the season –- that’s when the memories are made.

Game 162 is the time for heroes and for the real pros to step into the spotlight. Even when teams are just playing out the string, the last game of the year is like running that final 385 yards of the marathon. Anybody can do the first 26 miles, but it’s that last stretch where legacies are defined.

As a kid I also romanticized about the last game of the year and suffered the wide-eyed, Field of Dreams-types during Opening Day. I was more interested in the guts of the action and not the first few easy strides of the race, which meant I spent all summer figuring out what it was going to take for a team to make the last day the most important one.

Sometimes I got lucky, too. I can recall being at the Vet for Game 162 in 1991 when David Cone of the Mets struck out 19 against a Phillies club that featured Doug Lindsey and Braulio Castillo. In fact, Cone had a shot to tie the all-time record for strikeouts in a game after he whiffed the first two hitters to start the ninth inning. But Wes Chamberlain doubled and Dale Murphy – a player who lead the National League in strikeouts three times and ranks 13th on the all-time whiffs list – grounded out to end the season.

The Vet seemed empty that day with most of the crowd holding Walkmen to listen to the Eagles’ early-season loss at Tampa Bay with Brad Goebel at quarterback, but when Cone had a chance to tie the record it was the loudest the fans were all day.

Here is the box score from that David Cone game. And here is a short writeup about the game. Interestingly, the Phillies made a run at Cone in December of 1992 when he was a free agent, but he turned down their 3 year, $15 million offer to go to the Royals for 2 years and $10 million.


Curt Schilling, the Psychology of Phillies Fans, and the Deadline Deal to the Diamondbacks

It was on this date in 2000 that Ed Wade shipped Curt Schilling to the Diamondbacks for 5 players. As everyone in Philadelphia already knows, 5-for-1 deals don’t tend to work out in the Phils favor, whether they are getting the five or the one. No-one denies that this particular trade worked out better for the Diamondbacks than it did for the Phillies. But how much better is debatable.

As someone who wasn’t here in 1993, I find the city’s relationship with Schilling fascinating. Nowhere is the strange pschology of Phillies fans showcased more clearly than with #38. He is one of the greatest players in Phillies history (Phillies Nation ranked him #12 all time), but when his name comes up in conversation there are rarely joyous kudos for Schill, but more of a cool, quiet respect with not a little bit of bitterness.

It speaks to the emotional connection the city feels with it’s athletes. In any other sports crazed city, Schilling would be deified for his performance in the ’93 postseason, while a player like Mitch Williams would be hit with tomatoes as soon as he crossed city lines. But in Philly, Williams’ transgressions have long since been forgiven and he has become a local legend, while Schilling putting a towel over his head has never been forgiven. Never. Failure is understood and relatable. Selling out your crew is not. Phillies fans believe, rightly or wrongly, that Schilling sold out Mitch, and these fans never forget.

But even though that makes Philly unique, it doesn’t end the strange relationship between the city and those 90s Phillies ballplayers. Take for example the trade that sent Schilling to the D’Backs. Schilling had come to the conclusion that he was a star on a lame duck team that had neither the money, brains, or the heart to get any better. And he certainly didn’t lack the courage to speak out about it. In 1999, he blasted Ed Wade and the Phillies front office.

Schilling’s latest round of criticism began on Major League Baseball’s weekly conference call Wednesday. In that forum, Schilling rapped ownership for being cheap and not having a commitment to winning. He talked about the possibility of being traded to a team that is committed to winning…Later, in an interview with several reporters at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Schilling said he wouldn’t want to stay with the team if it wasn’t willing to upgrade at midseason. He added that “if ownership is not willing to make a trade or spend in July, they need to sell the team and give Philadelphia fans what they deserve.”

That didn’t sit well with Wade (who famously called Schilling a horse’s ass), and a year later Wade shipped the disgruntled Schilling to the Diamondbacks. But what I don’t get is that while I do hear Phillie fans blame Schill for the towel incident, I rarely hear them rip him for blasting management and demanding to be shipped out of town. So why do Phillies fans still boo Scott Rolen for doing the exact same thing at essentially the exact same time? Can someone please explain this to me?

As for the trade itself, it’s obvious that the D’Backs got the better end of the deal, and that this was a terrible trade for the Phillies. Schill helped lead Arizona and their hideous uniforms to the 2001 World Series title, and was a beast again in 2002. That said, the deal is nowhere near the Phils’ worst. Keep in mind, this is the franchise that over the years traded Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander, Chuck Klein, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ryne Sandberg for guys named Pickles Dilhoefer, Harvey Hendrix, Bob Buhl, and Ivan DeJesus, respectively. And that’s just terrible trades they made with the Cubs! And though he never turned into Curt Schilling, Vicente Padilla turned out to be a better than average pitcher. And keep in mind, Schilling had no Flotilla.

Nonetheless, you have to wonder how the Phils would have fared with Schilling in the early 2000s. In 2001, they missed the playoffs by 2 games. You think Schilling mighta gotten them over the hump? That was rhetorical. As is this: assuming those 2001 Phils make the playoffs, and Schilling pitches for them the way he pitched for the Diamondbacks in that years’ postseason, do we wait another 7 years for a title? Alas, the beauty and bane of being a baseball fan is that in no other sport are the “whatifs” as fun or as frustrating to discuss.

RELATED: The Good Phight took a very fair year by year look at the trade 5 years ago.


The Most Fascinating Team in MLB History…the 1930 Phillies

Les Sweetland. Record Holder. Antihero.

On July 23rd, 1930, the Phillies took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a doubleheader at the Baker Bowl. The Pirates had Hall of Famers Pie Traynor and Paul “Big Poison” Waner* on their squad, but were headed to a forgettable 5th place finish in the NL that year.

The 1930 Phillies, on the other hand, were probably the most fascinating team in MLB history. They hit .315 as a team, the 3rd highest total in MLB history (Interestingly, the Giants hit .319 that same year to set the record). They had 1783 hits that season, still the most in MLB history. The Phils had 5 regulars who batted over .300, including outfielders Chuck Klein and Lefty O’Doul, who both batted over .380. Klein had perhaps the greatest regular season in Phillies history, finishing with a line of .386-40-170, and a slugging percentage of .687 (Jose Bautista currently leads the Majors with a .686). And yet, these Sultans of Swat finished 52-102, 40 games out of first. You read that right. A team that batted .315 collectively finished 50 games UNDER .500. How is that possible?

Because the Phillies had the worst pitching staff in the history of baseball. The only team you could even compare them to was my Little League team that finished 0-15 in 1984 (True story). For some perspective, think about how terrible Adam Eaton was in 2008, when he went 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA. And just think, the 1930 Phils had 11 pitchers with worse ERAs than Adam Eaton.

Chuck Klein, preparing to use these bats to bash Les Sweetland's brains in.

A few years ago, a guy named Tom Ruane wrote a paper called “Modern Baseball’s Greatest Hitting Team”. The answer? The opponents of the 1930 Phillies. Try these stats on for size: Phillies’ opponents batted .346 that year (27 points higher than those record setting 1930 Giants), with 1994 hits (200 more than the record holders, the 1930 Phillies) and scored 1199 runs (Over 130 more than the record holders, the 1931 Yankees.) The ace of that staff was none other than Phil Collins. And you thought No Jacket Required was his worst work. (Rim Shot). Actually, Collins wasn’t the problem. He was an almost respectable 16-11 with a 4.78 ERA. Ray Benge came next, with a 5.70 ERA. Then came two record holders. Les Sweetland set a record that year that has never been broken, throwing for a 7.71 ERA, (the worst of all time among pitchers who qualify for ERA title). #2 for worst all time was his teammate Claude Willoughby, with a 7.59 ERA. It must have been like Mantle and Maris chasing the Babe’s home run title that year. And Hal Elliot just fell short of qualifying for an ERA title, throwing 117 innings. Otherwise he would be 2nd, with a 7.67 ERA.

Anyways, that brings us back to that game against the Pirates on July 23rd of that year. Somehow, the Phils only gave up two runs in the first game of that double header, but their bats fell silent, and they lost 2-1. They came back with a vengeance in the 2nd game, rapping a team record 27 hits (a record that was tied in a 1985 game against the Mets). But in a perfect encapsulation of their season, they still lost the game, 16-15, in 13 innings, with Les Sweetland taking the loss. A day later, they would play host to the Cubs, and lose to them, 19-15. Claude Willoughby was the losing pitcher, being replaced without recording a single out.

And so when people say they wish they could combine the 2008 Phils’ hitters with the 2011 Phils’ pitchers to make the perfect team, I argue that they’d be even better if you combined the 2011 Phils with the 1930 Phils. Hell, they’d win 130 games. And Chuck Klein probably wouldn’t want to punch every starter in the face for ruining his greatest season ever.

*How badass of a name is “Big Poison”? I want to steal it. Can you start calling me that? Please start calling me Johnny “Big Poison” Goodtimes. It would be greatly appreciated.


This Week on PhilaPhilia

Our friends over at Philaphilia are blowing up right now, and with good reason. They’ve got one of the best local sites I’ve started following in some time. Here are some highlights on the site now.

The Old Ass Building of the Week. A building you probably don’t even notice as you’re staring up at at the Divine Lorraine across the street.

The Butt Fugly Building of the Week. The Wills Eye Hospital, home to some of the ugliest public art in Philly History.

The Lost Building of the Week. Pretty damn funny post about a Mason Lodge that stood for a mere 8 years before it burned down.

The Empty Lot of the Week. It’s actually a building this week. An ugly 1954 building that was abandoned in 1989 and has just been sitting around collecting weeds for 20+ years.


Philly Sports Memories- Nick Staskin

There’s nothing like watching professional sports when you are a kid.  The players are larger than life and the things they do on the field are seemingly impossible. They simply do no wrong.  Before we were old enough to know about PEDs and DUIs and all the other off-the-field crap that grabs more attention than their actual play, these athletes were our heroes.

That’s why childhood memories of our favorite players or favorite teams endure long into our adult lives.  We hold on to the nostalgia of the way we saw the game when we were young because everything having to do with sports was so pure.

With that in mind, we’ve reached out to local sports reporters, bloggers, and personalities to see which of their childhood sports memories have stuck with them more than all others.

The first contributor to our series is Nick “Beerman” Staskin (pictured). When Nick isn’t serving fans Miller Lite in left field at Citizen’s Bank Park, he’s writing for the excellent Phils blog, Phillies Nation.

Nick’s response:

The memory that most sticks out in my head as a Phillies fan growing up is one that really had no meaning at all. When I was 14 years old, my dad took me to an early April game against the Atlanta Braves on a cold night. The reason? Curt Schilling was going opposite Greg Maddux.

The game took exactly two hours to play and ended when Mike Lieberthal scored Greg Jeffries on an RBI single in the 9th inning to give the Phils a 1-0 win.

Schilling and Maddux did not disappoint. Maddux went eight innings surrendering no runs and only five hits, but Schilling one-upped him throwing the complete game shutout while striking out 10 and only allowing two hits.

Being there with my dad to watch two of the best pitchers of that era duel like that is something that I’ll never forget, and the reason I can’t wait to raise a baseball fan of my own one day.

The game Nick remembers most took place on April 10, 1998.  You can see the boxscore here.  It was actually the second time that week Schilling faced Maddux. Just five days earlier, Schilling struck out 15 Braves en route to a 2-1 complete game win over Maddux in Atlanta.  Schilling’s stat line that week: 2 wins, 0 losses; 2 complete games; 1 ER; 25 Ks; 6 hits; and, 2 BB.

H/T to Nick for his contribution.  He can be found on twitter here.  


Awesome Photo of 1914 A’s

 

The A’s hanging out in the dugout before Game 1 of the 1914 World Series at Shibe Park. To do this photo justice, however, you gotta see the full sized pic. It appears to have been touched up a bit, but the clarity of the players and fans is astonishing. You can almost hear their conversations. Hard to believe this was taken 97 years ago. The A’s would lose the game 7-1, and lose the Series in 4 games to the Boston Braves. Mack would sell off his stars after this Series, and the team would tank quickly and spectacularly, going 43-109 in 1915.


An Athletic You Should Know: Eccentric Madman Rube Waddell

There’s one position in each team sport that requires more mental toughness than all of the rest.  In football it’s the quarterback, in basketball it’s the point guard, in hockey it’s the goalie, and in baseball it’s the pitcher.  With pitching comes the relentless pressure of knowing that you are one mistake away from single-handedly losing the game for your team.  Whether it’s a defense mechanism to cope with this stress, or simply a job requirement, major league pitchers, especially lefties, are generally the weirdest players on the field.  And the oddest of the bunch was Philadelphia Athletics’ pitcher, Rube Waddell.

A harbinger of things to come, George Edward Waddell was born on Friday the 13th in October of 1876 in  northeastern Pennsylvania.  He learned his craft on nearby farmland by throwing rocks at crows trying to poach seeds as they were being planted.  Waddell developed farm boy size and was soon dominating the local youth baseball league.

When he was 19, he earned a spot on Butler’s local semi-pro team anddisplayed an overpowering fastball.  He also displayed a childlike rawness that reflected his provincial background.  When he started playing, he would bean any runner who hit a groundball back to the mound instead of forcing the player out at first, explaining “hit the batter and he’s out where I come from.”  Discovered by a traveling salesman in 1896, Waddell was offered a job on the Franklin Braves in the newly-formed Iron and Oil League.

When Waddell arrived in Franklin, catcher Jack Nelson gave him the nickname “Rube,” which was reserved for hicks and it stuck immediately.  Although there was no questioning his talent, Waddell’s head was often somewhere other than in the game.  He would leave in the middle of games to go fishing, or, if a firetruck passed the field he would run off and chase it.  He would also go on drinking benders and disappear for days on end.

After Franklin folded, Waddell’s next opportunity came with Volant, a local college.  Volant made Rube an offer he couldn’t refuse: free tuition and room and board, in addition to $1 per game and free tobacco.    At Volant, both his skill and his eccentricities were on full display.  He was absolutely dominant as the lefty had developed a sharp curve ball and great control.  He averaged 15 strikeouts per 7-inning game.  More than once, Rube called for all of his players to the leave the field and pitched with no defense behind him.  Waddell would celebrate three-strikeout innings by cartwheeling, or walking on his hands, or somersaulting off the field back to the dugout.

With these antics, he soon caught the attention of major league baseball teams and signed with the National League’s Louisville Colonels in 1897.  However, he lasted just two games and left after being fined $50 for drinking, which had by this time become a major problem.  Over the course of the next few years, he split time between the majors and the minors.  In 1902, Connie Mack took a risk on the oddball and signed him to the Philadelphia Athletics.

As an Athletic, Waddell immediately turned things around and put up unreal numbers in 1902 en route to clinching the franchise’s first pennant.  His first start came on June 26th, 51 games into the season.  Appearing in only 33 games that year, he compiled a 24-7 record, a 2.05 ERA, led the American League with 210 strikeouts (50 more than runner-up Cy Young who appeared in 100 more innings than did Waddell).  He also pitched baseball’s first immaculate inning on July 1st.  Over the course of Waddell’s career in Philadelphia, from ’03-’07, he won 21, 25, 27, 15 and 19 games respectively.  His ERA with the A’s was a paltry 1.97 with a low of 1.48 in 1905.  During that season, Waddell was motoring along until he got into a fight with a teammate over a straw hat and injured his throwing shoulder.  This injury cost him the last month of the season, including the World Series. (Phillies owner Horace Fogel said Waddell was absent because he was paid off.)  From ’04-’07 he pitched at least 7 shutouts per season.  He also led the majors in strikeouts over 5 consecutive seasons.  His record of 349 ks in 1904 stood for 60 seasons until Sandy Koufax struck out 382 in 1965.

Waddell’s turnaround was a direct result of Connie Mack’s managing.  According to Mack, Waddell “had more stuff than any pitcher I ever saw. He had everything but a sense of responsibility.”  Because of this, Mack paid Waddell on an as-needed basis in singles so he wouldn’t blow his earnings on alcohol.  While Mack could control Waddell’s paychecks, he couldn’t control all of the idiosyncrasies.  Waddell’s fascination with fire departments continued throughout his time with the A’s and he routinely wore red under his clothing just in case a fire bell would ring.  He missed starts because he was fishing, or was late to games because he was playing marbles in the streets of Philadelphia with children.  He was married three times and was often put in jail for missing alimony payments.

Cooperstown historian Lee Allen succinctly described 1903 in the life of Rube Waddell:

He began that year sleeping in a firehouse in Camden, New Jersey, and ended it tending bar in a saloon in Wheeling, West Virginia. In between those events he won 22 games for the Philadelphia Athletics, played left end for the Business Men’s Rugby Football Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, toured the nation in a melodrama called The Stain of Guilt, courted, married and became separated from May Wynne Skinner of Lynn, Massachusetts, saved a woman from drowning, accidentally shot a friend through the hand, and was bitten by a lion.

Other examples of the bizarre with Waddell include:

  • He wrestled alligators during the off season.
  • He played for two Philadelphia Athletics clubs in 1902: the baseball club and the Philadelphia Athletics of the first National Football League (at 6’2″ and 200 lbs. he was a fullback).
  • He almost shot Connie Mack in the head when a pistol fell out of his pocket and fired at the team hotel.
  • His contract included a clause, at his catcher’s insistence, that prohibited Waddell from eating crackers in bed.  During the early years, players would share beds on road trips and Ossee Schreckengost couldn’t sleep because of the crumbs.
  • In 1903, he climbed into the stands to beat up a spectator who was heckling him and was suspended for 5 games.
  • In one game, Waddell was at bat in the 8th inning with 2 outs and a man on second.  After a pitch, the catcher threw to second in a pick-off attempt, but the ball sailed into the outfield.  The A’s runner took off and was rounding home to score when the center fielder fired home.  Waddell, with bat still in hand, swung and hit the ball back into play.  He was called out for interference.  His explanation for the gaffe, “They’d been feeding me curves all afternoon, and this was the first straight ball I’d looked at!”

At the end of the 1907 season, Waddell was slumping badly and was then sold to St. Louis “in the interests of team unity.”  He pitched out the final three years of his major league career before drinking his way back to the minors in 1911.

The events surrounding Waddell’s death were just as memorable as those surrounding his life.  In the fall of 1912, he was living in Kentucky with friends when a nearby dam collapsed and caused devastating flooding in the region.  Waddell immediately went to help out in whatever way he could, by pulling people out of homes and by working for hours on end in cold water piling up sandbags.  Although his actions were herioc, they also proved costly as he developed pneumonia.  As a result, his body was severely weakened and he battled bouts of pneumonia and tuberculosis from which he never fully recovered.  He died in 1914 at the age of 37…on April Fool’s day.

In 1946, he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  By all accounts, Waddell was known much more for his eccentricities than for his talent.  But there is no doubt that the former rivaled the latter as Waddell was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.


The Voice of God: Philadelphia’s John Facenda


Here’s an interesting video I just came across, with Philly legend John Facenda discussing his heartbreak over the 1964 Phillies. Facenda is well known in these parts. The man known to football fans as the “Voice of God” moved to Philadelphia as a young boy when his father got a job working on the Ben Franklin Bridge. As a young man, Facenda got his start at the Philadelphia Public Ledger, and later did the news for WCAU (NBC10), where his news show dominated the local ratings.

But it was a stroke of luck that he became a football deity. The following comes from a terrific story about Facenda (and his sons efforts to protect his legacy) in 2007 in Philly Mag:
In 1964, John Facenda strolled into the San Marco, a favorite nightspot on City Avenue for Philadelphia’s newsmen. People called City Avenue the “Golden Mile” then. It was a place full of swagger and splash. Much of that was due to television station WCAU’s move there in the ’50s — an extraordinary step, for a station to move its headquarters outside the city, and a boost for the area’s sense of cool.

In the San Marco, Facenda took off his hat — he always wore a hat — and took his seat at the bar. Through the cigarette smoke, he saw what was a novelty for a bar: a television. The black-and-white box meant more than easy entertainment, then. After decades of radio rule, television had taken over. Each evening the princes of the new medium broadcast the news from a few blocks away, then paraded down to the San Marco for drinks, and Facenda ruled them all. “He was the dean of broadcasters,” says Gerry Wilkinson, who now runs Broadcast Pioneers, a preservation society for Philadelphia’s television history. “He was first, and he was best.”

Down the bar, another man, Ed Sabol, watched the television as well. He worked as an aspiring filmmaker. The bar’s owner, keen to use his television to bring in business, had invited Sabol to show off some of his spectacular football highlight footage. And it was astonishing: slow-motion violence, players crashing and trampling, the high spiral of the ball dropping through snow into the waiting hands of a receiver.

Facenda marveled. He opened his mouth and his voice poured out, narrating the plays as they unfolded on the film. From down the bar, Sabol listened, then approached. “If I give you a script,” he asked Facenda, “could you repeat what you just did?”

The broadcaster said, “I’ll try.”

And so John Facenda went from local legend to national football deity. His NFL films obituary for Vince Lombardi is goosebump-inducing (“Lombardi. A certain magic still lingers in the very name. It speaks of duels in the snow and cold Novmeber mud.”), and his poem The Autumn Wind is the theme song of Raider Nation. The video above, is baseball. I chose that one because it not only shows off his incredible voice, but also shows that he was personally upset by the collapse of his hometown 9.

Facenda died of cancer in 1984 at age 71. In the years since, his voice has been used to sell everything from video games to soups. His son, Jack, has been trying to protect his father’s voice, suing NFL Films, the NFL, and Chunky Soup in recent years.


The Greatest Left Handed Catcher in MLB History Was a Phillie

For the past century, almost no left handers have strapped on shin guards and gone behind the plate. A long season makes people do goofy things, so there have been occasional glimpses of lefties, but they have been more of a novelty than anything. The Cubs Dale Long caught two games in 1958, White Sox 1B Mike Squires caught a few games in the early 80s, and Benny Distefano caught for 6 innings for the Pirates as an emergency replacement in 1989. He was the last lefty to wear the tools of ignorance.

Only 5 left handers have caught over 100 games, and all of them played in the 19th century. The first lefty to go behind the plate was Philly native Bill Harbridge, who did so for the Hartford Dark Blues in 1876. He would catch 128 games. But there was only one left handed catcher who had a long, impressive career behind the plate. That was Jack Clements, who played on the Phillies from 1884-1897. (Not only was he the last every day lefty catcher, he was also the first catcher to ever wear a chest protector.) Though defensive stats are unavailable, we do have this little gem from the Phildelphia Ledger to let us know what kind of a catcher he was…his fine throwing held runners so closely to their bases, that they could not get around unless by consecutive hitting or through errors by the fielders.

Clements was a fine hitter, batting .287 for his career but hitting .350 or high for three straight years from 1894-1896. (The 1894 team was one of the greatest hitting teams in baseball history, with all 3 outfielders hitting over .400 and the team hitting .350 as a group.) Clements had some pop, too, hitting 17 homers in 1893 and finishing his career as the only 19th century player who played in 1,000 or more games with more career homers (77) than triples (60). Bill James had him listed as the 58th greatest catcher ever, and he certainly can be included in the discussion with Lieberthal, Boone, Seminick, and Daulton for greatest Phillies catcher of all time.