Kruk Says the ’93 Phils Could Have Had Randy Johnson


One of the most famous moments in MLB All-Star game history was John Kruk’s at bat against Randy Johnson in the 1993 Midsummer Classic. In an article by Sam Donnellon in the Daily News in 2011, Kruk claims that at the time that at-bat happened, the Phillies were talking to the Mariners about a trade for Randy Johnson.

“If you remember the trade deadline, we had a chance to get Randy Johnson and they didn’t want to give up, I think, Mike Lieberthal,” the Krukker was saying yesterday. “Either him or Tyler Green . . . “

Kruk paused.

“Look, I love Lieby, he’s one of my favorite people. But, at the time, I wish he was a Mariner.”

It’s funny, because we talk all the time about bad trades in sports, but you don’t hear as much about terrible non-trades. This was obviously a disastrous non-trade. There’s not much about it online. The best I could do was finding some discussion of a Phillies offer in February of 1993.

Philadelphia offered young players such as right-handers Brad Brink, Steve Paris and Mike Williams, first baseman Ricky Jordan and outfielder Wes Chamberlain. Brink was 8-2 at Class AAA Scranton and 0-4 in eight games with the Phillies. Paris was 5-7 at Class AA Reading and 3-3 at Scranton. Williams was 9-1 with Scranton and 1-1 with the Phillies. Jordan batted .304 with only four homers. Chamberlain has more power, nine homers, but hit only .258.

“There was a time last season when I thought something had a chance to be done,” (then Phillies) General Manager Lee Thomas said. “But I don’t think we’re in the hunt anymore.”

According to Krukker, they were still in the hunt all the way until the 1993 trade deadline, but Thomas wouldn’t pull the trigger. Bad move. Tyler Green finished his career 18-25. Lieberthal was obviously a good player, but anyone who wouldn’t deal him for Randy Johnson would be nuts. The Phillies back then were either too scared or too cheap to get rid of prospects for superstars, and you have to wonder how incredible the ’93 Phillies would have been with Schilling and Johnson for the stretch run. Actually, no you don’t. Just watch highlights of the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series.


This Date in Phillies History: Kevin Gross Caught Cheating

On August 10, 1987, Kevin Gross secured his name in the annals of baseball history as more than just a pitcher with an MVP mustache.  He forever joined ranks with the likes of John McGraw, Gaylord Perry, Joe Niekro and Whitey Ford as one of the biggest cheaters in the game.

The Phillies were leading the Cubs at the Vet by a score of 4-2 in the top of the 5th inning when Cubs manager Gene Michael had a word with home plate umpire Charlie Williams.  Williams gathered the rest of his crew and paid a visit to Gross at the mound.  They asked to see his glove and after a quick inspection, Michael’s suspicions were confirmed: Gross had a strip of sandpaper glued to the heel of his glove to scuff balls.  Although no doctored balls were discovered,  Gross was immediately ejected.

Even though he was caught red-handed, Gross wouldn’t admit to his wrongdoing after the game:  “There was no reason to come out and check the glove for anything.  I’m not saying anything.”  After he was told the umps found the sandpaper, Gross said “I don’t know.  I don’t need anything in my glove.  I’ll have something to say tomorrow.  I don’t know what’s going on.”

The day after the game, Gross was called into Commissioner Giamatti’s office for a 4-hour hearing after which the league handed down a 10-game suspension.  By this time, Gross came around and admitted that he did have sandpaper in his glove, but that he “didn’t use it.”  The pitcher said, “I was not scuffing any ball in the game last night.”  Instead, he was “just fooling” with the sandpaper.

It was later reported that Gross, who had lost 5-6 mph on his fastball, was using sandpaper to compensate.  Gene Michael actually suspected Gross was scuffing balls in a previous game that year, but waited until the August 10th match-up to raise the issue with umpires.

Gross obviously wasn’t paying much attention to the league if he thought he was going to get away with the stunt.  The night Gross was caught, Twins pitcher Joe Niekro was in the midst of a 10-day suspension for having sandpaper and an emery board in his pocket during an August 3rd game against the Angels.

As an aside, I never understood why pitchers who scuffed balls or used foreign substances to get the ball to do wacky things are romanticized, while players who use steroids are vilified.  Why is one considered part of baseball lore, while the other is downright evil?  Pitchers who were notorious for doctoring balls are proud members of the Hall of Fame, but I don’t see Barry Bonds or Manny Ramirez ever being inducted.  I’d argue that doctoring balls is just as bad, if not worse, than using performance enhancing drugs.  Both are against the rules of the game, both are clearly unethical, and both allow the player to do things he couldn’t naturally do.  However, while taking steroids may make you a little stronger, a little faster, and recover from injury in a little less time, it won’t make the ball do impossible things.  Just because it’s nostalgic, doesn’t mean it’s okay.


The Greatest Game in MLB History?

In June of 1971, at Riverfront Stadium, Rick Wise played perhaps the greatest game any MLB pitcher has ever played. He not only no-hit the Cincinnati Reds, he hit two home runs in the same game. He is the only pitcher to ever hit two homers while throwing a no-no. In August of 1971, he hit two dingers again, this time against the Giants. He finished the season hitting .237 with 6 homers and 15 RBIs. He talked about that game and that season with Bruce Markesun of the Hardball Times a few weeks ago.

Markusen: Let’s talk more about that game against the Reds. What did you have going for you in terms of pure stuff on the mound? What do you remember in terms of the pitching part that day?

Wise: Well, I felt warming up that I better locate my pitches because I was coming off the effects of the flu. I felt very weak that day. But it was my turn to start nevertheless. So warming up, it seemed like the ball was stopping halfway down to the catcher. So I said to myself that I better locate my pitches well.

I sweated out the remnants of the flu through the first inning; it was very hot on the carpet at Riverfront (Stadium). But I had a good rhythm. They were putting the ball in play early; it was 94 pitches in an hour and 53 minutes, and the game was over, so it went right along.

Of course, I added the two home runs. One in the fifth off Ross Grimsley, and then one off a reliever there, in the eighth inning. It was Clay Carroll, a very fine reliever at that time.

Markusen: From a hitting standpoint, Rick, the two home runs in one day. That had to be a bit of a surprise.

Wise: Well, not really. I had six home runs that year. I hit two home runs in a game twice that year. I tied a National League record. And one of those home runs was a grand slam, as a matter of fact. But I worked at hitting. I was always a good hitter, growing up in Little League, Babe Ruth, American Legion ball, high school ball, I was always hitting third or fourth. I had 15 home runs my first nine years in the National League, and then I went to the American League and never hit another one.

And Wise was no slouch on the hill that year either. He went 17-14 with an impressive 2.88 ERA. After the 1971 season, he was traded to the Cardinals for a player who would hit 10 career homers and knock in 112 RBIs over the course of his Phillies career. His name was Steve Carlton.


No-Hitter Trivia

Here’s a round from the sports quiz I hosted last weekend at City Tap House.

  1. Who threw 12 perfect innings in a game in 1959, only to lose his no-hitter, and the game, in the 13th?
  2. On June 29th, 1990, two pitchers threw a no-hitter on the same day, the only time that’s happened since 1898. One did so for the Oakland A’s, the other for the LA Dodgers. Who were they?
  3. When Nolan Ryan threw his 5th no-hitter, he broke the record of the youngest man ever elected to the Hall of Fame. Who was he?
  4. What team was no-hit 3 times between July 2009 and June 2010?
  5. Five Phillies threw no-hitters between 1964 and 2003. One point for each one you get, with a bonus point if you get all 5.
  6. What active MLB catcher has the record for most no-hitters caught, with 4?
  7. In 1917, the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox got thrown out of the game after walking the first batter. He was replaced by Ernie Shore, who retired the next 27 players in order. WHo was the starting pitcher, who got tossed?
  8. Only one player has ever thrown a no-hitter at Camden Yards, and only one player has ever thrown a no-hitter at Coors Field. It is the same person. Incredibly, both times he was a visiting player. He pitched for 8 different teams in hhis career, and is one of only 5 players to throw no-hitters in both leagues. Who is he?
  9. In 1990, Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter but lost 4-0 to the White Sox due to three errors in the 8th inning. What team was he pitching for?
  10. Not including the Washington Nationals, what are the only two teams in MLB to never throw a single no-hitter?

Bonus (Be w/in 3 either way): Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter last year, but struggled with control the whole game and set a new MLB record for most pitches thrown in a no-no. How many?

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Zoo With Roy Recalls His Favorite Philly Sports Moment

Initially a lark when the Phillies landed Roy Halladay, complete with kid-like drawings of Halladay and zoo animals, the website Zoo With Roy has quickly established itself as one of the most beloved sports websites in the city of Philadelphia. And while its author wishes to remain anonymous, he does drop a hint of who he is in the following piece…he was a sophomore in high school in 1993. (I also have it on good authority that he occasionally used to play quizzo at O’Neals). That’s all we have to go on at this time. Here he talks about a cherished childhood memory…watching Game 6 of the NLCS.

I went to a lot of Phillies games with my stepfather- and have memories in some form or another from a good deal of those- but I’d have to say that my favorite involves one we watched in our living room: Game Six of the 1993 NLCS. I was a sophomore in high school, and he was a blue collar “man’s man”, though we each let our guards down enough to be colossal dorks that postseason. Folks spoiled by the current incarnation of the Phillies need to recall that they basically stunk like butt for the decade preceding and following (despite your optimism at the time, that season always kind of had the feel of an anomaly) that miracle run.

Caught up in the excitement, we would make the same shrine around our television set for each game. McDonald’s glass to the left, knit hat magnet on the center of the console, logo drawn into our carpet directly in front of it. It made no sense whatsoever, and actually wasn’t very impressive now that I think back on it. We evidently didn’t hold our gods in very high regard. That game, the clincher, also got recorded on our VCR. I hit “pause” during commercials so that they wouldn’t tape. I sat on the floor, the old man on the couch. These were our spots.

The game played out the way one predetermined to be a win and forever special is designed to play out – gloriously. We were allowed ample game time to revel. Mitch Williams struck out the last Braves batter. His leap. The two of us were frozen in that moment, the culmination of hundreds of games after little league and on give-away days and with Phillies Franks coupons and after I got stitches and when my mom needed a night off and free tickets from his boss and anything else that thankfully gave cause. Then we celebrated. With the team we loved, which seemingly never was special, we had also won.

I still have that magnet on my refrigerator, all these years later and a few states away. Whenever I see it I think of that night, and how lucky we were to share that joy… even if it was a fluke of a year.

PREVIOUSLY SHARED FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENTS:

Larry Mendte.

Black Landlord vocalist Maxx.

CSN’s John Finger.

Beerman Nick Staskin of Phillies Nation.

 


This Date in Phillies History: Ted Kazanski’s Inside-the-Park Grand Slam

Ted Kazanski (not to be confused with Kaczynski) didn’t have a stellar career in the majors.  In his six-year career, all of which was spent as a Phillie, the utility infielder batted .217 with a total of 118 runs, 116 RBI, and 14 HR.  But on August 8, 1956, Kazanski made a mark that no Phillie has since matched.

On this date 55 years ago, the Phillies were facing the New York Giants at Polo Grounds.  The Phils were up 3-2 heading into the top of the 6th inning.  Giants pitcher Jim Hearn, coaxed a leadoff ground out from Del Ennis and then gave up consecutive singles to Elmer Valo and Willie Jones.  After Granny Hamner was intentionally walked, second baseman Ted Kazanski stepped to the plate with the based loaded and one out.  Kazanski smoked a liner to the center field wall, which stood 483′ from home plate. Even with Willie Mays sprinting to the ball, the fact that Polo Grounds boasted the deepest center field wall of any stadium in major league history gave Kazanski all the time he needed to round the bases and score.

Kazanski completing the round-tripper with Valo giving him the signal to slide. (AP)

Kazanski was the 4th, and last, Phillie to hit an inside-the-park granny.  The others were Irish Meusel (1918), George Harper (1924) and interestingly one of the guys who crossed the plate before Kazanski: Willie Jones (1951).  Five Philadelphia Athletics accomplished the rare feat, two of whom did it twice: Harry Davis (1902 and 1904), Danny Murphy (1904 and 1908), Stuffy McInnis (1911), Lee Gooch (1917) and Ferris Fain (1947).


The Phillies’ Longest Winning Streak

On July 28th, the Phillies faced Tim Lincecum and the Giants and fell 4-1.  They haven’t lost since. The Phils went on to sweep the Pirates and Rockies in three-game sets and have taken the first 3 of 4 against the Giants, winning 9 consecutive games.  Today, the Phillies are once again up against Luiz the cab-driver with Roy Oswalt looking to extend the team’s win streak to double-digits.

Nine wins in a row is nice, but it’s not even close to the team record.  That record, 16 wins without a loss, belongs to the dapper gentlemen pictured above of the 1887 Philadelphia Quakers.  On September 15th, the Quakers were stuck in 4th place mired 9.5 games behind the Detroit Wolverines. They then got hot, really hot.

The Quakers swept the Indianapolis Hoosiers, the Wolverines, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Washington Nationals and the Boston Beaneaters for 13 straight victories.  The final series of the season was a 4-game set at the original Polo Grounds against the New York Giants.  The Quakers took the first two, tied the third and then won the last game of the series and the season on October 8th.  This capped what Major League Baseball considers a 16-game winning streak, but what the hockey-guy in me wants to call a 17-game unbeaten streak. No matter the name, the streak propelled the Quakers to a 2nd place finish in the National League.

The 2011 Phillies have some work to do if they want to push the franchise record for consecutive wins past 16 games.  In addition to beating Lincecum today, they will need to sweep the Dodgers in L.A., sweep the Nationals at home and take the first game of the D-Backs series.  It won’t be easy, but if any team can do it, the real dream team in this town can.

Note: The Phillies’ longest winning streak in the modern-era is 13 games, which was earned in 1977.


Phillies Play Pirates in First Game Ever on the Radio

On August 5th, 1921, the Phillies travelled to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates. The Phils were just starting that dreadful period from 1919-1947 when they would finish last or next to last 24 times. The Pirates, meanwhile, were leading the National League at the time (they would finish 2nd to the Giants after a late season swoon). The Pirates would win the game, 8-5. But what made the game special was that it was the first one every covered on radio. And though nobody knew it at the time (people thought baseball would be boring on the radio), they were starting a revolution. The man who called the game that afternoon was 26-year old Pittsburgh DeeJay Harold Arlin (left), who announced by talking into a telephone  from a box seat in the crowd. Here’s the full story from explorepahistory.com:

On the afternoon of Friday, August 5, 1921, Harold Arlin sat down in a box seat behind home plate to watch the Pirates defeat the Phillies, 8-5. He wasn’t there just to watch, though; he was also there to tell fans beyond the ballpark what he was seeing. When he opened his mouth to speak into the telephone he was holding, Arlin changed the way Americans would enjoy baseball, and indeed, every other sport, forever…

“We were looking for programming,” Arlin recalled years later, “and baseball seemed a natural. I went to Forbes Field and set up shop.” The operation, a hand-held telephone connected to a transmitter in a box behind home plate, had a few glitches, though. “Nobody told me I had to talk between pitches,” he conceded, and when he did, his distinctive deep voice did not always come through. “Sometimes the transmitter didn’t work. Often the crowd noise would drown us out. We didn’t know whether we’d talk into a total vacuum or whether somebody would hear us.”

Plenty of “somebodies” did, and sports” broadcasting became a sensation. Radio sets flew off the shelves, and fans, intrigued by what they were hearing, arrived at Forbes Field in record numbers. The game took on a new dimension as Arlin learned to paint images with his words and infuse drama into the proceedings. For the first time, baseball fans could be in two places at once: in the stands and in their living rooms. It no longer became necessary to make a trip to the ballpark to take in a game; the game, instead, could come to you. 

Arlin got out of the radio game in 1925, but he did make a rather remarkable reappearance in 1972. His grandson Steve played several seasons for the Padres. In 1972, the Pads came to Pittsburgh to take on the Bucs. Arlin, by now a 77-year old man, got to call a few innings of his grandson playing baseball, in the same city where he had called the first game. How cool is that?


Joel Youngblood Gets Hits For Two Teams in Two Different Cities in the Same Day

On this day in 1982, Joel Youngblood did something that no player had ever done before, and that no player has done since. It began that afternoon, as he started for the Mets against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. In the third inning, he cracked a single off Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, knocking in two runs. It would be his last hit as a Met. He had just been traded to the Expos, who were playing the Phillies that night at the Vet. Mookie Wilson took his place in center field, and he hopped a plane to Philly, where the Expos were playing the Phillies that night. In the 7th inning, Youngblood stepped up to the plate. He stepped up against Steve Carlton, and rapped a single. Not only did he have two hits in two cities in the same day. He collected both hits off future Hall of Famers!

The NY Daily News wrote an entertaining piece about it in 2007, celebrating the 25 year anniversary.

And that’s just when the fun began. After showering and packing his bags, Youngblood went outside to catch a cab for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where he had quickly arranged a flight to Philadelphia. The Expos were slated for a 7:30 start….“I realized I left my glove at Wrigley Field,” Youngblood says. “And I knew that would take away from the time I had and I was jeopardizing my opportunity to make that flight. But I’d played with that glove for years. So I went back, got my glove, and the cab got me to the airport in probably another 30 minutes. It was a 6:05 flight – 7:05 Philly time.”

At some point before he got on that plane, Youngblood managed to get on the phone to his wife, Becky, who was at home in Greenwich, Conn., with one of her nieces.

“For me, it was pretty exciting,” Becky says. “My niece and I got in the car and went to Philly, and got there when he was coming to bat … It just happened so fast and furious and quick. You just pack your bag and go, and you do, and you’re just there to support him and hopefully things work out. That was it, very fast.”

The Expos also were very fast. By the time he got to Veterans Stadium, the game was already under way, his new uniform was there waiting for him, his name already stitched onto the back. Expos manager Jim Fanning met his new player in the dugout, and sent him to right field in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement for Jerry White. He came up in the seventh and rapped a single in his only plate appearance against the second immortal of the day, Steve Carlton.

He is still the only player in baseball history to get a hit for two different teams in two different cities in the same day.


Happy Birthday Cliff Lee (The Other One)

Happy 115th birthday to Cliff Lee. Cliff came to the Phillies in 1921 after his first team, the Pirates, put him on waivers. Lee had three terrific seasons with the Phillies. His best was 1922, when he hit .322 with 17 homers and 77 RBIs. He is also a reminder that not everything is on the internet. I can find next to no info on him, which is too bad, because I’m dying to know why he hit so well but only played over 100 games twice in his career. I also wonder why he was dropped by the Indians a year after batting .322 for them, and never appeared in the majors again. If anyone has any info on the original Cliff Lee, holler at me. Here are his career stats.