Most Underrated Philly Athletes of All-Time: #15 Byron Evans

(6 points) Just how underrated is Byron Evans? His wikipedia entry contains exactly 2 sentences about his career with the Eagles, and one of those talks about how he was overlooked as a defender. But his value is best summed up in this article by Reuben Frank last year about (what else?) how underrated Byron Evans was:

He didn’t pile up sacks like Reggie. He didn’t shut down tight ends like Seth. He didn’t fly across the field and obliterate wideouts who dared venture across the middle like Wes and Andre. And he didn’t make historic interceptions like E.A. All he did was effectively stuff running backs and clog up the middle, which let all the other guys roam around and make all those big plays.

And unlike teammates like Jerome Brown, Allen and Joyner, who had ebullient personalities, Byron was very, very quiet. He was the one guy on that defense that preferred to let his play do the talking.

From 1989-1992, Evans was a beast on defense, averaging 145.5 tackles per year. He was the signal caller and defensive captain of a defense that included Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, and Reggie White. He was smart enough to not only play the most demanding position of Buddy Ryan’s complex 46 defense, but to master it. And lastly, you have to give him points for the Beanie Wiggle.

Evans now teaches high school and coaches football in Arizona. Here he is interviewed a few months ago, talking about how much he enjoys coaching and teaching.

 


This Day in Phils History: Morandini’s Unassisted Triple Play

On September 20, 1992, the Phillies were floundering in last place in the NL East and facing the division-leading Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.  Curt Schilling and Randy Tomlin dominated for their respective clubs pushing the game into extras with a 2-2 score.  The score remained knotted until the bottom of the 13th inning, when Jeff King smoked an RBI liner into center field off Keith Shepard scoring Cecil Espy and giving the Pirates a 3-2 win.

A 13-inning-win is exciting in and of itself, but this game will be remembered not for the score, but for a defensive play that occurred in the bottom of the 6th.  With the game tied at 1, Andy Van Slyke led off the inning with a single to right field.  Barry Bonds then hit a seeing-eye single between Juan Bell and Dave Hollins.  With no outs and men on 1st and 2nd, Schill was in a bit of trouble as Jeff King stepped to the plate.  King worked a full count then smoked a line drive towards Morandini.  The second baseman leaped to make the catch, stepped on second to double Van Slyke, who was almost to third, then tagged Bonds, who had taken off from first.

Morandini’s was the first unassisted triple play in the majors since Ron Hansen made one for the Washington Senators in 1968.  It was the first in the National League since Jimmy Cooney’s for the Cubs in ’27.

In terms of Philadelphia baseball history, Morandini was the first to accomplish the feat.  No Philadelphia Athletic is credited with an unassisted triple play and the only other Phillie to make one is Eric Bruntlett, whose game-ending triple play sunk the Mets on August 23, 2009.


Vick vs. Cunningham


A pretty sweet video of some of Cunningham and Vick’s greatest plays.


A Few SI Preseason Eagles Predictions from Past Years

Big things are expected from the Eagles this season, and plenty of experts have them in the Super Bowl. Let’s go back through the years and see what predictions SI has made in past years. There are some fun ones here. We start with Peter King’s analysis in 2005.

The problems started before camp, of course, when Owens announced that he wanted to renegotiate the seven-year, $49 million contract he signed in 2004. Then he took shots at quarterback Donovan McNabb, calling him a hypocrite; injured his groin; and was se

nt home for arguing with Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress. Who knows how this soap opera will play out, but you can be sure that whether Owens plays 16 snaps or 16 games this season, Reid will have the Eagles focused and ready to play.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Terrell Owens singlehandedly destroyed a team perhaps more than any other single player in NFL history. They finished 6-10. In 2002, Peter King saw the Eagles weakness before the season started.

But a funny thing happened on the way to improvement. In the off-season the Eagles lost star middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who was released after a contentious contract negotiation with coach Andy Reid. That loss might be crippling if 275-pound Levon Kirkland or unproven four-year vet Barry Gardner fail to be adequate replacements.

It is well worth noting that this year is not the first time that the Eagles have entered the season without a quality middle linebacker. In 2002, letting the Axeman walk may have very well cost the Eagles a shot at going to their first Super Bowl. Who can forget his replacement, Fat Levon Kirkland, futilely chasing Joe Jurevicius in the NFC Championship Game? Things weren’t looking good back in 1994, though there was some new hope thanks to new ownership.

…none of the new guys they brought in this year can match the quality of Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons, who followed Buddy Ryan to Arizona. And the defensive line, which once was the most feared in football, now reads, from left to right: William Fuller, Andy Harmon, William Perry and Mike Flores…The offense is more flash than smash. The Eagles were 4-0 last season until quarterback Randall Cunningham went down with a broken ankle; then they lost their next six. It was the second major injury in three years for the 31-year-old Cunningham. Two darting runners, Vaughn Hebron and rookie Charlie Garner, should help ease the pressure on Cunningham to take off and leg it.

The biggest plus is new owner Jeff Lurie, who stepped in and made sure that everyone was signed on time. It’s the first time since 1984 that that has happened in Philadelphia, where it’s being said that Lurie has brought a new, aggressive attitude to the team. Now if he could only step in at defensive end.

In 1989, Paul Zimmerman acknowledged that the Eagles were a two man team.

Take away two players and the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES are a sub-.500 team. Despite a mediocre line, quarterback Randall Cunningham had a magical year, practically willing his team into the end zone. End Reggie White was the best defensive player in football. But White missed much of training camp in a contract holdout, and the Eagles were on their way to nowheresville.

When he returned in late August, White said that if Buddy Ryan were not coach, he would never have played forPhiladelphia again. The players win for Buddy, not for the Eagles. Owners don’t like that kind of thinking.

Philly has some noticeable holes. Ryan keeps talking about a heavy running game, but that’s all it has been, talk. Even with White’s NFL-leading 18 sacks last year, the Eagles ended up last in pass defense, giving up the most yards ever by an NFC team. Philadelphia plays on high emotion. Last year it could beat anybody, but it could go in the dumper against anyone too. It will be another nail-biting season in ’89.

SI predicted a 9-7 season. In fact, the Eagles went 11-5, with Eric Allen, Seth Joyner, and Andre Waters taking some of the pressure off Reggie White (The offense continued to be a One-Man Show). In 1979, the Eagles were continuing their climb to respectability, but were being slightly derailed thanks to cocaine.

The PHILADELPHIA Eagles slipped into the playoffs last year on the winged feet of Wilbert Montgomery, only to make a quick exit when they blew a 13-0 fourth-quarter lead to Atlanta. Montgomery’s 1,220 yards rushing erased Steve Van Buren from the Eagle record book, but the guy who knocked down the linebackers for Montgomery last year, 215-pound Fullback Mike Hogan, won’t be around. Hogan and reserve Halfback Boomer Betterson were arrested on cocaine charges…Philadelphia’s strength, especially against the run, is the defensive front seven, led by greatly underrated Right End Carl Hairston, Inside Linebacker Bill Bergey and a comer at outside linebacker, Reggie Wilkes. The Eagles’ first pick in the draft, Jerry Robinson from UCLA, has impressed everyone with his speed (4.6 for 40 yards) and could be a starter at outside linebacker. Another draft pick, Tony Franklin of Texas A&M, seems ready to end the Eagles’ long search for a quality placekicker.

They would ultimately finish the season 11-5 and make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs, where they’d lose to Tampa. And finally, in 1966, things were looking up for the Birds.

The offense again should be hard to stop. Quarterback Norm Snead, after a good 1965 season, had surgery on a weak knee and is in excellent shape. At his best Snead can call a smart game, balancing the strong Eagle running with accurate passes at short and medium range. Behind Snead is King Hill, a certified big league quarterback who has knocked around for eight years but has never been No. 1. Although he has a strong arm he is not No. 1 because he is terribly inconsistent. The Eagles’ No. 3 quarterback is the little-used scrambler, Jack Concannon. Tall and strong, a good runner and a pretty fair passer, Concannon could be valuable as a halfback. He can run well enough, and with the threat of the halfback option pass he could be doubly dangerous.

In any case, the Eagle running can be outstanding. Now that Jim Brown has retired, the other Brown, Tim of the Eagles, is the most versatile runner in the game. He weighs 198 and can burst through the line or sprint around it with equal facility. He is at his fancy best when he breaks clear and shows off his repertoire of fakes or his tantalizing change of pace. Last year Brown was third in yardage (861) and first in average yards per carry (5.4).

Timmy Brown didn’t live up to expectations, rushing for 548 yards for a mere 3.4 yards per carry, Snead threw 8 TDs and 11 interceptions, and the defense allowed more points than the Eagles scored. And yet, somehow, the Eagles finished 9-5 and 2nd in the East Division. Go figure.


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.


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.

 


Maxx From Black Landlord Shares his Fondest Philly Sports Memory

 If you’re a music fan in Philadelphia, odds are you’ve heard of Maxx Stoyanoff-Williams. Perhaps not by that name, however. You might have known him as Madd when he was a member of the Goats in the early 1990s, or perhaps more recently as the frontman of the incredible group Black Landlord. It was while he was a member of the Goats, touring overseas, that his favorite sports memory took place. This is a pretty great story. This is Part 3 of our Philly Sports Memories Series. The first two are below, and we’ve got several more great ones on the way.


What is my favorite Philly sports memory? Was it watching number 45 pat his leg and throw his hands in the air after he threw the last pitch in 1980? Was it watching Mo in the final seconds slam dunk (sort of) in LA as we won the NBA Championship in 1984?  Maybe it was the most recent event, with Brad Lidge and the Phillies bringing home the title in 2008? They were all great memories.  Or do I still live with the heartache that was the Flyers in the 90’s? Maybe it was the “fog bowl”, when Mother Nature denied Philly a chance at the title?  The answer to the question is none of the above.

My favorite memory is the Phillies National League Championship Series of ’93, one that I wasn’t even in the country to witness firsthand. I was on tour for the playoffs that season, traveling through Europe with my band playing rock star. Lucky for me I had my mom.  Armed with my tour schedule and a list of fax numbers she kept my entire band and me hot with Phillies fever! We were on the road in a different foreign country and or city every day. There was no Internet access for us in Wuppertal, Germany or Marseille, France in 1993.  No one could stream highlights of the games on their phone in Brussels or their laptop in Amsterdam.  We had my mom, and she had access to a Xerox and fax machine. We didn’t really have many opportunities to phone home and get updates on the Phillies quest for the pennant as we were broke and per diems were low.  So it was beyond amazing when we received the first of many Daily News articles complete with front and back page photos.  She would also send the Inquirer’s sports pages to complement the coverage.

After each fax arrived, it was neatly folded and tucked into a manila envelope with my name written on it in large letters,  “MAXX,” by each venue’s manager. We would then take turns reading the articles and reliving each moment just as if we were at the Vet holding our breath with every pitch.  It was immediately after that when my mother was decreed the “coolest mom ever” by not only my band but by the other American band we were touring with. (She would eventually be the person that mailed me VCR tapes of the Eagles and Sixers, while I was working on a record in Brazil for three months. Oh, and she had to have those tapes converted so that they could be viewed in proper format.)  There was so much anticipation as we would arrive at a new venue or in a new city during those days.  Normally the first question you ask when you arrive at a new venue or club is, “Where’s the good bathroom?” Now we asked, “Is there a fax for Maxx?” Reading those faxes made us feel like we were in Philly. So when we received the fax after game 6, we went nuts! We beat the Braves! We finally beat the Braves! We were in the World Series, and I was on my way home, hoping to watch the Phillies win the World Series.

PART ONE: Phillies Nation writer Nick Staskin talks about his favorite memory.

PART TWO: CSN’s John Finger recalls a few of his favorites.

 


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.


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.  


Carson of We Should Be GMs Remembers the ’93 Team

Carson is a little late to the party, but since he writes for one of our favorite local baseball blogs (We Should Be GMs), we’re gonna let him in anyway. Here were his thoughts on the ’93 team. 

The entire playoff experience was new to me. The Phils were good in my early years, but I was too young to remember that success. They clinched the NL pennant on my 13th birthday, so that was awesome. The World Series itself seemed like a ton of offense. I remember Nails and Molitor exchanging blows back and forth. I played for a Little League team called the Blue Jays at the time and had a hat or theirs and a poster on the bedroom wall…hated that. My Uncle lived in Philly was going to take me to the victory parade should the Phils win, but alas Carter ended it. Honestly, I cried. This is back in the day before my family had cable, so I stayed up at night listening to the games on the radio. Getting to watch them play in the postseason on tv was a treat, something now I take for granted.

My memories of the team are fond ones. I hold no animosity toward Mitch Williams. Mickey Morandini and Wes Chamberlain remain two of my favorite Phillies. The squad was a rag-tag bunch of ruffians that were enjoyable to follow.