Bill Conlin | HOW GRATING THOU ART

Frauds, Flops and Fakes on the road to all-time losing

Posted: June 22, 2007

A JOURNEY OF 10,000 losses begins with a single fastball down the middle, a missed cutoff man, a baserunning blunder. It expands to a kaleidoscope of baseball bleeps, bloops, blunders and blasts that have been repeated through the end of the 19th century, the entire 20th and the first seven seasons of the 21st.

Now we stand breathless at Phillies loss No. 9,990. Ten to go . . .

Too many ballplayers have contributed to the carnage of 124 years to be ranked by number. The letters P-H-I-L-L-I-E-S across their chests tell the story. Who else to indict but all of them? But some stand out in history's harsh lineup - yes, officer, he's the one.

In no particular ranking or era, I give you a collection of Phillies Frauds, Flops and Flakes.

Frauds

Lance Parrish, C

Club president Bill Giles and GM Bill Giles were giddy on March 13, 1987 when the perennial All-Star catcher signed a free-agent contract. In landing Parrish, a prolific slugger with Gold Glove defensive skills, Giles broke ranks with his lodge brothers, who were involved in a free-agent stonewall that would cost them $280 million in collusion damages. It was felt by some observers his fellow owners looked the other way to reward Giles for his role in negotiating a record TV contract. Whatever, Parrish and Philly went together like escargot and cheesesteak.

Club president Bill Giles and GM Bill Giles were giddy on March 13, 1987 when the perennial All-Star catcher signed a free-agent contract. In landing Parrish, a prolific slugger with Gold Glove defensive skills, Giles broke ranks with his lodge brothers, who were involved in a free-agent stonewall that would cost them $280 million in collusion damages. It was felt by some observers his fellow owners looked the other way to reward Giles for his role in negotiating a record TV contract. Whatever, Parrish and Philly went together like escargot and cheesesteak.

Tina Turner's former bodyguard - and his wife - were booed unmercifully at the Vet. Parrish was traded to the Angels for a minor league pitcher at the end of his second miserable season, the first of an amazing 15 transactions the rest of his career.

Danny Tartabull, OF

Danny we hardly knew ye, but ye scammed us anyway. Three games and seven at-bats into his career as a Phillies free-agent signing, the veteran power hitter packed it in with an injury and never played again. Had he signed with the Westminster Kennel Club, Danilo would have been Best in Show, Golden Retriever Division. His only contribution outside of baseball was to play himself in a "Seinfeld" episode titled "The Pledge Drive."

Danny we hardly knew ye, but ye scammed us anyway. Three games and seven at-bats into his career as a Phillies free-agent signing, the veteran power hitter packed it in with an injury and never played again. Had he signed with the Westminster Kennel Club, Danilo would have been Best in Show, Golden Retriever Division. His only contribution outside of baseball was to play himself in a "Seinfeld" episode titled "The Pledge Drive."

Frank Thomas, 1B

I'm arbitrarily putting the man whose injury might have cost the Phillies the 1964 pennant in here because he helped defraud fans of the peak skills of Dick Allen. No. 15 should have ended his career in a Phillies uniform with Hall of Fame numbers the way Mike Schmidt did, but that possibility screeched to a halt on the 1965 day when a needling Thomas and an infuriated Allen tangled in a brief, violent batting-cage fight. When the popular Thomas was released, Allen was subjected to fan abuse that dogged him until he forced his trade after the 1969 season. Allen had been NL Rookie of the Year in 1964. In a half-minute he went from beloved to berated.

I'm arbitrarily putting the man whose injury might have cost the Phillies the 1964 pennant in here because he helped defraud fans of the peak skills of Dick Allen. No. 15 should have ended his career in a Phillies uniform with Hall of Fame numbers the way Mike Schmidt did, but that possibility screeched to a halt on the 1965 day when a needling Thomas and an infuriated Allen tangled in a brief, violent batting-cage fight. When the popular Thomas was released, Allen was subjected to fan abuse that dogged him until he forced his trade after the 1969 season. Allen had been NL Rookie of the Year in 1964. In a half-minute he went from beloved to berated.

Bill Giles, club president

The former Astrodome scoreboard operator and Phils marketing veep turned a less than $100,000 stake into a country club with a bad baseball team. During a dizzying ego trip, The Bopper dismantled one of the game's best minor league systems, watched his best and brightest scouts, coaches and instructors follow Dallas Green to Chicago, stripped Paul Owens of his authority and announced the Phillies would be the "Team of the '80s."

The former Astrodome scoreboard operator and Phils marketing veep turned a less than $100,000 stake into a country club with a bad baseball team. During a dizzying ego trip, The Bopper dismantled one of the game's best minor league systems, watched his best and brightest scouts, coaches and instructors follow Dallas Green to Chicago, stripped Paul Owens of his authority and announced the Phillies would be the "Team of the '80s."

Freddy Garcia, RHP

          This is a tough list to crack, but "Cortisone shot? I don't need no stinking cortisone shot" Freddy made it with ease. Senor Sweat will be back pitching in no time, SLAP-crippled right shoulder and all. All he wants for Christmas is another GM who thinks MRI means "Man Rarely Injured." His one victory to date is the costliest in club history - $10 million plus his current Clearwater, Fla., vacation. The famed Brink's robbery netted $2.7 million, a record bank haul at the time. Freddy makes the Brink's job look like a 7-Eleven stickup.

          This is a tough list to crack, but "Cortisone shot? I don't need no stinking cortisone shot" Freddy made it with ease. Senor Sweat will be back pitching in no time, SLAP-crippled right shoulder and all. All he wants for Christmas is another GM who thinks MRI means "Man Rarely Injured." His one victory to date is the costliest in club history - $10 million plus his current Clearwater, Fla., vacation. The famed Brink's robbery netted $2.7 million, a record bank haul at the time. Freddy makes the Brink's job look like a 7-Eleven stickup.

Honorable mentions

 

Reliever Mike Jackson (his expensive second tour with the Phillies consisted of one opening-game warmup), lefty Bo Belinsky (Mamie Van Doren had better stuff), first baseman Dick Stuart (made Ryan Howard look like Keith Hernandez and owner William D. Cox (banned for life in 1943 for betting on his wretched Phils team).

Flops

Ted Kazanski, SS, 2B

Ted's only claim to fame - and only record - was as the first position player to receive a $100,000 bonus. Owner Bob Carpenter wasn't going to be outspent by the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants and other clubs who had built powerful farm systems. He couldn't put 600 minor leaguers under contract, but he could pay top dollar for the best talent uncovered by his scouts in that pre-draft era. So, on June 11, 1951, the Phillies signed the 17-year-old shortstop from Hamtramck, Mich., to one of the most cussed and discussed bonus contracts of the day. Although he was a trim 6-1, 175 pounds, Kazanski had the speed and range of a pot-bellied stove. When his Phils career ended in 1958, he had stolen four bases. He had a lifetime batting average of .217 with 14 homers in 1,329 at-bats. Ted couldn't field, either. Although he was traded to Milwaukee, then to Baltimore, he never played for either team. He was just 24 when he had his final at-bat.

Ted's only claim to fame - and only record - was as the first position player to receive a $100,000 bonus. Owner Bob Carpenter wasn't going to be outspent by the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants and other clubs who had built powerful farm systems. He couldn't put 600 minor leaguers under contract, but he could pay top dollar for the best talent uncovered by his scouts in that pre-draft era. So, on June 11, 1951, the Phillies signed the 17-year-old shortstop from Hamtramck, Mich., to one of the most cussed and discussed bonus contracts of the day. Although he was a trim 6-1, 175 pounds, Kazanski had the speed and range of a pot-bellied stove. When his Phils career ended in 1958, he had stolen four bases. He had a lifetime batting average of .217 with 14 homers in 1,329 at-bats. Ted couldn't field, either. Although he was traded to Milwaukee, then to Baltimore, he never played for either team. He was just 24 when he had his final at-bat.

Hugh Mulcahy, RHP

No way to leave off a man whose nickname was L.P. - for Losing Pitcher. He was the ace of the Phils during the '30s, a decade where they lost nearly 1,000 games. In a four-season stretch, from 1937 to '40, the sturdy righthander went 8-18, 10-20, 9-16 and 13-22. As Roger Craig said after losing 24 games with the Mets, "You've got to be pretty damn good to get the ball that many times." Hugh would be called an "innings eater" today and make $7 million a year.

No way to leave off a man whose nickname was L.P. - for Losing Pitcher. He was the ace of the Phils during the '30s, a decade where they lost nearly 1,000 games. In a four-season stretch, from 1937 to '40, the sturdy righthander went 8-18, 10-20, 9-16 and 13-22. As Roger Craig said after losing 24 games with the Mets, "You've got to be pretty damn good to get the ball that many times." Hugh would be called an "innings eater" today and make $7 million a year.

Gavin Floyd, RHP

The slender kid from the

The slender kid from the

Annapolis, Md., area made Kazanski's bonus look like tip money. The Phillies liked Floyd's low-90s fastball and 12-6 curve so much they gave the first-rounder a $4.2 million signing deal. They also signed his brother, Pretty Boy Floyd - oops, wrong robbery. Factor in Freddy Garcia's salary and Gavin has cost Dave Montgomery $14.2 million. Over three seasons, he was 7-5 with a 6.96 ERA.

Larry Jackson, RHP

Bob Buhl, RHP

Pickles Dillhoefer, C

Mike Prendergast, RHP

That quartet cost the Phillies the services of two of the three greatest righthanders in franchise history in trades two generations apart. Grover Cleveland Alexander was swapped for Dillhoefer and Prendergast in 1917. Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins was traded to the Cubs with Adolfo Phillips and John Herrnstein in 1966 for veterans Jackson and Buhl. Jackson was a .500 pitcher, Buhl retired at midseason the following year, Dillhoefer and Prendergast were non-entities.

Steve Jeltz, SS

I'm including the switch-hitting shortstop with the 5 o'clock power not only because he was a starter on the famed Bill Giles Cocktail Napkin All-Stars, but for a great quote by Minister of Trade Hugh Alexander: "Boys, if I could get that Jose DeJesus for Steve Jeltz even up, I'd pick Jeltzie up and piggyback him all the way to Kansas City."

Jose DeJesus, pitcher

Nobody said Uncle Hughie was perfect. Jose was 17-17 in two Phillies seasons. He was granted free agency in 1993 after missing two seasons with injuries.

Honorable mention

Entire 1930 Phillies. Talk about a team effort. They hit an incredible .315. Chuck Klein scored 158 runs and drove in

Entire 1930 Phillies. Talk about a team effort. They hit an incredible .315. Chuck Klein scored 158 runs and drove in

170 with 59 doubles and 40 homers while batting .386. Lefty O'Doul hit .383. And the last-place Phils lost 102 games. Did I mention the team ERA was a never-equaled 6.71?

Flakes

Tug McGraw, LHP

During a summer with the Mets' Jacksonville, Fla., farm team, he fathered Tim McGraw. Went to barber school as a "You Gotta Believe" Mets reliever, practicing on homeless men in the Bowery. Kept an enormous sebaceous cyst removed from behind his left shoulder in a jar atop his Vet locker. Began Phils' St. Patrick's Day tradition. Performed "Casey at the Bat" with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops Orchestra. Authored a cartoon, "Scroogie." Had a tugboat named after him. Organized a charity bike-at-thon where righthander Larry Christenson broke his collarbone in a Marysville, Calif., spill. Planned famed final out leap in World Series Game 6 with Mike Schmidt during the drive to the ballpark. And many, many more.

During a summer with the Mets' Jacksonville, Fla., farm team, he fathered Tim McGraw. Went to barber school as a "You Gotta Believe" Mets reliever, practicing on homeless men in the Bowery. Kept an enormous sebaceous cyst removed from behind his left shoulder in a jar atop his Vet locker. Began Phils' St. Patrick's Day tradition. Performed "Casey at the Bat" with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops Orchestra. Authored a cartoon, "Scroogie." Had a tugboat named after him. Organized a charity bike-at-thon where righthander Larry Christenson broke his collarbone in a Marysville, Calif., spill. Planned famed final out leap in World Series Game 6 with Mike Schmidt during the drive to the ballpark. And many, many more.

Jay Johnstone, OF

Crazy Jay's best of many

el bizarro riffs was setting up a batting tee in the middle of 6th Street in Los Angeles' Wilshire District and driving tennis balls to illustrate proper batting form for the edification of yours truly and Wilmington News Journal sports editor Hal Bodley.

Crazy Jay's best of many riffs was setting up a batting tee in the middle of 6th Street in Los Angeles' Wilshire District and driving tennis balls to illustrate proper batting form for the edification of yours truly and sports editor Hal Bodley.

Mary Jane Johnstone, OF spouse

Often traveled with ballclub, usually with two tiny poodles yapping in her handbag.

Often traveled with ballclub, usually with two tiny poodles yapping in her handbag.

Frank Lucchesi, skipper

The colorful caretaker of the wretched 1970-72 Phils once climbed a 75-foot light tower in the minors after being ejected and stayed up there until police talked him down. Also sat on second base after a St. Louis ejection, refused to move and was finally carried off bodily still clutching the base.

The colorful caretaker of the wretched 1970-72 Phils once climbed a 75-foot light tower in the minors after being ejected and stayed up there until police talked him down. Also sat on second base after a St. Louis ejection, refused to move and was finally carried off bodily still clutching the base.

Paul Owens, farm director, GM, manager

You'll have to wait for the book . . .

You'll have to wait for the book . . .

*

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/conlin.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|