by Clark Groome
Major League Baseball ran a poll of its fans, asking them to pick the four greatest players for each team and the four greatest living baseball players overall.
Each team had eight nominees. Frankly, until the polls were closed, all I knew about this was that the winners would be announced at the All Star Game in Cincinnati July 14.
The eight Phillies on the ballot were Rich Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Chuck Klein, Robin Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Schmidt and Chase Utley.
A good group to be sure – but I have some questions. Are the players being selected for what they did with the Phillies or for their overall careers, part of which were in Phillies pinstripes?
Was there a minimum number of years with the team to qualify? If so, what was it?
Does consideration for “greatest Phillies player” include the impact he had off the field as well as on?
Who has been left off that should have been considered?
Is it required that the player be a familiar name?
In my view the players should be nominated for their contributions to the Phillies. They also should have been here for a minimum of five years. Bunning, of this group, just makes the five-year minimum. Other great Phillies that didn’t play here five years that might be otherwise considered are Pete Rose, Jim Thome and Roy “Doc” Halladay.
If the impact off the field is taken into account, then Rich Ashburn should win a place in the “Franchise Four.” If not, then his presence there is somewhat less certain.
If there is a certainty about who should be included, my guess is that Carlton and Schmidt are slam-dunks.
I would also include Chuck Klein. He spent 13 of his 17 Major League seasons as a Phillie. He had a lifetime batting average of .320, 300 home runs, and 1,201 RBI. (All stats included for those mentioned in this story are career numbers.) He is the only Phillie to win baseball’s Triple Crown (most hits, homers and highest batting average in one season). He did it in 1933, coincidentally the same year that the Philadelphia Athletics’ Jimmy Foxx was the American League’s Triple Crown winner.
So, that’s three out of four. Let’s, for now, eliminate the two active players. They certainly deserve to be in the conversation but my guess is that they’re there because they’re popular and might draw interest from the fans.
And then there are those who are missing.
Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, a Phillie for 11of his 15 season, had a lifetime batting average of .346, hit 101 home runs in the dead ball era, and drove in 1,464 runs.
Pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander played eight of his 20 seasons at Baker Bowl, posted a 373-208 won/lost record, struck out 2,198 and had a lifetime earned run average of 2.56.
Frank Edwin “Tug” McGraw spent half of his 20-year career in Philadelphia, Pitching in 824 games, the Tugger had a won/lost record of 96-92, an ERA of 3.14, 1,109 strikeouts and 180 saves. He is also known locally for getting the last out in the Phillies’ 1980 World Series victory over the Kansas City Royals.
You might also want to throw in Del Ennis, Jim Konstanty, Chris Short, Darren Daulton and Curt Schilling. Others?
Ultimately, what’s the point of this anyway? It does make for great conversations. I’ve been part of two such chats in the press box with colleagues who’d rather talk about the past than the home team’s current struggles. Was there any consensus? Other than Carlton and Schmidt, no.
What there was was a lot of great baseball talk, and the realization that for all the Phillies’ current troubles, the franchise has played some great baseball and employed some spectacular players.
My guess is that Carlton, Schmidt, Ashburn and either Roberts or Rollins will be announced as the Phillies’ Franchise Four on July 14.
I would choose Carlton, Schmidt, Klein and Delahanty. Or maybe Carlton, Schmidt, Klein and Roberts. But what about Whitey?
It ain’t easy, but it’s fun.
What do you think?