by Clark Groome
The annual Phillies Alumni celebration, held last weekend, honored previous winners and paid tribute to Jim Bunning, Darren Daulton and Dallas Green, all of whom died since the 2016 event.
The issue of who should, and who should not, be included on the Wall was a hot topic.
Until this year the official criteria for the honor limited candidates to players, managers and coaches with four years in red pinstripes. But then last year the team honored Jim Thome who didn’t serve the requisite four years, which had until 2015 been five years.
The Wall also includes former Phillies voice Harry Kalas, whose induction took place in 2009, just months after he died. The waiting period was supposed to be three years but that year exceptions were made so that this essential contributor to our summers could be honored alongside his beloved players.
So, clearly, exceptions to the “rules” can, and occasionally should, be made.
The description of the award now reads, “Phillies executives, players, managers and coaches with four or more years of service are eligible.
“Consideration [for eligibility],” according to the current criteria, “is given to longevity, ability, characters, and contributions to the Phillies and baseball, plus special achievements.”
In a few years there will be a lot of eligible players from the 2007-2011 era who are obvious honorees: Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and, if a length-of-service exception can be made, Brad Lidge.
There may be some other older players – Jim Konstanty and Tim McCarver come to mind – who should be considered.
What about adding some of those “executives” to the Wall? How about some broadcasters to join Kalas?
And what about The Phanatic?
Let’s start with The Phanatic. The idea for his joining the Phillies took place, “after the 1977 season.” That means that he will have been entertaining the fans at Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park for 40 years in 2018. There’s always a Phanatic birthday celebration early in the season. Why not, as part of that, add a plaque on the Wall? It wouldn’t interfere with Alumni Weekend (although the Phanatic typically does) and it would honor the best mascot in sports, a mascot displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Among the broadcasters the most obvious choice is the late By Saam who, from 1938, was the play-by-play voice of the Philadelphia Athletics, adding the Phils to his responsibilities in 1939. For the next 12 years he was the voice of both local franchises.
After a five-year hiatus from the Phillies, Saam returned to them after the A’s moved to Kansas City in 1954. He continued with them until his retirement in 1975, the last four years sharing time with Harry Kalas. He was awarded the Ford Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.
Saam’s partners Bill Campbell (1963-1970) and Andy Musser (1976-1997) are also deserving of recognition.
Campbell’s career was not limited to the Phillies. As a play-by-play man for the Philadelphia Warriors he called Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. As the voice of the Eagles from 1952-1966 he was behind the mike for their 1960 NFL championship.
Musser was simply reliability personified.
Chris Wheeler should also be considered.
A Phillies employee since 1971, “Wheels” was in the broadcast booth from 1977 until 2013. What has become obvious now that he’s no longer on air is just how much he knew, and how good he was.
Public address announcer Dan Baker has brought life to the team that he has served since 1972. He’s one of the team’s most effective ambassadors and one of the most respected men at his job in the Major Leagues. During his time as the Phils’ PA guy he announced five World Series (1980, 1983, 1993, 2008, 2009) and two MLB All Star Games (1976, 1996).
And now to the executive suite. There are three men who deserve the permanent recognition that the Wall of Fame instills: Bill Giles, David Montgomery, and Larry “The Baron” Shenk.
Shenk was the team’s public relations chief from 1963 until 2008 when he became the Vice President for Alumni Relations. In both roles he was responsible for planning such memorable events as the final games at Connie Mack and Veterans stadia, the opening of Citizens Bank Park and ceremonies honoring former players when their numbers were retired. He did all of that while keeping the media informed and being the conduit between the players and the reporters.
Bill Giles joined the Philllies in 1969 and was named president in 1981, a role he held until becoming chairman in 1997. During his tenure, the Phillies moved into Veterans Stadium and introduced the Phanatic. He was in charge when the Phils won their 1983 and 1993 National League pennants.
In 1997, Giles turned over the reins to Montgomery, who joined the Phillies in 1971. He’s one of the most respected executives in the Major Leagues and the local business community. He led the team through the construction of and move into Citizens Bank Park. It was on his watch that the Phils were in five NL playoffs and two World Series, winning in 2008 and falling to the Yankees in 2009. In 2015, a year after his successful battle with jaw cancer, he became the team’s chairman with Bill Giles becoming the chairman emeritus.
There you have my modest proposal. Let the arguments begin.