January 2016

3 More Weeks

Three more weeks until pitchers and catchers take the field to begin the Phillies’ 70th spring training in Clearwater.  Pete Mackanin will greet 36 pitchers and seven catchers and put them through their first workout at Carpenter Complex on February 18.

MLBPipeline’s list of top 10 minor league shortstop prospects lists J. P. Crawford second.  Jim Callis wrote:

“Several teams regret passing on Carl Crawford’s cousin in the 2013 Draft, when he somehow lasted 16 picks despite projecting as an all-around shortstop who undoubtedly would stick at the position. Though Crawford has just average speed, he has tremendous range to go with soft hands and a strong arm, and he’s also a mature hitter who controls the strike zone and owns some gap power.”

ICYMI Jorge Alfaro was listed #3 among catching prospects and Mike Kingery, #10 at second base.

Larry Bowa is being inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday . . . Chairman David Montgomery will be honored with the Ed Snider Lifetime Distinguished Humanitarian Award at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner being on Monday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Book shelf
The Champions of Philadelphia: The Greatest Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers Teams Ever.  By Rich Westcott.  Foreword by Pat Williams.  Skyhorse Publishing.  Just published.

Legends of the Philadelphia Phillies: Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Mike Schmidt and Other Phillies Stars.  By Bob Gordon.  February 2016

The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits. By Larry Shenk.  Foreword by Larry Andersen.  Triumph Books.  April 2016.

Herb Pennock: Baseball’s Faultless Pitcher.  By Keith Craig.  April 2016.

Wig Time

Andersen wig
Yet another image of the comical reliever, Larry Andersen.

Warm Thought
Frank Coppenbarger, Director of Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, has sent the following e-mail:

“A warm thought….the equipment truck to Clearwater will load and depart CBP on the morning of Friday, February 12.  It will arrive in Clearwater and be unloaded on Sunday morning, February 14.”


OF David Lough, a 30-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder, signed a minor league contract with an invitation to the major league camp.  He’s the 64th player who will be in uniform next month at Bright House Field. He’s a .255 career hitter in the majors which includes stints with the Royals and Orioles.

Lough (pronounced LOW) can play all three outfield positions and will most likely be inventory in AAA.

Top Prospects
MLBPipeline.com is listing the top 10 minor league prospects by position.  Jorge Alfaro is ranked third among catchers and Mike Kingery, 10th among second basemen.

Part 6
Strength up–the-middle catcher, shortstop-second base and center field–is key on championship teams. Starting in October, we’ve examined players at those positions on Phillies pennant winners: 1915, 1950, 1980, 1983 and 1993.

This week, the focus is on the guys that produced five consecutive division titles, one World Series win and one WS loss, specifically the 2008-09 Phillies of Charlie Manuel.  The team was strong up the middle but had many other stars.

C—Carlos Ruiz, SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Chase Utley, CF Shane Victorino. Each will eventually be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame.

Ruiz was signed in 1998 for $8,000 out of Panama as an infielder.  The Phillies moved him behind the plate.  Having to learn a new position as well as the English language, Chooch spent seven-plus seasons in the minors before reaching the big leagues in May of 2006. He replaced Mike Lieberthal as the regular catcher the next season and held that status until last season.  He excelled at handling a pitching staff and is the only catcher in National League history to catch four no-hitters.  Chooch was an All-Star in 2012.  He enters the 2016 season catching 982 games, fourth most in team history.  His 46 postseason games are the most.
Rollins was a second-round pick by the Phillies out of Encinal High School in Oakland, CA, in 1996. Four years later he reached the big leagues, getting a triple as his first hit.  His last hit as a Phillie was also a triple in 2014.  In between he performed and put up numbers unmatched by any Phillies shortstop: one Silver Slugger, three All-Star teams, four Gold Gloves, the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player.  In the end, he had the most-at-bats, hits and doubles in Phillies history while ranking second in four other offensive categories. Defensively, he was as consistent as they come. He was the table-setter, their vocal voice and a player who excelled in pressure games.

Utley was originally drafted by his hometown Dodgers in the second round in 1997, opted for college (UCLA) and was drafted by the Phillies in the first round three years later.  He spent three years in the minors before making his major league debut. His first major league hit was a grand slam. He became the everyday second baseman in 2005 through 2014. Combing power, defense, all-out hustle and heady play he was the game’s premier second baseman. He was a six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger.  He left the Phillies as their greatest second baseman ever in nearly every category.

Victorino was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Dodgers in 1999, selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Padres in 2003 and returned to LA and then selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Phillies after the 2004 season. Shane didn’t make opening day Phillies roster in 2005 but LA passed on taking him back.  The Phillies sent him to Scranton and brought him to the big leagues late that season.  After being the everyday right fielder in 2007, he moved to center where he starred until traded in 2011. He was a two-time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves.

So, which championship club was the strongest up-the-middle?
1915: Killefer-Bancroft-Niehoff-Paskert
1950: Seminick-Hamner-Goliat-Ashburn
1980: Boone-Bowa-Trillo-Maddox
1983: Diaz-DeJesus-Morgan-Maddox
1993: Daulton-Stocker-Morandini-Dykstra
2008: Ruiz-Rollins-Utley-Victorino

Next: the future.

Pete Rose


Have received some inquiries regarding Pete Rose and the Phillies Wall of Fame.  The questions arose after the Cincinnati Reds announced Pete is being inducted into their Hall of Fame this summer.

Being banned from baseball, teams were barred from honoring him.  Last month Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t lift the ban but stated Pete could be honored. However, the Commissioner needed to approve any such plans.

In early January of every year, a group of Phillies executives meet to review candidates for the Wall of Fame ballot. We are now in the process of finalizing the 12 former Phillies for the ballot.  Pete is not one of the 12.

Fans will again get to vote on phillies.com during spring training.  Details will be forthcoming. The top five consensus selections by the fans will then be presented to a Special Wall of Fame Selection Committee that will chose the winner.  The committee is composed of Phillies executives, local and national baseball writers, broadcasters and baseball historians. The announcement of the winner will be made in late spring training.

Come next January, the group will meet again to determine the 2017 ballot.  I would imagine Pete’s name will come up for discussion.

Another Mystery Face

Andersen conehead
OK, who is this? If you guessed Larry Andersen, who are correct.

Coneheadless, if there is such a word, LA will be making another appearance as a guest instructor in spring training before returning to the radio booth. Other Alumni who’ll be guest instructors include Charlie Manuel, Matt Stairs, Dave Hollins, Jim Kaat, Greg Luzinski, Mike Schmidt, Roy Halladay.

Who Will It Be?
New http://www.phillies.com/alumni feature story is about anniversary moments tied to 2016. Check ‘em out.

Noticed an interesting pattern in the story.  Ed Delahanty hit four home runs in a game for the Phillies in 1896.  40 years later, Chuck Klein did it.  40 years later, Mike Schmidt did it.  So, 40 years later brings us to 2016.  So, who will hit four in game this season?  Cesar Hernandez?

Phun Facts
Rule 5 draftee OF Tyler Goeddel has an older brother (Erik) who is a relief pitcher with the Mets.  Erik, 27, was a 24th round selection out of UCLA in 2010.  Tyler, 23, was the Rays’ first-round pick in 2011. They have never faced each other.

RHP Mark Appel and Eagles TE Zach Ertz attended the same high school (Monte Visa, Danville, CA) and played their respective sports at Stanford University.

1,979. That’s how many players have worn a Phillies uniform since 1883, the ball club’s first season.  Will someone be #2,000 this season?  Dennis Orlandini, an ardent Phillies follower, alerted us of that possibility.  He also said 1B Earl Torgeson became #1,000 in 1953.

Alphabetically the all-time roster goes from 2B-3B Ed Abbaticcio (1897-1898) to 1B Jon Zuber (1996; 1998). The most common name, Miller, 14 of ‘em. Longest, Al Hollingsworth (LHP, 1938-39)

I’ve taken you through eight chapters of my new book, The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits. Somehow, I missed Chapter 5. Must have been a senior citizens mental burp. Triumph Books is the publisher of the book which is scheduled for an April 1 unveiling.  Larry Andersen wrote the foreword.

Unbreakable Records is Chapter 5.  It deals with hitting, pitching and defensive records set by Phillies players in a single season, records that will never be broken. Never is a dangerous thing to say but there are a flock of Phillies records that won’t ever be broken.  Here’ one: 2B Emil (Dutch) Verban had 573 plate appearances in 1947 and struck out just eight times. Yep, eight strikeouts.  Not a typo.

Who Am I?


Andersen Baby

Yep, that Larry Andersen, who later turned into a man with many faces.

63 So Far
That’s how many players will be in spring training that begins in Clearwater in five weeks. With a lot of free agents still looking for jobs and weeks before practice starts, Matt Klentak may well increase that number.

Most often the list of non-roster players contains veterans who’ll be in triple-A.  A sprinkling of prospects may be included.  This year, the Phillies will have a flock of their top prospects in camp: RHS Mark Appel, SS J. P. Crawford, RHS Zach Eflin, C Andrew Knapp, C Gabriel Lino, C Logan Moore, 1B Brock Stassi, RHS Jake Thompson and CF Nick Williams.

Frank Coppenbarger, Director of Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, says he has 65 lockers in the Bright House Field clubhouse and that six more are being constructed just in case.

Former Phillies John Kruk and Curt Schilling are being replaced on ESPN’s Sunday Night crew by Aaron Boone and Jessica Mendoza, former Olympic softball player.  Kruk returns to Baseball Tonight and Schilling, Monday Night Baseball.

Banquet Time
Pete Mackanin and some of his players will be around next week for various appearances including banquets in Allentown, Reading, Lakewood and Williamsport.

For a complete schedule visit http://www.phillies.com/events.

Part 5
Strength up–the-middle catcher, shortstop-second base and center field–is key on championship teams. Late last year, we examined players at these positions on Phillies pennant winners: 1915, 1950, 1980 and 1983. This week, the 1993 National League champions, team that had more nicknames, mostly unflattering, “throwbacks”, “misfits”, “rejects”, “outlaws”, “wild”, “crazy”.  A book about the 1993 team was properly entitled, “Beards, Biceps and Bellies.”

C Darren Daulton, SS Kevin Stocker, 2B Mickey Morandini, CF Lenny Dykstra.

Daulton was drafted in the 15th round in 1980 as a skinny catcher out of Arkansas City (KN) High School. Listed on scouting reports as 150 pounds.  Developed into a three-time All-Star who played 14 seasons with the Phillies are the longest tenure for a catcher in the team’s modern history. He had two 100-RBI seasons, a record for a Phillies catcher. Recognized as the team leader of the 1993 NL pennant-winners; led club with 105 RBI while belting 24 homers.  Set two defensive club records that season, most putouts, 981 (1993) and double plays, 19. Darren played in 1,109 Phillies games, remarkable since he was on the disabled list eight times and underwent nine knee surgeries. In addition, he had a fractured right clavicle, a broken right hand and an incomplete tear of his left rotator cuff. Ended his career with the Florida Marlins, 1997 World Champions.

Juan Bell began the season as the shortstop.  Mariano Duncan, Kim Batiste and Joe Millette also played there.  The roulette stopped on July 7 when Stocker, a 23-year-old switch-hitter, made his major league debut in a 20-inning win over the Dodgers at the Vet.  The second-round selection out of the University of Washington in 1991 played the final 70 games at shortstop.  The rookie hit .324 and was solid on defense.

Morandini was a shortstop drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in 1988 out of Indiana University. The left-handed hitter was moved to second base after his first pro season in 1989.  He made his pro debut the following September. Mickey developed into a solid second baseman and an All-Star in 1995. During the championship season, he hit .247 and led the club with nine triples.  Defensively, he made only five errors in 928 innings.

Dykstra was acquired from the Mets in the middle of the 1989 season, his fourth in the majors.  Tough as nails, he developed into a tremendously productive centerfielder. During the championship season, he hit .305, had a .420 on-base percentage, collected 44 doubles, 19 home runs, 37 stolen bases and led the league with 194 hits, 143 runs and 123 walks.  During the World Series, .348, 9 runs, 8 hits, 4 homers, 8 RBI and 4 steals. Lenny finished second to Barry Bonds in MVP voting. He was an All-Star in 1994 and 1995.

While the 1993 team produced no Rawlings Gold Glove winners, the “misfits” thrived on offense, leading the league in at-bats (5,685), runs scored (877), hits (1,555), doubles (297), walks (665), on-base percentage (.351) and total bases (2,422).  They also became the first Phillies team to reach 3 million in attendance.  They remain among the most popular teams in club history.

Next Thursday: the 2008-09 Phillies under Charlie Manuel.




Clearwater Milestone

AF field view

Come February 18, the Phillies will launch their 70th consecutive spring training in Clearwater, FL.

Their first spring camp took place at Clearwater Athletic Field.  More about how they landed in Clearwater in 1947 and information on that old ballpark will be coming in future blogs.  Sorry to keep you in suspense.

Thanks to baseball author and historian, Rich Westcott, for sharing the photo of Clearwater Athletic Field.

Kids in Town
Two more days of the annual Phillies Prospect Education Program remain at Citizens Bank Park.

Participating this year are OF Nick Williams, C Andrew Knapp, RHS Nick Thompson, RHR Edubray Ramos, RHR Jimmy Cordero, OF Tyler Goeddel, RHS Mark Appel, RHS Ricardo Pinto and RHS Alec Asher.

They’ve met and heard from Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, other Phillies executives, the communications department and the clubhouse crew.  All but Asher got their first glimpse of the place where.  Thursday will be a media training day.

Free Agent Phillies
Sixteen former Phillies are among the free agents looking to land a spot on someone’s roster:

Jimmy Rollins, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Delmon Young, Marlon Byrd, Jeff Francoeur, Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino, Chad Billingsley, Joe Blanton, Aaron Harang, Cliff Lee, Randy Wolf, Antonio Bastardo, Cesar Jimenez and Jerome Williams.

Final Chapter
Behind the Scenes is the final chapter of my new book coming out April 1 (no foolin’).

Who handles National Anthem singers at the Phillies? Who is Video Dan and what does he do? Who sees every pitch of every game on a TV monitor? What’s the life of the bullpen guard in Clearwater? Who oversees the Citizens Bank Park landscaping? Who takes care of uniforms, hotels, transportation and player ticket requests? What’s the favorite Philadelphia food of visiting players? How does Scott Franzke prepare for a broadcast? What’s Dan Baker’s daily game routine? Where does the Phanatic live? Who is the general manager of facilities for Spectra and what does she do?

Plus a day in the life of the Reading Fightin’ Phils manager, what goes on in extended spring training, the Phillies rehab program, roles of an amateur scout and pro scout and a visit to Bull’s BBQ.

The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits is the title of the book to be published by Triumph Books (triumphbooks.com). Thanks to Larry Andersen who penned the foreword. It is very humorous, as you well might imagine.


Big Day For Dad


Lester Shenk photo

Today’s blog isn’t about my Phillies.  It is about someone special in my family.

For the first time in our family’s history, we have a 100-year-old. Say hello to my dad, Lester who reached that lofty number today.  Younger sisters Corinne Krall, Rochelle Ebling and I will have lunch with him today in Stone Ridge Village, an assisted living facility in Myerstown, PA, where he resides.

When the grandchildren started to expand the family he became known as “Gramps.”
This Saturday we’ll have a little family party with him including seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.  Don’t tell Dad, but Phillie Phanatic will be there with a special gift, a Phillies jersey, “Shenk 100.”

As can be expected for someone his age, Dad has some health issues, hearing, eyesight and mobility. His mind is still good. Up until about two years ago, his day included time in the wood shop.  He was very handy with wood, probably from the fact his dad was a carpenter.  That skill never got passed on to me.

Christmas presents often included something he made.  Everyone in the family got one. Everyone.

He worked as a tool maker in the Bethlehem steel plant in Lebanon, PA, his whole life. Remember him telling me, “I don’t care what you do but I’ll keep you from working in the steel mill.”

Dad took me to my first baseball game, the Red Sox and the Philadelphia A’s at Shibe Park. I was about 10 years of age.  Some guy named Ted Williams played for Boston.
I still remember the excitement of seeing the ballpark for the first time, walking up flights of stairs to our seats and then being overwhelmed at the sight of a big green baseball field.

Dad obviously was a huge baseball fan.  Our conversations often included advice from him as to how the Phillies should be managed. “Can’t bat Howard fourth. He strikes out too much.”

He was one of five children born to Alma and Harry Shenk and spent his entire life in Myerstown.  He was a talented Baritone singer, Lebanon County’s best.  He was good enough to perform in a show at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel with Jo Stafford, a popular female vocalist at the time. The year was 1945.

Phun Facts
100 years ago:

US Population, 100,546,000
Unemployment, 8.5%
Average income, $1,076.00
DOW average, 99.15
New home (median price), $4,800.00
New car, $500.00
Gallon gas, 8 cents
First class stamp, 2 cents
Bread, 7 cents
Coffee, pound, 30 cents
Butter, pound, 36 cents
Dozen eggs, 34 cents
Milk, quart, 9 cents

Happy 100th, Dad.  Love you.



Reviewing 2015

2015 Cole no hit
Hello 2016. Glad you are here.  Glad to bid 2015 goodbye.  Same for Chip Kelly. As Charlie Brown would say,” Good riddance.”

Last year’s Phillies season was one to forget, not remember.  Ditto for the Eagles, 76ers and Flyers.  All this means better days are coming for Philly sports fans.

Selecting the greatest moment of the Phillies season was rather easy, Cole Hamels’ no-hitter on July 25, his last start wearing a Phillies uniform. After giving up 16 hits to his 29 previous batters, Hamels faced 29 Cubs and no-hit them.  Rookie Odubel Herrera made two breath-taking catches to save the gem.

Ten players made their major league debuts with the Phillies, their most since 1996’s 15. Other rookies included the Galapogos Gang, Sid, Iggy, Bessie and Calvin. Didn’t know their names.  Had to look it up in mascots-reference.com, an imaginary branch of baseball-reference.com.

Six million college football bowl games are out of the way as are those new years’ resolutions that were quickly broken. Christmas bills are replacing Christmas bells. W-2s are coming. So is snow, sleet, rain and cold weather. Plus runny noses, sore throats, sniffles, watery eyes, fever.  January. Ugh!

Baseball this month includes the Hall of Fame announcement tomorrow, trades and more free agent signings.  Winter leagues have ended. Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Dominican Republic will compete in the Caribbean World Series next month.  Defending champion Cuba is not in the tournament this year.

MLB’s annual Rookie Career Development Program will be held this Thursday through Sunday in Leesburg, VA. Phillies are sending Alec Asher, Adam Morgan, Nick Williams and Jimmy Cordero.  The Phillies annual Prospect Education Program is scheduled for January 12-15. Ten young prospects will be brought to Citizens Bank Park for the program.

Once the NFL Stuper Bowl is history early next month, baseball will soon return to Florida and Arizona fields, a sure sign that spring will soon be here. For the Phillies, their 70th spring training in Clearwater, FL.

Strange But True Feats
As yearly as a Santa Claus visit, ESPN.com’s Jason Stark pens a yearly end of the year story about strange feats in this wacky game of baseball.  He produced two such stories last month, the regular season and postseason for 2015.  Jason and his research staff do an amazing job.  If you haven’t read the stories, put them on your immediate bucket list.

Among the regular season strange but true feats:
“OF Jeff Francoeur, pitching three scoreless relief innings, actually threw 48 pitches — which was 22 more than his team’s starting pitcher (Jerome Williams) threw that night.”

Franco Nod
Breakout hitters for 2016 is an ESPN.com feature written by Christina Kahril.  Ranking fifth out of her 10 is Maikel Franco:

“Speaking of interrupted introductions, Franco gave the Phillies a half-season taste of what they’ll be getting from the hot corner for years to come, slugging .497 in 80 games after getting his own service time-minded call-up in late May, and then losing a month to a wrist injury, but he’s already showing that he’s fine during winter ball in the Dominican. Healthy, Franco will rip 60 extra-base hits and give Phillies fans something to cheer about beyond getting to see Aaron Nola pitch every five days or so.”

Sneak Preview
The Fightin’ Phillies: 100 Years of Philadelphia Baseball from the Whiz Kids to the Misfits is the title of my new book which will be available in book stores and on-line on April 1, no-foolin’. Larry Andersen wrote a hilarious foreword. Publisher again is Triumph Books (triumphbooks.com).

Basically, the Phillies had five ballparks they called home.  Chapter seven deals with historic facts for Recreation Park, Baker Bowl, Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park.  Chapter also includes an interesting New York Times story about opening day at Baker Bowl, April 30, 1887.  Women entered the ballpark at a separate entrance, weren’t charged admission and sat in a certain section.