ASK AND YOU shall receive. You asked: "You gave us your All-Time Phillies Good Guys team from the 1950s . . . Now, what about the bad guys?" It's a slippery slope when you assign arbitrary negative labels to athletes based on personalities, demeanors and the dissonance that becomes pink noise in any baseball clubhouse. So, with apologies to anybody who might take offense, here are Bill Conlin's All-Time Phillies You Might Not Want to Marry Your Daughter.
Pete Rose: I had mixed emotions naming him because we had a great relationship dating to his Reds days. But I try to avoid writing revisionist history and Pete was who he was, the No. 1 overachiever in baseball history with an obsessive/compulsive personality to match. From a fat file of Rose moments, here is one: Pete had gone through a costly and public divorce from Karolyn. His main girlfriend and current wife,
Carol, was in the wives section behind first base on Sunday, May 10, 1981. The Phillies were leaving for a Coast trip after playing the Expos. A banner plane circled Veterans Stadium when he was batting in the third inning. The message: "Peter Edward CU in SF - LUV Christy." Carol erupted from her seat. The Eagles cheerleader headed for the clubhouse, ready to give her man a little sis-boom-baboom.
John Kruk: Yep, he really did say, "I ain't an athlete, lady . . . " which is the title of the book he did with Paul Hagen after the 1993 season. I can't call the current ESPN baseball analyst a bad guy, but he was a very different one from the player who developed a warm, fuzzy image based on his unkempt, blue-collar, everyman persona. But he was a grouchy cynic who didn't much care for the media, fans or a number of teammates. "Kruk was a real bleep," Lenny K. Dykstra, scuffling entrepreneur, told me recently. I'm sure the feeling was mutual. Krukker's infamous bachelor party had everything but designated drivers. Dykstra ran into a tree weaving home with an unbelted Darren Daulton in the passenger seat and a Phillies season prematurely became history.
Larry Bowa: We can start with the famous Eddie Bockman scouting the scrawny shortstop in a college doubleheader where his line score read 1 AB, 2 ejections. We can end his player phase here with Phils president and GM Bill Giles trading him and Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs for calling him a bleeping liar. Between signing and departing, the uberintense Bowa popped columnist Ray Kelly Jr., ripped the fans on his radio show and told manager Paul Owens to "go bleep in his hat," among many noteworthy incidents.
Dave Hollins: I don't know if "Head" - and, gee, I wonder why they called him that? - was roided up in that don't ask, don't tell, don't test era of enhancement abuse, but the third baseman sure displayed the symptoms. He despised most media and was famous for what Vietnam veterans called "the thousand-yard stare," which cut through you like an X-ray. He once threatened to drop Curt Schilling the next time he was drilled by a pitcher without retaliation. Schill promptly became the High and Tight avenger.
Willie Jones: From all Whiz Kid accounts, the folksy "Puddin' Head" was a solid, if socially erratic teammate. But the third baseman had so much trouble with timely bill-paying, he avoided a return to Philadelphia for more than 20 years after his 1959 trade to Cleveland.
John Bateman: Steve Carlton considered him the best mechanic and smartest game-caller of his career. Bowa was a little less flattering. In naming Bateman captain of baseball's All-Ugly Club, the shortstop said, "Batemen looks like somebody set fire to his face and put it out with a track shoe." Lots of irony here. Phils traded future Carlton designated catcher Tim McCarver to the Expos for Bateman in June of Lefty's amazing 27-10 season for the last-place 1972 Phils. Bateman caught him superbly the rest of the season - except in Montreal. John had left such a trail of unpaid debts, traffic tickets, etc. - not to mention a free loaner auto he parked in an obscure suburb after the trade - he didn't accompany the Phils to Montreal on their final trip of the season. "The Royal Mounties would be waiting," Gene Mauch deadpanned. Bob Boone was called up in September and the problem-beset Bateman was released in January, despite Carlton's protests.
Alex Johnson: Everything about the antisocial young outfielder (and polar opposite of his football-playing brother, Ron) was scary. He had a chance to be scary good with five-tool ability. But he was hostile, uncommunicative, uncoachable and unapproachable. Among his numerous phobias and demons, Johnson refused to shower in front of his teammates. Had promising power and hit .303 platooning for the 1964 Phils and .294 in '65. Alex was only 23 when traded to the Cardinals before the '66 season. As a full-time player with the Reds and Angels, however, Johnson became a .300 hitter three straight seasons and was eighth in American League MVP voting in 1970 and an All-Star selection.
Danny Tartabull: If you think Freddy Garcia was the only flop who came to the Phillies from the White Sox, think again. In 1997, GM Lee Thomas thought he had finally found the potent middle-of-the-lineup bat he lacked. Tartabull was always an injury waiting to happen. He was a lousy outfielder and struck out a ton. But he had a bounceback season with the White Sox, 27 home runs and 101 RBI in just 472 at-bats. Thomas signed the brittle and slow-healing free agent to a 1-year deal for $2 million, still a lot of money 12 years ago. Tartabull broke his ankle Opening Day and was put on the DL after seven limping at-bats, the last ones of his checkered career. No surprise, it was
Thomas' final season as GM.
Pat Burrell: The man I nicknamed "The Midnight Mayor of Center City" made one of the great comebacks in Phillies history, despite a minimal change in his outfield ability, foot speed or batting average. The man who led the Great World Series Parade from a Clydesdale-hauled Budwagon, his enormous bulldog Elvis beside him, got one hit in the Series. But what a hit. The man who ran for him, Eric Bruntlett, scored the winning run in Game 5 after The Bat bopped a double high off the angle in deepest left-center. Burrell was more admired than beloved by his teammates and he showed little more than his back to the media during his decade here. He went from whipping boy to blue-collar icon for a couple of reasons: He never publicly whined and he soldiered through injuries. But the lifestyle he chose probably cheated his ability as a hitter. Pat should have been loved here, not just tolerated as "Kind of a pain in the butt . . . " He should have been an All-Star.
John Denny (RH Starter and Captain): The scripture-spouting, brimstone-breathing pitcher won the Cy Young Award in 1983. If there had been an award for the biggest jackass in MLB, he would have won that, as well. I'll limit the stuff Denny pulled during his thankfully brief career here. During one of his born-again lectures, he informed a Jewish writer that he was "of the wrong faith." Another time, he got in trouble for laying hands on a Cincinnati writer. Two words describe him: elitist creep. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reminded me of Denny's first meeting with the Phillies media in September 1982 after he was acquired from the Indians in a trade. Stark says Denny pulled out a prepared statement denouncing the media for its biased and inaccurate reporting. He then folded the statement and said, "I won't be giving interviews." That was just fine by us.
Randy Lerch (LHP): The tall lefthander never learned that if you're going to run with the big dogs, you better not fake your bark. Randy was implicated in the 1980 Reading amphetamines scandal that hung a cloud of taint over a team the defense attorney called "World Champions of Lying." The players whose names showed up on the prescription slips might have convinced the jury that the unofficial Reading team doctor had indeed used their names to obtain prescription amphetamines to sell. But Lerch cracked on the witness stand, admitted receiving the pills, and months of lying by Phillies officials and the involved players went up in smoke. Lerch was traded and the scandal soon blew over amid the euphoria of the first World Series title.
Al Holland: Helped bring the cocaine that was so pervasive in the late '70s and early '80s from the back alleys and private clubs into the Phillies' clubhouse. The ace closer brought in a pal named Curtis Strong, known for his barbecued ribs and chicken, to provide the postgame clubhouse spread. "You want Coke with those ribs?" went from an order line to entendre. Strong became lead defendant in an explosive Pittsburgh drug trial that resulted in his conviction on 11 counts. Curtis served 4 years of a 12-year sentence. Eleven players were suspended by commissioner Peter Ueberroth, seven for a full year. Holland escaped a 60-day suspension by donating 5 percent of his base pay to drug-fighting agencies and performing community service.
Larry Bowa: Mutiny was never more than a scowl, a gesture or an eye-roll away. Larry would have been a great manager in '04 - 1904, that is. *