By FRANK CORSOE
It was one of those basic quarantine questions you get asked every time you are experiencing a time out from life due to a worldwide crisis. Hardly ever. So when my wife asked me this question, there was a measure of curiosity, but also the aha moment that she gets me and is reading my mind.
Now that’s concerning and potentially dangerous. “If you could go back and watch one player in the history of the Phils, who would it be?”
She has earned the right to ask the question ever since I wanted to add this to our nuptials, “if the Phils are ever in a world series, I will be there.”
And just last year around this time we were in Denver watching the series with the Rockies. We have seen the Phils in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and of course, Philly.
Caught off guard by the question, I said “I saw Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Dick Allen, Jim Bunning, Chris Short, Johnny Callison, Rick Wise, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Pete Rose and continued to name Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard.”
“Stop,” she said. “Who is the player you HAVEN’T seen play that you wished you would have seen play? This is a simple question.”
But it’s a complex answer.
My pitcher would-be Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander who had 90 career shutouts and was 190-91 with the Phils from 1911-1917, was traded away and retired as Phillie in 1930. “So, it’s Alexander, right?”
“No. It’s a coin-toss between Ed Delehanty or Chuck Klein.”
“I’ve never known you to waffle. Who is it? You’re treating this like it’s one of the great mysteries of modern time.”
One of my go-to trivia questions is, who is the last hitter in the National League to win the Triple Crown? The answer is Joe “Ducky” Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937. The person before him was the Phillies own Chuck Klein in 1933.
The left-handed-hitting native of Indianapolis, Ind., hit .368, compiled 28 homers and accumulated 120 RBI back in that memorable season. Klein, 6-foot, 185 pounds, took advantage of a 280-ft right field distance at venerable Baker Bowl.
Make no mistake about this Hoosier that it was a fluke. In 1930, Klein set an all-time Phillies mark of accounting for 170 RBI.When baseball stat heads talk about the game’s unbreakable records, the RBI stat of 191 in 1930 by Hack Wilson hasn’t been threatened for a long, long time. A lot of things have to fall right for the hitter to have that kind of season.
When Klein played for the Phillies (1928-1933), it was called the Dark Ages of Phillies baseball. He faced National League pitchers with fire in his eyes and even his own tight-fisted curmudgeon of an owner William Baker as a foe.
Legend has it Baker was fearful of Klein’s infinite power and possibly passing the great Babe Ruth home-run mark so he installed a 20-foot high fence above the existing 40-foot wall at Baker Bowl to challenge Klein’s possible assault on records and Baker’s bank account in upcoming contracts.
That fact alone gives me goosebumps. No wonder the Phils organization, under cheapskate owner Baker, wasn’t very good. And they wonder how the word, Boo, came into Phillies’ fans vocabulary.
Klein went on to win two MVPs, four home run titles, and he led the Phils in outfield assists numerous times. In that five-year space, he never hit below .337 and had a .386 average when he won the triple crown.
When you are mentioned in the same breath as Mike Schmidt, Dick Allen, Jim Thome and Ryan Howard, my friend, no matter the era, you are one darn good ballplayer.
Just wanted to honor a Phillies player I never saw play, but appreciate his ability as a hitter, even if his owner did not.He died in 1958. Klein was voted into the hall of fame in 1980.
Another magical season in Phillies history.