Aug 17, 2016

Mid Seventies Mets Infielder: Mike Phillips (1975-1977)

Michael Dwaine Phillips was born August 19, 1950 in Beaumont Texas. He attended McArthur High School, at Irving, in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex. He was an outstanding infield prospect, becoming the San Francisco Giants first round pick (#18 overall) in 1969. 

He made his debut as a utility infielder in 1973, behind a solid Giants infield of Chris Speier, Tito Fuentes & Steve Ontiveros. He hit .240 in his rookie season playing at third base, second & short stop. In 1974 he saw more action, playing in 100 games but only hit .219. He also made 19 errors playing around the infield. After ten games in 1975 the Giants placed him on waivers and he was picked up by the New York Mets.

In New York, Bud Harrelson was down for most of the season, & Phillips was brought in to fill the role. He debuted as a Met on May 8th, getting two hits at Shea Stadium in a game against the Pirates. On June 11th Phillips singled off one of the league's best relievers, the Dodgers Mike Marshall. The base hit cam ein the top of the 9th inning at Dodger Stadium scoring Rusty Staub in what was the games winning run.

On July 6th he hit his only HR of the year, a two run 9th inning shot off the Phillies Gene Garber. On August 7th he had a three hit day driving in three runs in the Mets 7-0 win over the Expos. The win was Tom Seaver's 15th of the year, on his way to his third Cy Young Award.

Phillips saw most of the action at short stop (115 games) batting .256, leading the team in triples (7) while also hitting ten 10 doubles, one HR & 28 RBIs. On the field he struggled at short, leading all NL shortstops with 31 errors (.971 fielding %) turning 52 double plays. His 32 errors overall, were third most in the N.L.

In the bicentennial 1976 he put up an identical .256 average, again leading the team in triples with six. He also hit four doubles, with four HRs & 29 RBIs. In the first game of a May 31 double header, he drove in three runs in a big Mets 13-2 win over the Pirates at Shea.

On June 25th, he hit for the cycle against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. After striking out in the first inning, he doubled of Ray Burris in the 3rd inning. He then scored on a Dave Kingman HR. In the 5th inning Phillips led off with a triple & scored when John Milner reached on an error. In the top of the 7th inning, he hit a two run HR also off Ray Burris, putting the Mets up 6-3. Phillips completed the cycle with an 8th inning single.

He won the NL Player of the Week Award that week as he had a massive once in a lifetime power surge. He gathered up 12 hits, while hitting HRs in three consecutive games. In the week he drove in nine runs, with two triples & a double. Even more importantly the Mets went on a ten game win streak in that stretch. Phillips also had a better year on the field making eleven errors in over 300 chances. 

In 1977 after 87 games he was only batting .209 and on June 15th, 1977 he was traded to St. Louis for Joel Youngblood. That was the same night of the Tom Seaver trade, known as the Midnight Massacre. The Phillips trade certainly didn’t get many headlines.

Personally Phillips was known as an all round good guy and was missed at Shea Stadium. He would stay in St. Louis for three years until 1980 hitting a career high .268 in 1978.

On the day John Lennon was killed in New York, December 8, 1980, Phillips was Traded with Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Al Olmsted, Kim Seaman, Steve Swisher and John Urrea to the San Diego Padres for Gene Tenace, Rollie Fingers, and Bob Shirley.

After 14 games, his contract was sold to the Montreal Expos, where he hit .218 in 34 games, playing again behind Chris Speier at short. He made his only post season with Montreal in 1981 going 0-1 in his only at bat. He played briefly for two more seasons, retiring after 1983.

In an 11 year career, he was a lifetime .240 hitter, with 412 hits, 11 HRs 46 doubles 24 triples &145 RBIs while playing in 712 games. With his Glove he posted a .956 fielding % in 344 games at short stop. A 975 % at second base in 203 games & a .915 % at third in 104 games.

Retirement: After baseball he worked at a radio station in Dallas Texas and more recently for the Kansas City Royals in their front office.

No comments: