The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #90 through #86. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff.
Each weekday, we will reveal five Phillies from the PN Top 100, with longer or more expansive posts dedicated to individuals that are of particular note to Phillies fans or are closer to the top of the list. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.
Please check back tomorrow for #85-81.
#90 – Otto Knabe
.249/.328/.315, 5 HR, 122 SB in 4057 PA
Previous Rank: New to Rankings
fWAR Phillies Rank: 55th among position players, 85th overall
Signature Achievement: Led the National League in Sacrifice Hits (1907-1908, 1910, 1913)
Knabe is likely the first name in the Phillies Nation Top 100 that you have never heard of.
Knabe was a prototypical second baseman, light-hitting with great defense, and one that is looked upon more favorably with the adoption of modern statistics. Yes, Knabe finished no lower than fifth in the NL in errors among second baseman from 1908 through 1913 out of eight but his range factor rates Knabe as one of the best defensive second baseman in the early 1900s. Knabe was a durable defensive wizard, leading all second baseman in plate appearances and games played and ranking fifth in doubles from 1907 through 1913.
Knabe was one of the cornerstone players of a group of largely mediocre teams. The best any of his teams finished was 88-63 in his last season 1913, missing the pennant by 12.5 games. Knabe jumped to the Baltimore Terrapins of the competing Federal League in 1914, narrowly missing out on an appearance in the 1915 World Series.
#89 – Kid Gleason
Years: 1888-1891, 1903-1908
78-70, 3.39 ERA, 1.380 WHIP in 1328.2 IP
.246/.296/.297, 2 HR in 3191 PA
Previous Rank: 99 (+10)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 31st among pitchers, 84th overall
fWAR Phillies Rank: 342nd among hitters, 643rd overall
Signature Achievements: Single-single franchise record holder for wins in a season, last Phillies pitcher to pitch over 500 (!) innings in a season, last Phillies pitcher to start 50 (!) games or more in a season. One of only 29 players to play a Major League game in four decades.
Gleason is the first Top 100 Phillie to have played for the franchise when they were the Quakers. The turn-of-the-century second baseman holds the distinction of having the least amount of home runs of any position player to make the list. In fact, pitcher Steve Carlton (9) had more in his career and Rick Wise (6 in 1971) had more in one season than Gleason had in his entire career.
But, wait – if you said Gleason was a horrible second baseman:
A.) Why did he make the list?
B.) Why does he have pitching statistics listed?
C.) Why would you say he is a franchise-record holder in pitching categories?
Before Kid Gleason was one of the MLB’s least productive second baseman (aside: he produced less value at the plate than Ron Reed, the reliever, did), he was a fine pitcher. Gleason set the franchise single-season record for wins with 38 in 1890 and pitched a combined 924 innings between 1890 and 1891.
Aside from being a Quaker and Phillie, Gleason has a number of local ties: Gleason was born in Camden, New Jersey and died in Philadelphia in 1933. Gleason, who was nicknamed Kid for his 5’7″ height and affable personality, was the manager of the 1918 Chicago White Sox, infamously nicknamed “The Black Sox”. Gleason was cleared of any connection to the alleged throwing of the World Series and would return to coach in 1923 under Philadelphia A’s manager Connie Mack, where he’d help coach the team to back-to-back World Series victories in 1929 and 1930.
#88 – John Denny
37-29, 2.96 ERA, 1.225 WHIP
Previous Rank: 61 (-27)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 30th among pitchers, 83rd overall
Signature Achievement: Won NL Cy Young in 1983 with 19-6 record and 2.37
Let’s get this out of the way first: the mustache was very popular in the early 1980s and John Denny had a mustache that could compete with anyone, including Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck and even Mike Schmidt. That being said, Denny was a pretty good pitcher, too. Whether or not he was powered by his mustache is a debate still had to this day.
In one of the best trades in Phillies history, Denny was traded to the Phillies on September12, 1982 for Wil Culmer, Jerry Reed, and Roy Smith. All three would reach the Major Leagues but Denny would have the biggest impact by far. When Denny was acquired, the Phillies ended the night a half-game up on the eventual NL East champion Cardinals. The trade was too little, too late for the 1982 Phillies, who were scrambling to fill the vacancy left by an injury to Marty Bystrom and avoiding using Ed Farmer as a starter. But the trade paid off in spades for the 1983 Phillies.
Denny pitched a season for the ages, perhaps the best single season of any Phillie in the 1980s other than Steve Carlton‘s 1980 campaign, won the Cy Young and led the Phillies into the playoffs. Denny would lose Game 2 of the NLCS against the Ddogers but rebounded to win Game 1 of the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 after holding Baltimore to just a Jim Dwyer first inning homer. From 1983 through 1985, Denny had the tenth best ERA and 27th best WHIP, outpacing teammate Steve Carlton in both categories.
#87 – Bake McBride
.292/.335/.435, 44 HR, 98 SB in 2289 PA
Previous Rank: 76 (-11)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 54th among position players, 82nd overall
Signature Series: Hit .304/.360/.478 in the 1980 World Series, including a Game One homer that erased a 4-2 Royals lead.
“Shake n’ Bake” was one of the premier offensive threats on the 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981 Phillies playoff teams. McBride came to the Phillies in a deal with St. Louis on June 15, 1977. Like the trade for Denny, McBride’s acquisition was a favorable one as well. The 1974 Rookie of the Year came to Philadelphia and hit .339/.392/.564 with 11 HRs and 27 steals in 31 attempts (87.1%) in 314 PA, leading the team on a 12-game winning streak from August 3 through August 16, hitting an impressive .333/.375/.643 in that stretch.
From 1977 through 1981, McBride ranked 25th among Major League outfielders in batting and 48th in slugging, providing the perfect defensive compliment to Gary Maddox and speed to spare to make up for what Greg Luzinski lacked. It is no surprise that the McBride, Maddox, and Luzinski outfield ranked as the second best defensive outfield according to Total Zone rating from 1977 through 1980 and McBride was as big a part of that as anyone.
#86 – Pinky Whitney
Years: 1928-1933, 1936-1939
.307/.357/.432, 69 HR, 34 SB in 4768 PA
Previous Rank: 47 (-39)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 53rd among position players, 81st overall
Signature Season: Hit .327/.390/.482 with 8 HR and 7 steals in 1929
From the 1930s until the 1960s, there wasn’t much debate as to who the greatest third baseman in Phillies history was. From 1928 through 1933, Whitney was in a class of Pie Traynor, Woody English, and Freddie Lindstrom, the best third basemen in all of baseball. He led Phillies third basemen in almost all statistical categories until Dick Allen and Mike Schmidt took their respective places in Phillies history.
While the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series, the 1929 Philadelphia Phillies arguably had the best offense in baseball. Ranking first in every triple slash category as well as hits and homers, Whitney was an achor in a line-up that destroyed opposing pitching. Unfortunately for those Phillies, opposing hitters destroyed their pitching even worse, culminating in a disappointing 71-82 season.