History

The Unlikeliest Phillies All-Stars

At age 37, Ibanez's hot start had Phillies fans talking MVP while earning him a starting All-Star election from the fans.

At age 37, Ibanez’s hot start had Phillies fans talking MVP while earning him a starting All-Star election from the fans.

This year, the Phillies will send just one All-Star to Cincinnati. With a 1.60 ERA, closer Jonathan Papelbon is a deserved choice to represent the Phillies but that hasn’t been the case every year. While Mike Schmidt leads the team with 12 All-Star selections among position players and Steve Carlton leads the Phils’ pitchers with seven selections, there have been a number of Phillies All-Star selections that appear to be head-scratchers in hindsight. The criteria to make this list includes age when selected as an All-Star, the volume of below-average play prior to selection, pedigree, which includes high draft selection or high praise as an international signing (sorry Glenn Wilson and Vicente Padilla!), and any additional circumstances (hot start, manager selecting All-Star reserves, etc.)

Here is a list of some of the unlikeliest Phillies All-Stars.

Hersh Martin, 1938 NL All-Star Selection, Center Field

Martin was nearly a career-minor leaguer from Birmingham, Alabama who went to Oklahoma State, OK who caught a break as a 27-year old with the 61-92 1937 Phillies. In his rookie year, Martin hit .283 with eight homers and 11 steals. Martin finished 30th in the 1938 NL MVP race while earning an All-Star birth, hitting .298 with three homers and eight steals. Martin was a .285 hitter with 28 homers across six years in the Majors, playing from 1937 through 1945, spending time with the minor league Milwaukee Brewers from 1941 through 1943 before returning to the Majors in 1944 during World War II. Martin would, perhaps, become most notable for becoming future MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s favorite player but was an unlikely All-Star for the Phillies.

Emil Verban, 1946 and 1947 NL All-Star Selection, Second Base

You may be wondering why Verban made this list even though he was a two-time All-Star selection but his two selections were similarly unlikely. Verban received a Major League opportunity during World War II at age 28 with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the starting second base job and driving in the World Series-winning run in the 1944 Fall Classic against the St. Louis Browns. Verban was traded to the Phillies near the start of the 1946 season for Clyde Kluttz. Verban hit .275/.306/.332 with the Phillies with no homers and five steals. At age 30, Verban made his All-Star debut and returned to the All-Star game with the Phillies at age 31 in 1947 with a slightly improved line of .285/.316/.341 with no homers and five steals.

Grant Jackson, 1969 NL All-Star Selection, Left-Handed Starting Pitcher

Jackson would pitch in parts of 18 Major League seasons, becoming one of the most consistent left-handed relievers of his time, pitching in three World Series before walking away with his first ring in 1979 with the Pirates. So, how did he make this list? Well, for two seasons, Jackson was a starter for the Phillies. At age 26 in 1969, Jackson went 14-18 with a 3.34 ERA and was the only Phillie on the NL All-Star squad. Jackson was a fine Major League reliever but his All-Star selection retrospectively is a surprising one among Phillies All-Stars.

Wayne Twitchell, 1973 NL All-Star Selection, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Twitchell was the third overall pick in the 1966 draft, taken by the Houston Astros. Twitchell would wind up with a 48-65 with a 3.98 ERA for his career but his second full Major League season was magic: a 26-year old Twitchell went 13-9 with a 2.50 ERA with ten complete games and five shutouts for a team that went 71-91.

Ozzie Virgil, 1985 NL All-Star Selection, Catcher

Virgil was a sixth-round selection for the Phillies in 1976 and had cameo appearances with the Phils each year from 1980 through 1983, even appearing in the 1983 World Series. Virgil had somewhat of a breakout season in 1984, hitting 18 homers with a .261/.331/.434 line in his first season of full playing time at age 27. With top prospect Darren Daulton battling injuries, Virgil was the Phillies starting catcher for the 1985 campaign as well, hitting .246/.330/.432 with 19 homers. Virgil would be named an All-Star in 1987 with the Braves, as well, after a post-1985 trade landed the Phillies Steve Bedrosian and Milt Thompson in return. But considering the age of his selection, as well as his MLB line prior to his selection (.246/.313/.415), Virgil was certainly an unlikely Phillie All-Star.

Lance Parrish, 1988 NL All-Star Selection , Catcher

Parrish was a six-time All-Star prior to his seventh selection, first with the Phillies in 1988. But nothing about Parrish’s 1988 season was All-Star-like: through the All-Star break, Parrish hit .229/.311/.420 with 12 homers before finishing the season with 15 homers. Parrish still had plenty of cache throughout baseball and, much like, Virgil, his power was still somewhat rare among catchers. Parish would make one more All-Star team in 1990 with the California Angels and would retire following the 1995 season, his 19th in the Majors.

Mariano Duncan, 1994 NL All-Star Selection, Infielder

To the victor goes the spoils, it is said. And when pennant-winning managers could fill the All-Star team with their own players the following season, unlikely All-Stars could round out the rosters. Such was the case with Mariano Duncan in 1994. Fresh off an NL pennant, Jim Fregosi tabbed infielder Duncan despite having a career line of .259/.297/.380 prior to 1994 and a line of .265/.310/.402 headed into the break. To make things more unlikely, Duncan was 31 years old when he was tabbed for his first, and only, All-Star appearance.

Paul Byrd, 1999 NL All-Star Selection, Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Byrd’s selection had a number of things working against him but he still found himself as an All-Star. The Phillies finished the year 77-85, good for third in the NL East, and were never really contenders through the entire season. Additionally, Mike Lieberthal was having the decade’s best offensive year behind the plate that perhaps anyone not named Mike Piazza had while Bobby Abreu had a near 1.000 OPS and a line of .335/.446/.549 with 20 homers and 27 steals. Additionally, Curt Schilling had the cache of being one of the Major’s best pitchers and would have been a shoe-in had the Phillies just gotten one All-Star based on name value alone. And yet, the sub-.500 Phillies got three All-Stars in 1999 and one of them was not Abreu while Scott Rolen (26 homers, 12 SB, .526 SLG) was also snubbed. The 28-year old Byrd was likely selected off the strength of his W/L record (11-4) and not his ERA (3.72) yet was an oddly progressive choice due to his .222 BAA that not many in the game were paying attention to at the time. Byrd came out of nowhere for the Phillies in 1998 after unsuccessful inter-divisional stints with the Mets and Braves to begin his career.

Raul Ibanez, 2009 NL All-Star SelectionLeft Fielder

If you weren’t a Phillies fan in 2009, it is very easy to see why Ibanez makes this list. The 37-year old had been a good-but-not-great outfielder for Kansas City and Seattle hitting .286 and averaging 14 homers a year in parts of 13 seasons. Ibanez did not even become a regular Major Leaguer until age 29 when he finally eclipsed 300 PA with the Kansas City Royals. But in 2009, Ibanez had one of the fastest starts in Phillies history and was one of they key hitters in putting the Phillies out in front in the NL East race. While his end of year numbers look pretty good (.272/.347/.552 and a career-high 34 homers), Ibanez was an early front-runner for the 2009 NL MVP, hitting 19 homers with a .340/.399/.716 line in the teams’ first 50 games. His start was good enough to nab him a starting All-Star spot even though he would hit just .228/.313/.446 for the rest of the 2009 season before turning it back on for the World Series (.304/.333/.609).

Just missed the cut: Morrie Arnovich (1939, OF – was 28 at time of selection but peaked after two solid seasons to start career), Joe Hoerner (1970, LHP – was 33 at time of selection but had MLB success in inconsistent playing time), Shane Rawley (1986, LHP, was 30 at time of selection but posted numbers similar to career averages), Tyler Green (1995, RHP, had a hot start to the season, 8-4, 2.81 ERA pre-break before crashing and burning, that justified Fregosi’s selection), Mickey Morandini (1995, 2B – had a hot enough start and a solid enough build off previous season even though he was making his AS debut at age 29), and Ricky Bottalico (1996, closer – Bo was solid enough in 1995 and was league average closer in 1996 and the Phillies had very few other options).

To be determined: Domonic Brown (2013, OF).

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