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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #75-71

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #75 through #71. 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 #70-66.

#75 – Ray Benge

Years: 1928-1932, 1936

58-82, 4.69 ERA, 1.517 WHIP in 1141.1 IP

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 25th among pitchers, 73rd overall

Signature Season: Posted a 3.17 ERA with a 1.263 WHIP, leading all National League pitchers in fWAR but received no MVP votes

How, exactly, does a pitcher that is 24 games under .500 and has a 4.69 ERA and was never on a playoff team or pennant winner make the Phillies Nation Top 100? Well, Benge would become one of the first pitchers in Phillies history to solidify the swingman role, starting 26 games or more five times while appearing as a reliever in 12 games or more in four of those seasons.

Benge makes the list for durability and staying around long enough to climb the ladder on some of the Phillies all-time leader boards: 30th all-time in innings pitched, 38th in games pitched, 27th in games started, and 29th in complete games. It is also very important to remember context: Benge’s best season came in 1931, posting a 3.17 ERA with a 1.263 ERA, numbers that probably won’t get you into the All-Star game in 2014 but in 1931, those numbers put Benge far and away the fWAR leader in the National League among starting pitchers. For his durability and excellence in 1931, Benge makes this list.


#74 – Spud Davis

Years: 1928-1933, 1938-1939

.321/.374/.449, 53 HR in 2712 PA

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 48th among position players, 73rd overall

Signature Stat: Leads all Phillies catchers with .321 batting average as a Phillie

Virgil “Spud” Davis was a 6’1″ catcher that some would say was a product of the Baker Bowl’s friendly dimensions but Davis was a righty and had to deal with the challenging 341 ft. left field wall. Davis would likely be remembered more fondly had his teams done better: one of the best hitting catchers in Phillies history, Davis’ teams finished dead last in eighth place in the National League four out of the eight seasons he was with the team.

Davis was never an All-Star with the Phillies but was among the best catchers in all of baseball during his first run with the Phillies. From 1928 through 1933, Davis led all catchers in batting average and ranked third in OBP, fourth in SLG, and third in OPS. Davis is one of the most underrated players in Phillies history, stuffed away on bad teams, and often overshadowed by the man who ranked first in the offensive categories that Davis didn’t, crosstown superstar backstop Mickey Cochrane.


#73 – Gus Weyhing

Years: 1892-1895

71-53, 4.23 ERA, 1.503 ERA in 1103 IP

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 24th among pitchers, 72nd overall

Signature Stat: Threw 105 complete games in 127 games started (82.68%) with the Phillies in just over three seasons

Why He’s Famous in Baseball History: The All-Time Leader in hit batsmen

Why He Was Famous in American Culture: Was charged, and likely acquitted, of $100 in pigeon theft just before jumping from the Philadelphia A’s to the Philadelphia Phillies in January 1892

To me, there are two things that immediately stand out about Gus Weyhing:

1.) His mustache that puts him in a class of Phillies that includes Mike Schmidt and John Denny

2.) The complete games: 105 complete games in 127 starts in three years and two starts, or, about 35 complete games a year

Sure, the game of baseball was much different in the 1890’s, but “Rubber-Winged Gus” was durable even for his time, tied for eighth in complete games from 1892 through 1894 and ranking second in shutouts, only behind Cy Young, with ten. Weyhing finished his career as the all-time leader in hit batsmen and holds that distinction to this day.


#72 – Dave Bancroft

Years: 1915-1920

.251/.330/.319, 14 HR, 64 SB in 2903 PA

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 47th among position players, 71st overall

Signature Season: Leading all shortstops in homers as a rookie on the pennant-winning 1915 club

Our first person on the list that is currently in the Hall of Fame, Bancroft was a cornerstone on the 1915 pennant-winning squad at shortstop. As with anything, context is everything:  Bancroft’s career stat-line with the Phillies may not look that impressive on the surface (.251/.330/.319 with 14 HR and 64 SB) but it stood up pretty well against other shortstops of the era, ranking fifth in homers, tenth in steals, fifth in BB%, and fourth in defensive runs saved among shortstops from 1915 through 1920.

Bancroft would be traded to the New York Giants on June 7, 1920 for Art Fletcher, who would play only parts of 1920 and 1922 before retiring. The trade would be one of the worst in team history as Bancroft would play in parts of ten seasons with two Top-10 MVP finishes. Bancroft would be on the winning side of the 1921 and 1922 World Series with the Giants, retired with the third-most games played in baseball history at shortstop, and was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1971.


#71 – Tully Sparks

Years: 1897, 1903-1910

95-95, 2.48 ERA, 1.133 WHIP in 1698 IP

Previous Rank: 78 (+7)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 15th among pitchers, 47th overall

Signature Season: 22-8 with 2.00 ERA in 1907

Sparks was an above-average to very-good workhorse for a series of teams from 1903 through 1910 that finished no higher than third place. Sparks’ teams were above .500 in four of the nine seasons he played for the Phillies, quite frankly, a rarity in the early days, and there is no doubt Sparks’ contributions to the Phillies were among the key reasons. Sparks never did anything particularly well or particularly poorly, as from 1903 through 1910, he’s ranked 22nd in the MLB among starting pitchers according to FanGraph’s version of WAR but only 110th in K/9 IP, 29th in BB/9 IP, and 64th in FIP out of 157 qualifying pitchers. Sparks was, out of necessity, an early pioneer in the swing-man role and retro-actively became among the leaders in saves from 1903 through 1910 with a whopping seven. In sort of a quirky stat, when Sparks retired, he was among the game’s most efficient at hitting batters and now ranks 124th all-time.


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