Ed Delahanty was the first marquee player in Phillies franchise history. The right-handed hitter joined the club in 1888, but did not rise to stardom until 1892. Early in his career, he was a jack-of-all-trades, but as he became more established in the league, he settled in nicely as an outfielder.
In his first four seasons -- which included one season with the Cleveland Infants of the Players League -- Delahanty showed decent contact skills, but scant power. In 1892, he broke out with 57 extra-base hits and 91 RBI. The next year, Delahanty barely missed out on the triple crown, leading the league with 19 home runs and 146 RBI, but his .368 average trailed teammates Billy Hamilton (.380) and Sam Thompson (.370).
Delahanty hit .404 in each of the next two seasons. The trio of Delahanty, Hamilton, and Thompson are the only Phillies to hit over .400; no one has accomplished the feat since the turn of the 20th century.
From 1893-96, Delahanty hit .392 with a 1.069 OPS. He led the league in doubles, home runs, RBI, and OPS twice.
Delahanty did not slow down much as he aged. In 1899, at the age of 31, he led the league in average at .410 and RBI at 137, missing out on the triple crown again. He also had an astonishing 238 hits. Impressively, Delahanty was also a great base runner, finishing his career with 455 stolen bases, averaging one every four games.
Delahanty was easily the best hitter in the Phillies' young history, but he has also remained among the best in franchise history more than 100 years later. He still ranks in the franchise's top-ten in batting average (2), on-base percentage (5), slugging percentage (10), OPS (6), runs (2), hits (3), doubles (1), triples (1), RBI (2), walks (7), and stolen bases (2).
Additionally, along with Rogers Hornsby, Delahanty is one of only two three-time .400 hitters. His career .346 average is fifth all-time in baseball history, behind Ty Cobb, Hornsby, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, and Lefty O'Doul.
Along with his impressive numbers, Delahanty is remembered for one of "the most shameful home runs of all time." In 1892, the Chicago White Stockings were in Philadelphia at the Huntingdon Street Grounds. In the eighth inning, Cap Anson hit a fly ball to center field. The ball hit a pole and caromed into a "doghouse," where numbers were stored for the scoreboard.
Delahanty went after the ball but got stuck. His teammate Sam Thompson had to retrieve Delahanty with the ball, but Anson had already circled the bases by the time the two had emerged. The book "Baseball Hall of Shame" by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo referred to the home run as an "inside-the-doghouse home run."
45. The Ryne Sandberg Trade
The Phillies have made quite a few trades with the Chicago Cubs over the years, but arguably none as bad as the Ryne Sandberg trade. Sandberg was drafted by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 draft. In the minor leagues, he performed well enough to merit significant attention from other teams as a trade chip.
Ryne Sandberg appeared in 13 games with the Phillies in 1981.
After the 1981 season, 36-year-old shortstop Larry Bowa and the Phillies could not reach an agreement on a new contract. Bowa requested a three-year deal, but team president Bill Giles had no intention on handing out a multi-year deal to an aging shortstop. When the team flat refused to grant Bowa the contract he desired, Bowa went on a tirade, accusing the organization of lacking class.
Bowa was still under his old contract, though, so the Phillies either had to keep a disgruntled player on their team or trade him to another organization. With a trade, however, the Phillies would not have any leverage as their dispute with Bowa was in the public eye.
Former Phillies manager and newly-installed Cubs GM Dallas Green saw an opportunity for his club. The Phillies wanted to swap Bowa for Ivan DeJesus, but Green knew he could extract more from the Phillies by playing on Bowa's shortcomings. Later speaking about the trade, Green said, "We knew we had them over a barrel." After a back-and-forth conversation, Green convinced the Phillies to include Sandberg in the deal.
On January 27, the two teams had reached an agreement. The Phillies sent Bowa and Sandberg to Chicago and the Cubs sent DeJesus to Philadelphia. While Sandberg went on to enjoy a highly-successful career with the Cubs that would lead to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, DeJesus had three very lackluster years with the Phillies, hitting just .249 between 1982-84.
From 1984 to 1993, Sandberg made 10 consecutive All-Star teams. He won the NL Gold Glove at second base each year from 1983 to '91, and he finished first in MVP voting in 1984.
Sandberg finished his career with 62 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a sabermetric statistic that factors in a player's contributions on both offense and defense, then accounts for the position he plays and compares him to the expected production of a replacement-level player (a theoretical player who would be freely available to play for the league minimum salary). Prior to Chase Utley, the Phillies franchise leader in WAR for second baseman was Tony Taylor at 11.9. There is no doubt that, if Sandberg had stayed in the Phillies organization, he would have retired as the greatest second baseman in Phillies history.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but the outcome of this trade could have been seen coming from a mile away. Unfortunately, the Phillies were forced into action by an ugly contract dispute with one of the team's most recognizable players in Larry Bowa. Bowa, of course, would later return to the Phillies as a manager in 2001, but left at the end of the 2004 season after many clashes with his players, including third baseman Scott Rolen.
Bowa's fiery personality was one reason why he was and still is such a controversial figure in Philadelphia sports history, but the Sandberg trade is as big a part of it. Who knows just how good the 1984-1992 Phillies would have been with Sandberg -- they may not have had to wait 10 years to reach the postseason.