Clutch Hitting; Unnecessary Pitching; and Lots of Minor League Bus Rides

The most clutch moment of Jack Phillips’ career took place in 1950 and it didn’t even get a mention on the back of his 1952 Topps baseball card. Down 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th, Phillips entered the game as a pinch hitter and launched a grand slam homerun.

What Topps did mention is the fact that this decent-batting first baseman was brought in for a bit of mop-up relief pitching the same year and stayed in the game for 5 innings.

The card ends its biographic note with a mention of Phillips going back to the minor leagues earlier in the year. By the end of his career he had racked up more minor league games than MLB plate appearances. Jack persevered, though, making it back to the big leagues in 1955 and making one more baseball card checklist in 1957. Topps included him in its scare middle series that year as a member of the Detroit Tigers. The career highlight mentioned on this card wasn’t his relief pitching, but rather his having gone back to Clarkson Tech and obtaining his degree.

Given the performance of most of the Pittsburgh players appearing in the ’52 Topps set, it is surprising that Phillips did not get more playing time. He was a bit better than the average Pirate of the era and lost appearances due to the need to transition Ralph Kiner to 1B. Phillips had come up as a shortstop with the Yankees and it would have been interesting to see the 6’4″ ballplayer towering over ground balls between 2nd and 3rd.