Phillies Alumni: Pitchers’ hitting firsts

Joe Blanton is in the Phillies record book as the first Phils pitcher to hit a World Series home run.

Blanton’s blast has a second tag to it now that the National League will use the designated hitter. It not only is the first, but also the last by a Phillies pitcher stepping into a World Series batter’s box.

As a refresher, Blanton went deep in the fifth inning off Edwin Jackson in Game 4 on Oct. 26, 2008, a 10-2 romp over Tampa Bay at a frenzied Citizens Bank Park. Even more amazing, Joe had 261 regular-season plate appearances (.106 average) during his 13-year career. He had zero extra-bases hits. That’s baseball.

But which Phillies pitcher got the first hit in franchise history? Here’s the answer and a gaggle of other “firsts.”

Hit
20-year-old right-hander John Coleman (bats left, throw right) pitched the franchise’s inaugural game, May 1, 1883. He led the staff in games (65) and also played 31 games in the outfield. His 83 hits are the sixth highest on that club and by far more than anybody on the pitching staff. (Four other pitchers combined for 12 hits). Well, batting seventh on Opening Day Coleman was 0-for-4.

When it came to game two the next afternoon, Coleman again pitched and lost again. But the really big news, he had one hit in two at-bats in the box score. So there you have it! No mention was made in the game story about Coleman getting a hit. Guess writers in those days didn’t have a feel for history.

Coleman’s record that season? 12-48.

Walk
This one is easy. Coleman walked 15 times in 1883. The other five pitchers on the staff? Zero. We just don’t know when John first trotted to first base.

Double
Coleman had 12, two other pitchers (Art Hagan and Philadelphia native Hardie Henderson) one each. Henderson pitched in one game and played the outfield in one game. We’ll never know the whereabouts of his double. So Coleman gets the nod over Hagan. Apologies to the relatives of Hagan and Henderson. If you can prove us wrong, we’re all for it. It’s all about accuracy.

Triple
Coleman: eight, Hagan: one. Coleman mathematically the winner. Odds certainly in his favor. Wonder if DraftKings had odds on Coleman vs. Hagan.

By the way, Hagan was 1-14 on the mound that first season. But he had two extra-base hits. That’s baseball.

Home run
Charlie Ferguson and Ed Daily each had one home run in 1885, the franchise’s third season. Yes, for two seasons a Phillies pitcher did not hit a home run. They didn’t win many games either, but we’re focusing on hitting here. Sorry for the diversion.

Ferguson pitched in 48 games and played the outfield in 15. Daily, a rookie, pitched in 50 games and no other position. Most likely it was Ferguson, an outstanding all-around athlete, who homered first as he had more plate appearances (258-184) and hits (72-38). Lacking the availability of box scores, we are diplomatically calling it a tie unless someone wants to take the decision to the Supreme Court.

By the way, Ferguson and Daily were half of the pitching staff that season.

Hit being a home run
Bill Duggleby got his first hit in grand style, a home run against visiting the New York Giants in his big league debut, April 21, 1898. With the bases loaded no less. The Inquirer’s account of the second-inning slam, “Seymour appeared to hold Duggleby cheaply and shoved a couple straight ones over the pan. Duggleby caught the second one right on the pickle, and it sailed right out of the lot via the Broad Street wall, four runners scored. ” Bill also singled in a run during an eight-run inning. Final: Phillies 13, Giants 4.

By the way, Bill had the thrill of homering for his first hit and then experienced the agony of giving up the most runs in a Phillies game, 17, on Sept. 19, 1903 (the first game of a doubleheader). Sorry, Bill.

Tom Sullivan was second in belting a home run as his first hit, May 15, 1922, at St. Louis in a 19-7 loss (he allowed 11 runs in 6 2/3 relief innings. His career lasted two more games). Tom, we hardly knew you.

Grand slam
Lee Meadows was second to Duggleby in the grand slam department, April 28, 1921, vs. Boston at Baker Bowl (off Jack Scott). Meadows is famous for being the first player in the modern era to wear glasses when he broke in with the 1915 Cardinals. His nickname became “Specs.”

Two home runs in a game
Jack Knight was a right-handed pitcher who batted from the left side. He entered the Phillies’ record book on a Thursday afternoon, June 24, 1926, the first game of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. In his 6 2/3 innings of relief, he batted four times and went deep twice: 5th inning, two-run dinger to the right field off Jimmy Ring, and 6th inning, three-run homer to left field off Jack Scott. Giants won, 12-7. By the way, the rest of his four-year career, he had 20 hits and zero home runs.

Walk-off home run
Since 1900, 124 players have hit a walk-off home run for the Phillies. As best as I can tell, Chick Fraser is the only pitcher. He won his own game, 2-1, over the New York Giants with a solo home run in the bottom of the 12th inning, June 16, 1903, at Baker Bowl. It is his only home run in 550 plate appearances over five seasons with the Phils.

Inquirer: “In the twelfth inning of the game yesterday, the Phillies won from New York by 2 to 1, by Fraser soaking the ball for a home run. It was the longest drive ever made on the grounds. The ball lodged in the hanging gardens in the left field. ”

His 11th win that season was a 10-0 no-hitter at the Chicago Cubs, second game of a doubleheader (sixth straight for the Phils). He walked five and survived four errors. Losing pitcher was Peaches Graham, the only game he pitched in the Majors.

World Series hit
Grover Cleveland Alexander, Oct. 8, 1915, Game No. 1 vs. Boston Red Sox, Baker Bowl. He didn’t waste any time, getting a single in his first at-bat (3rd inning off Ernie Shore). Phillies 3, Red Sox 1, despite getting only five hits. The game took one hour and 58 minutes.

A side note of that game: Babe Ruth, 20, made his first World Series appearance, grounding out to first base as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth.

Homering in 1st inning of a game (last 50 years)
Randy Lerch was the first Phillies pitcher to homer in the first inning, May 17, 1979, vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the infamous 23-22 wild win. His solo homer capped a seven-run inning. On the mound, he didn’t finish his first inning, facing six batters and being charged for five of the Cubs ’six runs.

By the way, this rare happening happened two more times, Tyler Green, Aug. 23, 1995, and Robert Person, June 2, 2002.

(Sources: 2021 Phillies Media Guide, baseball-reference.com, baseball-almanac.com, Baseball Hall of Fame, philly.newspapers.com archives and an archaeologist’s best friend, Google)

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