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|Third baseman / Outfielder|
February 24, 1928|
West Point, Mississippi
|Died: June 22, 1993
|April 30, 1955, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 6, 1964, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Runs batted in||356|
John Melvin "Bubba" Phillips (February 24, 1928 – June 22, 1993) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) third baseman from Macon, Mississippi. He played for ten seasons on the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Indians, from 1955 through 1964. Phillips was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.
Early life, football and baseball
Phillips was born in West Point, Mississippi. He graduated from Macon High School where he was a football standout and softball player in 1946. He was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi (then Mississippi Southern College) and was a multi-sport athlete. He excelled in baseball and football and began being watched by major league-scouts in 1946. He received "Little All-America" football honors as captain (running back) of the football team his senior year in 1950. While in college he chose a professional baseball career over a football career turning down the San Francisco 49ers of the All-America Football Conference for a contract with the Detroit Tigers organization in 1948.
Minor league and military service
Phillips was sent to the Stroudsburg Poconos (Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania) of the North Atlantic League where he hit .302 in 11 games played. In 1951, he moved up to Thomasville (Thomasville, Georgia) Tigers' farm club in the Class D Georgia-Florida league where he hit .329 in 138 games. In 1952, he hit .291 with the Tigers' International League farm team at Buffalo, New York.
He was drafted into military service for two years and spent 1953 and 1954 with the United States Army.
Major League Baseball
Detroit Tigers (1955)
Phillips made his major league debut on April 12, 1955 with the Detroit Tigers at the age of 27 and wearing number 11. Though he spent most of the year as a bench player, in 184 at-bats he hit .234. He started in left field on Opening Day and went 0-for-3 against the Kansas City Athletics. He hit three home runs, had 23 RBIs, in 95 games played.
Chicago White Sox (1956-1959)
In 1956, Phillips spent his first season on the White Sox team like Detroit, mostly a bench player. He was used sometimes as a pinch hitter, an outfield defensive replacement, and a one time as a third baseman. He hit .273 with 2 home runs, and 11 RBIs, in 67 games played.
In 1958, Phillips spent time almost evenly at third base and in the outfield, playing 10 more games at third base than in the outfield. He hit .273 with five home runs, and 30 RBIs, in 84 games. Unfortunately, on June 8, he broke his right foot for six weeks tripping over first base and was replaced by utility player, Billy Goodman. Phillips was a consistent hitter who did not walk much but did not strike out much either.
In 1959, Phillips reclaimed his starting job at third base from Goodman (74 games at third base) playing 100 games at third and 23 games in the outfield, helping the White Sox win the American League Pennant championship. Phillips hit .264 with 5 home runs, 40 RBIs, 27 doubles, and 27 walks, in 117 games. He also did well in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .300 in 10 at-bats. After the 1959 season, Phillips was traded to the Cleveland Indians with Norm Cash and Johnny Romano for Minnie Miñoso, Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese, and Jake Striker. The White Sox also acquired Gene Freese from the National League's (NL) Philadelphia Phillies for their third base position in exchange for outfielder Johnny Callison.
Cleveland Indians (1960-1962)
In 1961, Phillips rebounded, finding a power stroke that led him to hit 18 home runs, including the only two grand slam's of his career. He finished the season hitting .264 with 72 RBIs. Manager Jimmy Dykes even tried for a time him as the Indians' cleanup hitter. He led the American League with 188 putouts as third baseman.
In 1962, Phillips was not as successful as he was 1961. He hit .258 with 10 home runs, and 54 RBIs. He was part of a rare back-to-back-to-back home run feat, in which he, Jerry Kindall, and Jim Mahoney all connected home runs in succession off pitcher Bill Stafford on June 17.
Detroit Tigers (1963-1964)
In 1964, Phillips lost his starting job to a young Don Wert. Phillips hit .253 with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs. He finished his major league baseball career on September 18 as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning in a game against the Indians.
Phillips had a .255 lifetime batting average with 62 home runs and 356 RBIs. He had a .964 fielding average. He walked 182 times and struck out only 314 times in 3,278 at-bats. He collected his final major league hit off Gerry Arrigo and his final home run off Dave Stenhouse. According to Baseball-Reference, the player he is most similar to statistically is Mike Shannon. He was teammates with Barry Latman for 6 seasons, longer than any other teammate. He mostly wore number #5 during his career, although during part of the 1960 season he wore #7, and during his final two years at Clevland he wore #1.
In 1972, he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1981, Phillips played "Coach Hardy" in the TV film, Don't Look Back: The Story of Leroy 'Satchel' Paige, which starred Louis Gossett Jr. as legendary pitcher Satchel Paige. The film is based on the 1993 book, Maybe I'll Pitch Forever. Paige appears briefly in the film as himself.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference