Richard G. Phillips (August 24, 1940 – May 31, 2013) was the former general counsel and executive director of the 52-member Major League Umpires Association (MLUA), having held those positions from 1978 to 2000. He is most notable for recommending that the union baseball umpires resign en masse effective September 2, 1999 to leverage enhanced benefits for union umpires. This decision ultimately turned out to be devastating to the umpires, as Major League Baseball accepted most of their resignations, terminating their employment and promoting replacement umpires from the minor leagues. The umpires later voted to decertify the union, replacing it with the World Umpires Association. He had also served in the same positions for the National Association of Basketball Referees.
He was born in Philadelphia to a police officer. Phillips graduated from St. Thomas More High School and received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Villanova University in Radnor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. While in college, he played varsity football and later returned to coach the freshman football eleven while attending law school. Phillips was admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania in 1967. After getting his legal degree in 1966, Phillips worked for one and a half years in the Philadelphia Public Defender's Office. From there, he moved to the District Attorney's office as a trial assistant in the organized crime division, and on to the homicide division until around 1971.
Phillips' law office was located in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. He represented the Transport Workers Union and handled legal matters for the top brass of the Carpenters Union. He also represented about 30 athletes, which he maintained did not present any conflict of interest with his duties relating to the officials.
In 1994, Phillips became the majority owner of Pilot Freight Services, based in Lima, PA. At the time, Pilot Freight was struggling to stay afloat in a sea full of transportation providers. Phillips was able to lead the company to the top of the industry, and by the time he stepped away from day-to-day management of the company, Pilot Freight Services was the largest privately held freight forwarder in the United States.
- Sports, The. "Former umpires union chief Phillips dies - Yahoo! Sports". Sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- "Richie Phillips, former head of MLB umpires' union, has died - MLB News | FOX Sports on MSN". Msn.foxsports.com. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Martin, Douglas. "Richie Phillips, Union Leader Who Helped and Hurt Umpires, Dies at 72", The New York Times, June 4, 2013. Accessed October 5, 2013. " Richie Phillips, a boisterous, street-shrewd lawyer who quintupled the salaries of major league baseball umpires as their union representative, then caused many of them to lose their jobs by having them resign en masse, died Friday at his home in Cape May, N.J. He was 72. The cause was cardiac arrest, his family said." While the final cause may have been cardiac arrest, it came at the end of a long battle with Parkinson's Disease, which had ravished him for more than a decade.
- Cook, Bonnie L. "Richie Phillips, 72, former umpires union chief dies", The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 5, 2013. Accessed October 5, 2013.
- Richard G. Phillips, Lawyers.com. Accessed October 5, 2013.
- Richard G. Phillips Associates, P.C. Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania Office Profile, Martindale-Hubbell. Accessed October 5, 2013.
- CNN/SI: "Richie's Gang" - 1999 article by Frank Deford
- Referee magazine - 1979 interview
- Referee magazine: "Hindsight and History"
- CNN/SI: "Not even close" - 1999 article on dissolution of MLUA
- Society for American Baseball Research - Doug Pappas, "22 Men Out" - 1999 analysis of the umpires' ill-fated mass resignation.