Long-time big leaguer Tony Phillips has died in Arizona of an apparent heart attack, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Phillips was just 56 years old.
His former teammate and current Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart conveyed the news. He noted the sad fact that Phillips was preceded in death recently by two other prominent members of the A’s 1989 championship club — Bob Welch and Dave Henderson.
Phillips was taken in the first round of the 1978 draft, cracked the majors in 1982 with the Athletics, and didn’t play his last MLB game until 1999 — at forty years of age. It took a broken leg in his final season to stop him, Slusser notes. Indeed, he put up a sturdy .244/.362/.433 batting line with 15 home runs and 11 steals in 484 plate appearances that year.
As Slusser notes, Phillips battled through drug problems (and resulting legal troubles) late in his career. But he seemingly bounced back and remained active in the game, even suiting up for some independent league action in recent seasons.
All told, over parts of 18 seasons in the majors, Phillips entered the batter’s box 9,110 times and contributed a .266/.374/.389 slash, 160 home runs, and 177 stolen bases while walking nearly as often as he struck out. He played all over the diamond, racking up significant innings at second, third, short, and all three outfield positions. The net output was worth fifty wins above replacement, per Baseball Reference, most of it coming with the A’s and Tigers. Phillips also spent time with the Angels, White Sox, Mets, and Blue Jays.
There has been an immediate outpouring of sympathy from around the game for the highly-respected Phillips. MLBTR joins in celebrating his legacy and offering its sympathy to his family, friends, and former teammates.