The 1989 World Champion Oakland A's lost another member way too soon on Friday. Infielder Tony Phillips died at the age of 56 in Arizona, the A's announced on Friday. Phillips is the third member of the A's '89 team to pass away over the past two years. Bob Welch and Dave Henderson were the other two.
Phillips was a first-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1978 and came to the A's in a trade with the San Diego Padres in 1981. Phillips made his major-league debut with the A's in 1982 and remained with the team through the 1989 season. He signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers in 1990 and played for the Tigers, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays and Mets before returning to the A's in 1999. He posted a 795 OPS as a 40-year-old that season and retired at the end of the year.
He was an important veteran leader on that 1999 squad that helped to set the table for the A's run of success in the early 2000s. He hit a homer and stole a base in his final game. Phillips played in 2,161 games in the big leagues and hit .266/.374/.389. He walked 1,319 times.
Phillips had returned to baseball in the Independent Leagues in recent years, suiting up for Yuma and Edinburg of the North American League in 2011 and 2012 and playing in eight games for the Pittsburg (CA) Mettle of the Pacific Association last year.
While Phillips was a very solid hitter, he is best remembered by A's fans for his outstanding glovework. He played all over the infield for the A's and even logged a little time in the outfield. The A's featured an infield in the late-1980s with Phillips, Mike Gallego and Walt Weiss that stacks up there with any defensive infields in recent history. Phillips made a typically (for him) outstanding play to record the final out of the 1989 World Series.
“The Oakland A’s lost another member of our family this week with the unexpected passing of Tony Phillips,” said Oakland A's president Michael Crowley in a team-issued statement. “We all have fond memories of Tony making the final play in the A’s 1989 World Series. He was a remarkable player. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Below are two video highlights of great Phillips' plays. It was a true pleasure to watch him play.
RIP Tony Phillips, April 25, 1959-February 19, 2016