Alumni Profile: Dave Cash - Yes, We Can!

Granny Hamner had more power, Manny Trillo more grace, Tony Taylor more style... but for my money the greatest second baseman in Philadelphia Phillies history was a guy who only manned the position for three years, from 1974-76, a player appropriately named Dave Cash.

It was one of the more unpopular trades in Phils history, that Octoberday in 1973 when the Phils announced the trading of fan favorite, leftyKen Brett, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a reserve infielder named DaveCash. Brett had proven his worth in one short season with the Philliesby winning 13 games and hitting home runs in four straight games. ForBrett, the Phils were acquiring a second baseman who had never shown the ability to play on an everyday basis. Nevertheless, GM Paul Owens was convinced that Cash had not only the talent, but also the leadership skills to show a young club how to win. History would prove Owens correct.

Cash arrived in the Spring of 1974 to find a team brimming with youngtalent. In Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt, the Phils had a duo ofsluggers that would prove unmatched in power during the followingseveral seasons. The Phils also had youngsters in first baseman WillieMontanez, shortstop Larry Bowa and catcher Bob Boone, who were talented but green. Cash immediately took over the leadership role, a role he would carry with him for the next three seasons.

Perhaps no player ever made a greater immediate impact on a team in his first game than Cash did with his Phillies. It was Opening Day, 1974 and a large throng of Phils faithful turned out to watch what promised to be an outstanding pitchers duel between future Hall of Famers, Tom Seaver of the Mets and Steve Carlton of the Phillies. What they saw was the beginning of an era of winning that would last a decade.

As happened so often in the 70's when Seaver and Carlton matched up,Seaver would get the edge, and he seemed about to win another one onthis day, as he led 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. The Metsentrusted ace lefty reliever Tug Mcgraw to end the game and aftersurrendering a single to pinch-hitter Tony Taylor, Cash forced Taylor atsecond base and Bowa went out. This left the game up to young Mike Schmidt, he of the prodigious power and .196 batting average in 1973. McGraw tried to throw a screwball by Schmidt and with a swing that would become his calling card over the years, sent a majestic drive high and deep over the left field fence. The crowd went crazy and as Dave Cash rounded the bases, he began hollering a phrase that would be the rallying cry for the Phillies..."Yes We Can!" This cry of unadulterated confidence and joy would carry this group of Phils to unprecedented heights over the next several years, culminating in a World Championship in 1980.

Though Cash would leave just as the Phils were beginning their dominance of the NL East, no one could ever take away the influence he had on their success. Dave Cash was the epitome of a great leadoff hitter. In his three seasons with the Phils he accumulated hit totals of 206, 213 and 189. He led the league in at bats all three seasons, and had a staggering 699 at bats in 1975. To cover all his offensive highlights would take more pages than a notebook but here were a few of his bests.... runs-111, doubles-40, triples-12, stolen bases-20 and batting average-.305. More than his offensive contributions however was his ability to win over his younger teammates and convince them that they could be successful. More than once, Schmidt and Bowa commented on the influence he had on their careers and he was a steady force with a team on the rise.

During his short stay with the team, the Phils acquired such stars asGarry Maddox, Jay Johnstone, Richie Allen, Jim Kaat and Ron Reed andwent from a team that won 71 games in 1973 to a team that won 101 games in his final season of 1976. The 1976 team actually played in theirfirst playoff games in 26 years but were defeated by one of the greatestclubs in baseball history, the 1976 Cincinnati Reds. However, storm clouds were on the horizon in the year 1976 and those clouds wouldforever change the landscape of baseball. It was in 1976 that baseballsaw the advent of free advent that would see Dave Cashleave.

One of the great unsolved mysteries concerning the modern era of thePhilies was how a marriage that seemed so perfect could end so quicklyin divorce. Although the Phils had failed to satisfy Cash's demands fora multiyear contract after the ‘76 season, it seemed inconceivable thathe would leave a team just as it was ready to win. Yet, leave he did,signing a five year contract with the Montreal Expos. One of the strangest sights of the 1977 season was Opening Day when the Expos came to play the Phillies.... and Dave Cash was the lead off hitter for the Expos. Though Cash won the day with 3 hits in an Expo victory, history would prove that the decision to leave the Phils was a shortsighted one for never again would Cash display the talents that he showed with thePhils.

Perhaps, there is a lesson to be learned about greener pastures in the demise of Dave Cash...the money may be better but the surroundings less so. Although Cash had a modicum of success with the Expos, he was gone after the '79 season and finished his career in 1980, at a young age of 32.

The greatness that was Dave Cash during those three magical years with the Phillies in the mid ‘70's seemed like but a flickering candle whenmeasured against his rapid demise. Ironically, the departure of Cash coincided with the arrival of sparkplug Teddy Sizemore, and the 1977team skipped not a beat as they once again won 101 games. It is notimpossible to imagine the mixed feelings Cash must have had as hewatched so many of his teammates revel in the joys that were 1977, 1978 and, of course 1980.

Though he was a half a continent away in San Diego on that wonderful October night in 1980 when the Phillies finally put to rest over 100 years of futility, no one could ever dispute the fact that one David Cash had in no small way prepared them for that ultimate journey.... yes, he did!

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