In the motels of Orange County, Outfielder Tony Phillips will always be recalled for what he was cracked up to be.
From our Post-2005 Top 100 Angels Series...
Look at it this way - any player who was traded to our team twice and helped us get rid of both Chad Curtis and Jorge Fabregas is easily going to be on the Top 100. And to top it off, Phillips was an integral part of two pennant-chases (1995, 1997). But then, in August of 1997, when it seemed like they might actually put something together, he was arrested for burning rocks in a sleazy Orange County motel. Hence no pennant that year, hence no higher than #72.
The Chronicler was even closer to the crackpipe than I...
Some friends and I went to the Angel game on August 9, 1997. The photo of Tony Phillips that was on the big screen was absolutely frightening - his eyes were just way too wide open and way too wild. It was downright scary. My friends and I made jokes about how he looked like he was on crack or something. About five or six hours after that game ended, Phillips was arrested in an Anaheim hotel room for freebasing cocaine.
Sports Journalist Rob McMillin has the complete story...
Tony Phillips only spent a year and a half in an Angels uniform; he came up with and was most famous for his exploits with Oakland, where he became the first Oakland Athletic to hit for the cycle on May 16, 1986, and tied the major league record for assists at second base with 12 in a nine-inning game. Principally playing shortstop and second base for the A's, the Tigers signed him as a free agent in 1989, where he played outfield and third base, finally arriving in Anaheim by way of a trade April 13, 1995.
The initial reaction was one of disbelief. Mike Penner in the Times wondered skeptically, upon hearing that the team had executed a trade, whether the team had made another of its infamous youth-for-veteran blunders ("They traded a 26-year-old outfielder who stole 25 bases last season for a 36-year-old outfielder who stole 13. Same old Angels.") There was plenty of reason to think he might be done; the season before, despite hitting a career mark in slugging percentage (.468), he only played in 114 games. It turned out the fears were unfounded. Phillips had an outstanding year, clubbing 27 homers over 139 games, helping to power the Halos to what was nearly their first division title since 1986.
The Angels gave him a pass after he became a free agent at the end of the season, with the White Sox picking him up for a two-year deal. Unfortunately, his off-the-field activities marred his record in Chicago; in May, 1996 while playing outfield in Milwaukee, he jumped into the stands and punched a fan for making racial slurs, a situation he exacerbated by seeking out the fan after the game, getting into a shoving match. (Both the fan and Phillips were charged with disorderly conduct and fined.) Phillips came back into the Angels fold following another trade on May 18,1997; the Halos were looking for a leadoff hitter, and they hoped the now-38-year-old would fill the bill. "I'm not part of anyone's future anymore," Phillips said. "I'm here because they want to get it done right now. I'm excited to play for [Manager Terry] Collins. He's an aggressive guy. All of us little guys have a chip on our shoulder."
He lacked the speed he once had -- he only stole nine bases with the 1997 Angels -- but he'd lost little of his ability to get on base. His off-field troubles flared up again in August, when he was arrested for possession of a small quantity of freebase cocaine. Though he finished the season with the Angels, the team -- then owned by Disney -- had no interest in renewing their relationship with an aging player who was a public relations liability. He played out two more mediocre seasons with the Blue Jays, Mets, and A's, and retired in 1999.
Rob runs the informative 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog and The Chronicler, aka Blackhawk Waterloo, writes about the Angels at his Chronicles of the Lads blog.