In my previous post I talked about my project of sending out baseballs to be signed. In some cases I also asked the player what they remember most about their times with the Phillies. The most poignant reply came from Earl Averill Jr. Before revealing his note to me, here is a short bio on the man.
Earl Averill Jr. had some very big shoes to fill when he broke into the big leagues in 1956. His father, Earl Sr., was a Hall of Fame outfielder from 1929 to 1941, mostly with the Cleveland Indians. To make things even tougher for Junior, he began his career with the Indians, where his daddy was a big star.
As a second string catcher he had a mediocre year but was demoted to the minors in 1957. He resurfaced with the Indians as a third baseman in 1958 and batted under .200 in limited action. If Cleveland once thought he was the second coming of Earl Averill Sr., they gave up the notion following that season. The Indians traded him to the Cubs in January of 1959.
His ability to play infield and outfield (in addition to catching), kept him in the big leagues with the Cubs, White Sox and Angels through 1962.
That brings us to 1963, when he was traded to Philadelphia. These are Averill's exact words.
As you know, I didn't play very much or effectively while a Phillie. However, late in the season the Cardinals were in town and I was asked to play 3rd base. I threw to first on a bunt play and the wide throw allowed the Cards to rally for a couple of runs. I was leading off the next inning and Bob Sadowski was pitching. I hit a home run off the first pitch, and typical of Phillie fans, they BOOED me all the way around the bases.
After his release from the Phillies in 1963, Averill played in the minor leagues for a few more years and retired.
In retrospect, I now wish I had also asked him what it was like to play in the shadow of his father. I have resolved to contact him again and do just that.
One more interesting comment about playing for the Phillies. Billy Cowan also spent one year in the Phillies organization, 1967. He sent this brief note:
"Sorry - Philly was not a happy time for me, but I did enjoy the people & scenery."
I must assume that the people he enjoyed were not the fans. As to the scenery, I'm not sure what natural beauty he savored. As one who lived in the Philadelphia area for twenty years, I know he wasn't talking about the area around Connie Mack Stadium.