David Earl Philley (May 16, 1920 – March 15, 2012) was an outfielder who played in Major League Baseball. A switch-hitter who threw right-handed, he debuted on September 6, 1941 and played his final game on August 6, 1962. He was born in Paris, Texas.
A well-travelled and -regarded clutch hitter, Philley played for eight different teams in a long 18-season career. He was considered one of the game's premier defensive outfielders before Gold Gloves were awarded. A hustler with good range and an outstanding arm, he led American League outfielders in assists three different years (1948, 1950, 1953) and once in outs (1950). A highly disciplined hitter as well, he had a short and compact swing with occasional power and was a daring and intelligent base runner. Still, Philley is best remembered for his pinch-hitting heroics in the late 1950s.
Philley reached the majors in 1941 with the Chicago White Sox. He spent four years in military service during World War II, rejoining the White Sox in 1946 and playing 17 games for them that year. Philley was with the White Sox for five-and-a-half years before moving to the Philadelphia Athletics early in the 1951 season. After playing for Philadelphia in the 1951 through 1953 seasons, he next played for the Cleveland Indians in 1954. He was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles during the 1955 season and finished the year with a .299 batting average, leading the Orioles in batting. Later in his long career, Philley played for the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, including second stints with Chicago and Baltimore. His most productive season came in 1953 with the Athletics, when he posted career-numbers in batting average (.303), hits (188), doubles (30), and games played (157). From 1947 to 1953 he averaged 27 doubles per season, and in 1950 with Chicago hit 14 home runs with 80 RBI, also career-highs. While in Cleveland he appeared in the 1954 World Series.
As he got older, Philley became more of a pinch-hitting specialist. In 1958, playing for the Phillies, he collected 18 pinch-hits, including a streak of eight straight to close the season.
He also had a pinch-hit double Opening Day 1959, for an actual total of nine straight, a major league record that still stands today. While playing for Baltimore in 1961, he had a season total of 24 pinch-hits in 72 at-bats, which are also American League records.
A 42-year-old Philley was signed off the Baltimore roster by the expansion Houston Colt .45's during the 1961-62 offseason, but a few hours later Houston sent him to the Boston Red Sox. Philley spent most of 1962 on the bench for Boston and retired at the end of the season.
In an 18-season career, Philley was a .270 hitter with 84 home runs and 729 RBI in 1,904 games. He also collected 1,700 hits, 276 doubles, 72 triples, 789 runs, 101 stolen bases, and a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 1.708 (594-to-551). As a pinch-hitter, he batted .299 (93-for-311).
Philley holds the record for the most at-bats in an American League regulation-inning doubleheader, having 13 at-bats for the White Sox against the St Louis Browns on the 30th of May 1950.
After his playing days, Philley worked as a manager for the Houston minor league system from 1963 to 1964, and spent 1965 managing the Durham Bulls, where he won a Carolina League division title. He found employment for 1966 in the Red Sox organization, where he managed the Class A Waterloo Hawks and served as a scout. Until his death, Philley lived in his native Paris, Texas.
By Dean Hanley
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