Except for a brief September call-up in 1953, Eddie Phillips spent his entire 11-year pro baseball career in the minor leagues. Yet, during those 2½ weeks with the St. Louis Cardinals, he established a record for most runs scored in the major leagues (four) without a plate appearance or taking a defensive position. His pinch-running mark stood more than 20 years, until Herb Washington came along in the mid-1970s.
Howard Edward Phillips was born on July 8, 1930, in St. Louis to Raymond and Estella Phillips. Raymond, a railroad engineer, was transferred to Hannibal, Missouri, when Eddie was young. Estella stayed home and took care of a family and household that included Eddie’s three stepbrothers.
Phillips was a three-sport star at Hannibal High School, lettering in football, basketball, and track. During his senior year, he was selected as an All-Central Missouri Conference player in football (as a halfback) and in basketball (as a forward). He earned his track and field letter participating on the 440-relay team, the pole vault, and the broad-jump. The school had no baseball team, so he played for Hannibal A. and M. in the Commercial League during the summer. During his final summer he batted .436 while the team advanced to second place in the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) tournament in Battle Creek, Michigan. Eddie also enjoyed spending time fishing for catfish and trapping on the local rivers near Hannibal.1
When he signed with the Cardinals, Phillips said, “I never did really care a lot for baseball, I got to playing softball and baseball together, Dad thought I would hurt my arm playing softball. Now I’d rather play baseball than eat.”2 Ollie Vaneck, who had signed Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial in 1938, inked Eddie on August 28, 1949, as an outfielder. With his father’s consent, Eddie received a signing bonus from the Cardinals of $2,000 with another $1,000 to be paid at the completion of the 1950 regular season. Vaneck said, “I was impressed with Phillips’ desire to learn and his willingness to take instructions. Phillips spends much of his time trying to pick up pointers from the older heads, trying to learn what they have done to improve their game.”3 Phillips reported to Atlanta in March for spring training, joining other Cardinals minor leaguers. During spring training, he was one of the fastest players in camp, and hoped to be assigned to the Class-C St. Joseph Cardinals, 195 miles west of Hannibal.
Instead, coming out of spring training at age 19, the center fielder was the youngest player assigned to the West Frankfort Cardinals of the Class-D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League in Southern Illinois. Phillips led the team with seven home runs, hit .297, drove in 50, and swiped 36 bases. The Cardinals finished in second place, nine games behind Centralia, with a 72-47 record.4 West Frankfort dropped three straight games to Paducah, when military call-ups and “rainy weather ended the Mississippi-Ohio Valley playoffs before the preliminaries were completed.”5
Phillips moved up to St. Joseph in the Western Association the following year. On May 15, 1951, Western Association President Howard Goetz levied a fine of $5 on Phillips for his conduct while arguing with an umpire during a game on May 11. Since it was his first offense, the fine was “suspended pending your future behavior.” Goetz added, “Should this office receive another report on your conduct, said fine will become due and payable. If fines won’t stop such conduct, then the alternative left for this office is a suspension, and you can rest assured such penalty will be meted out.”6
A midseason bout of flu threw Phillips off stride, but he finished with a .307 batting average and led his team in home runs with 13. Phillips’s 14 triples and .519 slugging percentage led the league. As a bonus he drove in 81 runs. His performance sparked the St. Joseph club to third place, with a 69-51 record, six games back of the regular-season champion Topeka Owls. It would have been good for a playoff spot except for the elements. The Western Association schedule was reduced from 140 games to 126 as “rain and flood waters, which raised so much havoc this summer, have again struck the Western Association, with the result that the playoffs have been cancelled,” reported Gene Sullivan in The Sporting News.7
Sullivan, while writing for the St. Joseph News-Press, also observed, “Eddie is definitely a long ball hitter and swings easily from the shoulders, putting full power into every swat. He’s careful of his stance and once he connects is off for first in an instant. I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t the best big league prospect in the Western Association.”8
On September 6, 1951, Phillips was assigned to the Omaha club of the Western League to finish out the season because Omaha needed outfield help.9 He appeared in no games in the regular season for Omaha and was ineligible for the playoffs.
Minor-league players’ negotiations with their clubs could be rocky. Phillips found this out in advance of joining Omaha in 1952. The team’s business manager, Ray Oppegard, had offered a contract of $350 per month. In a letter dated February 29, 1952, Oppegard said that the club was limited in what it could pay its ballplayers. He then added, “I want to impress you with the fact that we liked you during your stay with us last fall. We feel that you have definite possibilities and certainly urge you to take advantage of them.”10 Phillips wanted $450 per month and returned the contract unsigned, apparently trying to make up for a raise promised by St. Joseph’s business manager, Roy Peterson, a year earlier.
On March 13, 1952, Oppegard sent another letter back, again stressing the salary limits of the minor-league team. He issued a mixed reprimand and personal appeal to the third-year minor leaguer: “You continue to carry a chip on your shoulder… I am not belittling your work last year because we do consider you a prospect and eventually will go far in baseball, but Eddie, you haven’t completely arrived as yet. True, you hit over .300 last year in a ‘C’ league, but you haven’t proved you can do it in ‘A.’ I think this contract is very fair. It is $100 per month more than you made last year, if you can play Class A ball, which you think you can. There is many a good ballplayer that has not even made as much as you have in their first two years of professional ball.”11
Oppehard’s approach got through, and a compromise was reached. On March 16, Phillips signed a contract for $400 per month with the Omaha Cardinals, Inc.
A highlight of Phillips’s season came on Sunday, May 25. “The Cardinals were feeling their oats” in a two-city twin bill against the Lincoln A’s.12 Omaha collected 13 hits during the matinee session in Lincoln. Batting second in the order for player-manager George Kissell, Phillips was already 3-for-5 with one RBI when he came to bat in the top of the ninth, with Omaha leading 7-5. Phillips put the game out of reach with a grand-slam homer, sealing an 11-5 victory. The teams then headed to Omaha’s Muny Stadium for the nightcap. Left-hander Walter Montgomery pitched his fourth shutout of the season, as 1,967 fans watched the 4-0 Cardinals win. Phillips collected two more hits, finishing the twin bill 6-for-10, and stole two bases on the day.
Phillips was moved to third base with about two months left in the season when Wally Moon returned to Omaha after receiving his master’s degree at Texas A&M.13 On September 6, Phillips was voted the most popular player by the team’s fans, receiving a diamond ring for his selection. The runner-up in popularity was future Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who took home a new suit.
One tribute he received during the season came from the Omaha World-Herald: “Phillips is a ball player stamped with class in all departments. He is a speedy runner, fields well, and hits well.”14 That same night he doubled and hit three singles in 4-0 win over Des Moines. He went on to lead the Western League with a .320 batting average. Omaha finished third, defeating Colorado Springs three games to one in the playoffs. The Denver Bears then swept the Cardinals, 3-0, to win the league title. Phillips continued to impress with his hitting, batting .409 during the playoffs. The prior contract negotiations had proved beneficial to both the club and Phillips.
During the offseason, Omaha sold Phillips’s contract to Houston, the Cardinals’ Texas League affiliate. The Buffaloes were counting on him to hold down third base. The fans keeping score faced confusion, however, because the second baseman was a player named Howard Dale Phillips was on second base.15 Houston’s manager, Al Hollingsworth, told reporters, “I’m going to make scorekeepers’ and sports writers’ jobs easier this spring regarding our two Howard Phillips boys. From here on in. Howard Dale will be called ‘Howie’ and Howard E. will be called ‘Eddie’ on our ball club. I don’t wanta [sic] pick up the paper some day and read where a double play went from Howard Phillips to Howard Phillips to Howard Phillips.”16
It was a blow to Houston when the third sacker, who was hitting .358 at the time, missed most of May. Phillips was sliding into home plate when he caught his spikes and badly sprained his right ankle, with a small bone chip for good measure, in a 4-2 win over Tulsa on May 5.17 Phillips returned to the hot corner in mid-June. On July 12 he was selected to the South squad in the 1953 Texas League All-Star game at third base, along with three other Buffaloes, pitcher Floyd Wooldridge, outfielder Harry Elliott, and catcher Dick Rand. The game was played on July 17 in Shreveport.
Phillips’s batting average dipped to .299 on August 26, but he finished the season with 19 hits in 55 at-bats, putting him in the top 10 in the Texas League batting race with a .306 average. The Buffaloes’ 72-82 record meant a sixth-place finish, 16 games behind the eventual league champion Dallas Eagles.
On September 8, “the Cardinals announced the purchase of the contracts of three players from their Houston farm club of the Texas League.”18 Two days later Phillips made his major-league debut pinch-running for Ray Jablonski in the bottom of the eighth. In the newly named Busch Stadium (formerly Sportsman’s Park), the crowd of 2,927 looked on as the former Hannibal High School star took a lead off first base. “The new Cardinal, Eddie Phillips, just up from Houston, ran for Jabbo and would have been picked off first but for a fallaway slide. Steve] Bilko then doubled Phillips home.”19 The New York Giants scored two in the top of the ninth, but the Cardinals held on for a 7-6 win.
On Sunday, September 13, pinch-running for Red Schoendienst, Phillips again raced home from first base, this time on a double by Stan Musial, in a 17-3 blowout against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Against the National League champion Brooklyn Dodgers on September 16, Phillips scored again in the eighth, giving him three runs in three pinch-running appearances. After Jablonski had singled with two outs, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky inserted his new pinch-runner. Enos Slaughter then hit a single into center field, scoring Solly Hemus, who had walked leading off the inning. Phillips raced to third. Bilko’s line-drive single to right field drove home Phillips, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. It turned out to be the game-winning run, as Roy Campanella hit a two-run pinch-hit homer in the top of the ninth off Cards starter Gerry Staley.[
After the Milwaukee Braves scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning, the Cardinals were trailing 7-6 in the second game of a doubleheader on September 22. Errors by Eddie Mathews and Johnny Logan allowed Schoendienst and Bilko to reach base ahead of Cards left fielder Elliott. Elliott doubled home both men, taking third on the throw, giving the Redbirds an 8-7 lead. Hoping to pad their lead, Stanky called on his speedy pinch-runner to replace Elliott at third base. After Rand made the first out of the inning, Slaughter’s sacrifice fly brought Phillips home, giving St. Louis a 9-7 lead. The Cardinals scored one more run in the ninth for a 10-7 win and split of the doubleheader.
Phillips’s fourth run scored broke an unusual baserunning record held by Jack Cassini of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cassini had scored three times in eight games in 1949 without any at-bats or playing a defensive position. Phillips appeared in three more games, all as a pinch-runner, but did not score again during his time in the majors – which, unbeknownst to him, had ended.
The Cardinals invited Phillips to his first spring training camp with St. Louis in St. Petersburg in 1954.20 Stanky was trying to improve his bench, and Sporting News writer Red Byrd observed that he would “have more infielders than he can carry through the regular season. [Lou] Ortiz probably can do the job at short or third, as well as at second, and then there are Eddie Phillips, third baseman, and Dick Schofield, the bonus baby, who has been concentrating on grounders at shortstop,”21
Phillips was sent to Houston in early April, and was converted back to the outfield. He was promoted on May 28 to Columbus, the Cardinals’ Triple-A team, in an effort to add more right-handed power to the Red Birds’ lineup. It took quite a while, though. On Friday, July 23, after 48 games, Phillips finally hit his first homer as a Red Bird, tying the St. Paul Saints 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Defensive play dominated the next 15 innings, before Phillips ended the four-hour, 21-minute marathon at 12:21 Saturday morning with a two-out three-run homer. He collected all five Redbird RBIs.22
Columbus finished in fourth place before falling to Louisville in seven games in the American Association playoffs. During the winter of 1954-55, Phillips played with the Carta Vieja Yankees in the Panama League, which captured their second consecutive championship. Phillips’s .284 batting average was good for fifth in the circuit league.
In 1955, the Cardinals moved their Columbus franchise to Omaha. Johnny Keane, who had been in the Cardinals system since 1932 as a player and manager, assured that he “planned to give [Phillips] every opportunity to play regularly this year.”23 The former fan favorite “won himself a big sack of loot, April 22, for hitting the Cardinals’ first homer of the season at home. The blast earned him a pair of slacks, fountain pen, week’s supply of bakery goods and a steak dinner from program advertisers.”24 The Cardinals finished 84-70, eight games behind the Minneapolis Millers in second place. The move to Omaha proved to be beneficial as the Cardinals defeated Louisville in the first round of the American Association playoffs. They then lost four straight to the Millers. Phillips appeared in three games with two hits and one walk during five plate appearances in the two postseason series.
Phillips returned to Panama for the following winter season (1955-56). A highlight came just before the New Year, after a “rainy spell led to four postponements in an eight-day period. After being idle during the entire eight days, Carta Vieja marked its return to action with a 10 to 6 victory over Chesterfield, December 29. The slugfest was featured by a grand-slam homer by Eddie Phillips for the Yankees in the opening inning. It was the league’s first jackpot wallop in nearly four years.”25
In May 1956, Phillips was sold from Omaha to the Rochester Red Wings of the International League (IL). He shared third base with Stan Jok and Jay Van Noy. Rochester advanced to the league playoffs, which were known as the Governor’s Cup. In the first round, the Red Wings defeated the Miami Marlins, four games to one, Phillips saw no action in the series. Rochester then claimed the IL championship in seven games over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Red Wings then faced the Indianapolis Indians, champions of the American Association, in the Junior World Series. In the opening game, trailing 3-1 with the bases loaded, Phillips pinch-ran for Allie Clark at second base. Pinch hitter “Gary Geiger delivered a pinch-single to score one run, but Eddie Phillips running for Clark, was called out at the plate on Roger Maris’ perfect throw.”26 The tag at the plate “[set] off a loud squawk from manager Dixie Walker and all of the Rochester players.”27 The Indians went on to sweep the Red Wings to win the Junior World Series.
Following that competition, Phillips played his final season in Panama. He “moved to the front in the batting race with eight hits in his first 19 trips for a .421 average.”28 He slumped after that, though, and finished the season hitting .245. Three straight winters playing took its toll. “[He] would lose weight and tire easily when the campaign entered the final stretch.”29
According to Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference, Detroit selected him in the minor league draft on December 3, 1956, but nothing seems to have come from the transaction.
St. Louis sent Phillips to Louisville in 1957. The Louisville Colonels became an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles in 1958. Phillips was leading the Colonels in batting with a .315 average when he was traded to Indianapolis on June 10. On his 27th birthday, with two outs and a 1-2 count, Phillips spoiled Juan Pizarro’s bid for a no-hitter “with a wicked bounder which shortstop Joe Koppe knocked down but couldn’t hold. It was ruled a single. The Wichita lefty retired John Romano for the final out.”30 Collecting 55 more hits with the White Sox farm team gave Phillips 112 hits for the second straight season, improving his batting average to .260.
Before heading to spring training for Indianapolis, Phillips married Joyce Easley, also from Hannibal. The wedding took place in Florissant, Missouri, at St. Mark’s Methodist Church on March 6, 1959. The reception was held at the home of former Louisville teammate Vern Rapp.31 Joyce returned to Hannibal, where she worked as a bookkeeper at the Hannibal National Bank.32 They had two children, Howard (Eddie) Jr and Pamala Rae.
An all-rookie outfield of Jim McAnany, Joe Hicks, and Stan Johnson was so good for Indianapolis in 1959 that Phillips was faced “with the problem of trying to get back in the lineup.”33 He was optioned to the Charleston ChaSox of the Class-A South Atlantic League, later signing back with Houston in the Texas League. In July, he was purchased by a Cubs farm team, the Fort Worth Cats. Phillips retired from baseball after spending time with the Braves and Phillies organizations in 1960.
Phillips’s odd niche in the major-leagues record book lasted until Charlie Finley, owner of the Oakland A’s, hired world-class track star Herb Washington to be a “designated runner” in 1974. On May 25, 1974, Washington scored for the fifth time in his career, breaking the 21-year-old record for the most runs scored in the majors without fielding a defensive position or taking an at-bat in a major-league game.34 Washington extended the record to 33 before he was released in 1975, never getting an at-bat or playing in the field during his two years with the A’s.
After baseball, Phillips operated a Conoco service station in Hannibal. He eventually worked for American Cyanamid, a company that developed medical and agricultural products, as a chemical operator. After retiring, Phillips enjoyed fishing and playing golf at the American Legion Golf Course while volunteering to help maintain the golf course. He was a member of Arch United Methodist Church.
Eddie Phillips passed away on September 9, 2010, from Lewy body dementia. He is buried at Grand View Burial Park in Hannibal. Seven years before, looking back on his career, he remarked, “It was just too tough, I played infield and outfield, but with players like Musial and Schoendienst, and then Ken Boyer, you really could not bump them out of a job.”35
Thanks to Ed Phillips Jr., for supplying the Phillips family newspaper collection; Jim Mason for introducing me to Ed Jr.; Rich Applegate for minor-league statistics from his Sporting News collection, and Brian Flaspohler for all his help, suggestions, and editing.
This biography was also reviewed by Bill Nowlin, Rory Costello, and Jan Finkel, and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.
1 Phillips family newspaper collection. This collection of newspaper clippings appears to be primarily from the Hannibal Courier Post, but typically do not show date or page number.
2 Phillips family newspaper collection.
3 Phillips family newspaper collection.
4 Lloyd Johnson & Miles Wolff, eds., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 2nd Edition (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 1997), 396; “How They Stand,” The Sporting News, September 13, 1950: 35. Baseball-Reference list the West Frankfort Cardinals tied with Mattoon Indians at 71-48.
5 “Miss-Ohio Abandons Series,” The Sporting News, September 20, 1950: 37.
6 Howard Goetz, President of the Western Association, “Letter to Howard E. Phillips, ℅ St. Joseph Cardinals, Inc.” May 15, 1951. Phillips family newspaper collection.
7 Gene Sullivan, “Western Association Drops Playoffs Because of Floods,” The Sporting News, September 12, 1951: 37.
8 “St. Joseph Sportswriter Calls Eddie Phillips Best Western Assoc. Prospect for Big Leagues,” Hannibal Courier-Post. Phillips family newspaper collection.
9 “Official Notice of Disposition of Players Contract and Services.” Phillips family newspaper collection.
10 Ray H. Oppegard, “Letter to Howard E. Phillips, ℅ Omaha Cardinals Inc.” February 29, 1952. Phillips family newspaper collection.
11 Ray H. Oppegard, “Letter to Howard E. Phillips, ℅ Omaha Cardinals Inc.” March 13, 1952. Phillips family newspaper collection.
12 Robert Phipps, “Cards Go After Sixth Win in Row Tonight,” Evening World-Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), May 26, 1952. Phillips family newspaper collection.
14 Eddie Phillips, Omaha World-Herald.
15 Howard Dale Phillips, played in the Cardinals organization from 1948-1956 and with Detroit from 1957-1958 advancing to Triple-A with both.
16 “Al’ Got the Solution,” Houston Chronicle, Phillips family newspaper collection.
17 Clark Nealon, “Buffs Beat Oilers, Lose E. Phillips,” The Houston Post, May 26, 1953.
18 “Cardinals Bring Up Three Players from Houston Farm Club,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1953: 18.
19 “Cardinals Fight Off Late Bid by Giants, 7-6,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 11, 1953: 2B.
20 “20 Hurlers Among 43 Listed for St. Pete,” The Sporting News, February 3, 1954: 7.
21 Red Byrd, “Second and Third Not Open as of Now,” The Sporting News, March 10, 1954: 16.
22 C. Young, “Birds Win 18-Inning Game on Phillips Two Home Runs,” The Sporting News, August 4, 1954: 26.
23 Bill Bergesch, “Letter to Howard E. Phillips, ℅ Omaha Cardinals Inc.” February 24, 1955. Phillips family newspaper collection.
24 “Omaha,” The Sporting News, May 4, 1955: 28.
25 Leo J. Eberenz, “Rain Big Help to Spur Colas in Panama Loop,” The Sporting News, January 11, 1956: 20.
26 “Hoosier’ Hurry-Up Job,” The Sporting News, October 10, 1956: 29.
27 “Play at Plate in Inaugural Sets Off Only JWS Squawk,” The Sporting News, October 10, 1956: 30.
28 Leo J. Erernaz, “One-Hitter Tops Four Shutouts in First 7 Contests,” The Sporting News, December 26, 1956: 21.
29 Ed O’Neill, “Sports Chatter,” Courier-Post (Hannibal, Missouri). Phillips family newspaper collection.
30 “Single With Two Out in Ninth Spoils No-Hit Bid by Wichita Juan Pizarro,” The Sporting News, July 16, 1958: 29.
31 Vern Rapp managed the Cardinals during the 1977 season before being fired the next season after a 6-10 start.
32 Phillips family newspaper collection.
33 Frank Haraway, “Coop’s Indianapolis Kids Set Lively Pace,” The Sporting News, May 13, 1959: 27.
34 Fourteen players have accomplished scoring a run without appearing in the field or at the plate in their careers, as of 2020.
35 Joe Schuster, “September’s Song-Running for Red and others,” St. Louis Cardinals Gameday Magazine, No. 6, 2003.