'You Have to Be Father, Mother. . .'

Philley and Cocoa Rookie Colt John Sanderson

by Bill Peterson
Times Sports Editor

COCOA -- "You have to be father, mother, brother, and sister," said Dave Philley, "but I like to work with them."
From the standpoint of major-league baseball experience, it would be difficult to find a better man than Philley to take charge of one of the best baseball prospects of the year. Philley spent 18 years and 10 days in what is commonly referred to as "the Big Leagues." Go out to Yankee Stadium and find one of those dedicated, every-day, know-every-player fans.
Ask him who the best, most-feared, pinch hitter was in the past 30 years. Chances are he'll say Dave Philley. Philley once pinch-hit safely eight times in succession. His specialty was getting rallies started, or winding them up with a long blast over the fence.
As "father" of some 22 rookies wearing the Houston Colt .45's label, Philley finds the work satisfying. His three counterparts at the Cocoa training center are Fred Waters ([Melbourne] Twins), Ken Deal ([Florida] Mets), and Harold Daugherty ([Cocoa] Tigers).
The hundred or more youths in the Florida Rookie League are for the most part in their late teens. They all have one thing in common: the ability to play good baseball.
Where are they from? Oneonta, N.Y., Kenosha, Wis., Joplin, Mis., Snyder, Texas, Panama, Canada, you name it. They're the youths that starred on the high school and college teams this spring.
All have the tools necessary to play professional baseball. All are shooting for the big time, but not all will make it. Just how many will eventually make a major league roster is unknown. This is up to Philley, Waters, Deal, Daugherty, their managers up the line, a few scouts and club officials, but most of all it is up to the player.
Hitting, fielding, speed, and the other tools of the trade are not enough. To make the big time it takes work, concentration, poise, and that extra grain of competitive spirit that places one player ahead of another.
The road may long or short for this year's crop in the Florida Rookie League. Their future is unknown. But one thing is sure: they won't be back in this league next year. It will either be up or out.

Source: The Florida Times, July 25, 1964

Philley is all smiles in a 1965 Durham Morning Sun photo accompanying an article on his managing the '65 Bulls in the Carolina League All-Star game that would be played July 20 of that year.

Philley, born in 1920, made his major league debut at the age of 21, when after playing most of the 1941 season at Monroe in the Cotton State League, was called up by the White Sox at the end of the year. He got into seven games and hit .222, then spent the following year at St. Paul in the AA American Association. Philley was in military service the following three years, then returned to the playing fields in 1946 with the Milwaukee Brewers and eventually, the major league White Sox.
Philley made the majors for good in 1947, and embarked upon a career that saw him lead the AL in oufield assists three times, finish in the top ten in average twice, and lead the league in games played once. As he got older, he became more of a pinch-hitting specialist.
In 1958, playing for the Philadelphia, Philley rapped out 18 pinch-hits, including a streak of eight straight to close the season that the author of the article above alluded to. He also had a pinch-hit double Opening Day 1959, for an actual total of nine straight, a record which I believe still stands today. While playing for Baltimore in 1961, he had a season total of 24 pinch-hits, which is also still a record.
A 42-year-old Philley was signed off the Baltimore roster by the Colt .45's during the 1961-1962 offseason, but the Colts turned him around quickly, sending him to Boston for Tom Borland. The trade was fairly even: while Borland pitched two years at AAA Oklahoma City, and never played in a major league game for Houston, Philley spent most of 1962 on the bench for the Red Sox, and retired after the year.

The contact Philley had made with the Paul Richards organization was I'm sure fruitful, because during the 1962 offseason, Philley was hired by the Colts and assigned to manage their single A club at Modesto, California.
The Colt .45 minor-league organization in those years under Richards was just full of talent--talented players and talented baseball men managing, coaching, and and scouting. Philley, from everything I've heard and read, appears to have been very well-suited to such an organization. After his year in the Rookie League discussed above, Philley spent 1965 managing the Durham Bulls, where he won a division title. In the 1965 offseason, owner Roy Hofheinz made the terrible mistake of firing Richards, and the organization was splintered. Philley found employment for 1966 in the Red Sox organization, where he managed the single A Waterloo Hawks. But I'm not sure what happened to the man after that.

Philley's Managerial Record in the Astros' System
Year Team League Record Placed
1963 Modesto Colts California 72 - 68 Fourth*
1964 Cocoa Colt .22's Cocoa Rookie League 23 - 29 Third
1965 Durham Bulls Carolina 83 - 60 First
* Won Split Season

Thanks to SABR member Mark Wernick for pointing out the error I'd made
in stating that Philley had been taken by the Colt .45's in the '62 Expansion Draft.

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