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November 09, 2017

The Phillies have lost a Mt. Rushmore of former greats in 2017

There’s no way around it – 2017 has been a losing year for the Phillies. 

Sure, they lost 96 times on the field, but they lost much more off it. In the heat of the moment, winning can seem like a matter of life or death, but it's not. And in 2017, the Phillies community has been repeatedly reminded that the game being played on the field is just that – a game.

Losses like the ones the Phillies suffered off the field can help put that in perspective, none more so than the tragic and untimely death of former ace Roy Halladay, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 40 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind a wife and two children.

Unfortunately, the two-time Cy Young Award winner was hardly the first from the Phillies community to pass away in 2017. 

In the last eight months alone, the organization has lost a Mount Rushmore of all-time greats: Dallas Green, Jim Bunning, Darren Daulton, and Halladay. And while they may have come from different backgrounds and played in different eras, the four* were all universally beloved, not just in Philly, but around the baseball world as well. 

*Five if you include former shortstop and coach Ruben Amaro, Sr.

While the losses on the field hurt in 2017, they paled in comparison to those off it...

Dallas Green

AUGUST 4, 1934 - MARCH 22, 2017

Green, who led the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980, passed away during spring training after a long battle with kidney disease. Here's what our own Ryan Lawrence wrote at the time:

“There are very few people who were more synonymous with the Phillies than Dallas,” said [David] Montgomery, who also offered his deepest sympathies to Green’s widow, Sylvia. “It's kind of fitting that we're here in Florida when you think about it. Every time I'm at the Carpenter Complex, I think of two people, Dallas and [Paul Owens]. But he would want us to move on because, to him, the most important thing for all of us in the game was the game itself. He loved it. He respected it.”

Love and respect work both ways. 

Just as the man loved the game, the game loved him back. And so did everyone who interacted with Green … some after time helped them appreciate his tough love…

“Dallas was what Philly is all about: toughness, honesty and fairness,” said Bowa, the current Phillies bench coach and the owner of a fiery personality himself, who would follow Green’s footsteps into the big league dugout as a manager.

“Without Dallas," Bowa said, "the Phillies would not have won the World Series in 1980. I wish all of our current players would have had the opportunity to meet Dallas.”  [Full story]

*  *  *

Jim Bunning

OCTOBER 23, 1931 - MAY 26, 2017

Bunning, the only pitcher besides Halladay to throw a perfect game for the Phillies, also represented his home state of Kentucky in chambers of the United States Congress. In May, he passed away at the age of 85 due to complications from a stroke. Again, here's Ryan Lawrence with more on the nine-time All-Star:

In his first season with the Phillies, in 1964, Bunning pitched the seventh perfect game in baseball history on Father’s Day against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Six years later in 1970, a 24-year-old rookie shortstop named Larry Bowa tutored under the no-nonsense veteran pitcher, who was in his final season with the Phillies. 

At the time, Bowa said he didn't know whether he'd even last a month in the major leagues, but it was Bunning's words that resonated with him then, throughout his own 16-year career, and even today as a coach, too.

"I never had a pitcher mentor me like he did in one year. In spring training he told me, ‘Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.’ It was that simple. I said, ‘Yessir,’" the 71-year-old Bowa, the current Phillies bench coach, said Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "He was all for energy and never quitting. He said ‘I’ve been out there where I’ve given up 6 runs and I don’t quit. I don’t ever want to see you quit. Because you bring a lot to the table with your energy and desire to play.’ Like I said, pitchers, I got along with pitchers, but they never took the time to say something to me, and that was my first year. All that stuff stayed with me.

"I had that energy level all the time with my dad, the ‘don’t quit.’ But to have it reinforced by (a future Hall of Famer), I can’t even express in words what that meant. When a guy like that takes the time with someone who is just starting, it’s, I mean, it resonated throughout my career."

After his baseball career ended following a 17-year run with the Phillies, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Los Angeles Dodgers, Bunning returned to Kentucky and began his second life as a politician. He served as a United States Senator from 1999 to 2011.

"Jim was an incredible competitor and was determined to maximize his ability and make the most of everything he did in life,” Phillies chairman David Montgomery said in a press release.  “He clearly succeeded in doing so…”  [Full story]

*  *  *

Darren Daulton

JANUARY 3, 1962 - AUGUST 6, 2017

Like Halladay, Daulton's death came at a far too young age. At just 55, "Dutch" lost a lengthy battle with brain cancer. Here's a look at what some of his former teammates had to say about the Phillies Wall of Fame catcher:

One of the most-beloved members of one of this city's most-beloved teams, you didn't have to look very hard to find a former teammate or coach that had something positive to say about "Dutch" – both as a ballplayer and as a person.

Here's a look at how some of those from the baseball community who knew Daulton best will remember the Phillies Wall-of-Famer:

Mitch Williams: “One of my favorite memories of Dutch was when, one of the many times, I walked the bases loaded in the ninth with a two run lead. He comes to the mound just drenched in sweat; it was 104 degrees on the turf that day at the Vet. I'm thinking he's fixing to yell in my face all the things that Kruky had been screaming at me from first base. He comes at me and says ‘Are you done ****ing around? It's hot out here and the beer is cold in the clubhouse- let’s go!’  Well, I got out of that trouble and we won the game. He always knew how to get the best out of me and all of his teammates.”

Lenny Dykstra: “He was our anchor and our leader; ensuring that our focus was always between the lines when we played.  His stewardship and incredible toughness were the inspiration for that magical year in 1993, when we put it all together, and made baseball fun again in Philly. It was a privilege to have played with him, and to have known him. I will miss him.”

Curt Schilling: “Heart and soul. Those are the two words that define Darren Daulton as a human being and as a member of the Phillies 1993 team. In my 22 years of baseball, I have never been privileged enough to be around a man who led anywhere near as well as Dutch did. He was perfect in that role in every sense of the word. From Hollywood looks to never EVER saying the wrong thing, he led us on and off the field. I am forever grateful to call him a friend and a teammate…”  [Full story]

*  *  *

Roy Halladay 

MAY 14, 1977 - NOVEMBER 7, 2017

And, finally, there's Roy Halladay. While all of these deaths are sad, perhaps none hit as hard as this one, given how sudden and tragic the circumstances were. Of the four names on this list, Halladay is the only one not inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame. 

That will likely change in the near future.

Here's a snippet from Ryan Lawrence's great story about being a fan of Halladay long before he covered him in Philly:

The man worked like no one else in his profession. In an age when the majority of athletes yearn to become free agents to grab the biggest paycheck, Halladay basically took a pay cut when he signed an extension upon arrival to Philadelphia. And he truly cared about the work he was putting forward for his team and its fans

And then it would become even greater to see Halladay’s personality open up more when he put his famous, tireless workout regiment aside and stepped away from his steely-eyed assassin pitching career when he retired four years ago. After a dozen years working like a studious businessman at the ballpark, retirement turned Halladay into the school's-out-for-summer kid.

He joined Twitter. He went to the zoo with the Phillies fan who created the absurdly funny blog (bolg?) called I Want to Go to the Zoo with Roy Halladay. He coached youth baseball. He became a fan, like you, and showered your favorite baseball player with love. He flew airplanes. He used his airplanes to help transport rescue dogs.

Roy Halladay enjoyed life, first while perfecting his craft as a pitcher for nearly two decades and then in hanging out with his kids (and sometimes acting like a kid himself) in the last four years. It’s cripplingly sad that he won’t be able to continue the second stage of his life and it’s unfortunate we’ll never know what his third act might have been, possibly in a baseball front office or on a coaching staff.

But Roy Halladay lived his life. If you need proof, go look at his Twitter, which is chock full of selfies with Little Leaguers and ear-to-ear smiles while working in or on his beloved planes.

We should all be so lucky to embrace life with the same fervor and enthusiasm.  [Full story]

Now, let's just hope this story doesn't need to be updated anytime soon.

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