Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A 1887 Silver Bill Phillips Baseball Card - an Old Time Brooklyn Player

Brockelman & Luckey Auctions recently closed up their most recent auction and it included a card of a vintage Dodger player I thought worth noting.  Check it out above.

It is a 1887 Old Judge Cigarettes card of Brooklyn Grays (a precursor team to the Dodgers) first baseman Silver Bill Phillips.  He is known as the very first Canadian born player to ever play in the Major Leagues and is enshrined in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  This card sold at $245.25 a week back.

Why he was called "Silver Bill" I do not know.  I do know, on the other hand, that he is regarded as one of the best defensive first baseman of the 1880's.  He stood 6 feet tall and weighed some 200 lbs.; which at the time was huge.  So, his size was a benefit to his position.  Silver Bill would often look the part of a modern day basketball player to someone like 5' 6" me.

Via a SABR biography by William Akin:
Cleveland's infield of the early Eighties, labeled the "Stonewall Infield," may have been the finest fielding unit of the era. In 1880 Jack Glasscock moved from second base to shortstop, where he became the slickest fielder of his era, and Fred Dunlap took over at second. Charles Faber rates that group the best double play combination of the nineteenth century (Faber, 50). Writing thirty years later, Al Spink remembered them as "perhaps the greatest infield ever known" (Spink, 196). They led the League in double plays in 1882 and fielding average in 1883. Phillips participated in more double plays than any other first baseman during Cleveland's first five years of NL play.
Silver Bill spent three seasons with Brooklyn - from 1885 to 1887.  It was in the New York borough where he would record his best years at the plate.  He batted .278 for the Grays, knocked in 236 runs, scored 215 runs and even stole 29 bases (which is a lot considering how slow he'e been described). 

Unfortunately, after Brooklyn he would soon find himself out of the game.  He was pushed off the team in order to bring up a kid named David Orr, and played his last game with the Hamilton Hams of the International League in 1899.  He would pass away about a decade later due to complications from syphilis.  

To learn more about this former Dodger be sure to check out William Akin's great biography at the SABR biography Project, right here.

Below are Silver Bill Phillips' career stats, via Baseball Reference:

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