Each week, we’ll be raiding the baseball card collections that survived garage sales, break-ups, and bankruptcy, and bringing you some of the oddest, dustiest, and/or most relevant Phillies baseball cards. Please join us in this celebration of not only the Phillies’ past, but our own ability to hide shoeboxes full of small pieces of cardboard from those who would see them sold for a sack of coins.
“I was 18 to 22 home runs a year; basically guys now are 30-plus home runs at those positions. I didn’t bring speed to the table, I didn’t bring a lot of defense to the table, so in the National League I didn’t give the manager a lot of flexibility off the bench, except the bat. I fell into that Triple-A, 4-A category where you’re in that in-between range.”
1995! The glow of ’93 behind them, and the pungent stench of ’94 still in the air, the Phillies entered the year with fewer familiar faces than ever. Gregg Jefferies, Andy Van Slyke, Mark Whiten, Charlie Hayes; all of them replaced fan favorites and it became quickly apparent that they would not be leading a quirky, blue collar team to the NL pennant. No, the Phillies opted to go with a roster full of exciting “in-betweeners.”
Sitting on the bench during this paradigm shift was Gene Schall, an Abington-born, Villanova-educated, 25-year-old prospect who was an offensive threat for Triple-A Scranton that translated into a .231 hitter through 24 games for the the ’95 Phils.
Things started well for Gene. In his MLB debut, the Phillies lost 2-1 to the Marlins at the Vet, but were in the midst of a stretch where they’d win 11 of 14. Gene went 1-for-2 with a walk and a strike out.
So it’s no surprise how we see him on his Donruss ’95; clutching lumber like a god about to strike; staring into the mists of the future, where he sees himself burying dingers in ten rows deep at the Vet to raucous applause from a fickle Philadelphia crowd or scooping Morandini-fed DPs out of the ancient dirt (which he did three times during his debut as well).
His fantasies may have been disrupted by an impatient Tony Longmire informing him that Fregosi was pinch hitting for the first baseman and would you please move out of the way of the batting helmets, Gene. But regardless, at this point in the timeline, anything was possible.
These days, those same Big League dreams are a daily part of Gene Schall’s life; just sadly, not his own dreams. Instead, Gene is the Regional Scouting Supervisor for the Phillies. A 42-year-old with Major League experience and a computer networking background, it’s makes a lot of sense that he competently fill this role, and that he has a LinkedIn account with over 500 connections.
The 1995 Phils weren’t the best environment for cultivating young talent. Just ask Kevin Stocker! But by Gene’s own admittance, he hadn’t brought a lot with him in 1995 other than Triple-A power. Perhaps over the next few years, he could take that talent and work it into an applicable Major League skill.
Unfortunately, the 1996 Phils weren’t the best environment for cultivating young talent. Actually they were even worse than the ’95 Phillies. And they were the last team Gene would ever play for, making his last appearance on September 29, before moving on courtesy of a hip flexor injury.
A hot-hitting prospect in his mid-twenties would be a sight to see in this current era of prospects in their early thirties, even if he was gone in the blink of a down year. At least, for a small window, he would offer the hope of futuristic power before Tony Longmire wanders over and ruins everything. And afterward, with his strengths clearly lying elsewhere, the team can capitalize on outside skills. Like computer networking. Or being in between things.