And by interesting, I mean piss poor.
Some of them were big money busts like Lance Parrish and Phil Bradley. Others were minor league stiffs like Jeff Stone and Bruce Ruffin. But perhaps the Phillie that best epitomizes the utter craptasticness of the Phils from the 1984-1989 seasons is former starting shortstop Steve Jetlz.
Jeltzy, king of the Jheri curl and toothpick-like arms, was a slick fielder, but an atrocious hitter. Actually, he was worse than atrocious. He was abominable. He was horrific. He was useless.
He made small children cry.
Amazingly, as can be seen by his 1985 Donruss card on the right, some crack addict in the Donruss corporation labeled Jeltzy a “Rated Rookie.” Exactly what does one have to do to become a “Rated Rookie,” Donruss? Be able to chew gum and lace their cleats at the same time? Slip you a C-Note under the table? Maybe you guys perhaps forget to put the word “Poorly” before the words “Rated Rookie?”
And in his five full seasons as a starter, from 1985-1989, Jeltz hit .214/.316/.271 for an OPS of .588 in 1840 plate appearances and 612 games. He hit four home runs during that stretch.
That’s no small sample size, math majors.
|162 Game Avg.||162||455||390||41||82||10||4||1||29||4||2||55||76||.210||.308||.268||.576||61|
|PHI (7 yrs)||653||1927||1646||172||351||42||20||5||120||17||9||242||321||.213||.314||.272||.586||64|
Until Michael Martinez came along, Jeltz could solidly lay claim to being the worst Philadelphia Phillie of the last 30 years. The difference between Jetlz and Martinez is, Jeltz was a starter for five years. Mini-Mart is a bench guy.
Year after year, the Phillies ran Jeltz out to shortstop just about every day. And it’s not like the Phils had a ton of thumpers at other positions, allowing them to sacrifice offense to the degree they did at shortstop.
No, this was during an era when the Phillies were indeed one of the cheapest organizations in professional sports. Jeltz was the epitome of that cheapness.
However, it is not my intention to lay waste to the career of this fine, fine man. He was one of the more unique players in the organization if not, dare I say, human history.
You see, Jeltz can lay claim to a little bit of history, as can be seen by his 1985 Topps Traded card…
Mais oui! Jeltz’ birth in France, while eliminating his ability to be elected President of the United States, carries with it quite a bit of distinction, according to the good and reliable folks at Wikipedia…
Jeltz holds the records for most games played, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, runs batted in, walks and strikeouts among players born in France. In total, nine major league players have been born in France as of 2012.
If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.
|1||Bruce Bochy||9||1978||1987||0||358||881||802||75||192||37||2||26||93||1||2||67||177||.239||.298||.388||.685||Apr 16, 1955||Jul 19, 1978||Landes de Bussac||2/3|
|2||Ed Gagnier||2||1914||1915||0||115||425||389||30||76||13||2||0||29||10||23||29||.195||.244||.239||.483||Apr 16, 1882||Apr 14, 1914||Paris||6/45|
|3||Claude Gouzzie||1||1903||1903||0||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000||1873||Jul 22, 1903||/4|
|4||Steve Jeltz||8||1983||1990||0||727||2041||1749||183||367||46||20||5||130||18||10||248||342||.210||.308||.268||.576||May 28, 1959||Jul 17, 1983||Paris||*645/9D87|
|5||Paul Krichell||2||1911||1912||0||87||274||243||25||54||9||0||0||16||4||2||23||40||.222||.295||.259||.554||Dec 19, 1882||May 12, 1911||Paris||2|
|6||Charlie Lea||7||1980||1988||1||152||299||259||11||29||2||1||0||6||0||0||10||93||.112||.144||.127||.272||Dec 25, 1956||Jun 12, 1980||Orleans||1|
|7||Duke Markell||1||1951||1951||0||5||6||6||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.167||.167||.333||.500||Aug 17, 1923||Sep 6, 1951||Paris||/1|
|8||Larry Ressler||1||1875||1875||0||27||108||108||17||21||1||0||0||5||4||0||0||4||.194||.194||.204||.398||Aug 10, 1848||Apr 26, 1875||/O4|
|9||Joe Woerlin||1||1895||1895||0||1||4||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.333||.333||.333||.667||Oct 9, 1864||Jul 21, 1895||Trenheim||/6|
Wow. Talk about some elite company!
Of course, you play the game long enough, chances are you’ll get that “one shining moment” game, where all the stars align and the baseball angels are smiling down on your greasy, curly head.
For Steve, that night was on June 8, 1989, the game also known as “The Jim Rooker Game.”
In that ballgame, the Pirates jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first inning, leading Pittsburgh broadcaster Jim Rooker to say on the air, “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.”
The Phils went on to come all the way back and beat the Pirates 15-11, leading to Rooker conducting a walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh months later for charity.
In that game (and I only wish there was video available of this), Steve Jeltz did the unthinkable. Not only did he hit a home run in that game… not only did he hit two home runs in that game… each of his home runs were hit from a different side of the plate.
Only 17 players in National League history had managed to hit a home run from each side of the plate in the same game. And, no Phillie had EVER done it.
Not only that, coming into the game, Jeltz had hit two home runs in five years and over 1450 times at bat. So yeah, it was a little bit freaky.
Unfortunately, no one really seems to know what happened to Steve Jeltz after his playing career ended with the Kansas City Royals in 1990. There is a Facebook page for Steve, but it’s not run by the man himself. Instead, it’s run by “fans” of the former slick-fielding shortstop.
And sadly, Jeltz was not deemed to have enough “star caliber” to appear in this slickly produced ad campaign for the 1986 Phillies, so we don’t even have video to remember him by.
However, we’ll keep our eyes on Steve’sWikipedia page and his Facebook following, and update everyone on any news as we receive it.
Long live the Curl.