Cards On The Table: Jheri Curl Jeltz


For those of us in our 30s, the Phillies of the mid-to-late 1980s featured some interesting players.

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?”

Just wonderin’.

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.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1983 24 PHI 13 10 8 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 2 .125 .222 .375 .597 64
1984 25 PHI 28 77 68 7 14 0 1 1 7 2 1 7 11 .206 .276 .279 .556 56
1985 26 PHI 89 228 196 17 37 4 1 0 12 1 1 26 55 .189 .283 .219 .502 41
1986 27 PHI 145 510 439 44 96 11 4 0 36 6 3 65 97 .219 .320 .262 .581 61
1987 28 PHI 114 337 293 37 68 9 6 0 12 1 2 39 54 .232 .324 .304 .628 66
1988 29 PHI 148 450 379 39 71 11 4 0 27 3 0 59 58 .187 .295 .237 .533 55
1989 30 PHI 116 315 263 28 64 7 3 4 25 4 2 45 44 .243 .356 .338 .694 101
1990 31 KCR 74 114 103 11 16 4 0 0 10 1 1 6 21 .155 .200 .194 .394 12
8 Yrs 727 2041 1749 183 367 46 20 5 130 18 10 248 342 .210 .308 .268 .576 61
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2012.

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.

Rk Yrs From To ASG G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Birthdate Debut Birthplace Pos
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
Totals 32 1875 1990 1 1473 4039 3560 343 741 109 25 31 279 37 14 371 687 .208 .284 .279 .562
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2012.

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.

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Tags: Philadelphia Phillies Steve Jeltz