Every now and then a professional athlete comes along that, for whatever reason, is strongly disliked by many in the fanbase.
For the Phillies of the late ’80s, Von Hayes was that player.
Hey, I should know. I was one of them. I couldn’t stand Von Hayes. I couldn’t stand how far apart his feet were in the batter’s box, his skinny, lanky frame looking as if a stiff breeze would blow it over. I couldn’t understand what I perceived to be a lack of production from someone who was supposed to be a cornerstone player.
I thought he kinda sucked, to be honest.
Whenever you’re the centerpiece of a five-for-one trade, expectations are going to be raised. That of course, is not Von Hayes’ fault, but it is what it is.
In fact, Pete Rose probably didn’t help things by giving Hayes the nickname “Five-For-One.” Yeah, Pete was kind of a jerk, huh?
However, as I reflect back on the playing career of Von Hayes, scourge of my youth, I can now see him with clearer eyes for what he was.
Von Hayes was a solid, if unspectacular, baseball player. And if the Phillies of today had a Von Hayes on their team, they’d probably be just fine with that.
|PHI (9 yrs)||1208||4988||4306||646||1173||232||30||124||568||202||.272||.363||.427||.789||118|
Hayes came to the Phillies from Cleveland before the NL championship 1983 season in exchange for five players, only one of whom would turn out to be any good. Manny Trillo, George Vukovich, Jay Baller, Jerry Willard and Julio Franco. It is Franco, of course, that was the one who got away, lasting 23 years in the Majors with three All-Star Games to his credit.
Look at that face. So much youth, with the world his oyster, laid out in front of him.
Hayes, however, had a nice career in his own right, at least through his 20s. In nine years with the Phils, Hayes hit .272/.363/.427 for an OPS of .789 and an OPS+ of 118. He finished 8th in the NL MVP voting in 1986 when he led the league in runs scored and doubles. And he made an All-Star team in 1989, when he hit a career-high 26 HRs and walked 101 times.
Von was good at getting on base, stealing bases, hitting for a little power, and playing good defense in the outfield and first base. He was versatile, a guy who, if batting #6 or 7 in the lineup, could really help a contender.
And, the ladies loved him. So, there’s that.
Former Phils manager Paul Owens also loved him, it seems. So much talent in that wiry frame!
Unfortunately for the Phillies of the mid-to-late ’80s, there wasn’t a lot of talent surrounding Von, which is why he often batted leadoff, third or fifth in the lineup, leaving him a bit exposed.
Still, there were good times.
I don’t think any of us will ever forget that USA-Japan College World Series. You all remember where you were when that went down, right?
Of course, no one over the age of 30 will ever forget that game against the Mets in 1985 when he became the first player in MLB history to hit two home runs in the first inning of a baseball game. After leading off the game with a home run off Tom Gorman, Von Hayes hit a grand slam later that inning off Calvin Schiraldi, powering the Phillies to a 26-7 over the Mets, the most single game runs scored by a Major League team in over 40 years.
In the late ’80s, we didn’t get a whole lot of games like those.
Hayes also hit two home runs in the famous “Jim Rooker Game,” better known as the game in which Steve Jeltz hit two home runs, one from each side of the plate. It’s pretty hard to get overshadowed by Jeltz, you know. That’s just some pretty bad luck.
Sadly, Hayes’ career was cut short, thanks to a fastball by Tom Browning that broke his arm in 1991. After playing just 77 games that year, the Phils traded him to the California Angels for two players, one of whom you know very well.
One could argue that, had it not been for Von Hayes, Ruben Amaro Jr. would not be the Phils GM today.
And please, take that however you would like.
Hayes would cite that fastball from Browning as being the end of his career, saying “I broke my arm when I was hit by a pitch from Tom Browning… and I was finished. I tried to make a comeback (with California) in 1992, but it was no good.”
Hayes played just 94 games for the Angels that year and, following the season, retired at the age of 33.
But don’t weep for Von Hayes, everybody. The lanky left-hander is still in the game, currently managing the Camden Riversharks. And his legend lives on in popular culture.
Hey, I KNOW who Von Hayes is. And you should too. In fact, the current Phillies would do well to find themselves another Von Hayes at some point.
Perhaps they shouldn’t trade five players to get him, though.