For those of us in our 30s, the Phillies of the mid-to-late 1980s featured some interesti..."/> For those of us in our 30s, the Phillies of the mid-to-late 1980s featured some interesti..."/>

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.

8 Yrs72720411749183367462051301810248342.210.308.268.57661
162 Game Avg.1624553904182104129425576.210.308.268.57661
PHI (7 yrs)6531927164617235142205120179242321.213.314.272.58664

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.

1Bruce Bochy91978198703588818027519237226931267177.239.298.388.685Apr 16, 1955Jul 19, 1978Landes de Bussac2/3
2Ed Gagnier21914191501154253893076132029102329. 16, 1882Apr 14, 1914Paris6/45
3Claude Gouzzie1190319030111000000001. 22, 1903/4
4Steve Jeltz819831990072720411749183367462051301810248342.210.308.268.576May 28, 1959Jul 17, 1983Paris*645/9D87
5Paul Krichell219111912087274243255490016422340. 19, 1882May 12, 1911Paris2
6Charlie Lea719801988115229925911292106001093. 25, 1956Jun 12, 1980Orleans1
7Duke Markell11951195105661110000001.167.167.333.500Aug 17, 1923Sep 6, 1951Paris/1
8Larry Ressler118751875027108108172110054004. 10, 1848Apr 26, 1875/O4
9Joe Woerlin1189518950143110000000.333.333.333.667Oct 9, 1864Jul 21, 1895Trenheim/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.