It’s a tale that never stops being funny and sad. It looked like the Phillies had hit the jackpot when they signed Danny Tartabull during spring training in 1997 to add some “oomph” to the middle of their lineup. In retrospect, however, we should have all been leery of Tartabull saying, “Before I signed with the Phillies, my No. 1 goal was to sign on with a team that had an opportunity to go into postseason play. That didn’t happen, but there are other positives to signing with the Phillies. It’s a young team and, hopefully, I can be a part of a good thing.” (Yes, that’s a real quote from this article.)
The Phils opened the 1997 season in Los Angeles, and Tartabull fouled a ball off his foot during his first at-bat in the first inning of the season. He’d go 0-for-2 and walk twice on the day. He flew out twice to the warning track, which I vividly remember prompted Harry Kalas to comment about how Danny would be hitting a lot of home runs for the club that year.
Tartabull went 0-for-7 during that series, his foot continued to bother him, and it ultimately was revealed that he had fractured it. He never played another MLB game, and people now mostly remember him for his appearances on Seinfeld more so than anything he did on a baseball field. Except for Phillies fans. They revile him.
Tartabull’s contract didn’t hurt the Phillies on the field so much as it reinforced how poorly they spent what little money they had and tended to embarrass themselves at every turn. It was a dark time.