Memories of ex-Jay Tony Phillips

While he was only with the 1998 Blue Jays for 13 games, the late Tony Phillips, a versatile fiery utility man, made Shannon Stewart a better player.

Originally printed July 24, 1998

By Bob Elliott
BOSTON ... Should the Toronto Blue Jays go down the tubes this weekend, trade rumors will heat up. 

If they are able to deal Mike Stanley, traded Aug. 13 last year by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, it means Shannon Stewart becomes an everyday player, as he should be, and Jose Canseco becomes the everyday DH, as he should be. 

Stewart has the second highest on-base percentage on the team at .369, behind Carlos Delgado’s .373. Stewart has 30 steals, second in the AL, nine back of Oakland’s Rickey Henderson. Stewart is hitting .269 and last night was his 87th game out of the 104 the Jays have played. 

Stewart has been playing with more intensity since the Jays signed Tony Phillips on July 1 and is hitting .340 this month. 

“I heard he was a soft player,” Phillips said in the Fenway clubhouse. “I told him what I’d heard. His eyes got real big.”

Then, Phillips made like Stewart with a mock impression making huge big eyes.

“I said Stewart that look right there -- now that is how you play this game,” Phillips said. 

In recent trade talk, the Seattle Mariners offered the Jays lefty Paul Spoljaric and third baseman Russ Davis for third baseman Ed Sprague and outfielder Jose Cruz, currently at Syracuse. The Jays declined. Cruz will be back with Toronto in September -- if not before. 

The Jays wouldn’t mind moving Sprague and wouldn’t mind getting Spoljaric, but the rest of the equation won’t work. 

General manager Gord Ash will also try to move Juan Guzman. 

Teams have expressed interest in right-hander Woody Williams and lefty Dan Plesac, but the Jays don’t have a whole lot of marketable players to deal once they pull the likes of Delgado, Shawn Green and their other starting pitchers off the table.



Originally published Monday, Oct. 9, 1989

By Bob Elliott

If there wasn’t an Oakland-Toronto rivalry before yesterday’s game, there certainly is now. 

Blue Jays’ manager Cito Gaston fanned the flames by coming out to the mound to accuse Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley of doctoring the ball in the ninth inning. He accused him of worse later. 

With Oakland leading in the ninth, Eckersley came on in relief after George Bell homered off Dave Stewart.

Gaston first approached plate ump Rick Reed to ask him to check Eckersley’s glove for an emery board as he finished his warmup tosses. 

Crew chief Davey Phillips arrived for the discussion and eventually checked Eckersley’s glove. 

``I checked the glove specifically for something illegal as I was asked, but I didn’t find a thing,’’ said umpire Phillips. ``I went back to Cito and he told me that Eckersley put something down the front of his pants. 

``I can’t ask him to pull down his pants in front of 50,000 people.’’ 

As Phillips asked for the glove, A’s manager Tony LaRussa trotted out to the mound, firing his hat and lineup card to the ground. 

``Gamesmanship - someone tried to plant a seed about Eckersley,’’ said LaRussa. ``It was out and out gamesmanship, and I didn’t appreciate it.’’ 
As the search went on, third baseman Tony Phillips and Eckersley screamed obscenities at Gaston. And Gaston reciprocated. 

``I told them to come across the line and say that,’’ said Gaston. ``They told me to `go bleep myself.’ Tony (Phillips) apologized through Tony Fernandez, but (Phillips) hasn’t apologized to me. 

``That’s typical Eckersley. He always salutes from a distance.”

The Eck survived the ninth for his third save of the series. Tony Fernandez singled to centre, stole second, advanced to third on an Ernie Whitt grounder and scored on a Kelly Gruber fly ball to centre.

Eckersley then struck out Junior Felix to win the American League pennant. And as catcher Terry Steinbach celebrated, he gave the Blue Jay dugout the finger. 

``I asked Rick Reed to keep an eye on (Eckersley) while we were talking,’’ said Gaston. ``I told him to turn around and watch him. 

``(Eckersley) took something out of his glove, then he tried to slide it inside his jersey, up by his neck. Then he dropped it behind him. He picked it up and stuck it down the front of his pants. If the umps can’t see all of that taking place, they can’t see anything. 

``I was just doing my job - LaRussa should understand that.’’ 

Said pitcher Todd Stottlemyre: ``Eck is a pitcher, so I can’t do anything to him, but I’ll never forget Tony Phillips screaming at Cito after the game. Next year is going to come too soon for him. 

``To win like that is one thing - to shove it in our face is another.’’ 

There was a different reaction down the hall. 

``When we lost the other night, we didn’t say a word,’’ said Carney Lansford referring to Jimmy Key beating Storm Davis 7-3 in Game 3. ``Every time they lost, they had an excuse. I’ve never seen such a bunch of whiners.’’ 

Said Mike Flanagan: ``I was always taught you are supposed to win and then go out with class and dignity. They won, but they didn’t leave with either.’’ 

Right now, next year is all the Jays can talk about.