Bradley's best Phils moment came at Wrigley
Outfielder hit first night homer at legendary park, but it was washed away
Let's be honest. The 1988 season wasn't particularly memorable for a Phillies team that lost 96 games. Still, every year has its moments. Left fielder Phil Bradley's came on Aug. 8 in Chicago, the first-ever scheduled night game at Wrigley Field.
Phil Bradley led off for the Phils, becoming the first batter on that historic occasion. He also hit the first home run, connecting off Cubs starter Rick Sutcliffe. He has since donated the bat he used to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Bradley is now 56 years old and in his 16th year working for the Major League Baseball Players Association. As Team Special Assistant, Player Services, his job is to keep tabs on the five teams in the National League Central plus the Nationals, Marlins, Braves and Rays. "Basically, I'm like a field rep. I'm responsible for going out and visiting my teams on a weekly basis and just checking in with them and making sure that their needs are being met," he explained during a stop at Citizens Bank Park earlier this season when the Pirates were in town.
That means he's on the road a lot. He averages about 10 days a month away from home during the regular season, plus almost all of Spring Training and the postseason. "It's as much about being a presence as it is about information," he said. "We're trying to build relationships and that varies from team to team, player to player."
His last professional season was 1992, with the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers and Iowa Cubs. Shortly after he retired he took a position as baseball coach at Westminster College near his home in Columbia, Mo., and also taught classes, including sports history. That allowed him time to watch his daughter, Megan, play tennis and coach his son, Curt.
Bradley was a player representative during his career and helped work on the Collective Bargaining Agreement during the 1990 lockout. That led to his hiring by the MLBPA in 1999.
"I wasn't looking for a job. That's just how it worked out," he said.
Bradley was starting quarterback for the University of Missouri for three years. Curt became a two-sport star at Northern Iowa, and one of the attractions of working for the union was the flexibility the position offered.
"My son played 50 college football games in his career. I got to see every one of those," he noted proudly.
General manager Lee Thomas traded for Bradley (and Tim Fortugno) before the 1988 season, sending Mike Jackson, Glenn Wilson and Dave Brundage to the Mariners. The Phillies had had five different regular leftfielders in the previous five seasons. The hope was that Bradley -- who had made the All-Star team in 1985, was just 29 years old on Opening Day and had a career batting average of .301 with an .830 OPS -- would stabilize the position for years.
It didn't work out that way.
"I didn't play very well for a period of time when I was there," said Bradley, who was hitting .237 at the end of July. In the final two months he hit .306 with an .821 OPS, but almost a year to the day after he was acquired he was traded again, to the Orioles, for Ken Howell and Gordon Dillard. He also played for the White Sox and spent a year in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants.
"On paper, [the Phillies were] the best team I ever played on," he said. "On the field, it might have been one of the worst. That just goes to show you the game isn't played on a piece of paper. Because, if it was, there would be a lot of seasons that turn out differently than they actually do.
"We just didn't play well. And not only one guy or two guys. You know, when your closer [Steve Bedrosian] gets pneumonia in Spring Training after winning the Cy Young the year before, you get off to that kind of start and the hitters struggle and the starting pitching ... it just never came together for us."
Still, he said, he always appreciated the passion of the fans.
"Philadelphia is a good sports town," he said. "They like people who do their best and they'll let you know when they don't think you are. Is that tough? Yeah. But they're truthful about it. I don't have any problem with that. If you ask me, would I rather have people show up to watch versus not come? I'd rather they show up, even if they voice their disapproval."
And he'll always have Wrigley Field. Sort of. That game was rained out before it became official. Technically, his historic home run never happened.
"I don't count it. I only count it in that, in my professional career in the big leagues and Japan, I ended up with 99 home runs. So that would have been 100," he said with a laugh.