It took a while, but 83-year-old Jim (Kitty) Kaat finally made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The left-hander who was a workhorse was selected by the Golden Era committee for induction next July.
Kitty posted a 283-237 record and 3.45 ERA in 898 games over 25 years in the Majors, 1959-83. Yes, four decades. More numbers, 4,530 1/3 innings and 19,023 batters faced. Defense? 16 Gold Gloves. Offense? 16 home runs, 106 RBIs.
Clubs: Twins, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals.
He took the ball, ate up innings and did it quickly. “Think long, think wrong” was his philosophy.
GM Paul Owens traded three number one picks, right-hander Roy Thomas (June 1971), righty Dick Ruthven (January secondary phase 1973) and infielder/outfielder Alan Bannister (January regular phase) to the White Sox for 37-year-old Kaat and Minor League infielder Mike Buskey on Dec. 10, 1975. (January regular and secondary phases were players previously drafted but who didn’t sign).
Kaat was part of a unique Phillies pitching staff in 1976, where just 11 pitchers took the mound for the entire season. That will never be matched. All but three starts came from Steve Carlton (20-7), Jim Lonborg (18-10), Kaat (12-14), Larry Christenson (13-8) and Tommy Underwood (10-5). With Kaat in the rotation, the Phillies won three consecutive National League East titles (1976-78).
Starting in 1960, Kaat had always worn No. 36. When he came to the Phillies, he asked for that number. When told that it was retired for Robin Roberts, he totally understood and took 39.
Kaat started the season opener in 1976, the only time in a 15-year span in which Carlton didn’t start.
From May 31 through June 24 Kaat won six consecutive starts. His fourth win in that streak was a complete-game victory over the Giants at the Vet. The game lasted just one hour and 47 minutes.
Kaat becomes the 12th pitcher in the Hall of Fame to have worn a Phillies uniform. The list ranges from 15 Phillies seasons, Carlton (1972-86) to one season for Pedro Martinez (2009).
Don Demeter played 11 seasons in the Majors, including 1961-63 with the Phillies. The former outfielder/third baseman/first baseman had an interesting career with the club even though it was brief.
Demeter died Nov. 29 in Oklahoma City. He was 86. A right-handed hitter with power also played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland.
On April 11, 1961, the Phillies opened the season against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and Demeter was a defensive replacement for the Dodgers. On May 4, 1961, the Phillies acquired him along with third baseman Charley Smith for right-hander Turk Farrell and shortstop Joe Koppe.
The 1961 season saw a young Phillies team set a record by losing 23 games in a row. During the losing streak, he started at first, left, center and right.
Back in Los Angeles on Sept. 12 of that season Demeter was a force in the Phillies' biggest offensive game of the season, a 19-10 win over the Dodgers and future Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. Demeter had a career game, as he homered three times, drove in seven and scored five times.
His best year came in 1962 when he was in the NL top 10 in batting average (.307), slugging percentage (.520), home runs (29) and RBIs (107). He hit two home runs against the Mets at the Polo Grounds that April. The homers came off two different pitchers named Bob Miller, Robert L. and Robert G.
He was traded to the Tigers along with right-hander Jack Hamilton for right-hander Jim Bunning and catcher Gus Triandos on Dec. 5, 1963. His three seasons in Philadelphia were the best of his career, .276, 71 homers and 258 RBIs. He was a fan favorite. After his career ended in 1967, Demeter was pastor of a small Southern Baptist church he founded, Grace Community Christian Church in Oklahoma City.
Oldest Phillies Alumni include:
LHP Bobby Shantz (96)
INF Bobby Morgan (95)
INF-OF Tommy Brown (94)
C/CH Bob Oldis (93)
INF Mickey Micelotta (93)
LHP Bob Ross (93)