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Phillies obtained Hayes from the Indians in exchange for a five-player/prospect package

 

For Phillies fans who were around at the time, the rationale for the trade by GM Paul Owens with the Cleveland Indians that brought Von Hayes to town following the 1982 season seemed sound.

The Phils had been regular contenders for the better part of the period from 1975-1981, a seven-year string of success that had yielded a World Series championship, four N.L. East titles, and even a split-season title in the work stoppage season of 1981.

In 1982, the Phillies had not been far off. They finished 89-73, just three games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the N.L. East Division race. The Cards went on to win the World Series that year. But even prior to that 1982 season, the organization had begun the turnover from the 1970’s core to a new generation of players.

The Phillies had already said goodbye to 1980 World Series heroes Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Bake McBride, Keith Moreland, and Dickie Noles as well as manager Dallas Green. Coming to Philly were starting pitcher Mike Krukow and shortstop Ivan De Jesus.

Krukow joined with holdovers Steve Carlton, John Denny, and Dick Ruthven to give the Phillies an enviable pitching rotation, but the team’s offensive core was limited and aging. Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox were 32, Gary Matthews and Manny Trillo were 31, and Pete Rose was now 41-years-old.

The deal with Cleveland was to land the Phillies a near-ready, high-ceiling offensive outfielder. Hayes fit the bill perfectly. At the time of the trade on December 9th, 1982 he was a 23-year-old coming off his first full season in the Majors.

A seventh round pick of the Indians in the 1979 Draft out of Saint Mary’s (CA) College, Hayes could run, hit, field, and hit for power. At the minor league level, he played two full seasons. As a 21-year-old in his first pro season at A-level Waterloo in 1980, Hayes hit .329 with a .405 on-base percentage. He also showed his power/speed combo with 15 homers, 90 rbi, 51 steals, and 105 runs scored.

Hayes skipped Double-A completely and in 1981 at Triple-A Charleston hit .314 with a .401 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 73 rbi, and 34 steals in almost 120 fewer plate appearances than the year before. His performance resulted in a promotion to Cleveland, and it would be a decade until, late in his career, Hayes would see another minor-league appearance.

After getting his feet wet over the last couple months of the 1981 season in Cleveland his first full 1982 season resulted in 14 homers, 82 rbi, and 32 steals. The Phillies scouts had seen enough, and Owens pulled the trigger during the subsequent off-season in what would become one of the more controversial and discussed trades in team history.

The problem with the deal, at least as far as the Philadelphia sports media was concerned, was not with the player coming to the club, but in the price paid to land Hayes. The media hung the handle “5-for-1” on Hayes to recognize that the Phils gave up five players in order to bring this one individual to the organization.

The package headed to Cleveland included long-time popular World Series hero second baseman Manny Trillo, starting right fielder George Vukovich, and a trio of prospects: infielder Julio Franco, pitcher Jay Baller and infielder Jerry Willard. To many, this seemed a steep price to pay and the deal would be criticized for years. But the fact is, when evaluated fairly, the Phillies likely got the better end.

In his first season with the Phillies, Hayes split time at all three outfield spots, playing mostly in right field. He got 392 plate appearances, stealing 20 bases, for a veteran Phillies team that put on a late charge to win the N.L. East and eventually reach the World Series. Hayes saw limited postseason action, going just 0-5 as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. He appeared in the first four games of the World Series which the Phillies eventually lost to the Baltimore Orioles in five games.

In 1984, Hayes played his first full season as a Phillies regular starter. It was the first of four consecutive years, and five of six, in which he would appear in at least 152 games. Hayes hit .292, stole 48 bases, drove 16 homers, and drove in 67 while scoring 85 times. He tailed off in 1985, with his average (.263), homers (13), runs (76), and steals (21) all dropping off.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were also collapsing. In 1984 the club finished exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record and in fourth place. In ’85 they dropped even further, to 75-87 and fifth place. As the championship era faded further into the past, Von Hayes, who was supposed to lead the charge into the future, became a poster boy for the team’s struggles with his own personal struggles. The nickname “5-for-1” became a full-blown insult thrown in his face at every turn.

Hayes did have a bright moment in 1985. On June 11, Hayes led off with a home run against New York Mets pitcher Tom Gorman. The Phillies batted around, and Hayes came up again. In his second at-bat of the opening frame, Hayes again homered, this time off Mets reliever Calvin Schiraldi. He thus became the first player in MLB history to hit two home runs in the 1st inning of a game. The Phils won 26-7, the most runs scored by a team in MLB in more than 40 years.

In 1986, Hayes rebounded, producing his career-best season. He hit .305 with a .379 on-base percentage, blasted a career-high 19 homers, drove in a career-high 98 runs, scored an NL-high 107 times, and stole 24 bases. He led the National League in both runs scored and doubles. The result was an eighth place finish in National League MVP balloting as an individual, and his performance was a key part of the team rebounding to an 86-75 record.

The team success was fleeting, however. In 1987 the Phillies fell below .500 again at 80-82, and then in 1988 they completely collapsed to 65-96, their worst season since 1972. Hayes wasn’t the reason for the 1987 slip. He cracked a career-high 21 homers and both drove in and scored 84 runs, stole 16 bags, and continued as one of the league’s best all-around outfielders. But then in 1988 he got hurt right before the MLB All-Star break. He would not play again until September as the team again collapsed.

As the 80’s drifted through the second half of the decade, the final remnants of the old championship-era Phillies gang was slowly dismantled or drifted away. Tug McGraw had retired after the 1984 season. Garry Maddox retired after 1986, having been a part-timer his last few seasons. Steve Carlton was traded away during the 1986 season after which the big lefty hung around in MLB or a couple years before finally retiring following the 1988 season.

At this point, Phillies all-time great Mike Schmidt was clearly seeing the writing on the wall. The good old days of his being an impact player were over, as were the teams days as a contender. The effort to play became more of a chore than a joy. In late May of the 1989 season, Schmidt suddenly retired in the middle of a west coast road trip.

The efforts that Phillies management did make to try and bridge that late-70’s, early-80’s winning group largely failed, with the exceptions of Hayes and Juan Samuel. The team had brought “Sammy” in full-time in 1984. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting that season, and through the 1980’s had become an NL All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner.

But as the Phillies mostly lost, as those old heroes aged and left, it became obvious to the fan base that the winning wasn’t returning. Both Hayes and Samuel, arguably the two faces of the franchise in the second half of the 80’s (aside from the aging Schmidt) received the lion’s share of the blame from those fans. Despite the fact that they produced solid individual stats, fans looked at the two stars as the team continued losing, and many equated the two things with one another.

Still, Hayes had a final hurrah in him. In 1989, with Schmidt retired, Samuel traded to the Mets for Lenny Dykstra, and the Phillies struggling to a last place finish, old 5-for-1″ became a National League All-Star for the only time in his career. Hayes banged a career-best 26 homers, stole 28 bases, and scored 93 runs. For the player originally billed as a power-speed combo, it was his only career 20-20 season at age 30.

He also had another big moment of glory as well in that 1989 campaign. On June 8, the Pittsburgh Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the 1st inning at Veteran’s Stadium. Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Jim Rooker said on-air that “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.” Hayes smashed a pair of home runs in leading the Phillies all the way back to a 15-11 victory. Rooker did not walk home as promised, but he did conduct a charity walk from Pittsburgh to Philly after the season.

The early 1990’s were the end days of Von Hayes career as a big-league player. He played in a final full season with the Phillies in 1990 as the team improved slightly to 77-85. That final season as a full-timer ended with 17 homers, 73 rbi, 70 runs, and 16 steals.

In 1991, Hayes had his arm broken by a pitch from the Cincinnati Reds southpaw Tom Browning which caused him to miss more than a month. The Phillies cut ties with him after that. He caught on with the Angels as a part-timer in 1992 and then retired, claiming that he was never able to recover fully from the broken arm.

Over the course of a career encompassing parts of a dozen MLB seasons, nine of them in Philadelphia, Von Hayes ended with a career .267 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage. He accumulated 143 home runs and 253 stolen bases. On the current Phillies all-time lists he is 10th in ateals, 17th in home runs, 21st in extra-base hits, 24th in runs scored, and 25th in hits.

After his playing days were over, Hayes eventually returned to the game as a manager and coach and enjoyed success in the minor leagues. He was the High-A California League Manager of the Year in 2004 at Modesto, and the Double-A Texas League Manager of the Year in 2005 at Midland, guiding both clubs to championships. Hayes last managed with the Independent and local New Jersey-based Camden Riversharks in 2010 and 2011.

As for the trade, old “5-for-1” was a win for the Phillies in the end. An examination of those dealt away for him shows that Trillo called it a career soon after the deal. All three of Vukovich, Baller, and Willard were inconsequential as MLB players. Only Franco enjoyed success and longevity. But Hayes ultimately out-performed him and the Indians dealt Franco away to Texas eventually.

In the end, Von Hayes became a symbol for everything that was going wrong with the Philadelphia Phillies as the 1980’s moved from early-decade glory to an end-of-decade bottoming out.

That decline coincided with he and Juan Samuel‘s presence as key players. But it would be hard to blame that decline on either of them. Hayes was one of the few consistent bright spots during that largely dark era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball.

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