This ‘Phillies 50’ series highlights one position player and one pitcher from each Philadelphia Phillies team between the years 1971-2019, representative of the half-century that I’ve followed the ball club since age nine.
Each piece takes a look back at the player and pitcher who combined both the least impact on that particular year’s Phillies team with a minimal career as a player in Major League Baseball.
The reasoning behind the series is that many articles and books are written, many social media posts made, tons of movies and videos and television biographies presented on famous players. But simply reaching the big-leagues is an accomplishment in itself. This series remembers and honors players who have largely been forgotten to baseball history.
The position player from the 2001 Phillies who best fits the bill was a 33-year-old infielder named P.J. Forbes, who had originally been a 20th round pick by what was then known as the California Angels all the way back in the 1990 MLB Amateur Draft.
After signing in that same summer of 1990, Forbes was assigned in the Angels system to play at Low-A Fargo, North Dakota in the Northwest League. This would begin a long slog through minor league baseball, but his persistence and determination would ultimately pay off.
For seven years, Forbes pushed his way up through the system, finally reaching Triple-A Vancouver in 1993. He would spend the entirety of the 1994-96 campaigns there, never able to bust through to a big-league opportunity.
Granted free agency following the 1996 season, Forbes realized that he wasn’t going to get a shot at the highest level from the Angels. In January 1997 he signed with the Baltimore Orioles, but was once again held at Triple-A with Rochester that season.
When his contract was up, Forbes decided to re-sign with the Orioles for one more shot, and he would finally be rewarded. Playing well over the first half of the season back at Triple-A in 1998, at long last Forbes got the call he had been waiting for eight years to receive. In late July he was called up to Baltimore.
On July 21, 1998, Orioles manager Ray Miller gifted Forbes with his first appearance on a big-league diamond. Miller sent Forbes out to play second base in place of starter Jeff Reboulet in the 9th inning of a game at Camden Yards in Baltimore in which the O’s were leading the Oakland A’s by 7-1.
Forbes would appear in a half-dozen games over a 10-day stretch with the Orioles and make one start before being sent back to Triple-A. When rosters expanded in September he was brought back to Baltimore and appeared in three final late-season games.
Released by the Orioles in late November, Forbes then signed with the Texas Rangers in January 1999. But then he was back with the Baltimore organization just four months later after a trade. Another season in the O’s farm system, and he hit free agency once again following the 1999 season. That’s where the Phillies finally come into the picture.
On November 2, 1999, Forbes signed as a 32-year-old free agent with the Phillies and spent the summer of 2000 as the primary left fielder and 2001 as the starting second baseman with their Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre farm club.
When rosters expanded in 2001 the Phillies called Forbes up for his second career experience in Major League Baseball. He would appear in three games, the first two as a pinch-hitter and the last two after the Phillies had been eliminated in a tight divisional race.
On October 7, 2001, manager Larry Bowa gave Forbes his lone start with the ball club in their season finale. It would prove to be his last start in the big-leagues as well. On that Sunday afternoon at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, Forbes delivered two hits and scored a run as the Phillies downed the host Reds by a 4-1 score.
Forbes would stay in the Phillies organization, returning for one final season with their Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons affiliate before finally retiring after the 2002 season at age 34.
In 2004, Forbes was named the manager of the Phillies minor league Lakewood affiliate in the Low-A South Atlantic League. After two years there he was promoted, becoming manager of the Double-A Reading Phillies, a job he would hold for three more seasons.
Forbes went on to managerial stints in both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations before finally leaving the game in early 2015.
“I’ve been leaving for a long time,” Forbes said per Mark Schremmer of the Joplin Globe back in February 2015. “My kids are really getting to an age where it was getting really difficult to miss out on a lot of important things in their lives. As much as I love the game, as much as I still have a passion for it, my passion needs to be here with them and my wife, Stephanie. It was a family decision. What’s funny is it was my kids who probably fought the hardest for me to continue to manage. I just feel like now is the right time for me to step away. I think it makes it less painful that I still love it, and I’m able to leave on my own terms.“