If you’ve been following this ‘Phillies 50’ series since I began the reverse countdown back in March, then you have reached the final installment. If you’re just starting out, welcome to the first installment.
The series was created in honor of my half-century following the ball club closely beginning in 1971. It was designed to give fans a chance to visit the careers of one position player and one pitcher each seasons from 1971 through 2019, specifically a “forgotten” player. The definition being that they had a minimal impact on that year’s Phillies team as well as a minimal overall career in Major League Baseball.
For the 1971 season, utility player Bobby Pfeil fits the bill well. He was 28-year-old that season, his second and last year appearing on a big-league diamond as a ball player.
Pfeil was originally signed before I was even born, all the way back in June 1961. The Chicago Cubs inked him then as an 18-year-old amateur free agent out of junior college in California.
In April 1965 the Cubs dealt him to the arch-rival Saint Louis Cardinals as part of a three-player deal, and he then went from the Cards to the New York Mets prior to the 1968 campaign.
With the 1969 “Amazin’ Mets”, Pfeil would win a World Series ring. As a rookie that year he appeared in 62 games, 49 of those at third base including making 40 starts at the hot corner. He came up at the end of June and was with the ball club for the rest of that regular season, enjoying the celebration as the Mets clinched the first-ever NL East Division crown.
Pfeil was left off the club’s postseason roster by manager Gil Hodges and so did not appear as the Mets swept the Atlanta Braves in three games in the NLCS and then captured their first World Series title with a five-game upset of the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.
Even so, he enjoyed one moment of celebrity in that Fall Classic. Per njsportsheroes.com: “He was the last man left off the roster, but got permission from the commissioner’s office to suit up and stay in the dugout. When President Nixon attended a World Series game. Bobby lent him his mitt for protection.”
Pfeil opened the next season with Triple-A Tidewater and then on May 26, 1970 the Mets dealt him away to the Phillies as the player to be named in a trade that sent prospect Ron Allen to New York a month earlier. Pfeil would remain at Triple-A with Eugene in the Phillies system the rest of that year.
The Phillies would call him up early in the 1971 season and Pfeil would appear in most of his 44 games that year as a pinch-hitter. However, there was a two-week stretch in early June during which starter Don Money was injured and Pfeil took over as the starting third baseman.
Pfeil hit .300 over 31 plate appearances during that stretch of games, but without any power and looking just average defensively. The Phillies opted to promote another prospect, John Vukovich, who took over third base for the rest of the season, moving Money to left field upon his return in late June.
Remaining with the Phillies for most of the remainder of that 1971 season, Pfeil would make what would prove to be his final appearance in Major League Baseball during the first game of a doubleheader on September 6, 1971 at Veterans Stadium. That evening he took over for Larry Bowa to play shortstop in the 9th inning of a 6-3 loss to the Saint Louis Cardinals. He was in the on-deck circle when Larry Hisle struck out to end the ball game in the bottom of the frame and would never appear again in the big-leagues.
Pfeil had one big game during that season with the Phillies. Back on July 27, 1971 in the first game of a doubleheader at The Vet against the Houston Astros he started at catcher and drilled the only two home runs of his big-league career.
In the bottom of the 4th inning his two-run shot off Astros’ starter Larry Dierker scored Deron Johnson ahead of him and put the Phillies on top by 4-2. He then victimized Dierker once more with a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the 7th inning, putting the Phillies up 5-3 in a game they would eventually win by an 8-3 score.
Prior to spring training in 1972 the Phillies sent Pfeil to the Milwaukee Brewers, who would subsequently sell his contract to the Boston Red Sox as spring training was winding down. He would play at Triple-A Louisville in the Bosox farm system that year at age 29 before deciding to call it quits.