Happy Birthday, Hustling Horace Phillips!

Horace Phillips never played in the majors, but he did manage. There were a lot of changes going on with the game in the 1870s and 1880s, new leagues formed – both major and minor – and players regularly jumped from team to team when opportunities presented themselves.  Phillips had a reputation for encouraging players to jump teams (among other types of occasional thievery).  At some point in early 1884, George Bradley – who had left the Philadelphia team of the American Association and signed with the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds – was the target of other teams who thought they could steal Bradley’s services. One of them was Horace Phillips.

“Mr. George W. Bradley, the well known pitcher, under contract with the Cincinnati Union Club, has during the past week been made the target for the most infamous influences to induce him to break faith with the Union organization of this city. The persons who engineered this disreputable movement were officials of the Cincinnati (American) Club, Charlie Fulmer, one of the players, and Horace Phillips of the Grand Rapids team… Soon after his arrival here, Horace Phillips, whose reputation among ball players is too well known to need repetition, was engaged for a monetary consideration to induce Bradley to ignore his contract.”

At that point, Phillips and Fulmer got Bradley to leave town and allegedly mixed threats and warnings to try and break Bradley down. When, after a full day of convincing got Bradley to agree, word got out to the management of the Outlaw Reds, and their leadership found Bradley and managed to get Bradley to change his mind and stay with the Reds.

“Dishonorable Performance”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 04 April 1884, Page 4.

Anyway – Bradley never left his team, apparently never got paid by Cincinnati either requiring him to sue for past wages, and then – for jumping from Philadelphia to the Union Association – Bradley was blacklisted from the majors for some time. Maybe he should have taken Phillips’ offer!!!

(George Bradley’s SABR bio written by Brian Englehardt.)

For what it’s worth, Phillips left his gig in Grand Rapids when the team folded and his was signed by the Pittsburgh Allegheny club.

“The Directors of the Allegheny Club have secured ‘Hustling Horace’ Phillips to take charge of the team for the balance of the season as manager. He will arrive on Monday and will probably bring three or four of the best men of the late Grand Rapids Club with him…”

“‘Hustling’ Horace Goes to Pittsburg”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 15 August 1884, Page 2.

As for Phillips, he kind of lost his marbles in 1889 and his managing career ended. He was treated and eventually placed in an asylum.

“Horace Phillips, ex-manager of the Pittsburg Club, is reported as dying in an Eastern insane asylum. A more thoroughly informed base ball man than Mr. Phillips the profession never produced. In later years he branched out as a manager and club organizer, establishing such well-known clubs as the Grand Rapids, The Hornellsville, The Syracuse Stars, the Columbus, and finally the Pittsburgs, to whose erratic performances the malady from which he has been suffering for two years is charged.

“Possibly no man in the business developed as many stars of the first magnitude as did Mr. Phillips. To him the profession is indebted for Dan Brouthers, Fred Dunlap and others who have filled the public eye and drawn largely from the coffers of the magnates. As an advertiser of his club Horace Phillips had no equal in the country. Things which would drop from the lips of other men without creating interest would fall from his laden with the most gorgeous possibilities and freighted with the greatest comfort. He knew a news item, and could give it vent with a polish and earnestness that was certain to find its lodgment in the paper of whatever reporter he gave it to. On making a bargain for a player Horace Phillips was always at home. No better evidence of this can be sought than his getting from the crafty Von der Ahe for almost a song such players as Jake Beckley and Harry Staley. Mr. Phillips was also a successful theatrical manager, and it was during the indulgence of a delusion that he had returned to that calling that the light of his wonderful mind went out never to be rekindled again.”

“Alas Poor Phillips”, The Sporting Life, 11 April 1891, Page 6.

A long search by Peter Morris, a SABR member, found that Phillips died in the Philadelphia Hospital for the Insane on Feb 26, 1896.

SABR Biographical Research Committee Report (Jan/Feb, 2011)

“Horace Phillips Stricken”, The Sporting Life, 7 August 1889, Page 1.

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