Phoebus was born April 7, 1942 in Baltimore sharing a birthday with Adrian Beltre and Hall of Famers John McGraw and Bobby Doerr. Other MLBers from Baltimore include Al Kaline and of course, Babe Ruth. He attended Mount Saint Joseph's, the same B-More high school that produced Mark Teixeira, Gavin Floyd and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
At 18, Phoebus signed with the Orioles and reported to Bluefield. He went 6-5 with a 4.05 ERA. He worked his way up the Baltimore farm ranks, but couldn't crack the big league squad. There were often long apprenticeships in the minors back then, but Phoebus was stuck at Triple-A Rochester for three years from 1964-66 while going 32-26 with a 3.36 ERA. That was due to wildness. He pulled the Nuke LaLoosh double play by leading the Class C Northern League in both walks and strikeouts in 1962, then did it again in the International League in 1966 for Triple-A Rochester. He led the league in walks two other times, in the Double-A Eastern League in 1963 and the International League in 1964.
He finally got a shot with a September call-up and he made the most of it. In his major league debut against the Angels at Memorial Stadium, he pitched a complete-game four-hit shutout to outduel fellow former Bluefield pitcher Dean Chance 2-0. Brooks Robinson and Curt Blefary provided the offense with back-to-back homers to start the sixth inning and Phoebus did the rest as he struck out eight. Here are the best mound debuts by Game Score since 1918:
|1||Juan Marichal||1960-07-19||SFG||PHI||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||1||0||0||1||12||96|
|2||Karl Spooner||1954-09-22||BRO||NYG||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||3||0||0||3||15||143||93|
|3||Steve Woodard||1997-07-28 (1)||MIL||TOR||W 1-0||GS-8 ,W||8.0||1||0||0||1||12||119||91|
|4||Jimmy Jones||1986-09-21||SDP||HOU||W 5-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||1||0||0||0||5||90|
|5||Rudy May||1965-04-18||CAL||DET||L 1-4||GS-9||9.0||1||1||0||5||10||88|
|6||Pedro Astacio||1992-07-03 (2)||LAD||PHI||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||3||0||0||4||10||144||87|
|7||Al Jurisich||1944-04-26||STL||CIN||L 0-1||12.2||8||1||1||4||7||87|
|8||Jim Cosman||1966-10-02||STL||CHC||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||2||0||0||2||5||86|
|9||Luis Tiant||1964-07-19 (2)||CLE||NYY||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||4||0||0||4||11||86|
|10||Van Mungo||1931-09-07 (2)||BRO||BSN||W 2-0||9.0||3||0||0||2||7||86|
|11||Mark Brownson||1998-07-21||COL||HOU||W 5-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||4||0||0||1||7||101||85|
|12||Jeff Pico||1988-05-31||CHC||CIN||W 4-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||4||0||0||0||6||104||85|
|13||Wayne Simpson||1970-04-09||CIN||LAD||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||2||0||0||0||2||85|
|14||Tom Phoebus||1966-09-15 (1)||BAL||CAL||W 2-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||4||0||0||2||8||85|
|15||Al Worthington||1953-07-06||NYG||PHI||W 6-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||2||0||0||4||6||85|
|16||George Hockette||1934-09-17||BOS||SLB||W 3-0||9.0||2||0||0||1||3||85|
But that wasn't all. He followed that up with another shutout, this one a five-hitter at Kansas City to beat Catfish Hunter and the A's 4-0. Two days later, Baltimore finished the sweep to clinch their first American League pennant. Phoebus is one of only five pitchers to throw nine shutout innings in his first two appearances. The others are Johnny Marcum (1933 PHA), Dave Ferriss (1945 BOS), Karl Spooner (1952 BKN) and Al Worthington (1953 NYG).
Phoebus became a fixture in the O's rotation in 1967, even topping his back-to-back shutout debut from the year before with three straight shutouts from May 22 to June 2. He is the only pitcher with five shutouts in the first 12 games of his career.
In that rookie year of '67 there wasn't much contact against him as he finished fifth in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings (7.745) and third in walks (114). His 14 victories were the tenth-most in the circuit and his four shutouts were ninth. The Sporting News tabbed him as their AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
He picked up right where he left off in 1968. Despite a 2.62 ERA (which was only good enough for a 112 ERA+ during the Year of the Pitcher), he went 15-15. One of those 15 wins was a game against the defending AL champion Red Sox in which he waited out an 83-minute rain delay, then pitched a no-hitter.
Phoebus told the Baltimore Sun in 2009, "What a great thrill it was to throw a no-hitter in my hometown. My dream was to play for the Orioles. As kids we would go to games, sit in the bleachers for 50 cents and ride the right fielder of the opposing team."
He walked two in the first, then set down 13 straight before another free pass. Tom then retired the last 12 batters, including Joe Foy for his ninth K to end it.
It was the second complete-game no-hitter in team history. Surprisingly, with all the great pitching history in Baltimore, there have only been three*:
|1||Jim Palmer||1969-08-13||BAL||OAK||W 8-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||0||0||0||6||8||89||35||29|
|2||Tom Phoebus||1968-04-27||BAL||BOS||W 6-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||0||0||0||3||9||93||29||26|
|3||Hoyt Wilhelm||1958-09-20||BAL||NYY||W 1-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||0||0||0||2||8||93||28||26|
* The O's have thrown two other hitless games. Steve Barber and Stu Miller had this bizarre game in 1967 in which Barber was up 1-0 and was two outs away, but lost the no-no and the lead on two walks, a bunt and a wild pitch. Miller came in at 1-1 with men at the corners and one out, Don Wert then reached on a fielder's choice that scored the winning run. There was also this 1991 combined no-hitter that saw Bob Milacki go six innings before Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson each worked a hitless inning to finish it.
The Red Sox have only been no-hit twice since, by Dave Righetti in 1983 and Chris Bosio in 1993.
For the '68 season, Phoebus finished in the AL's top ten in starts (36, 4th), innings (240.2, 10th), strikeouts (193, 7th), K/9 IP (7.2, 8th), H/9 IP (6.956, 10th) and HR/9 IP (0.37, 3rd). Still, his 15 losses were fifth-most and his 114 walks were third-most.
The following season, Phoebus went 14-7 with a 3.52 ERA as the O's rolled to 109 wins and won the pennant. He did not pitch in the World Series, which Baltimore was stunned in five games against the Miracle Mets.
Phoebus started sharing fourth-starter duties with Jim Hardin in 1970 and he excelled, pitching to a 3.07 ERA. The O's won the AL pennant again and this time, Phoebus got into a game in the Fall Classic. Baltimore won the opener, but Mike Cuellar was knocked out early in Game Two. Phoebus came in trailing 4-0 with one out in the third. He induced a double-play grounder to end the inning, then worked a scoreless fourth. The Orioles came back to win the game 6-5 and Phoebus got the victory. Baltimore won in five games to take the championship.
Tom had his World Series ring, but his time pitching for the hometown team was over. In December, he was involved in a six-player trade that sent him to the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Pat Dobson*. In five years with his Orioles, Phoebus went 50-37 with a 3.06 ERA (107 ERA+).
* Dobson won 20 games in 1971, as did the triumvirate of McNally, Palmer and Cuellar. TRIVIA ALERT: They are the last team with four 20-game winners. The only other team to do it was the 1920 White Sox, whose four pitchers were Red Faber and Dickey Kerr along with soon-to-be-banned Black Sox Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams.
Phoebus struggled with the Padres, going 3-11 with a 4.46 ERA (74 ERA+) in 1971. He was knocked around in his first start of 1972, then was sold to the Chicago Cubs. He did better as a reliever in the Windy City, posting an ERA+ of an even 100 in 83.1 innings. After the season, he was dealt to the Atlanta Braves for a minor league infielder named Tony LaRussa.
Tom never pitched for Atlanta, going 7-11 with a 3.38 ERA in 1973 as a Richmond Brave in Triple-A.
After that, Phoebus was finished with baseball. As he told the Sun, "he sold liquor for awhile, then worked in a Tropicana factory in Florida before entering college at age 39 to become a teacher. He spent nearly two decades as a physical education instructor in a Port St, Lucie grade school before retiring" in 2003.
Among pitchers with 1,000 IP, Phoebus ranks 60th all-time in hits per nine innings (right between Steve Bedrosian and Carlos Zambrano), and he is also one of only 21 pitchers to win 50 games for the Baltimore Orioles:
Phoebus had a few good seasons pitching for the team he grew up rooting for and won a World Series with them. A pretty nice career...and it got started in Bluefield. Much like Ken McBride, Phoebus would make a good back end of the rotation/long relief swingman type on the All-Time Bluefield staff.
|SP 1||Dean Chance|
|SP 2||Mike Boddicker|
|SP 3||Bill Monbouquette|
This is what I wrote before I realized that I was actually about to put Sidney Ponson on the team.
OH SCREW IT. I WROTE THIS WHOLE THING BUT CAN I SERIOUSLY PUT SIDNEY PONSON ON THIS TEAM WITH A STRAIGHT FACE?