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Tony Phillips (1959 - 2016)

Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Tony Phillips (1959 - 2016)

Tony Phillips, a Major League Baseball player and member of the 1989 World Champion Oakland Athletics, died Feb. 17, 2016, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. He was 56.

The Oakland Athletics announced Phillips’ unexpected death Friday. He made the final defensive play against the San Francisco Giants in the memorable 1989 World Series. The championship series, featuring two San Francisco Bay-area teams, was delayed by an earthquake.

Born in 1959, Phillips began his 18-year major league career with Oakland in 1982 at age 23. He was a versatile defender, spending time at second base, shortstop and third base, as well as occasional starts in the outfield.

He was also effective with a bat. Although he did not have outstanding traditional statistics, he had good plate discipline and twice led the majors in walks. His high on-base percentage made him an ideal leadoff hitter. More emphasis on the value of defense and on-base percentage in recent years has led to a greater appreciation of players like Phillips.

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In addition to his nine years in Oakland, Phillips played five seasons for the Detroit Tigers. In his later years, he spent time with the Angles, White Sox, Mets and Blue Jays before wrapping up his big-league career in Oakland at age 40 in 1999. He continued to play baseball periodically in independent leagues until 2015.

“Tony will forever be remembered by the fans because he made that last out, and it was a tough ground ball he made a great play on,” former A’s manager Tony La Russa told The San Francisco Chronicle. “He was still in great shape, he was down here at our camp three or four days a week. I’m just in shock.”

His unexpected death prompted statements from both the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers.

“Tony was an exciting player to watch and became a fan favorite during his years in Detroit. The Tigers organization extends our deepest sympathies to Tony’s family,” the Tigers said in a statement.

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