A’s mourn champion Tony Phillips after apparent heart attack

Former Oakland Athletics utility player, Tony Phillips, whose defensive effort memorably closed out the 1989 Bay Bridge World Series to defeat the San Francisco Giants in a four-game sweep, died Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the age of 56.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an apparent heart attack was the cause.

Phillips spent nine of 18 MLB seasons with the Athletics, and most notably was a key member of the elite 1989 A’s team to win 99 regular season games and sweep the World Series.

Never a name as big as Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson or Jose Canseco, Phillips’ long-ranging play and throw across his body for the final out of Game 4 gets replayed to this day.

A’s Manager at the time and current chief baseball office of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Tony La Russa, remembered Phillips to the Chronicle:

“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. He had so much energy, he was so feisty, full of piss and vinegar — nothing fazed him. And you could play him anywhere.”

Phillips came up through the A’s organization in 1982 as a rookie and spent his first eight seasons in Oakland before moving on to six other big league squads, including five seasons with Detroit and two stints with the Angels, before returning the A’s, in 1999 to cap a successful career. Phillips would bat .266 over 2,161 games with 160 home runs and 819 RBI.

The well-rounded Phillips played the role of super utility man most of his career. He debuted as a shortstop and played primarily there his first two seasons, but by the time he left the A’s, he was getting playing time at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, all three outfield spots and occasionally as the designated hitter — every position but pitcher and catcher.

Offensively multi-talented as well, Phillips consistently stole double digit bases, while also commonly recording 20+ doubles, and in the later stages of his career, double digit home runs — 27 with the California Angels in 1995.

Oakland A’s president Michael Crowley released this statement on behalf of the organization:

“The Oakland A’s lost another member of our family this week with the unexpected passing of Tony Phillips. We all have fond memories of Tony making the final play in the A’s 1989 World Series. He was a remarkable player. Our thoughts are with his family.”

The Oakland Athletics Twitter page celebrated Phillips, a player who certainly etched his name into the A’s history books.