In honor of Labor Day, we have come up with a completely subjective list of 10 Phillies, past and present, who stand out for their work ethic. It's not the definitive list and certainly more than 10 would belong in any conversation about hard-working Phillies because you don't get to the majors — and you certainly don't stay there — without hard work. These are just a handful who have caught our attention with their stories and actions.
The Hall of Fame right-hander pitched in an era when you finished what you started. He had 305 complete games and topped 300 innings six times. He often pitched batting practice the day after a start. Roberts led the 1950s in innings (3,011⅔), complete games (237) and starts (370). To put that in perspective, Clayton Kershaw's 25 complete games were the most from 2010-19. Justin Verlander led that decade in starts (321) and innings (2,142).
You've heard all the stories, how he went all the way back to Single A ball to remake his delivery early in his career then worked his way back. He conditioned his body like a marathoner, logging sweat-soaked miles on empty ballpark stairs and on adjacent streets. He wore out equipment in the weight room. His predawn arrivals and individual workouts at spring training were legendary.
When the Little League coach told him he couldn't play second base like Jackie Robinson because he was naturally left-handed, young Thompson and his dad came up with a solution. Every day for several years they worked on throwing right-handed in the yard. Thompson got so good at it that he played second base in college and went on to a 13-year career as an outfielder in the majors. He played five seasons with the Phillies and was the team's tireless hitting coach for another five years, including the World Series championship year of 2008.
The Phillies bench coach is both tireless and amazingly organized. He arrives to work in spring training long before dawn to plan the workday for everyone in camp. Word is he pulled into Spectrum Field at 2:46 a.m. one day this past spring. During the season, he's at the park from before noon until after midnight making sure everything is in order for the manager, coaching staff and players.
The guy could always hit. He will tell you that defense was a shortcoming. So, he worked and worked at it until it became a strength at second base. He was real "field rat." After his knees went bad, he'd arrive at the ballpark by 12:30 p.m. for a night game and spend hours in the trainer's room with Scott Sheridan, the Phils' former head athletic trainer, doing stretching and other therapies just to be able to play that night's game.
He was a Phillie just one year (2012) but he brought enough work ethic to fill up a dozen years. He was always on the field early working on the finer points of his game, particularly bunting. He'd roll balls up the foul line to see how they sloped. He'd walk around the warning track and throw balls against the outfield wall to see how they bounced — anything to pick up a little edge that might help win a game.
Even at age 74, he never misses a day pitching batting practice in spring training. He's on the field when the grass is still wet hitting fungoes and teaching players the finer points of infield play. As a player, Bowa, like Utley, was also "a field rat," taking ground balls for as long as someone would hit them. He was famously cut from his high school team and worked his way to becoming a big-leaguer, a Gold Glove shortstop and a World Champion. He taught himself to switch-hit in Triple A and the big leagues. Not easy to do.
All the little second baseman from Panama wanted was a chance. So when the Phillies scouts passed on him as an infielder but asked if he'd consider working out as a catcher, Ruiz said, "Sure." He signed for $8,000 and went to work on becoming one of the best catchers in the game. He developed brilliant blocking skills and that gave Brad Lidge the confidence to corkscrew those sliders into the dirt. He benefitted from the counsel of Jamie Moyer and others and became an excellent game-caller. Halladay, who didn't tolerate mediocrity, loved throwing to him.
He was a fitness freak before the expression even became popular. His dedication in the gym helped him make at least 30 starts 17 times and pitch 220 innings 16 times. From 1970 to 1983, he led the majors with 3,820⅓ innings pitched.
He was a magician with the glove and he was always looking to get better. He never missed early infield work and was always pestering Bowa for pointers on how to get better. They followed it up with hours upon hours of work on the field. He played in all 162 games for the 2017 Phillies.