On Wednesday afternoon, the 46th president in the history of the United States was inaugurated. I decided to honor that event in the only way that seemed appropriate: Researching and writing about the players who have worn the number 46 for the Philadelphia Phillies!
The first man to don the 46 for the Phils was Ed Holley in 1934. Holley had worn the number 21 the year before, but perhaps wanting to change the team’s luck (they finished in 7th place in 1933), he switched to 46.
That turned out to be a bad idea. The Phillies didn’t fare any better in 1934 (another 7th place finish), and Holley pitched horribly. His ERA shot up by almost five runs, and he was sold to the Pirates midway through the year. He changed to number 44 upon arrival in Pittsburgh, but the damage was done. He didn’t pitch any better, and that was the last year he played in the majors.
With Holley out of the picture, newly arrived pitcher Joe Bowman took the number in 1935. He wore it for two unremarkable years before he was similarly sent to the Pirates. I guess if you have a strong desire to be traded across the state of Pennsylvania, you should look into wearing number 46.
The first 46 wearer that most readers will have heard of was Dallas Green. Green played five years with the Phillies and was a part of the tragic 1964 team that blew the National League pennant. Of course, Green is better known to Phillies fans as the manager who led the team to its first World Series championship in 1980. And sure enough, he wore the number 46 in that role as well.
The Phillies actually had a Hall of Famer wear number 46. In his rookie season of 1965, Fergie Jenkins wore it for his seven games with the team. After just one appearance the following season, the Phillies decided they would rather have washed-up veterans Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson. Jackson took over the 46 from Jenkins, but only kept it for three unspectacular seasons before retiring. Meanwhile, Jenkins went on to have a spectacular 19-year career that eventually saw him end up in Cooperstown.
The longest tenure with the number 46 belongs to pitcher Kevin Gross who wore it for six seasons in the 1980s. Making his debut in 1983, Gross was supposed to be one of the young Phillies who would help the team stay in contention as they moved away from their aging championship core. While Gross did make an All-Star team in 1988, he was most famous for getting caught with sandpaper in his glove.
Topps 1988, #20 Kevin Gross. Today in baseball history back in 1987, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Kevin Gross becomes the second player in just eight days to be ejected from a game for "scuffing" a baseball. Read about Gross and more at https://t.co/wcFlLE1Dpq pic.twitter.com/9NFxg5srwU— Brian Geller (@DugoutChatter1) August 10, 2018
After Gross’ departure, the number of 46 belonged to a long string of names mostly forgotten: Larry McWilliams, Brad Moore, Mike Hartley, Carlton Loewer, Trever Miller, Mark Holzemer, Elizardo Ramirez, Jim Canting, Aaron Fultz, John Ennis, Joe Bisenius, and Drew Carpenter all wore it at some point between 1989 and 2008, and sadly, I only made one of those names up. The only players on that list who even sound remotely familiar are Loewer, who was a former #1 pick, and Fultz. And I’m pretty sure that I only think I recognize Fultz’s name because of the former 76ers draft pick who forgot how to shoot.
Finally, some luster was restored to 46 when reliever Ryan Madson wore it from 2009-2011. The ace reliever wore two different numbers earlier in his career, but his best years came with 46 on his back. It’s worth wondering if his career - and the fate of the post-2011 Phillies - would have turned out differently had he stayed with the Phillies and the 46.
Since Madson left, the number has belonged to Raul Valdes, Jeanmar Gomez, Jesen Therrien (who?) and Adam Morgan. While he was no Madson, Gomez did record 39 saves in his three seasons with the Phillies, and Morgan has had some moments of effectiveness.
Now that Morgan has left the organization, the number 46 is available for any Phillies who wants it. Will the next man to wear 46 have a Hall of Fame career like Jenkins, or will he end up a long-forgotten name like Larry McWilliams and Jesen Therrien? Only time will tell.