Ahh, Denny Doyle. I will share with you my memories of Denny Doyle and the greater purpose he played out during his time in Philadelphia from 1970-73. Was he ever a star? One of the best during his minor league days but never more than a workman like performer with the Phils. In fact, in the irony of ironies, he and his double play partner Larry Bowa came up through the minor league system and almost any scout in the know felt that Doyle was destined to have the more successful career, something that did not happen. Bowa went on to Phillie greatness, in fact pre Jimmy Rollins, a strong case could be made that Bowa was the greatest shortstop in Phillie history. Doyle was merely a 2nd base footnote, someone who played the second base position competently sandwiched between the greatness that was Tony Taylor, Cookie Rojas, Dave Cash and Manny Trillo.
No, that is not what memory recalls for me when I think of Denny Doyle. What I think of was the hope he provided for us Phillie phaithful after the traumatizing events of 1964 that lead to far too many years of aging veterans like Dick Stuart, Ray Herbert, Lou Burdette, Bill White, Dick Groat, Bob Uecker, Larry Jackson, Bob Buhl, Don Lock and Jackie Brandt. All good players at one time, some of them outstanding. But to a player, each of them had seen their best days by time they made Philadelphia their baseball home. And it was painful, those dark years between 1965-69, albeit an occasional Dick Allen mega star performance to keep us interested. But even he and his baseball partner Johnny Callison were jettisoned out of town after the '69 season and we were promised a new era in Philadelphia baseball, one that promised great heights.
And no one led that promise more than Denny Doyle. No one. Those of us who worshiped the weekly Sporting News minor league stats knew all about Doyle and we viewed him as just the guy to lead the team out of the wilderness. And Doyle's first game was reassuring in 1970, a 3-4 day against Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, including a triple that led to an opening day triumph. in many respects that might have been his highlight of the 1970 season, injuries derailed his season. His remaining 3 seasons in Philadelphia were workman like but hardly memorable.
But what Denny Doyle represented certainly came to fruition. A burgeoning minor league system brimming with young prospects, I remember them all. Besides the aforementioned Doyle and Bowa, there were the misses, guys who looked promising but never quite delivered. Joe Lis, Roger Freed, Ron Stone, Rick Joseph, Scott Reid, Billy Champion, Lowell Palmer, Ken Reynolds, and Barry Lersch. Oh there were more, John Vukovich was actually part of this group.
Still, for every Lis there was a Willie Montanez, for every Freed there was a Larry Hisle. And Don Money, Bob Boone, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson. And Wayne Twitchell and Mike Anderson. All became solid regulars, many All Stars, and some World Champions.
And of course there was Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt. More than any other stars these two guaranteed that Philadelphia was no longer the place you stopped merely to get a Philly Cheese steak. It became a city of baseball winners, slowly beginning with the 1974 team, the Yes We Can group and eventually culminated in the Phillies first baseball World Series championship in 1980. By then,Denny Doyle was out of baseball, and likely merely nothing more than a footnote in legendary Phillie Who's Who history.
Yet a case can be made, and perhaps I have helped make it, that for those who were around in the late 60's and early 70's it was probably Denny Doyle more than any other rookie at that time who made following the team a worthwhile endeavor again. He represented the out with the old and in with the new spirit that led to a new stadium, a new group of players and ultimately a new feeling for long starved Phillie phaithful...a World Championship.
RIP, Denny Doyle and thanks for the memories. They still remain among the best in Philadelphia baseball lore.