Tony Phillips, the longtime Athletics and Tigers utility player, has died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 56. The news was first broken by the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, who was told of the death by Phillips' former teammate Dave Stewart. Phillips spent part of the 1998 season with the Mets.
Phillips played every position in baseball other than pitcher and catcher and was known for his ability to get on base. He routinely played every position in the infield, but he spent the most time at second base. Despite never making an All-Star team in his eighteen seasons in the majors, Phillips retired with an impressive 50.8 bWAR. He won one World Series in 1989 with the A's, throwing out Brett Butler at first for the final out.
In his 52 games with the Mets, a 39-year-old Phillips hit .223/.351/.330 (82 OPS+), one of the worst single-season lines in his career. He retired after the next season, when he rebounded with the A's and hit .244/.362/.433 (108 OPS+).
Phillips struggled at times in his personal life. In 1997 he was arrested in Anaheim and charged with possession of cocaine. Phillips plead guilty, entered counseling, and the charge was later wiped clean by a judge after Phillips completed the terms of his plea deal.
Phillips continued to play competitive baseball until as late as last year, appearing in several games with the Pittsburgh Diamonds in the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs league.
"You always knew when he was in the house. He was just a little sparkplug, fiery," Dave Stewart told Slusser of Phillips. "Just a good, good friend."