Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#388 - Phil Roof

Phil Roof is another batter who prefers the one-glove route. Here he shows us a practice swing in his old home in Oakland. But Phil’s a few years from his starting days for the A’s and is in the middle of his third backup year for the Twins. Phil wasn’t too much of a hitter but he did solid work behind the plate and was generally pretty good at keeping runners from stealing bases. He’s got a teammate behind him but no way am I going to be able to figure out who it is.

Phil Roof was drafted by the Braves out of high school in Kentucky in ’59. He finished that summer in D ball and after a couple years in B ball it was apparent he was never going to be a hitter (his lifetime minor league average was .228 with lost of strikeouts). But he was excellent with pitchers and pretty good behind the plate so his fourth season he jumped all the way to Triple A. He spent most of his time at that level the next year after getting into a game in Milwaukee. He only had one error all season behind the plate at Triple A but after hitting .188 was traded to the Angels following the ’64 season.

By ’65 Roof was pretty much done with the minors. But the Angels that year were flush with young catchers so Phil didn’t get too much playing time at all. In June he went to Cleveland for Bubba Morton and there got shoved behind Joe Azcue and Phil Sims who would be the regular guys the rest of the decade. After the season he and a minor league outfielder named Joe Rudi were traded to KC for Jim Landis and Jim Rittwage.

In ’66 Roof got the starting nod over incumbent Bill Bryan, a much better hitter but sub-par defensive guy. Phil improved things behind the plate and did a real nice job handling young pitchers Catfish Hunter, Jim Nash, Blue Moon Odom, and Chuck Dobson around whom the franchise would be built. He retained that spot in ’67 and then in ’68 things were a bit of a mess. Now located in Oakland, the A’s acquired Jim Pagliaroni from Pittsburgh to add some hitting behind the plate. Phil then went down with a strained left arm for about a month and then when Pagliaroni broke his wrist Oakland brought up Dave Duncan to take his place. Between the injury and all the moving parts Phil only got 64 at bats in ’68. But Pags would go to the new Pilots and Duncan ended up not being able to hit too well up top so Phil recaptured the starting gig in ’69. In two years Oakland had gone from a cellar dweller to second place in the new division driven largely by their young pitching. But despite his involvement in getting them there, it was the end of the road for Phil in Oakland as after the ’69 season he, Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, and Ken Sanders went to the Pilots for Don Mincher and Ron Clark.

In ’70 Roof took over starting for Milwaukee and had his best offensive season, hitting .227 with 13 homers and 37 RBI’s. It was a short-lived relationship, though, as in the middle of the ’71 season he was sent to the Twins for their back-up guy Paul Ratliff. Phil would then settle into a back-up role of his own, first behind George Mitterwald and then in ’74 and ’75 behind Glenn Borgmann. Ironically he was traded to Minnesota shortly after being hospitalized after being hit in the head by a Bert Blyleven pitch. That same year he was also knocked unconscious after being bowled over by Thurman Munson at the plate. In ’76 rookie Butch Wynegar took over behind the plate and after barely playing Phil was released in July and picked up by the White Sox. The Sox picked him up after Brian Downing had been injured and when Downing returned sent Phil down to Triple A to finish the season. Prior to the expansion draft he was sent to the new Toronto club for Larry Anderson who the Sox would receive after the draft. Phill got into a couple games for the Blue Jays and that was it. He finished with a .215 average.

Roof got busy pretty much right away in his new baseball career of coaching and in ’78 became bullpen coach for the Padres. He would have that gig as well for the Mariners (’83 to ’88) and the Cubs (’90 to ’91). In between he took some time off to return to Kentucky and work in cattle farming but his primary role was managing at various levels in the Minnesota system which he did from ’82 to ’83, ’89 to ’90, ’92 -2000, and 2003 to 2005. He actually had to take a leave of absence early in the ’05 season to care for his ailing wife who would pass away later that year from cancer. Since then he has been mostly retired and has done some spring training work. For a short time early in the 2011 season he took the Twins bullpen role while regular guy Rick Stelmaszek was ill. To date he is 1,165-1,116 as a manager.

Like our last post subject Phil gets star bullet time for his defensive work. He actually had four brothers play pro ball at some level including his younger brother Gene who got some time up top in the early Eighties. Gene also has three kids who have played minor league ball. Lots of Roofs have played baseball.

Time to get these two defensive specialists together. It helps that they both played in the AL:

1. Roof and Jim Kaat ’71 to ’73 Twins;
2. Kaat and Carlos May ’73 to ’75 White Sox;
3. May and Rich Morales ’69 to ’73 White Sox.

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