Phillies

A look back at Jimmy Rollins' most memorable hits

A look back at Jimmy Rollins' most memorable hits

Editor's Note: This story initially ran on June 14, 2014 when Jimmy Rollins passed Mike Schmidt to become the Phillies' new all-time hits leader. Tonight at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia, we re-air the final game of the 2007 regular season when Rollins achieved one of the milestones below.

It started on Sept. 17, 2000 in a ballpark that was long ago reduced to a parking lot.

It ended on June 14, 2014.

Jimmy Rollins is the Phillies’ new all-time hits leader. His long pursuit of the record ended when he stroked a single off Edwin Jackson in the fifth inning of the Phillies' game against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. The hit gave Rollins 2,235 for his career, one more than Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who walked onto the field to raise the new record-holder’s arm as the crowd stood and cheered.

It took more than 2,000 games and 8,300 at-bats for Rollins to set the new record, and he had some very memorable hits along the way. Several of them came in the postseason and don’t count toward his new team record.

This is a remarkable feat for the player that some scouts thought was too small to make it to majors. With a little help from the new record-holder himself, we take a look back at some of the top hits of Rollins’ career.

The first hit
Sept. 17, 2000
Veterans Stadium

The situation: Four years after being drafted in the second round out of Encinal High School in Alameda, Calif., 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins made his big-league debut at shortstop for manager Terry Francona at Veterans Stadium. He batted second that day behind Reggie Taylor in a 6-5 win over the Marlins. Rollins walked his first time up then tripled down the rightfield line against Marlins right-hander Chuck Smith in the third inning for his first big-league hit. “Watch him fly,” Harry Kalas said on the TV broadcast as Rollins motored around second base.

Rollins remembers: “What’s funny is I should have been struck out on a two-strike curveball, but the umpire called it a ball. I don’t remember the umpire’s name (it was Matt Hollowell), but he was a guy we’d had a lot in the minors on the way up. He should have rung me up. I looked back and he kind of looked at me like, ‘I gave you that one.’ I remember I hit a curveball. I’d never seen a curveball like that. I was thinking triple out of the box. I wasn’t stopping.”

***

No. 1,000
July 15, 2006
AT&T Park, San Francisco


The situation: Rollins became the youngest player to reach 1,000 hits as a Phillie when he drove a triple to the deep gap in right-center in the seventh inning of a 14-6 win over the Giants. The pitcher was a clean-shaven Brian Wilson.

Rollins remembers: “Brian Wilson -- before the beard. I wasn’t swinging the bat well. I just went up there and tried to swing hard. It went to right-center. It was the farthest ball you could hit in the league without going out. I remember going home after the game and my mom bought a cake to celebrate.”

***

No. 2,000
September 4, 2012
Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati

The situation: Rollins had collected seven hits in the previous four games, putting him one away from 2,000. His wife and young daughter made the trip to Cincinnati. In the fifth inning, he got the hit, a double off Mat Latos in a 2-1 loss.

Rollins remembers: “Chopper over [first baseman Joey] Votto’s head. It was my daughter’s first trip to a road game. I had to get it done because the next day was an early day game and she needed her rest.”

***

A bomb
May 18, 2001
Veterans Stadium

The situation: Rollins hit his first big-league homer May 2, 2001 against Brian Bohanon and his second two days later against Livan Hernandez. Two weeks later, he hit his third career homer off Cardinals lefty Steve Kline and it still stands out for a few reasons. Rollins, batting from the right side, crushed a 2-0 pitch into the suite level at the Vet in the bottom of the eighth. He knew he got it all and flipped the bat as he started his home run trot. That did not sit well with the veteran Kline, who glared at Rollins as he rounded first and second and shouted unprintable words at the youngster as he rounded third and went to home.

Rollins remembers: “It was a bomb. I had a lot of energy that day. A couple of the veteran players on that team were apparently upset with my energy. The hitting coach (Richie Hebner) told me some of the veterans wanted me to channel my energy. All right, I’ll channel it. I was so ticked off, I hit it into the second deck. Even during batting practice I was hitting them in the second deck. I was upset but it was nothing to do with the pitcher. It all culminated into the release on that ball. I could hear some noise as I rounded third base, but I wasn’t sure what [Kline] was saying. I was in my own little world. I blacked out.”

***

A slam
October 3, 2004
Veterans Stadium

The situation: Finishing up his fourth full season, Rollins smacked a grand slam off the Marlins’ Matt Perisho in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Phillies posted a 10-4 win on the final day of the season. Two days earlier, manager Larry Bowa had been fired after four seasons on the job.

Rollins remembers: “I got here when Tito (Francona) was the manager, but he really wasn’t my manager. Larry was really my first manager. He had always been in the dugout. When you came back to the dugout after getting a hit or something, he was the first one to greet you. If you hit a home run, he’d be smiling and joking. Now, all of sudden, he wasn’t there and that’s when I really realized it.”

***

The streak
September 27, 2005
Citizens Bank Park

The situation: Rollins had equaled Ed Delahanty’s century-old record by extending his hitting streak to 31 games the night before. His bid to set a new club record was in jeopardy (he went 0 for 3 in his first three at-bats) until he led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a base hit up the middle against Mets right-hander Juan Padilla. The hit gave Rollins a 32-game hitting streak, and he kept it going through the end of the season, hitting in 36 straight games in a remarkable month that saw him collect 49 hits and bat .402. Rollins pumped his fist as he ran to first on the record-setting hit, but was stranded on base and the Phillies, making a bid for the NL wild card, lost, 3-2.

Rollins remembers: “I hadn’t been thinking about the streak because we were in the race. All I was thinking was that I finally got on base and had a chance to score a run.”

***

The clincher
September 30, 2007
Citizens Bank Park

The situation: The Phillies went into the final day of the season needing a win over Washington to clinch their first NL East title in 14 years. Rollins had two hits that day, a tone-setting leadoff single against Jason Bergmann in the first inning and a triple to right field against Luis Ayala in the sixth inning. It was Rollins’ 20th triple of the season, a modern-era club record. Most importantly, the Phils won, 6-1, to win the division by a game over the Mets. The victory ignited a party at Citizens Bank Park and was the spark for a great run of five division titles and a World Series victory a year later.

Rollins remembers: “Bottom of the first, 2-2 single up the middle, stole second and third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chase. I knew New York was losing. I was like, ‘Here we go. I really think that hit propelled us that day.

“The triple -- I was stuck on 19 for a while. Milt Thompson (the hitting coach) was saying, ‘You’ll get it on your last at-bat, a little drama.’ I was like, ‘Of all guys, Ayala,’ because I never hit him. The count was 3-and-2 and I said to myself, ‘Don’t be dumb. He’s going to throw a slider, sit on it.’ He threw it. I knew Austin Kearns was in right field and he could throw but I went for it. I remember going hard into [Ryan] Zimmerman. If I didn’t go for it, I would have been upset. The crowd was just incredible that day.”

***

On their way
October 5, 2008 -- NLDS Game 4
Miller Park, Milwaukee

The situation: The Phillies were an easy out in the 2007 postseason. They came back with a vengeance in 2008 and beat the Milwaukee Brewers three games to one in the NLDS. The Phils won the first two games at home and were beaten in Game 3 in front of a raucous crowd in Milwaukee. The next day they took the series with a 6-2 victory. Rollins quieted the big crowd when he led off that game with a home run against Jeff Suppan on a full-count pitch. The Phils never trailed and took a boatload of momentum in the NLCS and beyond.

Rollins remembers: “That series got our postseason going in '08. We lost the night before and the stadium was so loud with the roof closed and those boom-boom sticks. We didn’t want Game 5. We didn’t want to face CC Sabathia. Being down 1-0 in the first inning wasn’t in their plans.”

***

Jimmy!
October 19, 2009 -- NLCS Game 4
Citizens Bank Park

The situation: Seems like just yesterday. Bottom of the ninth inning, Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS. The Phillies were one out from losing and having the Dodgers tie the series at two games apiece. The crowd of 46,157 was in full roar when Rollins came to the plate with two men on base and his team down a run. He hit a 1-1 fastball from Jonathan Broxton into the gap in right-center for a two-run double. The dramatic win gave the Phillies a three-games-to-one lead in the series. Two days later, they punched their ticket back to the World Series.

Rollins remembers: “I can still see it. My mindset was to try to hit a single. Tie the game. I was just trying to catch the ball with my bat, almost like playing ping-pong, because he threw so hard. I look back at the video now and I’m like, ‘Damn, you swung hard.’ But in my mind I was playing ping-pong, just trying to tie it.

“When I came around third I saw Ryan [Howard] coming at me like a linebacker. I was like, ‘Please don’t hit me.’ My intent was to jog to home plate and celebrate there, but they got me.”

***

Milestone homer
March 31, 2014
Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas

The situation: Rollins entered the new season with 199 homers. Always one with a flair for the dramatic, he belted a grand slam off Rangers right-hander Tanner Scheppers on opening day to key the Phillies' 14-10 win. The home run was Rollins' first hit of the new season and it came on the day he set the National League record with his 14th straight opening day start at shortstop.

Rollins remembers: “I was in the dugout right before that and I was like, ‘It would be cool to have your first hit be a grand slam on opening day.’ I remember growing up going to Oakland A’s games and looking at the size of Mark McGwire, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to hit too many home runs.’ I guess I proved myself wrong.”

An idea that might get MLB players and owners closer to common ground

An idea that might get MLB players and owners closer to common ground

It's June 4, a month away from what would be a perfect opening day for baseball, yet on and on the financial negotiations go.

MLB unsurprisingly rejected the players' 114-game proposal and the latest reports are that the league is considering a season of 50 games.

Sounds silly, doesn't even sound like baseball, seems unlikely to happen. 

The league wants fewer games because each game will cost clubs money. Players want more games because they want a greater share of their prorated salary. The sides are at this standstill because the players thought the March agreement guaranteed them their full prorated salaries, but there was a caveat in the deal about a season without fans in stands. 

The league also wants the regular season to end by October to best avoid having to shut down amid a coronavirus surge later in the year. Postseason broadcast revenue accounts for $787 million, according to ESPN.

So, how can these sides reach a compromise? The players want their full prorated salaries. The owners could agree to that but not for 114 games, and seemingly not for 82. 

What if the league guaranteed players 75% of their prorated pay? It's not 100% like the MLBPA thought it was agreeing to in March, but is there any realistic path to 100%? A compromise is required.

Rather than pay it out over 82 games, just play 75% of that 82-game schedule. That would be 62 games of full prorated pay for players. That length, 62 games, represents about 38% of a normal 162-game season. 

For the highest-paid players, it's a big bump up from what they would have made under that designed-to-fail sliding scale proposal. Someone like Bryce Harper, with an annual average salary of $25.4 million, could earn $9.7 million. This would put Zack Wheeler in the vicinity of $9 million, Jake Arrieta $7.7 million, Andrew McCutchen $6.4 million, Aaron Nola, $4.3 million, J.T. Realmuto, $3.8 million, Rhys Hoskins $232,500.

In a 62-game schedule, the Phillies could play three series of three games against each NL East foe (36 games). They could face each of the other 10 NL teams in one series, with four of those series being two-gamers. The Phils could play two in Colorado and two in Arizona back-to-back, two in Los Angeles and two in San Diego. 

Or teams could avoid long, cross-country trips and remain on their own coast, with the Phillies playing the Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox and Rays instead of the NL West.

It also could be even more division-heavy than that. For what it's worth, teams play 47% of their games inside the division in a normal season.

If the season is going to be shorter than 82 games, it also means these negotiations could extend. If you're playing 20 or 30 fewer games, that's a few more weeks to gauge the other side's willingness to bend. 

Hopefully, that is not the case and the sides act with urgency. It would do baseball a world of good to have an agreement in place in the next week or two. Build some excitement. Stir some intrigue beyond the financial discussions nobody wants to hear, think, read or write about, especially in 2020.

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Phillies hitters were 'tight as bleep' until Jimmy Rollins calmed things in 2008 NLDS clincher

Phillies hitters were 'tight as bleep' until Jimmy Rollins calmed things in 2008 NLDS clincher

The Phillies had a powerhouse offense in 2008. They ranked first in home runs (214), second in runs (4.93 per game) and third in OPS (.770) in the National League that season.

But through the first three games of the NL Division Series that fall, they'd hit just .234 and scored only nine runs. They had won two of those first three games against the Milwaukee Brewers on the strength of their pitchers, who'd held the Brewers to a .198 batting average and seven runs, and a couple of quick-strike big hits, one being Shane Victorino's grand slam against a fatigued CC Sabathia in Game 2.

Looking back, there was some noticeable anxiety around the Phillies before Game 4 of the series, which will be re-aired Thursday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Brewers had won Game 3 in their home park. Another win in Game 4 would make it a whole new series where anything could happen in a winner-take-all Game 5.

In a hallway outside the clubhouse at Miller Park that October day in 2008, a Phillies team official captured the team's anxiety.

"Our hitters are tight as (bleep)," the guy said.

He was right. Phillies hitters needed to relax.

Enter the human chill pill, Jimmy Rollins.

The man who would eventually become the Phillies' all-time hits leader, led off the game with a full-count home run against Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan. Miller Park, previously pulsating with excitement, got so quiet you could almost hear a collective exhale in the Phillies' dugout.

"I can't tell you how big that was to put an early number on the board,'' general manager Pat Gillick said after the game.

The Phillies went on to win the game, 6-2, and the series, three games to one, to earn a spot in the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After the game, a champagne-soaked Rollins basked in the victory and charted a course forward.

"This is one step in the right direction," he said. "We don't think we should be looking at anything less than a World Series. And that's a World Series win. We're geared to win."

Power fueled the Phillies' clinching win in Game 4 of that 2008 NLDS. All six of their runs came on four homers. (They had hit just one homer in the first three games.) In addition to Rollins, the Phillies got a homer from Jayson Werth and a pair of them from Pat Burrell.

Burrell's first homer was a game-changer. It came with two outs in the third inning after the Brewers and Suppan walked Ryan Howard intentionally with a runner on second and first base open. Howard led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs that season so walking him was standard play. Burrell made the Brewers pay for the move and his three-run shot gave the Phils a 4-0 lead. Werth immediately followed with a haymaker solo homer and the Phils went up 5-0. Burrell homered again in the eighth to complete his four-RBI day.

Burrell was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft and 2008 was his last season with the club. Though rising stars like Howard, Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels got much of the attention on the '08 club, Burrell was an important complementary player and he went out in style, riding down Broad Street as a World Series champion.

"I couldn't be more thrilled," he said in the clubhouse after his two-homer day in Milwaukee all those years ago.

Another important complementary piece, Joe Blanton, pitched six innings of one-run ball that day for the victory. His contributions, and Burrell's, would continue in the weeks to come. The Phillies punched their ticket to the NLCS with their Game 4 NLDS win in Milwaukee and it all started with Jimmy Rollins's chill-pill leadoff homer.

"That series got our postseason going in '08," Rollins said years later. "We lost the night before and the stadium was so loud with the roof closed and those boom-boom sticks. We didn't want Game 5. We didn't want to face CC Sabathia. Being down 1-0 in the first inning wasn't in their plans."

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