Phils welcome Samuel to Wall of Fame
Former second baseman inducted during pregame ceremony
PHILADELPHIA -- Most of the video highlights showed Juan Samuel dashing around the bases, sliding headfirst, running some more and tripling in the gap. His helmet was typically falling off or in front of his face as dirt kicked up, staining his uniform.That's how the player known for his hustle and determination went into the Phillies Wall of Fame, as its 2008 inductee on Friday. The career moments also showed Samuel with a constant smile, a common aspect of his personality. "This is special," Samuel said. "It's mind-boggling to me that every time I visit a town I'm visiting, people recognize me as a Phillie. I'm proud of that." Surprisingly, Samuel didn't slide headfirst onto the podium to accept the honor. The mountain of black hair that used to barely fit under his cap has been replaced by short graying hair. Smiling as he listened to roars from the Citizens Bank Park crowd, Samuel became emotional when thanking the fans. With tears streaming down Samuel's cheeks, he stopped mid-sentence to wipe his eyes. Just then, it seemed the gravity of sharing a stage with nine Phillies greats who were present -- Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts and Jim Bunning, plus Bob Boone, Tony Taylor, Dick Allen, Greg Luzinski and Dallas Green -- finally sunk in for the team's 30th inductee to the Phillies Wall of Fame. "Some of the guys I played with, some coached me and some I watched play on my black-and-white TV in the Dominican," Samuel said. "It's special that they're here to share this moment with me."
Samuel, 47, debuted in 1983 and had an exciting combination of power and speed. His 28 homers in 1987 stood as a record for homers by a second baseman until Chase Utley broke it in 2006.Samuel remained with the Phillies until June 18, 1989, when he went to the Mets in a deal that brought Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to Philadelphia. He was crushed to leave the city, and still considers himself a Phillie nearly 20 years later. "I do," said Samuel, who is the third-base coach for the Orioles. "There's so many people here that I know very well that I keep in touch with. I want this team to go as far as it can and win a championship for those folks. I follow them." Samuel said that most of his memorabilia is from his days with the Phillies -- uniform jerseys, his Silver Slugger Award from 1987, the ball from his first hit and first home run. Memories. "Sammy was the most exciting player on the Phillies in the early '80s. He had power, average, great arm and speed to burn," Schmidt said. "He hit in front of me and created RBI situations every game. He was my young son's favorite player through the '80s." The applause for the popular Samuel seconded that notion. Many came out on 8-8-08 to honor the player who wore No. 8. "Perfect, Samuel said. "Somebody must have planned it that way. This is a good day."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.