The Obit For Jack Phillips

Clarkson Legend Jack Phillips Passes

Former MLB player won World Series ring in 1947 August 31, 2009

Monday morning proved to be a solemn start to the week as news hit the Clarkson University community that Jack Phillips, an inaugural Golden Knights’ Athletic Hall of Famer, had passed away on Sunday evening in Michigan. He was just a week shy of his 88th birthday.

"Clarkson Athletics has lost a long time icon and friend," Athletic Director Steve Yianoukos said. "I was honored to know and work with Jack. His infectious smile, great stories, and presence at Clarkson will be greatly missed."

A giant in the Clarkson Athletic community as a student-athlete, coach, administrator, and fan of the Golden Knights, Phillips first stepped on to the campus seven decades ago and is still remembered as one of the top all-around athletes that the area has ever seen. A star in both baseball and basketball in the early 1940s, the Golden Knights enjoyed tremendous success in both endeavors with Phillips. The team’s leading scorer in basketball in all three of his seasons with the varsity team, Phillips’ 6-foot, 4-inch frame was a difficult match up in the early days of the sport. On the baseball diamond, he was even more impressive, leading the team to a 34-7 record over the course of three years with scouts flocking to see him play.

Phillips, a native of Marilla, NY and a follower of everything regarding the New York Yankees as a child, eventually settled on the Bronx Bombers as his future employers and immediately after the end of Clarkson’s 1943 season, he headed to Norfolk of the old Piedmont League to begin his professional career. Following a stint in the armed services, Phillips returned to the minors with the famous Newark Bears before getting the call to the major leagues in 1947. That season, Phillips won a World Series ring with the Yankees and began a nine-year major league career with numerous stops across the country. He finished his career with a .283 batting average in 343 career games.

The highlight of Phillips’ baseball career was his “Ultimate” Grand Slam home run. For those unfamiliar, an “ultimate” grand slam is a walk-off, bases loaded home run that gives the home team a one-run victory. Phillips is one of just 23 players in major league history to accomplish the feat, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente, Roger Connor and all-stars Bobby Thomson, Alan Trammell, and Adam Dunn. Phillips remains the only player in major league history to hit his “ultimate” grand slam as a pinch-hitter, as he was actually going to enter the game as a relief pitcher in the following inning if necessary.

After a brief minor league managerial career, Phillips returned to Potsdam to begin a lengthy career as a coach and administrator at Clarkson. Spanning 24 seasons as the Golden Knights’ baseball coach, Phillips amassed nearly 200 victories and molded over 300 student-athletes in the sport of baseball. He also coached several hundred more in both cross country and golf, guiding the golf team into the early 21st century as an assistant coach.

In 1992, Phillips became one of the first 15 inductees into the Clarkson University Athletic Hall of Fame. The choice was an easy one for the committee to make as Phillips, perhaps more than anyone else, summed up the athletic tradition at the University. Additionally, he was awarded with professor emeritus status in 1988.

Phillips received a long-overdue tribute on May 3rd, 2008, when the Golden Knights dedicated the then upcoming field project in his honor, renaming the field “Jack Phillips Stadium at Snell Field.” Since that dedication and the celebration of his life that followed, Jack Phillips Stadium has seen numerous upgrades and will continue to see more refurbishments in the coming years, including a 27-foot long, 10-inning scoreboard this autumn.

Jack Phillips counted many as friends, from baseball greats Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra, and Ralph Kiner, former teammates and players which he coached, and to those who only knew him in his later years as a Potsdam icon and local heirloom. All were better to have known him and he will certainly be missed.