In Memoriam: Lee Thomas Built The ’93 Phillies As Part Of A Life In Baseball

In 1993, Lee Thomas had a year that usually only exists in executives’ dreams. 

The year before, the Phillies had been among the worst teams in the league, going 70-102. But in 1993, the Phillies completed a remarkable turnaround by winning 97 games and reaching the World Series. 

That team was built almost completely by Thomas, who had become the Phillies’ general manager in 1988. He brought key cogs on the ’93 pennant winners such as Curt Schilling, Lenny Dykstra and Mitch Williams to Philadelphia. 

It was a highlight of a lengthy career as a player and front office executive. Thomas had also been the farm director for the Cardinals in the 1980s and played a key role in the development of the 1985 World Series champions. 

Before he moved into the front office, Thomas had an eight-year MLB career as a power-hitting outfielder/first baseman. Thomas earned an all-star appearance in 1962 with the Angels and hit 102 home runs during eight years with the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Braves and Astros.

After leaving the Phillies’ front office, Thomas joined the Red Sox as an assistant to GM Dan Duquette.

Thomas died on Aug. 31 in St. Louis. He was 86.

John Stearns

By a quirk of timing, John Stearns was an excellent catcher for some bad Mets teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

The Mets reached the World Series in 1973, two years before Stearns became the team’s regular catcher. He then served as the team’s main catcher for 10 seasons, but an elbow injury largely derailed his final year in 1984. 

Just as the Mets were getting good, Stearns’ career was over. He played briefly in 1984 for that team that won 90 games. The Mets won 98 in 1985 and the World Series in 1986.

By then, Stearns had retired. He never got to play in the postseason, but he was a solid catcher who made four all-star appearances and hit .260/.341/.375 for his career. 

After he retired, Stearns spent the better part of three decades working as a scout, major league coach and minor league manager and instructor.  

Stearns died on Sept. 15. He was 71.

Anthony Varvaro

When Anthony Varvaro retired, he still had the potential to return to the major leagues. 

The righthander had battled injuries, but he had also demonstrated that he still had enough to potentially help a big league bullpen.

But Varvaro had long had a second career in mind. He wanted to serve in law enforcement. Varvaro left baseball to serve as an officer for the New York Port Authority. He was killed in a car accident on his way to serve at a 9/11 remembrance event on Sept. 11. He was 37.

Varvaro was a 12th-round pick of the Mariners in 2005 out of St. John’s. He made his MLB debut with Seattle in 2010 and was  claimed on waivers by the Braves before the 2011 season.

Varvaro spent the majority of his MLB career with Atlanta. His best season was 2013, when he recorded a 2.82 ERA in a career-high 73 innings. He pitched for the Red Sox in 2015 and with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2016 before he retired.

We Remember

Ray Ripplemeyer, the pitching coach for the Phillies from 1970-78, died Sept. 9. He was 89. Ripplemeyer pitched briefly in the majors in 1962 as a Rule 5 pick of the Senators, but his coaching career lasted much longer. He managed and coached in the minors from 1965-69 before being promoted to the majors. He also coached in the minors for several years in the 1990s.

Cal Browning, a lefthander who made one appearance for the Cardinals in 1960, died Sept. 14. He was 84.

Don Collins, a lefthander who logged 76 innings with the Braves and Indians, died May 22. He was 69. He was a second-round pick in 1972.

Robert Davis, a righthander who pitched for Duke in the College World Series and spent time in the minors with multiple teams died Sept. 15. He was 92.

Ted Schreiber, a third baseman who played 39 games for the 1963 Mets, died Sept. 8. He was 84.

Bill Teed, a scout for the Giants, Orioles and Phillies, died Sept. 6. He was 91. Teed was the signing scout for Mike Remlinger. He had previously pitched in the minors for the Braves and Cardinals.

John Gamble, a shortstop who played briefly for the Tigers, died Sept. 1. He was 74. Gamble played in 13 games between 1972 and ’73. He was primarily a pinch-runner in the majors, getting just three plate appearances.

Pete Burnside, a lefthander who spent eight years in the majors with four organizations, died Aug. 26. He was 92. Burnside debuted with the Giants but also pitched with the Tigers, Senators and Orioles. He was 19-36, 4.81 for his career.

Doug Kern, a baseball statistician for ESPN and a longtime member of the Society for American Baseball Research, died Aug. 12. He was 48.

Ken Frailing, a reliever for the Cubs and White Sox in the 1970s, died Aug. 25. He was 74. Frailing went 6-9, 3.88 in 125 innings with the Cubs in 1976 in his best season.

Mark Littell, a reliever with the Cardinals and Royals, died Sept. 5. He was 69. Littell finished with 56 saves. 

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