Phil Bradley was a star high school athlete on both baseball diamond and the football gridiron for the Macomb High Bombers in Macomb, Illinois.
The multi-talented sports star took his skillset to Columbia, Missouri and starred in both baseball and football at the next level for the University of Missouri Tigers.
As a star quarterback, Bradley led the Tigers to three major bowl games, becoming a three-time Big 8 Offensive Player of the Year in the process. He set various school and conference offensive records that stood for over a decade. Of course, the future Big Leaguer starred in the Missouri outfield leading the team to a Big 8 conference title and two appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Ultimately Bradley chose baseball and he was drafted in the third round of the 1981 Major League Baseball draft by the Seattle Mariners.
By 1984, Bradley was firmly entrenched as a starter in the Mariners outfield. In 1985 he hit .300 with 26 home runs and was named to the American League All-Star Team.
After four productive years in Seattle which saw Bradley leave the team as the only career .300 hitter, he spent seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox. After leaving MLB, he spent one season playing in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.
In our latest Card Back Q&A, we talk to him about his days on the gridiron, memories of his time in Seattle, his college baseball experience as a ten year old and more.
Tony Reid-There is a card called Little Big Leaguers of you that mentions the story of your dad coaching at Virginia State University and the fact that you acted as a warmup catcher at ten years old. What was the experience like?
Phil Bradley-Oh, yeah. I remember that card. I went to practice every day. I was out there shagging balls. I might warm up the pitchers. I had that advantage. Even when I was in high school, one of my fondest memories, I think I was a junior, we lived in Illinois. The Orioles were in Chicago playing the White Sox. I went up on the train. I go to dress out in an Orioles uniform. I went out for batting practice. I got to throw a bullpen for Cal Ripken, Sr. That was the first time I had ever been in a Major League clubhouse.
I don’t want to name names but you see players smoking and stuff. I was only 16 or 17 years old. I had a good idea of what a major leaguer was supposed to be about by the time I got there. That was a big advantage for me. It was still overwhelming to perform but at least I had a good idea of the atmosphere and what I was getting myself into.
TR–A number of card backs over the course of your career mention the fact that you attended the University of Missouri on a football scholarship. You were All Big Eight three years. You set numerous records there. What was the college football experience like for you?
PB– If I had a choice of going back and playing professional baseball again or playing college football I would pick college football. College football is a big time sport but yet you don’t have the pressures on you of making a living. You have everything else that comes with it. The hype, the attention and the glamour. I will always think that was probably the most special part of my career. It was must see TV. You must be in attendance. It was a big deal.
TR–Your 1991 Topps noted that you were the only lifetime .300 hitter in Seattle Mariners history. That’s a pretty cool fact. What are your fondest memories of your time in Seattle?
PB-Yeah I had a nice career in Seattle. I really did. If you get a chance and go back and look at the back of my card what you will notice in 1983 and 1984 underneath HR you will see zero. I didn’t hit my first home run until the 1985 season. I had my biggest year. Seattle will always be special to me. That was the place where I first got the opportunity to play in the major leagues. That will always be special.
Playing in Baltimore was special because I played in 1989 after they had just finished their worst season ever in 1988. That’s when we almost went from worst to first. We had a chance to win the division going into Toronto the last weekend of the season and we ended up two out of the three games. Then I was the guy who Roger Clemens struck out for his 20th strikeout in Fenway. I was the guy who was the first batter in Wrigley Field under the lights in 1988. I led off the game with a home run only to have the game get rained out in the fourth inning. So, I had some special moments during my career.