He’s a name that will bring back memories for anyone who followed sports in the 1980s, first as a college quarterback and then as a big league outfielder. Yes, Phil Bradley had some serious athletic skills.
The Macomb, IL native was heavily recruited out of high school and wound up at the University of Missouri where he starred in both baseball and football for the University of Missouri Tigers.
As a star quarterback, Bradley led the Tigers to three bowl games, becoming a three-time Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year. He set various conference offensive records that stood for over a decade. In the spring, he starred in the Missouri outfield, leading the team to a Big Eight conference title and two appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Ultimately Bradley chose to purse a pro baseball career and was taken in the third round of the 1981 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. By 1984, he was firmly entrenched as a starter in the Mariners outfield and the following season 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 time with the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox. He also spent one season playing in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.
Upon his retirement from professional baseball Bradley spent time as a college coach and teacher at Westminster College. For the last 23 years, he’s served as a special assistant to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
We recently caught up to him to talk about his first baseball cards, the Hall of Fame autographs in his personal collection and the childhood baseball cards currently on his desk
Tony Reid-You’ve signed your name for fans countless times over the years but you were also on the other end of the autograph experience. What are the most memorable autographs you asked for or collected over the years?
Phil Bradley-When I was a kid, I was probably in junior high school, I was at Lambert International, the airport in St. Louis. We were waiting for my brother to come in on a flight. I looked up and I saw Steve Carlton. I walked over and got his autograph. That was the early 70’s. That was one of the more memorable times when I asked for an autograph.
I was fortunate when I played for the Orioles that one of our announcers doubled as a hockey guy. We were in Milwaukee one September. The hockey preseason was just starting. It just so happened that the Los Angeles Kings were in Milwaukee at that time. I got to go over to the rink and met Wayne Gretzky. I got an autographed stick from Wayne Gretzky. Those are two of my more memorable autograph experiences.
TR-Your Rookie Cards appeared in 1984 in Fleer and Topps Update series. You also had RCs in 1985 in the regular Donruss, Fleer and Topps. Do you remember seeing yourself on a trading card for the first time?
PB-Oh, sure. That’s just as big of a thrill as the first time you play in a Major League game, especially if you are kid who grew up collecting baseball cards and all of a sudden now that is your picture on a card. I was actually collecting cards in the 80’s. I still have all of the cards. That was when there were four companies- Fleer Donruss, Topps and Score. We still have them to this day. I sometimes think about whether we should hold on to them or maybe try to get rid of them. Maybe you can answer that question for me.
TR-That being said, did you collect cards as a kid?
PB-As a kid, I used to go to the local drug store or food mart where you could go in and get your pack of Topps with the hard piece of bubble gum for a nickel or a dime.
TR–We talked about the cards you hung on to from the 80’s. Did you manage to keep any of the cards from your childhood?
PB-Well, I’m sitting here at my desk and I have a 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente. I have a couple Henry Aaron cards. I have a few cards from when he played for the Brewers. Those are probably the only ones I actually held on to.
TR–You mentioned sitting at your desk. You played in the Big Leagues for a decade. You were an All-Star and held a number of team records. In that office, do you have jerseys, balls, cards or other items displayed?
PB-I have jerseys from when I played baseball at the University of Missouri. We live in Sarasota now. We have downsized. Back in the day when we had bigger homes I had all of my jerseys framed. We had some baseballs that I had got autographed. We had a bat collection from when I played of a lot of significant players that played when I did. Even though I played I was always a baseball fan.
TR–I’ve talked to plenty of players that are fans of the game and plenty of players that aren’t. I think it’s so much more special if you have that tie to the game of being a fan and loving it on that level and then to be able to play it at the highest level has to be a spectacular experience.
PB– I came up in the early 80’s, so I got to overlap with a few of the players that started in the late 60’s and played through the 70’s like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Bert Blyleven. To me, the 70’s was the era of baseball that so many great players played in and through.
TR–Did you manage to share the diamond with any of the players you looked up to as a younger man?
PB-The Hall of Famers I played with were Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken, Jr. Carlton Fisk, Gaylord Perry and a few others. I was in Spring Training with Gaylord Perry when he was with Seattle. Those were the four Hall of Famers I played with.
Al Bumbry, who played for the Orioles, went to the college where my dad taught in Virginia, Virginia State University. My dad coached Bumbry in college. Bumbry was a student teacher for my Physical Education class when I was in elementary school. We have always had a relationship with him. As it played out, he was a Rookie of the Year with the Orioles. He played through 1985, maybe. I got to play against him when he was with the Orioles. That was special.