The ‘Philly Rob’ story: How Rob Thomson brings hope to the City of Brotherly Love

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Phillies manager Rob Thomson
Philadelphia Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson celebrates after the Phillies won a baseball game against the Houston Astros to clinch a wild-card playoff spot, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In case you missed the biggest story in the National League and arguably all of baseball, Rob Thomson and the Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the World Series.

Who could forget Bryce Harper’s dramatic homer in the bottom of the eighth on a 2-2 count? Giving the Phillies a 4-3 lead and handing them the NL pennant for the first time since 2009.

All this wasn’t done under the eye of Joe Girardi, who was fired by the team back in June 2022 after a season start of 22-29. Bench coach Rob Thomson stepped up to the plate (all puns intended) and after 37 years, he’s arrived at the Big Game.

But truth be told, including this writer as well, not many knew the path Rob Thomson was on as a coach or player. All they knew was that he was the guy taking a beloved baseball team to the World Series. So ahead of Friday’s game in Houston, let’s sit down and learn a little more about ‘Philly Rob’ and his path to the skipper of the boys in stripes.

Canada, oh Canada

Rob Thomson is a good ‘ole Canadian boy from Ontario, more specifically a place called Chemical Valley, not inspiring confidence in who the 59-year-old was going to be. His dad coached him from the age of nine and took him to games a breezy 75 miles away to minor league ball and Rob was in awe of the players in their snazzy suits.

He eventually went on to play catcher and third baseman at St. Clair Community College and later at Kansas. Thomson was drafted in the 32nd round of the 1985 MLB Draft and spent four years in the minors. During that time, he managed to never go higher than Class A as a player and hit a .228 average. But things turned for the then 25-year-old when in 1988, he became a coach in the, you guessed it, minor league system for the Tigers.

Thomson got the call-up to the majors with the New York Yankees in 2004 and spent 13 years with the organization and 28 years total in the system. He’s got five World Series rings with Bronx Bombers, but he was passed over for the Yankees’ manager role, in favor of Aaron Boone. Instead, Rob Thomson traveled down I-95 and found himself in Philadelphia as the team’s newest bench coach in 2018.

Rob Thomson, Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love

Now, let’s fast forward to four years later. There’s no mistake that in June 2022, Girardi needed to go. Philly fans hold very little back when it comes to managers who are underperforming and it was vocalized a change was needed. Rob Thomson was mentioned on the shortlist of candidates to take over the job of the skipper.

“Topper” as Thomson was called by former Yankees manager Joe Torre, is a man who is on top of everything he does.

Getting to spring training at 3am? Done. Prepping for games a week away? Already on it.

Rob Thomson is posting up some pretty incredible stats for a rookie manager too. Rarely is a rookie 59-year-old but he’s also only the fourth manager in major league history to take a team that’s below .500 and take it to the postseason. He led the Phillies to an 87-75 record and is the first Canadian-born manager to lead an MLB team to the postseason.

And all those accolades led to the best part of all for Thomson: having the interim tag removed from his title when the Phillies signed him to a two-year deal on October 10th.

Embracing the Philly culture

Philadelphia fans LOVE winning. They grease the poles and prepped for days ahead of the NLCS games at Citizens Bank Park.

By helping the Phillies to the World Series, Rob Thomson is quickly becoming the focal point of all that love. From ‘Philly Rob’ shirts to having people buy his dinner and food at Reading Terminal, there’s nothing more evident than the city and his players love him.

He is still new to the job but there’s no doubt he’s got the backing of the team. If he shuffles the lineup, he does so without causing a panic. His humility and even-keeled personality keep him level-headed even when faced with a heated situation.

His rapport with the players is undeniable. Thomson’s wife Michele has been married to Rob for 35 years. She wore an “I Ride with Philly Rob” T-shirt to Game 5 of the NL Championship Series. But she wasn’t alone. Rhys Hoskins’ wife, Jayme, bought T-shirts for the players’ wives, fiancées and girlfriends.

The love for him doesn’t stop there.

On Father’s Day 2022, players dressed up in suits. Unusual for a travel day but there was a reason. Thomson always told his father, who passed away in 1998, if he ever reached the big leagues he would wear a tailored suit to games. It’s a nod to how he says players dress back during Tigers’ games as a kid.

When asked the players why the fancy getups for a travel day, they responded it was for him and his dad. The team took a photo and it hangs in Rob Thomson’s office.

If that doesn’t speak to who he is as a man and skipper, then you’re missing the true essence of Philly Rob and the magic of the man, the myth, and the manager.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip