Our team here at Philly Sports Network has spoken ad nauseum about the World Series and the daunting task ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies – taking on the juggernaut that is the Houston Astros. We have talked about the best players in the series, how manager Rob Thomson changed the culture and galvanized the team to a Cinderella-esque run to the Fall Classic, what the players did to get here, the list goes on and it is still not enough. I mean, we’re talkin’ about the Fightin’s here, THE FIGHTIN’S. SAID!
I decided to take a deeper look at the connections that these teams have. The connections that go beyond the field and the next 5 to 9 days. The type of connections that might give you extra familiarity with your opponent, and could even provide a bit of extra motivation on a stage that is not lacking in that arena. The things that the casual fan who jumped back in for this unlikely run may not pay attention to, but the diehards know better than what they had for breakfast this morning. Let’s take a look at the Phillies and Astros connections beyond the diamond.
Current President of Baseball Operations for the Phillies, Dave Dombrowski, has a storied history in Major League Baseball. He was the General Manager with the-then Florida Marlins when they won their first World Series back in 1997, and helped build strong teams in Detroit and Boston, winning another championship with the Red Sox in 2018. Now with his fifth franchise, Dombrowksi has connections with plenty of players across the league. Here are some notable connections for this series:
- Drafted Justin Verlander No. 2 overall in 2004 for the Detroit Tigers
- Drafted Nick Castellanos No. 44 overall in 2010 for the Detroit Tigers
- Drafted Mark Appel in Round 15 in 2009 for the Detroit Tigers (Appel decided to attend Stanford University instead. More on him later)
Up in the Booth
Whether young or old, if you are a Phillies fan you know the unmistakable, historic voice of legendary play-by-play man Harry Kalas. Fans of every generation know Kalas for his old-school broadcast style, his exciting memorable style, and his long-lasting legacy. Even if you were not around before Kalas’ passing in 2009, you hear his voice in the ballpark every time you attend a game at Citizens Bank Park.
If you aren’t lucky enough to hear Kalas call a game, look up some of his iconic calls of that team’s run and prepare to get chills. Well, some may not know that Kalas passed on his passion for broadcasting and the game of baseball down to his son – Todd Kalas. Todd did work with the Phillies temporarily but is now the television play-by-play man for the Houston Astros. He has been in the role since 2017, and as a Houston native with a large part of his life tied to Philadelphia, considers the World Series a “no-lose” situation for him. He may be rooting for the Astros, but his father and his family will always be in the hearts of Phillies fans.
On the field
There are several connections on the field for the Phillies and Astros. Phillies backup catcher and victory DJ extraordinaire, Garrett Stubbs, was drafted by and started his major league career with the Houston Astros. He played in the 2021 World Series with the ‘Stros before being traded to the Phillies in the offseason for minor league outfielder Logan Cerny. Long-time Phillies reliever Hector Neris signed a contract with the Astros as a free-agent during the offseason, as well.
Nick Castellanos and Justin Verlander were teammates in Detroit from 2013-2017, and Dombrowski was in the front office for the first two seasons of that span. Although Dombrowski and Verlander appeared in two World Series with the Tigers, Casellanos was called up the year after their last trip to the Fall Classic.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker has now managed five teams – one of which was a Bryce Harper-led Washington Nationals squad from 2016-2017. Harper was named to the All-Star team twice under Baker (7 times total) and Baker led the Nats to NL East crowns under his tutelage. Baker was also one of three finalists for the Phillies managerial job back in 2020 before Joe Girardi ultimately got the job. The Phillies also took care of a Baker-led Reds team in the 2010 NLDS.
Philly is the City of Brotherly Love, but there is no love lost in the Maton family during the series. Nick Maton, Phillies utility man, is the younger brother of Astros pitcher, Phil Maton. Nick has seen time during the postseason, but Phil has missed the entirety of the postseason and the Phillies are the reason. After surrendering two runs on a Brandon Marsh double (following a single from brother Nick), Maton was taken out of the game and took out his frustrations about his performance by punching his locker. He broke a finger in his pitching hand during the outburst and was ruled out for the remainder of the year.
More minor connections, but Astros pitcher Ryne Stanek and Phillies pitcher Jose Alvarado were part of the same bullpen in Tampa Bay from 2017-2019. Game 1 starter Aaron Nola was roommates with Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in college at LSU. Finally, Astros outfielder Chas McCormick was born and raised in West Chester, less than an hour outside of Philadelphia and grew up a Phillies fan.
One thing the Phillies have done with the Astros a lot during my lifetime is swing a deal. There are many impactful and memorable names that have gone back and forth between the franchises. I won’t list them all, but here are some of the bigger names that have changes jerseys between the clubs through the years:
- 2021: Astros send Garrett Stubbs to Phillies for Logan Cerny
- 2015: Phillies send Ken GIles and Jonathan Arauz to Astros for Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, Brett Oberholtzer, and Vince Velazquez
- 2011: Astros send Hunter Pence to Phillies for Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana
- 2010: Astros send Roy Oswalt to Phillies for Anthony Gose, J.A. Happ, and Jonathan Villar
- 2007: Astros send Brad Lidge and Eric Buntlett to Phillies for Ezequiel Astacio, Taylor Buchholz, and Brandon Duckworth
- 1994: Phillies send Milt Thompson to Astros for Tom Edens
- 1993: Phillies send Mitch Williams to Astros for Doug Jones and Jeff Juden
- 1992: Astros send Curt Schilling to Phillies for Jason Grimsley
The Phillies and Astros have only faced off one time in the postseason – the 1980 NLCS. Considered by some as one of the best postseason series in the history of baseball and the victory by the Phillies allowed them to move on and win the World Series that year. These two teams also closed the 2022 season against each. The last series that the Phillies have lost was that series, but the Phillies took one game on the back of a spectacular performance from Game 1 starter Aaron Nola – that is currently the last game the Astros lost, having swept through the playoffs thus far.
With all of these connections intertwining the franchises, how could you not be romantic about baseball? The World Series starts tonight. Phillies are looking to be the third NL East team to defeat the Astros in the World Series since they won the pennant in a cheating scandal-surrounded 2017 run.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire