Phil Garner was a 5'10" second and third baseman from Jefferson City, Tennessee. Born April 30th, 1949, he was originally drafted in the first round of the 1971 January secondary amateur draft by the Oakland Athletics, third overall. He made his professional debut soon afterwards with the Burlington Bees of the "A" level Midwest League, hitting .278 with 11 homers and 70 RBI in 116 contests. 1972 would see him merit two promotions, first to the "AA" level Birmingham A's, in the Southern League (.280, 12 home runs, 40 RBI, 71 games), then later with the Iowa Oaks in the "3A" American Association (.243, nine home runs, 22 RBI.
1973 would see Garner, also known as "Scrap Iron," join the "AAA" Tucson Toros out in the Pacific Coast League (.289, 14 home runs, 73 RBI, 138 games). He also saw his first major league action, with Oakland late in the season (no hits in five at bats).
In 1974, Garner spent most of his season with the Toros (.330, 11 home runs, 51 RBI, 96 games), also enjoying a cup of coffee in May with the A's, later joining them for the rest of the season on July 30th. He hit .179 in 30 plate appearances.
Garner was in the "Big Show" to stay in 1975. He spent two more seasons with Oakland, totalling a .251 average in 358 games, nailing 14 homers and 129 RBI. He was selected to represent the American League in the 1976 All-Star game. Halfway through 1977 spring training, the A's sent him along with Chris Batton and Tommy Helms to the Pirates for Tony Armas, Doug Bair, Dave Giusti, Rick Langford, Doc Medich and Mitchell Page.
In 1977, Garner hit .260 in 153 games with a career high 17 home runs, 77 RBI, and 32 stolen bases. He ranked ninth in the NL with 99 runs scored, 10th in the league with 35 doubles, and fifth in the league with 10 triples. He played mostly at third base (also making 50 appearances at second and a handful at shortstop) while batting first, second, and seventh in the lineup. On July 10th, in the second game of a doubleheader, he went 3-for-5 with a double, three RBI and three runs as the Bucs dispatched the Philadelphia Phillies, 12-10. Pittsburgh went 96-66, missing the NL East title by five games behind the Phils.
In 1978, Garner appeared in 154 games for Pittsburgh. He hit .261 with 10 home runs, 27 stolen bases, and 66 RBI. He ranked fourth in the NL with nine triples. He started every spot in the order at least once (appearing in the ninth spot as a pinch hitter), but mostly hit sixth or seventh splitting his season between second base and third. On September 15th, he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning, going 2-for-3 with a walk in a 6-1 victory over the Montreal Expos. The Pirates again missed out on the postseason behind Philadelphia, going 88-73 and missing the slot by a game and a half.
1979 would see the Pirates go 98-64, winning the division by two games over Montreal before sweeping the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS (three games) and taking seven games to send the Baltimore Orioles home disappointed. Garner hit .472 (17-for-36) in postseason play. When you add in his four walks, his OBP was .512. Through the regular season, he hit a career high .293 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI hitting second, sixth, seventh, and eighth in the order. He split the season between second and third, making a handful of starts at short. In the first game of a doubleheader on July 27th, he went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in a 5-4 win over the Expos.
In 1980, Garner was selected to his second career all-star game (and first since joining the NL). In 151 games, he hit .259 with 62 runs and 58 RBI. He played the whole season at second base, again filling the second, sixth, seventh, and eighth slots in the batting order. In a 5-0 win over the Expos on April 30th, he hit two home runs, knocking in three. In the first game of a doubleheader on August 10th, he went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI and a run in a 7-1 win over the Phillies. At 83-79, the Bucs weren't good enough to repeat, missing the playoffs by finishing eight games behind the Phillies.
1981 would see Garner reprise his role on the NL all-star team. He hit .248 in 87 games for the Bucs. Just prior to the trading deadline, the Pirates sent him to Houston for players to be named later for Johnny Ray. (The Astros completed the trade a week later by shipping Kevin Houston and Randy Niemann to Pittsburgh). Garner played parts of seven seasons in Houston (753 games, .260, 49 home runs, 320 RBI). He also made appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers (70 games, .190, two home runs, eight RBI), and the San Francisco Giants (15 games, .154, one RBI).
Garner went into the managerial pool after retirement, and has captained the Milwaukee Brewers, the Detroit Tigers, and the Houston Astros. He is currently a "special advisor" with the Oakland Athletics.
All-Time Statline: Five seasons, 664 games, .267/.335/.404, 639-for-2391, 125 doubles, 35 triples, 44 home runs, 280 RBI, 112 stolen bases, 243 walks, 284 strikeouts, 12.3 wins above replacement.