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Tom Qualters

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Thomas Francis Qualters
(Money Bags)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Pitcher Tom Qualters was a bonus baby with the Philadelphia Phillies, signed out of high school for $40,000. He was a great athlete in high school, excelling in baseball, basketball and football. Football was his favorite sport, but he gave it up when he realized that his professional prospects were much better in baseball. He went 27-5 as a high school pitcher and pitched a couple of one-hitters during which he struck out 21 and 24 batters. He was the most sought-after prospect in the country when he graduated.

He was not well received by teammates when he joined the Phillies, as the team had cut popular veteran Jackie Mayo to make room for the youngster on June 16, 1953. He had a distinctive rookie year as he posted an ERA of 162.00. In his only appearance that year, on September 13th against the St. Louis Cardinals, he allowed six earned runs and retired just one batter. The first batter he faced, Steve Bilko, hit a homer off him. All he had done since signing, however, was ride the bench and pitch some batting practice, so it is understandable that he was not ready to contribute. However, because of the bonus rule of that time, he had to remain on the Phillies' roster for two years, earning the nickname "Money Bags" from his teammates. He did not play at all during the 1954 season on the first months of 1955. His 1954 season is the only one in which a major leaguer was on a team's roster for the entire year and yet did not appear in a single game; there are a couple of other cases in which coaches were on the active roster for a year without playing, but in those cases they clearly had other duties to perform and their presence on the roster was just accessory. Qualters' only actin that year, beside batting practice, came in a few exhibition games with nothing at stake.

The Phillies were finally able to send him down to the minors in June of 1955, when he could begin his professional career in earnest. He went 8-9, 4.90 for the Reidsville Phillies of the Class B Carolina League thane made a big jump the next season, to the Miami Marlins of the AAA International League. He became a swingman there, and pitched pretty well, going 5-5, 3.38 in 1956 and 11-12, 3.29 in 1957. One of his teammates the first season was Satchel Paige, who became a close friend. Satchel's line of wisdom to him was: "Kid, those sons-of-bitches can beat ya, but they can't eat ya". After those two years spent in the International League, he had a couple more cups of coffee with Philadelphia, in 1957 and 1958, before purchased by the Chicago White Sox on April 30, 1958. He pitched respectably for the Sox the remainder of that year, putting up a 4.19 ERA in 43 innings as a reliever.

He once had 2 walks as a batter on June 3, 1958 against the New York Yankees. Both walks were issued by Johnny Kucks. Kucks only gave up 3 walks in the game and 2 were to Qualters. Qualters didn't have a good game pitching; he pitched 4 and 1/3 innings, giving up 6 hits, 4 earned runs, walking 2 and striking out no one.

He had the inside track to be the Sox's fifth starter in 1959, but he hurt his arm in spring training, when pitching coach Ray Berres attempted to change his mechanics. He was sent down to AAA and went 7-11, 3.34 for the Indianapolis Indians, but he was pitching in pain. He then spent time with a number of different minor league teams in different organizations from 1960 to 1962, but never regained his effectiveness and retired.

In total, Qualters appeared in 34 games without a major league decision. He holds the distinction of being the only pitcher to appear on a Topps baseball card four times without ever recording a win or loss.

After baseball, Qualters managed ARCO service stations for a while then found his true calling as a conservation officer, as he had always been a lover of the outdoors. He had five children and 10 grandchildren. Qualters' grandson, Shawn Stiffler, is head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, and another grandson, Ian Stiffler, was selected in the 2013 amateur draft.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Stephen D. Boren: "Tom Qualters’s Amazing 1954 Season for the Philadelphia Phillies", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 98-100.
  • Sam Zygner: "Phillies Bonus Babies, 1953–57", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 92-97.

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