Former pinch-hitting specialist Greg Gross enjoys history at Hall of Fame
Gross was a lefty-swinging starting outfielder during his early years with the Astros, even finishing second to future Phillies teammate Bake McBride in the 1974 National League Rookie of the Year voting, but became an integral part-time player during his 10 seasons with the Phillies, helping them capture the 1980 World Series and the 1983 National League pennant.
“Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, both Hall of Famers, were at the top of their games during those early years with the Phillies,” said Gross, sporting his 1980 World Series ring. “You just watched how those guys prepared. And watching those guys you never knew if they were hitting .300 or whether they were 15-2 or 2-15, their demeanors never changed.
“And I later played with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Tony Perez with the Phillies at the end of their careers. I had played against them when they were with Cincinnati. They got hot when it got down to the end where we were fighting for a pennant in 1983. Those two guys sort of caught fire and had that one last run. Were they the same players they were years ago? No. But they got big hits during key at-bats.”
Gross, who said he enjoyed facing Expos righty Steve Rogers but remembered Pirates southpaw John Candelaria as being especially tough, began his big league career by not homering in his first 1,887 plate appearances before finally going deep as a member of the Cubs while playing at Wrigley Field in July 1977.
“I spent two seasons with Chicago before they had lights, obviously, and the way the city treated the Cubs was fantastic and something I’ll never forget,” he said. “And it was phenomenal to watch future Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter come into games and just dominate. He’d come in and pitch three innings sometimes. To be able to do what he did in that ballpark was amazing.
“And to see the Cubs finally win the World Series this year was pretty exciting, too. I was happy for them.”
For the past two decades Gross, 64, has been able to share his batting knowledge as both a major and minor league hitting coach with the Rockies, Phillies and Diamondbacks, most recently working with Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno, Nevada, since 2013.
“I still like coaching and physically I’m still able to do it, so unless something happens I can see myself doing it for another year or so,” Gross said. “As far as my role as hitting coach, I think as the way the game has evolved now it’s more psychology than it is anything. Everybody gets caught up in mechanics and a lot of times that creates a lot of problems.
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum