Card: 1988 Topps #283
"Growing up you couldn't wait until Saturday morning for the game. It was a lot of fun. During the lockout I was just hanging out. I had little input on the decision-making. You didn't have to worry about those things when you were a kid; playing the game was fun. Injuries happen and you start thinking about life after baseball, you find yourself sitting on the sidelines, watching your teammates play and thinking about having to come back from another injury." - Phil Lombardi in The New York Times, 9 July 1990.)
Phil Lombardi was born in Abilene, Texas, on February 20, 1963. He attended John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, Los Angeles. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 3rd round of the 1981 MLB draft. He played five seasons in the minor leagues from 1981 to 1985, played for the Yankees in 1986 and 87 and for the NY Mets in 1989.
He made his MLB debut on April 26, 1986 for the Yankees at the age of 23, entering as a defensive replacement for Ron Hassey behind the plate in the fifth inning. On his first fielding chance, he committed a throwing error on a stolen base attempt by Brett Butler, and went hitless in his first two at bats in a 3–2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
In his first season, Lombardi posted a .278 batting average with two home runs and six runs batted in (RBI), and did not commit any more errors behind the plate (though he did have two in left field). He played just five major league games the following year, hitting one single in eight at bats for a .125 average.
Lombardi was traded to the New York Mets with Steve Frey and Darren Reed on December 11, 1987, for Rafael Santana and Victor Garcia. He spent two seasons with their Triple-A affiliate, the Tidewater Tides. He made only eighteen appearances with the major league team in 1989 and played his final major league game on October 1 that same year, at the age of 26. Phil was claimed on waivers by the Atlanta Braves on April 4, 1990, before announcing his retirement five days later.
After retiring from baseball, Lombardi became highly successful in the real estate world and helped establish the Valencia office of Pinnacle Estate Properties. But the way his baseball career ended bothered him.
“I had idols like Johnny Bench and Pete Rose because I thought I could have a career like they did,” he said in a 1992 interview. “Instead, I became a so-so player, in all honesty. My career was one step forward and one step backward. A lot of things happened, but in the end, my injuries wiped me out.” He also coached little league in Santa Clarita, California. He died on May 20, 2021 at 58 years old from complications related to brain cancer.
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