Weiss loses friend, former teammate Phillips

Utility man played 18 years in Majors, passed away at age 56

Weiss loses friend, former teammate Phillips

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss lost more than an old teammate on Friday when he learned of the death of former Major League utility man Tony Phillips, who passed away due to an apparent heart attack at age 56.

Weiss broke in with the Athletics for 16 games in 1987, and he made the squad out of Spring Training in '88 when Phillips walked over to the former shortstop.

"He just came up to me after our workout before Opening Day in Oakland and said, 'Where are you staying?'" Weiss recalled Saturday. "I said, 'I'm going to go look for a place right now.' He said, 'You're going to live with me.'

"I did, and he took me under his wing. He ended up flying across the country to attend my wedding a couple of years later. When he left Oakland and I was still in Oakland, he had just bought a house out here in Arizona. It was brand new. He hadn't even lived in it yet, and he told me he wanted me to stay in his house for Spring Training. I actually lived in his house before he did."

Phillips stayed involved in the game well after retiring from the Majors. He played in independent leagues into his 50s, and at times would bring independent league players to Arizona Spring Training for tryouts with teams. He would also visit his friend Weiss at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

"He's a very loyal friend," Weiss said. "He could be a very intense guy, too. But when you were in his inner circle, he took that very seriously."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.