“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”
Philip Joseph Todt was a left-handed first baseman/outfielder from Missouri, born in St. Louis on August 9, 1901. He was born near the hotel where the big-league players stayed in St. Louis and that’s how he got hooked on baseball, getting to know some of the people around the game.
He started pitching at Kendrick High School and was already attracting attention at the age of 15. After Kendrick he went to boarding school in Clayton, Missouri, at Chaminade College Preparatory School, and lettered in football and basketball, as well as baseball. He also pitched in the St. Louis Municipal League, for the Arcadias, who won the pennant. There he was spotted by Branch Rickey of the Cardinals, who attempted to sign the 16-year-old to a Cards contract.
Phil would have had to quit high school and it was in prep school that he decided to become a ballplayer. He had no desire to enter college for an engineering degree. Browns scout Pat Monahan signed Phil for the Browns.
Nineteen-year-old Phil reported to the Browns for spring training in 1921, and manager Lee Fohl earmarked him for Tulsa in the Class A Western League. Philbatted .306, hitting 28 home runs for the last-place club. Still deemed to need more seasoning, he was farmed out in 1922 to the Columbus Senators in the Double-A American Association, another last-place team. The Browns’ option on himt ran out by 1923 and he was sold to the San Antonio Bears of the Texas League.
After three years managing the Browns, Lee Fohl had taken the reins of the Boston Red Sox and Boston bought his contract and that of four other Bears. The Red Sox held spring training that year in San Antonio, so in one sense Phil just kept on. He made the team in a backup role and didn’t start his first game until June. He backed up first baseman Joe Harris. But Harris had a tonsillectomy in mid-June, giving Phil more of a chance to play, than might otherwise have been the case.
Over the wintertime, Fohl said he planned to start Phil at first base, despite Harris hitting .301 in 1924. At the end of April 1925, Harris was traded to Washington and the job was Phil’s to keep. He filled the Red Sox first-base slot for the next six seasons.
In 1925 he played in 141 games, increased his batting average to .278, and hit 11 home runs, driving in a career-high 75 runs. He led the Red Sox in both of the latter two categories. All in all, Todt was an excellent first baseman with a lifetime fielding percentage of .992. His average declined in 1926 from .278 to .255 but his seven homers still led the Red Sox and his 69 RBIs were tops of the team, too.
He hit one less homer in 1927, and still led the Red Sox. While Babe Ruth was hitting 60 for the Yankees, Phil’s six led the Babe’s former team. The Red Sox, as a team, hit only 28 four-baggers that season. Phil improved in 1928, his average climbing back to .252 and his homers climbing to a career high of 12. His average climbed another 10 points, to .262, in 1930. For the five years through 1932, he was fairly consistent.
In 1930, he faced competition from Bill Sweeney at first base. Sweeney was three years younger, and the Red Sox put both Todt on waivers. When presented with an offer from Philadelphia the Red Sox decided to take the money at $7,500.
The Red Sox’ Bob Quinn was looking for more power and he didn’t get it. But he may have nonetheless made the right move in thinking Phil’s better days were behind him (Phil was 28). Phil ended up on a pennant-winner in 1931, but playing behind Jimmie Foxx, he wasn’t going to get much playing time. In November he was sent to the St. Paul Saints to complete a trade for first baseman Oscar Roettger.
Todt had a lot more baseball in him, and was the regular first baseman for the Saints for the next six seasons, 1932 through 1937. In 1933, he assumed the managerial reins for the last month of the season and when Gabby Street became ill in 1937, Todt took over as manager again. In December, Todt and two others were traded to the Dallas Steers (Texas League). He played in 69 games in 1938 and was hitting.239 when he was traded to the Chattanooga Lookouts.
In 1939, Phil took up an offer to manage the Northern League’s Crookston Pirates in Minnesota. Crookston finished last, and Phil didn’t finish the season. He did put himself into three games and went 5-for-9 with two doubles, but those were his final at-bats in organized ball.
After he finished playing baseball, Phil ran a flower shop in St. Louis and was an official with the St. Louis Bowling Association. He played in a couple of old-timers games and helped run a baseball school in the early 1950s.
Phil Todt died on November 15, 1973 at the age of 72 in St. Louis.