Phillies’ Best Pinch Hitter Still Hitting Life’s Curve Balls
When a boyhood dream to play baseball actually does propel a lifelong Major League career at 21 years of age, noteworthy developments happen.
Former professional baseball outfielder and Pennsylvania native Gregory Gross holds the Philadelphia Phillies’ record in career pinch hits, with 117. He ranks fifth on MLB’s all-time list in career pinch hits, as well, with 143. He’s also been a West Chester resident for the past 20 years.
This now-coach still loves EVERYthing about his dream game. “I’ll stay around baseball for absolutely as long as I can,” he assures.
Greg, 67, remembers how comfortable he felt in West Chester when he was playing with the Phillies. He grew up 60 to 70 miles nearby in York, and West Chester had that “rural/small-town feeling but with everything you’d ever want to do” offering. His wife, Konnie Crawford, joined him there in 2003 and set up her company The Crawford Shaeffer Group.
Locally, Greg’s still best remembered for his clutch pinch hitting abilities during the Phillies’ 1980 World Championship run against the Kansas City Royals as they were the first World Series played entirely on artificial turf and the first two teams squaring off in a World Series whose franchises hadn’t previously won one.
Although Greg and Konnie could’ve lived in other cities when he retired from playing baseball, they made West Chester their home–even though Greg spends baseball seasons out west as the field manager for the Reno Aces, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. He previously was the Phillies’ hitting coach, and says he still delights in mentoring baseball players.
“The sport is not all about physical talent. It’s often about common sense and having mental toughness. Part of what I brought to games was handling the ups and downs mentally well. Now, I like being a sounding board. Many things about baseball have gotten so technical and based on scientific data, it can get too measured. People forget to talk to each other,” observes Greg. “It’s still a game with no constants. It’s not a video with a reset button.”
Known as an optimistic, detailed and avid champion of baseball, Greg instills confidence and shares skills with players during and outside of games. “I’m a big proponent of being a well-rounded person,” he adds.
During Greg’s athletic MLB career spanning 1973 to 1989, he played for the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and the Phillies.
When off the diamond, Greg focuses on charitable support, particularly hosting annual golf outings for “The Roger Kirk ALS Association Golf Outing hosted by Greg Gross.” ALS is a progressive, neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its capabilities.
“Like the true pinch hitter that he is, Greg came off the bench and lent his name to the ALS Association’s annual golf outing in 2010 at the urging of his wife, Konnie,” says Ellyn Phillips, ALS Association board chair, Greater Philadelphia Chapter. “Greg never wants to be in the spotlight, however, his compassion for those with ALS brought him upfront. We’re grateful to Greg and Konnie for their commitment to helping us move closer to the cure.”
Greg’s ALS-fundraising golf event for last year was held at Old York Road Country Club in Ambler. Over the past decade, he’s help raise $500,000 for the cause. This golf haven was dear to Roger’s heart, with him even being a former club president.
“Greg is the most unassuming, humble and caring man. And Konnie, well, there’s no one as kind,” says Joan Borowsky, communications associate with the ALS Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
Greg also looks forward to spending bonding time with his 120-pound Akita, Yogi.