October 2010

10/27/10 – The Lineup

A very timely email arrived in my inbox today, only a couple hours before the rather disheartening first pitch of the 2010 World Series. From the desk of the Phillies Phantasy Camp folks came a message officially counting down the days until camp in January. A great pick-me-up for my fellow campgoers and Phillies fans.  On the left side of the message was an alphabetical listing of the last names of all the former Phillies players who will be in attendance. I cannot believe I will be spending five days fraternizing with all of these gentlemen.

Larry Andersen
Bob Boone
Ricky Bottalico
Warren Brusstar
Marty Bystrom
Mariano Duncan
Jim Eisenreich
Tyler Green
Tommy Greene
Terry Harmon
Dave Hollins
Ricky Jordan
John Kruk
Mike Lieberthal
Greg Luzinski
Mickey Morandini
Keith Moreland
Dickie Noles
Juan Samuel
Kevin Stocker
Von Hayes
Mitch Williams

Eleven players from the 1993 NL East Championship team. Six players from the 1980 World Championship team. Two of the greatest catchers ever to don a Phillies uniform. One no-hitter. Over 35 years of Phillies history. Wow.

I have such distinct memories of every single one of these players….

My Juan Samuel and Von Hayes Starting Lineup action figures.

My “Fan Photo Day” pictures of Ricky Jordan and John Kruk… his very first day in a Phillies uniform.

Coming home from school and catching the last couple innings of Tommy Greene’s no-hitter against the Montreal Expos.

For the players I was quite too young to remember, I had my baseball cards and stories from my dad to fuel my imagination.

But the one player I am very excited to meet is Mr. Jim Eisenreich. One of my all-time favorite anecdotes about my father involves good ol’ Eisey from back during the 1993 season.

That one I will save for camp.

As I finish typing this, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers in Game One of the World Series. All of a sudden, that particular bitter taste has gone away. 

Phillies, you know how to make a guy feel so much better.

10/24/10 – “…and in The End”, NLCS Game Six


In late June and early July, I realized that there would be a strong possibility that the Phillies may not make an appearance in their third straight World Series. As disappointing as this prospect was, I was totally fine with it. I had already experienced a lifetime’s worth of sports-related happiness in the previous three seasons with the Phillies. Not many teams in the history of professional baseball had accomplished what the Phils had done in this time frame. I was not going to complain about one off year. I’ve already been through a plethora of  “off” years. It happens to the best of every team.

The last three weeks of the regular season in September however, completely wiped clean all the shortcomings the team had gone through, from numerous injuries to a season-long offensive funk. In that short amount of time, the team went on a fantastic hot streak. Coupled with various degrees of cold snaps by every other playoff-contending team, most importantly by their division rival, the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies not only won the NL East, but ended with the best record in all the Major Leagues, something they have never done in their franchise history. To be honest, I still could not believe everything that was going on. As pleased as I was, I was not completely convinced that this team was that good. Even before the first pitch of the playoffs, the Phillies ended on top of every pundit’s “power rankings”. Every blogger/writer, TV expert, etc., practically handed the World Championship trophy to Philadelphia.

As Harrison Ford once said, “Never tell me the odds”.

Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the first game of the NLDS against the Reds completely reversed my thinking. This team WAS the real deal. Selfishly, I thought that they were now going to win it all to bring everything that I went through in the past year full circle. The end of the ’09 season ended on the lowest of lows. The ’10 will end on the highest of highs. And while the offense performed as it had for the entire season, the pitching prevailed and easily handed Cincinnati a quick baseball death.

Unfortunately, Doc could not repeat. He lost the first game of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. I immediately retreated to the bedroom. The world no longer made sense to me. There was no conceivable way that loss had just occurred. My fairy tale ending had just had an unwanted and unpleasant plot twist thrown into the story. If the Phillies did not come away from this postseason with anything less than a ring, I honestly did not know what I would do.

Life however, is not a fairy tale. Neither are sports. For every dramatic walk-off World Series-winning home run, there is a fan base who, for the unforeseeable future, will be in utter disbelief, slowly shaking their heads, possibly wiping away tears of agony. In 2001, the Yankees were destined to win the World Series. In the shadow of 9/11, baseball’s most storied franchise had overcome a national tragedy (and late inning deficits) to dramatically bring the Fall Classic to a Game Seven. The ending was written.

That ending did not happen.

The Rock of Gibraltar that is Mariano Rivera did the unthinkable. He blew a save and the Yankees lost. That to me, is what makes baseball the most humbling and beautiful of sports. A team can only win 60% of it’s games and still be the best in the Majors. A player is considered a very good hitter if he succeeds only 30% of the time. Disappointment and failure are a daily occurrence in baseball. Anything can happen, good or bad, at any time during a baseball game. This is why sports, especially baseball, resonates with millions of individuals. These are just games. It’s pure entertainment. But unlike an album, movie, book or TV show where we can lose ourselves in what’s being presented to us, sports add another element: pride. Your team works towards a goal that will bring the ultimate joy to a town and a legion of fans. Yet we all know there needs to be sacrifice. There will be amazing highs and devastating lows. It’s inevitable. The reward for loyalty? Something you cannot put a price on. 

When Ryan Howard got caught looking on a 3-2 cutter from Giants reliever Brian Wilson to end Game Six of the NLCS, and the Phillies 2010 season, all I could do was give a tiny shake of the head and flash a little grimace. The atmosphere of 45,000 screaming fans and a sea of white rally towels did not make this fairy tale end the way it should have for me or the rest of the Phaithful. But unlike Halladay’s loss in Game One, I immediately took this result in stride. Like you would in any negative situation in life, you brush yourself off and tell yourself, in a matter of words, “there is always next season”.

Thank you Phillies for a very memorable 2010 season. Much love…

 

10/12/10 – Invitation

The day after the Phillies found out they would be opposing the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series, an envelope from Phillies Phantasy Camp arrived in my mailbox. It was my official invitation to Phantasy Camp Orientation in mid-November at Citizens Bank Park. According to the invitation, in addition to receiving all the camp-related materials and paperwork, I will also be fitted for my authentic Phillies uniform, have my picture taken for the media guide, meeting the “Commissioner”, and receive “a few surprises” along the way. When I was told about this orientation in March, I thought November sounded like an eternity, especially since the baseball regular season hadn’t even started at that point. Now it’s only a month away.

The Phillies have gotten one step closer to another World Series appearance. The camp is just over three months away. Time flies when you are having fun.

10/6/10 – Roy Halladay’s No-Hitter

During the second at-bat of the game, Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera hit a foul back straight back in to one of the luxury boxes. A man mishandled it and it fell in to the hands of a nun sitting right next to him. I am not a religious man, but I was not going to write off that little particular moment.

I stood at my seat for what seemed like forever. Roy Halladay was surrounded by throngs of media and the Phaithful started making their way to the exits. Now mostly by myself, I continued to stand, stare, and ever so slightly, shake my head. I started to cry. Tears of sadness and tears of joy. It was the single greatest sporting event I have ever been to. It was one the best moments in Philadelphia sports history. It was one one of the most historic games in baseball history. And I was there.

So was my dad.

He wanted me to go to this game. He was there. That’s why a grown man cried at a baseball game.

End of the warmup. Now to the ninth.

The rest of my photographs from this day can be found here on my Flickr page.

10/4/10 – Happy October

…aaaaand exhale.

Major League Baseball’s regular season came to an incredible end yesterday. It could have been even more dramatic depending on the outcome of two games in the National League, one of them being the Phillies versus the Atlanta Braves. The number of possible scenarios to determine the final playoff slots was just mind-blowing.  I think one of my softball teams was even involved somehow. In the end, many a travel secretary breathed a huge sigh of relief as the playoffs were set nice and neat.

So with that all settled, the Phillies, who ended up with the best record in the Majors, now face the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Division Series. I am really intrigued by this matchup. When I first started writing for prosportsblogging.com in 2009, I covered the Reds for the first half of the season. A lot of people found them a bit of a surprise this year, taking the NL Central crown. I did not expect them to run away with the division, but I knew with their pool of very talented young players and ^cough^ Scott Rolen ^cough^, they were going to make it very interesting for the favorite St. Louis Cardinals.

These two franchises have some history together…

Bill Giles, the Phillies chairman and part owner, started his life in baseball tagging along with his father, Warren Giles, who was a longtime executive for the Reds, and whose name now adorns the National League Championship Trophy.

- The Big Red Machine steamrolling the Phils in the 1976 Championship Series.

- In 1983, three members from The Big Red Machine (Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan) played together on the Phillies, leading them to a World Series appearance.

- In 1989, Paul O’Neill, after misplaying a line drive, kicked the ball perfectly to the cutoff man to prevent Steve Jeltz from scoring, pretty much summing up Jeltzy’s career in baseball.

——————–

I was fortunate to see the first game of the 1993 NLCS against the Braves at Veterans Stadium. If you all remember, that was one helluva game. So I decided I would take my perfect Game One record and get a ticket for the opening act of this season’s NLDS. Needless to say, I am extremely excited. As anyone who has ever attended a postseason baseball game knows, nothing beats the atmosphere of the playoffs. It’s otherworldly. It’s nothing short of a religious experience.

Through a co-worker, my dad was able to not only get tickets to the NLCS, but also the ’93 World Series.  I was so excited that I would be going to these games with him, but surprisingly, he did not attend either game with me. He insisted I bring one of my friends because he thought I would have more fun with them and they would appreciate it more. I begged him to go. I didn’t want anyone else with me for those games, especially since a Phillies postseason appearance was about a frequent as a Haley’s Comet flyby. He didn’t relent. I ended up going with two different friends and had a blast at both, even though they lost the World Series game we attended.

Still, I really missed him at those games. His only answer to my befuddlement about his voluntary absence was a simple, “I just don’t feel like going”. He worked hard every day, commuting in and out of Center City Philadelphia. I’m sure the LAST thing he wanted to do was drive back in to the city and deal with 62,000 people in the Vet parking lot on a weeknight. I can’t say I don’t blame him if that was the case.

I’m sure another reason was the fact that he was that kind of man… a man who immediately thought of himself last and only wanted me to have as much fun as possible.  As the years go by, I find myself to be more and more like my dad in that aspect. My wife frequently tells me how much I don’t “do anything for myself”. Well, like the Phantasy Camp, I’m doing something for myself, have fun and go to Game One on Wednesday. Unfortunately, she cannot go with me, but, if the planets align just right (i.e. H20 shuts the Reds down), we will be going to more playoffs games. So even though I’ll be flying solo on Wednesday, my dad has no choice but to go with me this time.

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