December 2010

12/28/10 – This Day in Legend History – Mickey Morandini


In the midst of all the holiday hullabaloo, I forgot to update the diary on December 23rd. On that day in 1997, Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini was traded to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Doug Glanville. Another popular and important cog in the 1993 machine was shipped to Chicago’s North side. Luckily for Phillies fans, this resulted in the acquisition of another future favorite among the Phaithful.

Glanville was a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. He was enamored with the city and it’s baseball team. As part of his thesis, Glanville wrote about the feasibility of new ballpark for the Phillies who still called Veterans Stadium home. While manning centerfield, his hard-work ethic, and clean and classy persona quickly drew comparisons to another famous Phillie centerfielder, Garry Maddox. In fact, Glanville won the first ever Garry Maddox Community Service Award for the Phillies in 2000. In that same year, both Morandini and Glanville’s paths passed as Mickey made a return to the Phillies for 91 games before being traded again to the Toronto Blue Jays. Glanville signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers in 2003 and made a brief return to the Chicago Cubs, the team that originally drafted him in 1991. And like Morandini, Glanville made a brief return to the club in 2004 before retiring the next year.

Glanville is now a successful writer, baseball analyst, businessman, etc etc. You can read all about his accomplishments on his website. When I started this diary, I immediately thought of Doug. His excellent writing and love of the sport of baseball are infectious and I couldn’t think of a better person to share my blog with. I wrote him an email in early October. A couple days later, during Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds in fact, I received an incredible response from him:

“Hey Bryan! Thanks for sending this along and of course it really resonates with me because I spend a lot of my time thinking of things my Dad told me, what he would say, what he would feel about being a grandfather if he had the chance. My kids are 2 and 1 years old and they are growing so quickly. Because I understand at such a visceral level, the connection and loss of a father, I try to think about what kind of relationship I want with my son and daugther. All I can say is keep searching and sharing because so many people really do understand what you are going through. That is why writing really was a gift to me. I found the one thing that made me feel like my father was sitting on the shoulder. Giving ideas, chiming in like he always used to do. I understand why he would just walk out of a room just to write a poem, why he needed to write something at a moment. It has been a bonus to see how many people have found that space in my writing. The compassion, the empathy, the humanity in the game.”

Pure class.

12/25/10 – Christmas



This Christmas, my wife decided to raid the Phillies online shop and shower me with t-shirts, hoodies, shorts, and jackets, all with the expressed purpose of  “getting me ready for Camp”… not that I need any more reason to walk around New York City in Phillies-related gear on a daily basis. However, the pièce de résistance was easily the customized mug (seen above). Every time I look at it, it gives me a great little jolt of excitement. Even though the uniform number is not the same, it’s so great seeing my name on the back of a Phillies jersey. In just three weeks, the real thing will be staring me right in the face… sort of like Jayson Werth on this mug (although I think he’s just staring in to space… as usual).

There are some nice personal connections with my “mug uniform” donning the number 22…

Mike Schmidt was my very first baseball idol and he will forever be known for “20”, but his first number? 22

My birthday falls on the 22nd.

Years ago I purchased a very slick button down dress shirt that resembles a ’70’s-’80’s road uniform… maroon “P”, piping,  blue base… the number on the back? 22

My favorite basketball player of all time is Lionel Simmons. My father was a graduate of LaSalle University and was a very big fan of the basketball program. With the Phillies in decline in the late ’80’s, my dad and I turned our focus towards the LaSalle team. From ’86-’90, Simmons was one of the best and most electric players in the country and brought the program back to national prominence. We listened to every game on the radio and dissected every move the next morning as we poured over the box score and newspaper write up. Just like our early evening catches, this was another one of our sports-related bonding moments. And at the time, it was absolutely necessary for us. At this time, my mother was in the final stages of her long battle with cancer. And after she passed away in late 1990, we used LaSalle basketball as our therapy. It was a healthy and much needed distraction. Even after Simmons graduated and went on to the NBA and the Sacramento Kings, we kept up our fervor. We got season tickets. We traveled to opposing team venues to watch them play. It was fantastic. It was exactly what we needed… (oh, Simmons’ uniform number? 22)

——————–

Like Christmas, this upcoming Phantasy Camp is all about childhood memories, dreams, and wishes. Like my father did 20 years before, my wife has made it a point to make sure that I keep focused on the things that make me happy, and this Camp is the ultimate experience for me to not only be a kid again, but to heal, and remember all the love I have in my life. I am truly the luckiest man in the world.

12/19/10 – One month…

…to go until Phantasy Camp.

I cannot believe it’s right around the corner.

12/18/10 – This Day in Legend History – Larry Andersen


In 1992, Larry Andersen signed as a free agent with the Phillies, returning for his second stint with the club. He came back to the team at the perfect time, not only helping lead the Phils to the 1993 World Series, but added to the myriad of personalities that made this club one of the most distinctive of all time. Andersen’s humor and antics became stuff of legend, particularly when he first came to the Phils in 1983. Just ask Schmidty.

He was also involved in some trade with the Houston Astros in 1990. I don’t know too much more about that, but I heard it was pretty big…

12/16/10 – “We’d like to introduce…”

At three 0’clock yesterday afternoon, I got very excited. At 3:01, I had the chills. Cliff Lee was back, wearing a Phillies uniform again. This time, for good. At the end, I became a giddy schoolboy. I don’t think I’ve been this excited for an upcoming baseball season… and this is after four straight years of baseball nirvana. Excellence on the diamond has almost become old hat for the Phillies, but with the addition of Lee, this just turns it up to 11.

You could see it everyone’s faces. The moderator, Phillies Public Affairs Director Scott Palmer, stood in front of the podium to introduce Ruben Amaro Jr. and Cliff Lee. Scott has a very distinctive smile, one that all Philadelphians know from his days on Channel 6. I saw that smile firsthand the night of the Phantasy Camp Orientation. It’s a truly genuine smile…. So there he stood, in the corner of the press room… the same room I started my Orientation in… and beamed. He beamed like a little kid on Christmas morning. His joy over the return of Cliff was clearly obvious.

Ruben spoke first and had the exact same smile. This was more than just landing a big free agent. This was bringing pure elation to a loving and devoted fanbase. Amaro has been a Phillie from birth: From his father, a former Phillie, to growing up in the area, to having two tours with the team as a player, to working his way up through the front office to General Manager… today, he was simply a fan.

After the press conference was over and Amaro had handed Cliff his old number 33, MLB Network’s Matt Yallof and Phantasy Camp Legend Mitch Williams (both Comcast Philadelphia alumni) interviewed Lee. Mitch, who makes no bones about the fact he is still a tried and true Phillies fan, also fell under Lee’s spell. As comfortable he was questioning him and being as objective as possible, you could see how excited he was about his return… the whispering, the joking around… A truly special time in the franchise’s history has been taken to a whole new level.

Other than his constant reiterations about how much he wanted to be in Philadelphia and play for this team, the one statement that actually got me to say out loud, by myself, “yes”, came after a question about Lee “leaving money on the table” and not taking the much bigger contracts offered to him by the Yankees and Rangers:

“I guess I did. I mean, I could potentially earn this in a shorter term, so whatever. It’s plenty of money. When you hit a certain point, enough is enough. It’s a matter of where you’re comfortable, where you’re happy, where your family is most comfortable, what team gives you the best chance to win.”

Two hours earlier, about 90 miles south of Citizens Bank Park, Jayson Werth was introduced to the Washington Nationals. If you saw the press conference or have been reading Werth’s comments, you know that the Phillies-Nationals games will be very interesting now.

But my favorite quote of the day from Werth easily had to be this:

“I’ve been to the postseason a lot the past few years, and that’s what it’s all about.”

*thud*

12/15/10 – This Day in Legend History… Marty Bystrom, Ricky Bottalico, and Dave Hollins


When I attended Phantasy Camp orientation last month, in addition to Philly sports staple Scott Palmer, I got to meet two former Phillies and current Legends, Dickie Noles and Marty Bystrom. Marty was the first person I got to speak to. Like Scott and Dickie, he was very cordial and, like everyone else, repeated how much of a great time I will have in Florida. Also, at 6′ 5″, he’s a tall drink of water. I could only imagine the extra height he got with that ‘fro and bucket cap. I laugh every time I watch videos of him in 1980 being interviewed by Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. Their heads are barely in the shot.

On this day in 1976, Bystrom signed with the Phillies as an amateur free agent. He spent five seasons with the club, but what he is most famous for is his late season heroics as a rookie in 1980. He arrived in September, started six games and went an impressive 5-0 and a 1.50 ERA. He started two games in the postseason, including the deciding Game 5 in the NLCS against the Houston Astros. He also made an appearance in the 1983 World Series. He only spent six seasons in the Majors before finishing with the New York Yankees in 1985.

In 2000, Ricky Bottalico signed as a free agent with the Phillies for his second stint with the club. This time, he was used as a middle reliever setting up the now established closer, Jose Mesa. Bottalico lasted two seasons before being bumped around by five different clubs before finishing his pitching career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005.

Like Bottalico, Dave Hollins signed as a free agent on this day in 2001, returning to the Phillies for a second time. His return was met with much happiness, but the reunion was short-lived. He only had 17 at-bat’s before having to go on the disabled list for one of the more odd “injuries” that you will hear. A noted diabetic, Hollins was bitten by spiders. This severely aggravated his diabetes and he could not properly return to playing. As disappointing and frustrating this was for him, players and fans, it was good to know that Hollins finished his career where it started.

12/14/10 – Cliff Lee


I eagerly woke up this morning to watch the MLB Network’s coverage of last night’s absolutely shocking signing of Cliff Lee by the Phillies. Instead, I was treated to a replay of Game 1 of the 2009 World Series… the game that solidified Lee’s folk hero status in Philadelphia. Because of the circumstances that revolved around this World Series with my father passing away the morning of the last game (and the fact the Phillies lost the Series), I have refused to watch any of the games again. This time, it was completely different. When I turned on the TV, the game was in the third inning, Phillies up, no score, Chase Utley at bat. Home run. All the excitement and emotion from that night came flooding back. Lee’s complete domination that night, combined with his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor, brought such incredible hope to every fan. We could win our second World Series in a row. Even better, we could do it against the Yankees.

As was the routine, my dad and I called each other as soon as the game finished. Just like he did to every Phillies fan, Lee won over my dad almost instantly. In fact, I don’t think there was ever another Phillie my dad was so thrilled about to don the red and white pinstripes. He LOVED Cliff Lee. On this night, my dad’s voice had as much excitement in it as he had after Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. We could not stop lauding his performance that night.

——————–

A little more than a month after my father’s passing, the Phillies traded away Cliff Lee in a three-team deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia… the original plan for the ’09 trade deadline. This was easily THE most bittersweet deal any Philadelphia sports team had manufactured. I was thrilled to have Halladay, but my baseball heart was absolutely broken over the departure of Lee. I thought about my dad and how deeply disappointed he would have been over this move. I was able to hear every word of his hypothetical tirade. Even with Halladay living up to every dream of Phillies fans, I know my dad would still be watching Cliff Lee’s progress with the Seattle Mariners, and later the Texas Rangers. And I know his performance in the postseason with the Rangers, who went further than the Phillies, would get him cracking open a couple extra cans of Coors Light to ease the pain.

——————-

What happened last night was magical. 

A week ago, the Phillies were the victim of a free agent signing that rocked the GM Winter Meetings. Jayson Werth left an incredible situation in Philadelphia to simply go where the money was… his sole intention. The Washington Nationals’ massive contract to Werth was eye-opening. Werth’s decision to commit to a less-than-stellar baseball club was head-shaking (I had plenty of opinions about this, so I’m not going to bother wasting more time on that subject).

Last night, the Phillies were involved in an even more Earth-shattering transaction… something practically no one saw coming. At the 11th hour, Cliff Lee gracefully declined the two extremely generous offers given to him from the Rangers and Yankees, both considered the favorites and only two teams in the running, and signed with a “mystery team” that spun the rumor mill to dangerous speeds. That team? The Philadelphia Phillies. 

Unlike Werth, he chose a team that he wanted to play for, not who gave him the most lucrative contract. Lee and his family adored Philadelphia during his first stint with the club, and he made it very clear that he was disappointed he was being shipped out. Now he had the chance to return and he took it. Yes, he still got paid very handsomely (5 years/$100 million with a 6th year option. Total: $120 million). However he left upwards of $41 million on the table by not accepting either of the offers from the Rangers or Yankees. This was not completely about the money. This was simply about being happy. Cliff Lee was already a legend to Phillies fans. This decision just upgraded him to “mythical god” status. 

Apart from the obvious thrill that comes from this reacquisition, what is really making this move emotional for me is knowing that somewhere, my dad is jumping up and down in joy. His favorite player has returned to the Phillies. And he returned for all the right reasons. 

Now I can watch Game 1 again… not with sadness, but with eternal hope and a very warm heart.

Welcome back Cliff.

12/10/10 – This Day in Legend History… Mariano Duncan


On this day in 1991, Mariano Duncan signed with the Phillies as a free agent. He brought with him great baseball intelligence and a winning attitude. Statistically, his best years to that point were with the Cincinnati Reds, where he won a World Championship in 1990. From ’92-’95, Duncan was a key piece to the Phillies infield tandem of Mickey Morandini and Kevin Stocker, sharing time between second base and shortstop, while also manning leftfield. Duncan eventually went on the the New York Yankees in 1996 where he famously exclaimed in the locker room, “We play today. We win today. ‘Das it”. The Yankees went on to win the World Series in his third appearance in the Fall Classic. Most recently, Duncan was on the other end of the Phillies Fan Fence when in 2008, as the first base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a very heated exchange occurred between he and Shane Victorino during Game 3 of the NLCS…

Let’s just forget about that, shall we? 

12/9/10 – This Day in Legend History… Von Hayes and Juan Samuel


Photo Day 1989

One of Chris Berman’s most famous signature “punny” nicknames was given to long-time Phillie Von Hayes. Von “Purple” Hayes also had another nickname bestowed upon him by the Philadelphia Phaithful, although this one wasn’t quite as whimsical or endearing. On this day in 1982, Hayes secured the nickname “5 for 1″ when he was traded to the Phillies from the Cleveland Indians for five players (Manny Trillo, Julio Franco, George Vukovich, Jay Baller, and Jerry Willard). This is not a rare transaction, especially when it involves an established player. But when the player in question has only one full, modestly successful season under his belt AND the other players involved included a veteran All-Star and Phillies folk hero in Trillo, and a prospect who went on to have a very long and successful career in Franco… the target was placed on his back before the ink even dried. 

Hayes didn’t quite live up to the huge billing he got, but he provided very solid and steady numbers at the plate, being a very good compliment to Mike Schmidt in the middle of the lineup. He helped the team to the 1983 World Series in his first year with the team and was 8th in the MVP voting in 1986. In his nine seasons with the Phillies, probably his most famous moment came in 1985 against the New York Mets. In the bottom of the opening frame, Hayes became the first player ever in MLB history to hit two home runs in the same inning. That would be a sign of things to come for the rest of the game as the Phillies went on to a 26-7 victory. In 1989, three months after the above picture was taken, Hayes hit three home runs in one game against the San Francisco Giants. 

On December 8, 1991, Hayes was traded to the California Angels where he only played 94 more games before retiring, never recovering from a broken arm resulting from a pitch from Tom Browning in the season before. Since then, Von continues to succeed as a minor league manager.

Oh… one of the players involved in the 1991 trade? Ruben Amaro Jr.

——————–

On this day, we also wish a very Happy Birthday to Juan Samuel!

——————–

I forgot to mention my favorite Mike Lieberthal story in my post on 12/6. My friends and I made a last minute decision to go see the Phillies play the Atlanta Braves on 4/10/98. Curt Schilling was facing Greg Maddux and we could not pass up this opportunity to see these two monsters of pitching face each other. We got there about 45 minutes late, thinking the game was still in it’s early stages. We were all aghast when we saw it was already the bottom of the 5th! As advertised, it was an incredible pitcher’s duel. It was such knock down-drag out fight. Mike Lieberthal came up with two on and one out and singled to center off of Mike Cather who was replaced for Greg Maddux. Game over. Even though it was early in the year and the prospects of the Phillies making any push for the playoffs were thin, the crowd that night was electric. There was nothing more satisfying than beating the hated Atlanta Braves at their own game. Thank you Lieby for providing a fantastic win.

12/8/10 – This Day in Legend History… Keith Moreland and Dickie Noles


Not only were two Legends traded on this day in 1981, but they both were sent in the same package. Catcher Keith Moreland and pitcher Dickie Noles were sent to the Chicago Cubs, along with pitcher Dan Larson, for pitcher and current San Francisco Giants commentator, Mike Krukow (Krukow was turned around the next year for Al Holland and Joe Morgan, who were key pieces to the 1983 World Series team). Moreland thrived in his new full-time gig as the Cubs catcher, putting up decent power numbers for the Northsiders for six seasons. He made stops in San Diego, Detroit, and Baltimore before retiring in 1989. Even though he was the back-up for Bob Boone, what made Moreland a household name in Philly was his exemplary play in 1980, his first full season as a rookie. He batted .314 with only 159 AB’s. He also came through in the postseason. In his only at bat in the incredible NLCS with the Houston Astros, Moreland hit into a forceout, knocking in a bases-loaded run in the huge 8th inning of fifth and final game.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.