Results tagged ‘ Game 6 ’

1/15/11 – High Hopes…

In addition to the now daily, “you are going to Phillies Phantasy Camp really soon” email from the ESF folks, I received something else yesterday that really got me in to the spirit… like I need anymore fuel to that particular fire.

A friend of mine from D.C. sent me a DVD released in 2003 called “High Hopes: The Anatomy of a Winner: The Story of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies”. Enclosed was a note saying how he found this DVD while cleaning his apartment, and thought I would appreciate it and get me in the mood for Camp.  I must say, this was a mighty thoughtful gesture. You are the best, Steve.

I stopped what I was doing and popped the DVD in.  Almost immediately, I started beaming. A 90-minute documentary about my favorite team of all time, narrated by Larry Andersen and John Kruk? This was going to be fun. The only DVD I have relating to this team is the MLB-sanctioned postseason highlight film. It’s not bad, but you don’t get a great sense of what that team was all about. This film… THIS is what I want to see. Anyone who distinctly remembers that season will be instantly transported back to that time, and how much fun it was to follow those characters.

When that season started, I was a junior in high school. I remember watching the first game against the Houston Astros with my dad, marveling at Terry Mulholland’s complete game and newcomers Pete Incaviglia and Jim Eisenreich’s instant impact, knocking in a run each. I didn’t want to hinge the outcome of the entire season on one game, but there was definitely something very different about this team. They looked REALLY good. This movie did such a great job returning me to that particular night.

The rest of the film was perfect. It brought back so many memories. It gave me the chills hearing the radio and TV calls of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn… all the great highlights and stories I will never forget, and some that had completely slipped my mind…

- I totally forgot that poor Jim Eisenreich was called “Jeffrey Dahmer” because of his slight resemblance to the famous serial killer. You KNOW he has a good sense of humor to be able to put up with that.

- Game 6 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies bring in Stephen Gunzenhauser, the music director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, to conduct “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7thinning stretch. As he is leaning out of the booth, a fan steals his oversized baton mid-song. He was left there to continue in his nice tux and tails, sans baton. Classic.

But what really makes this DVD special is being able to watch all the in-depth interviews of the players who I will be meeting in five short days. These guys are good old-fashioned ballplayers that every person can easily relate to.

They love the game. They love the camaraderie. They love to have fun. That’s what that team was all about. That’s what baseball should be all about.

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…

 

Introduction

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2010

I don’t know exactly what age I was when I first learned that my favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, held an annual “fantasy camp” at their Spring Training facility in Clearwater, FL. According to the “second most important male voice in life at the time”, Harry Kalas, attendees would spend several days playing baseball with other camp-goers and ex-Phillies players.  I looked to my dad to make sure I heard that correctly.  Harry might as well have said the entire Phillies team will come to my house and play nine innings in our backyard. It was that preposterous. Harry wouldn’t lie to me, right? Dad gave me a reassuring smile and told me it was indeed true.

My hopes were immediately dashed though when I found out that you had to be at least 30 years of age to attend. Once again, the powers that be were denying this kid the basic human right to have fun. Thirty?! That’s an eternity! (So goes the thought process for every boy and girl that age).

Years went by and my desire to fib about my age and attend Phantasy Camp had waned. My love of baseball turned to other interests like music and playing drums. My posters of Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose were being replaced with rock stars and Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. In addition to Schmidt, it also did not help that my favorite player, Garry Maddox, had retired. Compound that with the fact that my team went through a pretty long period of less-than-stellar play on the field, save for the statistical outlier that was 1993 (easily one the most fun-filled seasons following the Phillies… although did you have to lose 15-14 at my first ever World Series game? Come on. That was painful).

I moved to New York City in early 2001 and I followed the Phillies with even more fervor.  Baseball was slowly making a comeback in Philadelphia. There were a lot of reasons to get excited about this organization. That season saw them turn around with a winning record, led by new manager and Phillies legend, Larry Bowa. A new ballpark was on the way. Amazing homegrown talent was coming up like Jimmy RollinsRandy Wolf, and Pat Burrell. Catcher Mike Lieberthal was coming in to his own. Outfielder Bobby Abreu became a quiet superstar. Later, free agent Jim Thome graced Philadelphia with his presence. Chase Utley soon followed, along with a first baseman making a lot of noise down in the minor leagues named Ryan Howard.  And as any baseball fan knows, what has become of Philadelphia Phillies baseball in the last half of this decade has been nothing short of pure bliss for their fanbase. Right Harry?

My dad and I outside Citizens Bank Park, July 24, 2004.

In the last several years, my dad and I became even more fanatical about our team. Whenever it was on the phone or face-to-face, our conversations centered round the Phillies.  He and I had always been extremely close. The Phillies made us even closer.

On November 4, 2009, my father passed away.  Apart from the obvious shock, pain and heartache that surrounded me that day, what made it even worse was the fact that it was the same day as Game 6 of the World Series against the Yankees… a game (and Series) the Phillies would lose. I wrote an article for prosportsblogging.com detailing that day.

Once I was able to start focusing again on the things I loved to do, the idea of attending the Phillies Phantasy Camp went off like a light bulb. Why not? I had the time and resources now (I also finally met the age requirement. I would turn 35 during the camp in January 2011… same day as Carlos Ruiz… let’s add in “birthday present to myself” shall we?) I ran the thought by my wife. She didn’t even let me finish my sentence before she gave me a hundred emphatic “yeses”.  Not only would this be a wonderful, exciting, and therapeutic experience for me, but it would be the ultimate tribute to my father: A man, no matter how tired he was after a long day at work, would rush home to have a catch with his son in the backyard before the sun went down and to talk about baseball. A man who used sports as a way to comfort ourselves after my mother passed away when I was 14. A man who made his only child his number one priority.

I called the very next morning. After a 20-minute phone conversation with the enrollment coordinator, I knew I made the right decision.

And I knew I had to document this entire process…

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