Results tagged ‘ NLCS ’

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.

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.

12/10/10 – 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? 

12/8/10 – 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.

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.