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100 Things Phillies Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Bill Baer
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Bill Baer
All rights reserved.
Baseball teams are often thought of in terms of players, coaches, and front-office personnel. It is rare that both the fans and the players will identify the team with someone who does not fit neatly into those three groups. Broadcaster Harry Kalas was that rare breed.
Kalas was unceremoniously hired by the Phillies in 1971 to succeed Bill Campbell. The expectations for Kalas were low, but he quickly won the hearts and minds of Phillies fans for his unique style of play-by-play. In particular, he and Richie Ashburn developed quite a rapport both on and off the air. Their affable personalities worked to make them both legends in the city of Philadelphia.
Doing the play-by-play for nearly every Phillies game from 1971 through 2008, Kalas saw the ups and downs of the Phillies franchise: the boring games and the unbelievably exciting games, the heroes and the villains. He always had a way to put his personal stamp on it all. From Mike Schmidt's 500th career home run ("Swing and a long drive! There it is! Number 500! The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!"), to Mitch Williams' 4:00 am walkoff single against the San Diego Padres in 1993 ("This game is over, on an RBI hit by Mitchy-poo!"), to Chase Utley scoring from second on an infield single ("Chase Utley, you are the man!"), Kalas left an indelible mark on Phillies baseball.
While he quickly earned the respect and admiration of Phillies fans throughout the greater Philadelphia area, the most surprising aspect was how quickly the players grew to accept him and treat him as one of their own. Frank Coppenbarger, the director of team travel and clubhouse services, said of Kalas, "He sat in the back of the plane with them, and that's pretty much unheard of. He was like a player to them."
Although the Phillies won the 1980 World Series, there was always a hole in the collective memories of Phillies fans because Kalas was not able to call the games himself due to contract stipulations with regard to nationally broadcast games. This upset Phillies fans, who quickly forced the rules to change. The Phillies reached but lost their next two World Series appearances in 1983 against the Baltimore Orioles and in 1993 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
It wasn't until 2008 that Kalas got to call the final out of a Phillies championship. You could hear the relief and satisfaction in his voice as Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske, dropped to his knees, and waited to embrace catcher Carlos Ruiz. While color broadcaster Chris Wheeler threw his fists around in excitement, Kalas sat in his chair, finishing his call — but he couldn't help cracking a smile.
Kalas passed away in Washington, D.C., on April 13, 2009, at the age of 73. Phillies fans across the nation were in disbelief. The local reporters and broadcasters who had to deliver the news needed every ounce of strength they had to keep from bawling openly on live television. There was also relief and happiness that Kalas got to call his team winning it all once before his passing.
The public swell of support for the Kalas family was incredible. Phillies fans packed Citizens Bank Park as Kalas was memorialized by his family and friends, many of whom belonged to the Phillies organization. The players sought to remember Kalas by wearing a black "HK" patch on their uniforms for the remainder of the season, and by hanging his blue blazer and white loafers in the dugout before every game.
Kalas is still a part of the Phillies fan experience. After a Phillies player hits a home run at Citizens Bank Park, a recording of Kalas' legendary "Outta here!" call plays throughout. After a Phillies win, Kalas' favorite song, "High Hopes," plays as fans exit the stadium to head to their cars or to public transit.
Kalas lives on with the Phillies' current broadcast teams: Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler, and Gary "Sarge" Matthews on TV, along with Jim Jackson, Scott Franzke, and Larry Andersen on the radio. McCarthy had the toughest job of all in having to fill Kalas' loafers as the play-by-play broadcaster. McCarthy may never live up to those lofty expectations, but he and the rest of the Phillies' broadcast team strive every day to preserve the memory of the man who, more than any player, was Phillies baseball.CHAPTER 2
2008 Regular Season
In 2007 the Phillies had cleared their biggest hurdle simply by getting to the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The expectations were low, and it was a good thing as the Phillies were quickly dispatched by the red-hot Colorado Rockies. Going into 2008, though, the team was expected to build on its success. The core needed to take it to another level, and the young players could not use inexperience as an excuse.
GM Pat Gillick, who had predicted a doom-and-gloom period for the Phillies after trading away Bobby Abreu, ensured his team would have an experienced closer as opposed to starter-turned-closer Brett Myers. Über-closer Brad Lidge was acquired from the Houston Astros along with utility man Eric Bruntlett for outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary, and infield prospect Mike Costanzo. Meanwhile, the Phillies retained the services of lefty reliever J.C. Romero and signed Chad Durbin, So Taguchi, and Pedro Feliz via free agency.
Starting off the regular season, the Phillies had another one of their typically slow starts, finishing the month of April at 15–13 in second place. It wasn't until mid-May that the Phillies finally hit their stride. After a loss on May 19, the Phillies were 24–22 and had fallen to third place. However, they won 15 of their next 19 games, retaking control of the division and staking themselves to a 3½-game lead.
The biggest surprise in the first half was right fielder Jayson Werth. Geoff Jenkins started the season as the everyday right fielder, but as Jenkins' offensive problems became more and more of an issue, Werth's playing time gradually increased. At the end of June, Werth's OPS (on-base + slugging percentage) was nearly 200 points better than Jenkins'.
On the rubber, Cole Hamels emerged as the ace the front office had always envisioned when they drafted him and nurtured him throughout the minor leagues. Hamels finished the first half with a 3.15 ERA and averaged nearly eight strikeouts per nine innings. With a 93 mph fastball and a devastating change-up, the young lefty was making a habit out of making seasoned veterans look foolish.
A surprising challenger emerged in the second half. The New York Mets, who were reeling from a collapse of epic proportions in the 2007 season, spent much of the first half bouncing between third and fourth place. They held first place for a week at the end of July before giving it back to the Phillies. On August 13, the Mets won the series opener against the Washington Nationals, the start of a stretch in which the Mets would win 10 of their next 11 games.
On September 10, the Phillies had lost three of four and fell 3½ games behind the Mets, their largest deficit of the season. Fans turned toward the wild-card to gauge the Phillies' chances, assuming the odds of another September collapse for the Mets was far too unlikely. The Phillies had 16 games left. If the Mets played roughly .500 baseball (8–9), the Phillies had to go at least 11–5 to win the division.
As fate would have it, the Phillies won 13 of their final 16 games. The Mets didn't exactly collapse, but a 7–10 record over their final 17 games was not helpful.
Ryan Howard came up with an incredibly productive month of September, catapulting the Phillies to the top of the division. In 102 plate appearances, Howard hit 11 home runs and drove in 32 runs while posting a 1.274 OPS. No surprise to anyone, he won National League Player of the Month honors.
Three left-handed starters propelled the Phillies to their success, as well. Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer each made five starts in September, posting respective ERAs of 2.84 and 3.26, while J.A. Happ had five appearances (including two starts) with a 2.41 ERA. In the bullpen, Brad Lidge clinched a perfect season — 41 for 41 in save opportunities — earning eight saves with a 0.71 ERA in the final month for the Phillies.
The Phillies had done the improbable for the second season in a row. Everything that could have gone right for them did. The team suffered relatively few major injuries, and nearly everyone who needed to perform well did. Happ was an emergency fill-in who seemed more like a godsend in the way of Marty Bystrom in 1980. The many rag-tag veteran players filling out the bullpen and the bench performed above and beyond their meager expectations.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, Phillies fans had reason to believe their team was legitimately good enough to bring home a championship. They had passed the toughest test in the regular season but had to prove themselves once more by winning 13 more games in the playoffs.CHAPTER 3
Phillies Take Advantage of the Mets in 2007
On August 25, 2007, the Phillies lost their fourth game in a row and sat seven games back in the division. Their season was slipping away, and the clock was ticking.
The next day, the Phillies smashed the San Diego Padres 14–2, salvaging the finale of a three-game series before the division-leading Mets came into town for a four-game series. The rout gave the Phillies just the jolt of energy they needed with 33 games left in the season. The Mets were on a roll, having won nine of their previous 13 games. When talking heads talk about a "must-win" series for a team, this was it for the Phillies.
The Phillies continued to hit in the series opener. Mets starter Brian Lawrence failed to get through the fifth inning, surrendering 10 hits. Meanwhile, J.D. Durbin surprisingly turned in a quality start, allowing only two runs through six and one-third innings. The series was off on the right foot, but the Phillies would need to keep their foot on the gas.
In Game 2, an early two-run home run by Carlos Delgado staked the Mets to a lead. Tom Glavine was dominant through seven innings, holding the Phillies scoreless. However, he did not come out for the eighth inning, having crossed the 100-pitch plateau. With a switch-hitter and two lefties due up, the Mets opted to go with lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano. After working the count to 2–1, leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins took a typically hefty swing, made solid contact, and deposited the Feliciano offering into the stands in left field.
Feliciano got Chase Utley to ground out weakly to second before issuing a four-pitch walk to Pat Burrell. Shane Victorino trotted out to first to pinch run, an overt admission by the Phillies they would attempt to manufacture a run in the event Ryan Howard could not do the damage himself. Howard tried, but to no avail, as his fly ball to deep left field was caught by Moises Alou.
Mets manager Willie Randolph brought in right-handed reliever Aaron Heilman to try to close out the inning. Victorino promptly broke for second, then careened for third base as catcher Paul Lo Duca's throw was way off-target. As the baseball gods were smiling upon the Phillies that evening, Aaron Rowand hit a grounder weakly down the third-base line. His reputation as a gritty ballplayer was evident as he ran hard all the way down the line, earning his second hit of the evening as Victorino scored the tying run. Heilman would finish the inning without relinquishing any more runs.
Brett Myers came in to keep the score tied and did just that. In his two 1-2-3 innings, he induced five ground-ball outs and one strikeout. Meanwhile, the Mets asked Guillermo Mota to give them two quality innings. His first inning was clean, but he ran into problems in the bottom of the 10th. Victorino, who stayed in the game, laced a line drive to center. Mota, perhaps distracted by the potential for Victorino to steal, left a change-up (his fourth in four pitches) over the middle of the plate. Howard took his trademark swing, hitting a walk-off two-run home run to left field. The Phillies had clinched at least a series split and had won their third game in a row.
Game 3 started off as a pseudo–home run derby. Phillies starter Jamie Moyer surrendered a first-inning home run to David Wright and Mets starter Oliver Perez surrendered two first-inning homers to Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell. They were not omens of things to come, fortunately, as both pitchers settled down. The Mets tied the game at two in the fourth on a Carlos Delgado RBI single. The Phillies took the lead back in the fifth on a Pat Burrell sacrifice fly. From that point forward, both teams' starters and their bullpens posted goose eggs. The Phillies won without drama, climbing to within three games of first place.
The August 30 game is forever burned in the memories of Phillies fans, as it became a motif for the Phillies' season. The game featured 21 runs on 27 hits while 12 pitchers and 25 position players were utilized. Most importantly, the game featured five lead changes.
As the previous game appeared to be a pseudo–home run derby, so did this game. Ryan Howard launched a two-run home run in the bottom of the first off of Mets starter Orlando Hernandez. Pat Burrell tacked on a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the third, followed by a solo home run from Aaron Rowand. Quickly, the Phillies were up 5–0 and appeared to be on their way to a series sweep.
Phillies fans, through many years of conditioning, had become accustomed to the other shoe dropping. The shoe dropped in the top of the fourth for Phillies starter Kyle Lohse. He surrendered three runs on two doubles, a single, a walk, and a hit batter. Geoff Geary came on in relief and ended the threat, but things did not improve for the Phillies. In the fifth, Geary allowed two runs on three hits, and the score was tied.
The Phillies, ever resilient, stormed back for three runs in the bottom half of the fifth against Aaron Sele. Four singles and a walk later, the Phillies were up 8–5. After two solid innings of relief from Clay Condrey, the Phillies brought in J.C. Romero to start the eighth. Romero got the leadoff batter in Shawn Green but walked Ruben Gotay. Not confident that Romero could conquer Moises Alou, Charlie Manuel strode to the mound to bring in Antonio Alfonseca. Little did he know he would open the floodgates.
With good plate discipline and good hitting, the Mets took Alfonseca to the cleaners. Alfonseca did not retire a single batter, allowing four runs on two hits and three walks. Jose Mesa came in to stop the bleeding, and did as much as could have been expected with runners on first and second and no outs. He allowed one walk and one more run to score, but got the final two outs of the inning.
Mets manager Willie Randolph, realizing his team's division lead was disintegrating, asked Billy Wagner for a two-inning save. In the bottom of the eighth, he faced Pat Burrell, whom Wagner referred to earlier in the season as having a "one-path swing." As he had previously, Wagner grooved a fastball into Burrell's "path," which was subsequently hit to the fans in the left-field stands. The Phillies, in this seesaw game, were within one run at 10–9. Wagner got through the eighth without any more trouble, and Tom Gordon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, giving the Phillies one last try in the bottom-half.
Jayson Werth led off the inning with a single. The fans at Citizens Bank Park could sense a victory was in their grasp. Carlos Ruiz flied out, bringing some tension back to the ballpark. At this point, all the focus was on Werth. Two factors were at play: Werth was a smart, efficient base runner, and Wagner was inept at holding runners on base as his pickoff move was subpar. As a result, Werth not only stole second, but he stole third, as well — on consecutive pitches, no less.
Tadahito Iguchi, who pinch hit for third baseman Abraham Nunez, drove in the tying run on a single to left. Wagner's problems did not end there. Iguchi stole second base, taking advantage of Wagner's inattentiveness. To set up a double play and get the favorable lefty-on-lefty matchup, Jimmy Rollins was intentionally walked to bring up Chase Utley. After a tense seven-pitch at-bat, Utley lined a single to right field, scoring Iguchi for the game-winning 11th run. The crowd erupted. Fans watching on TV listened to Harry Kalas exclaim into his microphone.
The idea of a season turning around on a single event is more mythical than anything, but it was quite real in the case of the 2007 Phillies. The Phillies engaged with the Mets again on September 14 for a three-game series and swept them again. From September 13 to the end of the season, the Phillies went 13–4; the Mets, 5–11. The Phillies took control of first place in the NL East for the first time all season on September 27 and never looked back. They earned their first postseason berth since 1993, winning the division by one game.
Excerpted from 100 Things Phillies Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Bill Baer. Copyright © 2012 Bill Baer. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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