Max Blue / Historic Teams
[Note: the following is a chronological journal of the Phillies 2003 season. It will be updated from time to time. Scroll to the bottom for the most recent entry.]
PHILLIES JOURNAL - 2003
By Max Blue
WHERE IS CENTERFIELD?
The signs are all around it¹s Spring only ten days before opening day. Last week on our morning walk Liddy and me saw the first Robins, and just yesterday we saw a bouquet of deep purple Crocuses decorating the ground next to our neighbors¹ front stoop. The yellow Daffodils Liddy planted last year are about to bloom, the Weeping Cherry tree we planted two years ago in our front yard is budding, and just to make it official, people are taking down their Christmas lights. A month ago we had two feet of snow covering our driveway, but that was then . . . today it¹s a balmy 59 degrees Spring in South Jersey.
So let¹s talk a little Phillies. There are the usual worries . . . start with Lieberthal, the all-star catcher you always have to start with the catcher. Three years ago he went down with a pelvic injury, whatever that is, that finished him halfway through the season. Two years ago he got picked off first, and tore up his knee trying to get back. When the season ended last year he busted up his knee getting out of a golf cart, and now he missed two weeks of Spring Training because the pelvic injury is back. But not to worry they tell us, he got a cortisone shot in the abdomen a gut shot he¹s going to be okay.
Then there is Thome, the big first sacker they got from Cleveland, who slugged 52 homers for the Tribe last year. This guy is too good to be true, what is he doing in Philly? In his first at bat in a Phillies¹ uniform he goes deep to the opposite field, and I start to get nervous, but later he fans with the bases loaded which any Phillies¹ fan will tell you is more like it. In Philly we take our medicine and soldier on.
After a century of rooting for losers, Phillies¹ management has done the unthinkable, they have opened the bank vaults and signed what looks like some guys who might make the team competitive with the rest of baseball Kevin Millwood, who won 75 games for the Atlanta Braves over the last five years, David Bell (I remember his grampa, Gus), who played in the World¹s Series with the Giants last year, and with that great Seattle team two years ago. But it¹s early, plenty of time for things to go wrong Turk Wendell is on the DL with a swollen right elbow, Brandon Duckworth has a sore arm, Palanco has a strained groin, Randy Wolf is pitching like bleep. We¹re going to be fine.
The world is in a mess, bombs over Baghdad and all that . . . Liddy and me try not to think about it walking down Fishpond road, stopping to talk to Mrs. Wilbur, who is rightly proud of her dazzling array of Spring flowers spread all across the front of her house. We stop to look at a bird we think is a Rufous-sided Towhee, but can¹t be sure without our binoculars. Here in South Jersey along Fishpond Road, the air is filled with birdcalls, Mocking Birds, Cardinals, White-throated Sparrows . . . Crows. Liddy finds a penny.
The Glassboro Municipal Park is along our regular walking route, and today, on a sunny Saturday morning, it is bubbling with children and their parents. It¹s Spring Training here too . . . the Arizona Diamonbacks are limbering up; fourteen 6 and 7 year-old boys, fiercely concentrating on catching the ball tossed at them. Five dads are putting the kids through their paces. But now it¹s time for a talk. The coach gathers the boys to sit in an arc on the ground in front of him; there are things they need to know. He begins by telling them that every Friday evening, here in the park, they will get to hit from a pitching machine. I thought that was pretty cool, but the boys look bored. Next, the coach points out three boys who made the all-star team last year, and is interrupted by his son who says, "Dad, we missed the all-star game last year because we went on vacation."
The coach presses on. Back to basics. "Does everybody know where first base is?" he asks. Some mumbled responses. "Point to first base," he orders. Most of the kids know where first base is. "Point to third base," says the coach. Twelve right arms and two left arms point to third base. Now the coach is ready for the final exam. "Where is centerfield?" he asks.
Time out. I have a confession to make. For most of the last 60 years I have been trying to answer this question, and yes, like those 6 and 7 year-old boys, I know it is somewhere out there beyond the infield, but if somebody can help me pin it down I would be forever grateful.
Where is centerfield?
Glassboro, March 23, 2003
JIM THOME¹S A DILLY
When Thome first stepped to the plate as a Philly,
The fans held their breath thinking, "Will he?"
He smashed the first pitch
To the right-center ditch,
In Philly the fans have gone silly.
Tuesday March 31, 2003 - Opening day in Miami. Philadelphia - 8 Florida - 5
For more than 100 years
The Phillies have given us tears,
But it's hard to beat winning,
with a 13-run inning,
The town is reduced to cheers.
Sunday April 13, 2003 - Cincinnati, Ohio. Philadelphia - 13 Cincinnati - 1
The Phillies have found a new face,
a lefthanded hitter named Chase.
The kid came to town
when Polanco went down,
and homered with three men on base.
Thursday April 24, 2003 - Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia. Philadelphia - 9 Colorado - 1
Take heed I have something to share,
the Phillies are off on a tear,
and what could be fitter
than Millwood's no-hitter,
when Liddy and me were there.
Sunday April 27, 2003 Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia. Philadelphia - 1 San Francisco - 0
Attendance - 40,016
SECOND LEVEL OF CONTAINMENT
We came to our feet, Liddy and me, along with more than 40,000 yelling Philly fanatics, pleading for righthander Kevin Millwood to put that sucker away and complete his masterpiece . . . a no-hit, no-run game. Ninth inning, two out, nobody on, Phillies leading 1-0 over the defending National League Champion San Francisco Giants, a team that came into the Sunday afternoon game at Veterans Stadium with an 18 4 won lost record, the best in baseball. I sneaked a glance at Liddy to see how she was taking it, and instantly understood that she didn¹t know what was happening. She knew it was a shutout, and she knew it was tight, but she didn¹t know it was a no-hitter, and how could I tell her? I couldn¹t.
I should have told her back in 1956, the first time I took her to a major league baseball game. It was a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, just like today. The Cardinals were playing against the Giants just like today, except that it was the New York Giants. We sat in the bleachers at Sportsmans Park in St. Louis and soaked up the sunshine . . . from the game and from the sun. I don¹t know why I didn¹t tell her, I just took it for granted that anyone watching a baseball game would know.
Liddy, I should have said . . . here is what you need to know . . . the most important player on the field is the pitcher . . . when he takes the mound he does it with the understanding that it is his job to contain the other team. There are four levels of containment which every pitcher has in mind when he toes the rubber for the first pitch . . . the first is on-base, the second is hits, the third is runs, and the fourth is winning. The rules of watching are that beginning with the leadoff man you know that every out brings the pitcher closer to a perfect game. If a batter reaches base through a walk, an error, or some other way, the first level of containment is breached and you move to the next level. If the batter gets a basehit, you move to the next level. If the opposition scores a run you move to the fourth level winning the game. Proper game-watching requires you to always have the levels of containment in mind. This I should have told Liddy in 1956.
Millwood has both feet on the rubber; he stares in at the three guys 60 some feet away who are staring back at him the nervous batter, Giant¹s secondbaseman and leadoff hitter Ray Durham, and the two Mikes, Lieberthal his catcher, and Everitt his umpire. The crowd noise is almost unbearable with a one ball two strike count. Lieberthal¹s wiggling fingers are nothing but a blur and an irrelevancy, everybody knows what he is going to throw high cheese. Millwood leans in, rocks back, and lets it fly with an explosive push off his right leg. The lefthanded Durham sees it, but just barely, sailing past his chin at 92 mph. Ball two.
One more time. The crowd turns it up a notch. So does Millwood. A tick higher at 93; Durham lays off and the count is full. The crowd is frantic. Millwood is cool; he knows what he has to do; he has to turn down the heat to a manageable level. But he can¹t. It comes it at 94 and two inches higher than before. Lieberthal snares it with a little hop step, Durham tosses the useless bat, and trots gratefully to first as if he knew it all the time. That collective sigh you heard was the sound of 40,000 people exhaling.
How much of this can we take? Marquis Grissom, the next hitter can turn around a fastball . . . in the seventh inning he almost spoiled everything with a scorching linedrive that centerfielder Ricky Ledee, who by the way has supplied the game¹s only run with a first inning homer, speared with an over-the-shoulder leaping catch. But Grissom has shot his best bolt, there will be no drama this time. He lifts a lazy flyball to center and it¹s over. Millwood has achieved the second level of containment. The crowd goes wild and Millwood is mobbed by his teammates. The Phillies are in first place.
So what are we to make of all this? That the reported death of baseball in Philadelphia is highly exaggerated? That Kevin Millwood is indeed the second coming of Steve Carlton? (Carlton had six one-hitters, but never a no-no). That the Atlanta Braves have gone soft trying to even the competition by handing the Phillies an ace? What?
Before we get too excited . . . well okay, go ahead with the excitement . . . but easy, it¹s only April, and we are headed to the left coast for ten games without a day off. But I couldn¹t help noting that when Millwood fanned the great Bonds looking, to end the seventh, a curious thing began to happen at Veterans Stadium . . . the upper deck started to fill up. People from all around were driving to the Vet to get in on the fun. At the end there were more people in attendance than at the beginning. When is the last time that happened? Maybe never. The official attendance was announced at 40,016, but you can be sure that maybe twice that many will someday be telling their grandchildren about that sunny day in April when they were at the Vet to see Kevin Millwood achieve the second level of containment against the fearsome Bonds and his slugging teammates.
Glassboro , May 1, 2003
APRIL 22- MAY 7
The Phillies were put to a test,
16 straight games v. the West.
They lost only five,
and so stayed alive,
to challenge the Braves as the best.
Okay, okay, so I lied,
but give me a break I just tried.
You¹re right, they lost six,
but stayed in the mix
so the Braves can¹t take off and hide.
Standing of the Clubs, National League East May 7, 2003
Team W L GB
Atlanta 21 11 ----
Montreal 20 13 1.5
Philadelphia 20 15 2.5
Florida 15 20 7.5
New York 14 19 7.5
The Phillies have been hitting like bleep.
I confess it¹s affecting my sleep.
When they fell eight games back,
the prospects were black,
they needed a Montreal sweep.
Sunday, June 1, 2003, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia Philadelphia 4,4 Montreal 3,1
Jim Thome has had some great days,
ask the Mariners, Angels, and A¹s.
The Phillies will now play them nine,
it¹s time for our heroes to shine,
and show how the NL East plays.
June 3-11, 2003
So here¹s the pitch . . . it¹s a hanging slider, Mike Cameron likes the look of it, no, he loves the look of it. He takes time to salivate . . . why not? It¹s just hanging there waiting for him to lift it over the left field fence into the Seattle bullpen. Bret Boone and John Olerud waltz home ahead of him giving the Mariners a 5-4 lead over the gasping Phillies in the 9th inning of a game the Sillies needed to stay eight games back of the Atlanta Knaves. Time out while I take time to flail and whale at Jose Mesa who threw the pitch and at Mike Lieberthal who called the pitch with a two strike no ball count hello guys high fast ball not hanging slider Baseball 101.
But never mind, we still have our final licks. Thomas Perez greets Kazuhiro Sasaki with a single to right and Jason Michaels, in for Pat the puny Bat, dumps a ball down the right field line that rolls toward the low fence while pinch runner Nick Punto streaks for home with the tying run but wait what¹s this? A spectator you couldn¹t call him a fan a brain dead spectator, reaches over the wall and grabs the ball. Ground rule double Punto back to third. Yikes! But never mind, second and third nobody out, Polanco will bail us out. Hot smash on the ground right at Jeff Cirillo the third baseman one out. Rollins walks to load the bases for drum roll please Jim Thome.
How could you do it Jimbo? How could you go down swinging with all those ducks on the pond? Abreu is our last chance Bobby can do it he¹s on a hot streak seeing the ball well, two hits already tonight not this time can of corn to center.
Nine games back of the knaves and only the first week in June. Take a deep breath.
Thursday, June 5, 2003. Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia. Seattle 5, Philadelphia 4
THE SUNSHINE OF HOPE
Despair is a slippery slope,
It¹s just that much harder to cope,
With poorly thrown balls,
And umpires¹ bad calls,
Much better the sunshine of hope.
CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE
The guy is contrite, give him that. He calls in to WIP sports talk radio and explains . . . he had been distracted . . . not paying attention when suddenly he looks up amongst all the yelling and sees the ball rolling straight at him. What would you do? His buddy is trying to pull him back, he doesn¹t hear the people screaming at him to leave it alone, he grabs for the ball. The next thing he knows people are pelting him with peanut shells and a big security guard is ejecting him from the park.
The radio guys christen him "Joe Fan" and leave it up to the listeners should they cut the guy a break? Or not? Should they feed him to the lions, or should they show mercy? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
The last I heard it was 50 50.
Yo, Philly, this guy cost us a game! In Philadelphia the quality of mercy is unfathomable.
D-day, the 6th of June, 2003.
LUCKY RED SOCKS
Is this the day they turn it around?
Twenty hits plus pitching astound.
My lucky red socks
Brought all those base knocks,
What do you think? How does that sound?
Sunday, June 8, 2003 Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia. Philadelphia 7,8 Oakland 1,3
We had to stay up late
To learn of our favorite team¹s fate.
Padilla rared back and hurled
All blanks at the champs of the world,
The outcome could not be more great.
Monday, June 8, 2003 Edison Field, Anaheim, California.
Philadelphia 3 Anaheim 0
Speaking of luck. Listen to this: Top of the sixth, Phillies have just taken a 2-1 lead. Bases loaded, one out. Bobby Abreu steps into the box unlimbering his left-handed swing, eager to have a whack at the latest garbage right hander Kevin Appier is offering. Appier walks around the back of the mound swearing to himself, wondering if his manager Mike Scioscia is going to bail him out or hang him out to dry. Lots of luck Ape. You better believe it the double A face-off goes to the Anaheim Angels when Abreu fires a screaming liner straight into the mitt of first baseman Spezio who daintly steps on the bag for a double play that with a little more lift could have been a three-run double or a Grand Salami.
But that¹s not the worst of it. In the bottom of the sixth the Angels, like the Phillies, have loaded the bases with one out. Brett Myers, the 22-year-old Phillies righthander ties up Benji Molina with high and tight gas breaks his bat shatters the damn thing. Bloop single just out of Rollin¹s reach in short left. Two runs score.
When? When are we going to catch a break?
Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - Edison Field, Anaheim, California. Anaheim 5 Philadelphia 3
The West beat us six out of nine,
I know this may sound like a whine,
But with one or two breaks,
All our heart aches
Could have turned out to be something fine.
SMOKED On Friday the 13 th
The Great American Ballpark? In Cincinnatti? Okay, if it¹s so great how come the pitching mound is so low? Kevin Millwood wasn¹t making excuses, but how could he not think about it? After what the Reds did to him 11 hits and 8 runs in 3 innings. We saw this guy no-hit the Giants back in April. What¹s going on here? There¹s talk of the flu. That long plane ride from California.Whatever. The Phillies team website is already hyping next week¹s visit to the Vet by the Atlanta Knaves Millwood will start against his old team whoop de do look out below.
See, the problem is this . . . if the mound is so low, how come Jimmy Haynes can pitch a complete game 3-hitter against the Phillies? This is a guy who comes in to the game with a 0-5 record, and an ERA of almost nine he lowers it to 7.27 after this game this guy has not pitched a complete game in more than six years. Somebody has put a whammy on us.
We could talk about the fight Dunn charged the mound when Silva threw behind him Lieberthal made a nice tackle form behind but what¹s the use?
The moon was full over the Ohio River, it was Friday the 13th.
That smoke you see is the Atlanta Knaves exhaust as they leave us in the dust 12 games back on the lost side.
Friday, June 13th The Great American Ballpark, Cincinnatti, Ohio. Cincinnatti 15-22-0 Philadelphia 1-3-0.
At last he can stand up and yell,
"Top of the world, ma, and ain¹t it just swell?"
The guy wouldn¹t quit,
A game-winning hit,
by the Phillies own liberty Bell.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003 Veterans Stadium Philadelphia 5 Atlanta 4
Remember back in April? We came into the Great American Ballpark and
slugged the Sprintsprinnati Lids (thanks for that moniker, Kate) with a
13-run inning. But the Lids are laying for us when we come back in June and
BAM ! 15-2. So Saturday, the 14 th we counter with a left hook 10- run
eighth the Lids are staggering, and don¹t mind that on Sunday the 15 th,
after the Sillies start off with a run in the first, it rains. Two hours
later it is still raining and the fight is called off. So much for the Great
And now for the Knaves. They are heading for the VET after dropping 2 of
3 in Seattle- only 10 games up on the Phils. Three this week here in Philly,
three next week in Atlanta. We shall see what we shall see.
Oh-o say can you see
Phils and Braves playing three?
We can use a clean sweep,
If we don¹t we may weep.
O¹er the land of the Braves, let us hope we don¹t sleep.
When Smoltz comes in the Braves win. Right? How amazing is it that in 73
straight games in which he appeared the Braves won every one? So how can it
happen that Polanco tags him with a blown save on a punch shot to right in
the eighth inning? Or that Burrell greets him in the ninth with a shot off
the leftfield wall? Or that Rollins pins a loss on him with a liner to
Hampton¹s pitching was taking its toll,
We were facing a ten plus one hole.
But we rallied to win
By a margin so thin
On a walk-off hit by J-Roll.
Thursday, June 18, 2003 Veterans Stadium Philadelphia 3 Atlanta 2
RED SOX IN TOWN
The most dominating pitcher in baseball. That¹s what the Fox network
announcers called Pedro Martinez. Well sure, but we remember a few years ago
when he pitched for Montreal and Bobby Estalella touched him for two homers
in the same game. And the night here at the Vet when he broke Gregg
Jeffries¹ hand. So he¹s human, but how do we get so lucky that we get to be
the first team to face him now that he¹s fully healed after coming off the
disabled list from a bad back?
Never mind. Bobby Abreu takes the guy deep leading off the second 1-0
Phillies. But Randy Wolf, who we¹re told is the best lefthander in the
National League, hangs a curve to Todd Walker in the third . . . 1-1 tie.
Pedro and Wolfie then settle in until Walker does it again in the sixth
damn, Wolfie, the same pitch? 2-1 Sox. It looks bleak, but Pedro is finished
after seven and in the eighth we get Mike Timlin who comes in throwing 95
MPH where did that come from? More to the point, where did it go? It went
four hundred and sixty feet into the right center seats after Jim Thome got
around on it. 2-2 tie. This is getting good. In the twelfth Jason Michaels
misplays a ball in left and we¹re down 3-2. Not to worry, Thome is back with
another two-out bomb. Way to go Jimbo. 3-3 tie. In the thirteenth inning
after Todd Walker doubles off the wall for the lead again, Nomar Garciaparra
smacks his sixth hit of the day yikes to give the Sox a 5-3 lead. No way
we can beat these guys, right? Wrong. This a day for guys named Todd and the
Phillies have one too. It¹s Pratt, the last position player off the bench
the Red Sox are at the bottom of their bullpen they are out of bullets
two-run homer Phillies win! Phillies win!
The Phillies came off of the mat
Three times in their final at-bat.
Jim Thome hit two,
But it still wasn¹t through
til a walk-off homerun by Todd Pratt.
June 21, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 6 Boston 5 13 innings.
RED SOX DOWN
This is more like it. Summer has arrived and with it comes baseball. The
Vet was overflowing with nostalgia and hope. Heroes from the 80¹s were here
for the fun Hall of Famers Carleton and Schmidt plus a few others
61,000 fans picked up their Steve Carleton bobble-head dolls on the way in.
Abreu got us started, just like yesterday, with a shot over the 407 sign in
dead centerfield. Brett Myers, all 22-years-old of him, had all he needed,
but got more on 7th inning homers from Marlon Byrd (first of the year) and
Jimmy Rollins. Scoreboard watchers noted that both the Braves and Expos
lost. Look out above.
Nobody said they weren¹t tryers,
Hell bent on becoming high flyers.
The Red Sox could only sag,
in the end they waved the white flag,
to a three-hit shutout by Brett Myers.
June 22, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 5 Boston 0.
Easy now, let¹s not get carried away. Six out of 8 from the Braves and
the Red Sox. Seven and five on the season against the Knaves outscored
them 16-2 in the last two games we can beat these guys. Hang on still
seven back on the lost side but rising.
June 26, 2003. Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia. Philadelphia 8 Atlanta 1
What is this all about?
The Phils are down but not out.
Beat the Braves two of three,
Oh say can you see?
We¹re allowed at least one small brave shout.
Standing of the Clubs, National League East June 27, 2003
Team W L GB
Atlanta 49 27 -
Montreal 43 35 7
Philadelphia 41 34 7.5
Florida 40 40 11
New York 34 42 15
Hey. I know these guys. Fifty years ago they were the St. Louis Browns. Now they are called the Baltimore Orioles, but they¹re not. These guys are the Browns; some of us remember. For 16 innings these guys flailed futilely at Phillies bullpen pitchers after starter Duckworth was nailed by a line drive off his pitching arm in the first inning and had to leave. But for all those innings the Phillies were no better. It was a classic match between two teams who set standards for failure in the 20th century that were mirrored in this five-hour, way past midnight ignominy. In the 17th Jason Michaels came off the Phillies¹ bench to mercifully end it with a three-run homer off Omar Daal, the Venezuelan dandy who became a 10-game loser. The old Browns had more than their share of 10-game losers. I know these guys.
SILVA, CORMIER, WENDELL, ADAMS, MESA, PLESAC, MERCADO
These are the guys from the pen
Who answer the call now and then,
Last night they were great,
They endured a long wait,
til the offense could figure out when.
June 27, 2003. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore, Maryland.
Philadelphia 4 Baltimore 2 17 innings.
The O¹s took another Phils slug,
be careful, let¹s not get too smug.
It¹s easy to say,
"These guys can¹t play"
but watch out for a Camden Yards mug.
June 28, 2003. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore, Maryland.
Philadelphia 9 Baltimore 5
The widow of Del Ennis, a slugging Phillies leftfielder back in the 40s
and 50s, wants to know why the baseball fans of Philadelphia booed her
husband so unmercifully even though he hit more homeruns and batted in more
runs than anyone else on the team. Ennis was not alone. In years following,
boos rained down on sluggers Rich Allen, Mike Schmidt, and today Pat
THE REASON WHY
Everyone knows what he hears,
Clutch hits followed by cheers,
Boos when he fails,
But maybe those hails,
Are not boos at all but just tears.
A SWEEP BUT NOT EASY
Forty thousand fans were into the wave,
In the birthplace of "home of the brave",
The Phils won all three,
they can head home in glee,
Jose Mesa got his 104th Phillies save.
June 29, 2003. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland.
Philadelphia 4 Baltimore 3
When the folks in Peoria gathered around their TV sets to watch the Cubs
play the Phillies last night you can be sure they were rooting for a Cubs
win. When is the last time the Cubs were in a pennant race at the end of
June? But they also were pulling for hometown hero Jim Thome to do well.
Perfect scenario Thome homers, Cubs win. None of the Philadelphia media
thought to ask Jimbo how he felt about playing against the Cubs who it seems
more than likely were his team growing up in Peoria.
Now picture this bottom of the seventh, Cubs leading 3-2, two out nobody
on base, Cubs lefty Shawn Estes is having one of his good nights; he is
making pitches when he needs to, and is just wild enough to keep the hitters
honest. Rollins singles to left and here comes Thome. The weather is hot and
so is Thome, five homers in the last eight games. In Peoria the folks begin
to squirm. On the Cub bench the wheels are spinning, Manager Dusty Baker
sends his pitching coach Larry Rothchild out to the mound for a pow wow. The
whole infield gathers around the mound. The Philly fans are screaming their
heads off. The whoo hoo man yells "everybody hits, whoo hoo" What can
Rothchild say? "Don¹t give him anything good to hit? Pitch around him? Hit
him in the coconut?" Estes takes all the advice with a grain of salt. He is
a veteran pitcher, he knows it¹s easy for the coach to say do this do that,
but in the end he is alone on the mound facing the guy with the bat in his
hands, and the game on the line. He goes to three balls and no strikes,
trying to get the bum to bite on wide breaking balls.
Thome is not biting, he is waiting. He sees the 3-0 pitch out of the
lefties¹ hand close to his ear, he instantly knows it is not a breaking
ball, the hand would be higher. To we who are watching, the 90 MPH fastball
seems to reach the plate in an eye blink. To Jim Thome it comes in slow
motion . . . wait, wait, wait, wait . . . NOW! The ball reaches the
leftfield seats as if it were shot out of a cannon.
That thump that was heard over Cleveland last night, some time around 9:30
EST, was the sound of the Peoria groan colliding with the Philadelphia
cheer. As the dust settled after Thome took his curtain call, a loud voice
was heard rising near the backstop screen at Veterans Stadium . . . "MVP . .
. whoo hoo."
The pitch came in a bit high,
But Thome drilled it deep into the night sky,
A sweet Evening Gloria,
By the kid from Peoria,
The Phillies are learning to fly.
June 30, 2003. Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia 4 Chicago 3 (six wins in a
They are dead meat. They are toast. They thought they could give up all
that good pitching and still win. Wrong. We¹re talking about the Atlanta
Knaves folks. In Florida last night they were smeared 20-1 by the Florida
Marlins. Sure they still have a four-game edge in the lost column, but baby
that¹s down from 11, and will be gone by the all-star break. How do I know?
Let me count the ways the Phillies, yes folks, those Phillies the
Philadelphia Phillies, have won seven straight, the last three by 4-3
scores, and have done it in ways that championship teams do it solid
starting pitching, brilliant bullpen work, aggressive baserunning,
spectacular fielding, clutch basehits, game-tying homeruns, walk-off
singles. Oh yeah, babe. Let the whoo hoos roll.
He took a fast ball close to the chin,
He stepped back and then he leaned in,
He looked out at three men on base,
A tie game in front of his face,
He singled to left for the win.
July 1, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 4 Chicago 3
What could I do? Liddy and me had guests for dinner, so the Phils had to
manage without my input no lucky red socks, no advice to the hitters. They
were on their own, and look what happened Matt Clement throws a
one-hitter, and Sammy Sosa strokes number 510. Yikes!
You don¹t hang a slider to Sammy,
Unless you include a dark whammy,
Turk Wendell forgot,
He will suffer a lot,
Sammy slammed it half way to Miami.
July 2, 2003 Veterans Stadium. Chicago 1 Philadelphia 0
No way we could lose this game, right? The Florida Marlins are in town
for a fourth of July weekend series and they are sending to the mound a guy
who tried to pitch five days ago in Boston and never got out of the first
inning. Pavano. He coughed up six hits and six runs and did not retire a
single batter. Imagine. The Red Sox put up 10 runs in that inning and 25 for
the day. The Phillies have Kevin (no-hit) Millwood rested and ready. It
looks like a mismatch, right?
It¹s baseball. Pavano is on his game. The Phillies can¹t lay a bat on him.
He fans Thome on a filthy spit ball with Polanco on third and Rollins on
second and nobody out in the fourth inning. Millwood is good too no hits
into the seventh after a leadoff single to Pierre in the first inning
since his no-hitter back in April Millwood has been touched for a leadoff
hit in 8 out of 13 starts. But the Fish scratch a run without a hit in the
fourth when Millwood shoots himself in the foot with a leadoff walk to
Pierre who already has 38 stolen bases on the year, almost as many as the
entire Phillies team has attempted. Yikes!
No DH in this league Bowa lifts Millwood for a pinch-hitter down 1-0 in
the seventh even though the big guy has only thrown 78 pitches. Yo, Bowa,
there¹s no law that says you have to do that. We lose after squeezing a run
for a tie in the bottom of the eighth. Jose Mesa pitches a rotten ninth two
walks and two hits. We¹re on a hot streak, we¹re supposed to win games like
this, right? Oh it hurts.
We shouldn¹t get overly blue.
You can¹t win em all why not?
The team is authentically hot,
And our cause is a holy one too, boo hoo.
July 4, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Florida 2 Philadelphia 1
The Fish have a Penny named Brad,
In Boston last week he was bad.
But tonight at the Vet,
It¹s as if we have met
Cy Young, and I feel very sad.
July 5, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Florida 5 Philadelphia 4.-52,000 fans
We went to the game,
And ain¹t it a shame?
It was only a matter of time
til I lost all rhythm and rhyme,
weep, sleep, Marlins sweep, deep bleep!
July 6, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Florida 6 Philadelphia 3
LIVAN HERNANDEZ EL DUQUECITO
It¹s enough to make a grown man puke,
Shut down by the Cuban little duke.
Now where do we go?
An overnight bus to Dubuque?
July 7, 2003. Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada. Montreal 8 Philadelphia 1
UP DOWN ALL AROUND
Just when it looks the most bleak
We find our way back to the peak
Maybe this is the reason
We hang out all season
Intent on the goal that we seek.
July 8, 2003. Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada. Philadelphia 13 Montreal 6
ABREU AND MILLWOOD
Millwood pitched and Abreu hit,
A three hit shutout and a four-base hit.
When these two guys are on their game,
The opposition is put to shame,
They might as well give up and quit.
July 9, 2003. Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada. Philadelphia 2 Montreal 0
Once again the Mets are bad,
And New York fans are sad.
Their pitching stinks,
Their bats are clinks,
Philadelphia is glad.
July 10, 2003. Shea Stadium. Queens, New York. Philadelphia 7 New York 2
LAUGHER IN QUEENS
Four runs in the first yet again,
Who can remember when,
The wins came so easy,
It makes me feel queasy,
I hope we can keep scoring ten.
July 11, 2003. Shea Stadium, Queens, New York. Philadelphia 10 New York 3
The Phillies continue to win,
although by a margin quite thin.
This time our winnings
required extra innings,
I hope you¹ll allow me this grin.
July 12, 2003. Shea Stadium. Philadelphia 4 New York 2 (11 innings)
On Friday the 13th we fail,
I hope you¹ll allow me this wail.
Never mind that it came on Sunday,
I only hope that one day,
We¹ll learn how to stay out of jail.
Sunday, July 13, 2003. Shea Stadium. New York 4 Philadelphia 3
Time out for the All-Star break. Randy Wolf is the Phillies¹ representative,
Atlanta will send seven. The Phillies are 8 back of Atlanta on the loss side
but at 52-40 have the third best record in the National League and lead the
race for the wild card playoff spot by a game over Arizona. Can we do it? If
we maintain the same winning percentage we win 92 games. If the Knaves keep
it up they win 106. Go figure.
Go back. Go way back. One hundred years ago. July 14, 1903. Twenty one boys
ages 8-14 die of lockjaw after 4th of July injuries from toy pistols. The
Phillies are 21-49, in last place, 27 games behind Pittsburgh. Atlanta was
the Boston Beaneaters 38-42, sixth place, 3 games behind the Brooklyn
The games have become much more fun,
Since Byrd has been hitting number one,
We win six out of seven,
Tonight in eleven,
When the kid smacks a walk-off homerun.
Thursday, July 17,2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 5 Montreal 2 (11 innings)
ONLY A GAME
It¹s only a game we are told,
Don¹t put your life on hold.
Believe me I try it,
But somehow can¹t buy it,
I live in the fear that we¹ll fold.
Friday, July 18, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Montreal 3 Philadelphia 1
We tried and we tried and we tried,
But through eleven we somehow stayed tied.
Then hurray and wa hoo,
Perez the jokester came through,
And for his trouble got pied.
Saturday, July 19, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 4 Montreal 3 (11 innings).
Ten years ago this year
The Phillies showed no fear.
Today that team came back to see
If this year's team could somehow be
As good as them - they stayed to cheer.
Sunday, July 20, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 3 Montreal 2 (37,000 fans)
How can we lose to the Mets?
The suffering Phillies fan frets.
Floyd, McEwing, and Phillips went deep,
Brandon Duckworth has fallen asleep,
This is as bad as it gets.
Monday, July 21, 2003 Veterans Stadium. New York 8 Philadelphia 6
A STEEP HILL
Just when we ought to make hay,
Our number one pitcher goes astray.
It seems like we're playing uphill,
The Mets zeroed in for the kill,
Is this the best we can play?
Tuesday, July 22, 2003 Veterans Stadium. New York 7 Philadelphia 5
Hats off to the Phils all-star, Randy,
He cranked up a Wrigley Field dandy.
Ricky Ledee had a good night,
Jim Thome hit one out of sight,
Good pitching and hitting comes in handy.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003. Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois. Philadelphia 3 Chicago 0.
Ka zil, kazee, and kazam!
Abreu hit a grand slam.
We were down 3-1,
Kerry Wood was the one,
Who served up the great Phillies' BAM!
Thursday, July 24, 2003. Wrigley Field. Philadelphia 14 Chicago 6
The Florida Marlins think they can beat the Phillies, and make it into the playoffs as the wild card team. They may be right. After tonight's 11-5 win they have beaten the Phillies six straight times, but still trail the Phils by five in the loss column. It was a night when two premier late inning relievers, picked up in trades to bolster the stretch drive, failed miserably. Ugeuth Urbina led the American League in saves before the Marlins got him in a swap with the Texas Rangers. He entered the game in the seventh inning with two on and the Fish up 3-1. He began by throwing five straight strikes - the first three sent Marlon Byrd back to the bench shaking his head, the fifth landed over the left field fence after Placido Polanco took a whack at it, and the Phillies led 4-3. Mike Williams was the Pittsburgh Pirates representative at the all-star game before the Phillies traded for him just last week. His job was to get three outs in the eighth inning and turn it over to Jose Mesa in the ninth. He walked the first batter he faced and it only got worse after that. His sinking fast ball, which is about all he threw, kept coming in about an inch too low according to Umpire Randy Marsh, and somehow the Fish kept laying off, happy to let the squirming Williams walk in the tieing run. Carlos Silva relieved, but his sinkers were also too low, and the Marlins ended up with 8 in the 8th.
Good grief, is it too much to wish,
That our pitchers throw strikes to the dish?
Any time you walk nine,
The opponents will shine,
This night the Florida Fish.
Friday, July 25, 2003. Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida. Fish 11 Phillies 5
When you lose 7-straight to one team,
You have to admit it would seem,
That they are your master,
They hit and pitch faster,
Excuse me I feel like a scream.
Saturday, July 26, 2003, Pro-Player Stadium. Florida 10 Philadelphia 5.
The Fish have a guy named Pierre,
Who the Phils can't get out of their hair,
He bunts and he steals,
With his world-class wheels,
His walk-off hit was a flare.
Sunday, July 27, Pro-Player Stadium. Florida 7 Philadelphia 6
The Phils have run into a glitch,
But still we continue to twitch.
We still lead by one
In the wild card run.
Speaking of wild, where is Mitch?
Monday, July 28, The Great American Ballpark. Cincinnatti, Ohio (Makeup of June rainout). Reds fire manager Boone before the game, and the General manager for good measure
Cincinnatti 6 Philadelphia 5 (10 innings).
Abreu did it again.
Remember 3 weeks ago when,
His two run long ball,
Were the only runs scored? Now as then.
Tuesday, July 29. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 2 Los Angeles 0 (Padilla pitched 8)
If we can survive Kevin Brown,
There's not much can keep us down,
The Dodger ace tried,
But his team got fried,
The Phils are the toast of the town.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 4 Los Angeles 2
ATTACK OF THE KILLER P'S
Odalis Perez gave no hits,
Four innings of swishes and fits,
Then out of the blue,
Three-run homers - two,
T. Perez and Polanco showed no quits.
Thursday, July 31, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 7 Los Angeles 3
MILLWOOD IS GOOD
It was strike three if there ever was one. Right down the middle at the knees. Ball three the umpire said. One out in the 6th, and Millwood is perfect up to now. Millwood won't complain, he leaves that to the fans. The boos rain down on the blind ump's back when the next pitch is lined to left for the Padres' first hit and first baserunner. That done, the fans rise to their feet with noisy applause to let Millwood know they appreciate his effort.
The first 16 were a breeze.
Then the ump missed strike three at the knees.
The guy should have been out!
The frantic fans shout.
The perfect game was a 6-inning tease.
Friday, August 1, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 6 San Diego 0
Seven hours it took to play two,
And when the twi-nighter was through,
Each team had won one,
Cannon man was fun,
No need to feel overly blue.
Saturday, August 2, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 4, 10 San Diego 6,4
When center and right fielders collide,
You want to just run off and hide,
We led two to one,
Had the game won,
It's just too much to abide.
Sunday, August 3, 2003. Veterans Stadium. San Diego 5 Philadelphia 2 (10 innings)
ROAD TRIP - 2003
Chapter four of Max Blue's baseball book "God Is Alive and Playing Third Base for the Appleton Papermakers" is entitled "Life of a Fan - How to Root for a Losing Baseball Team." In that chapter is a story called "Road Trip, 2001." The story describes a 10-game early August Phillies road trip that started with four games in New York against the Mets followed by three games in Denver against the Colorado Rockies, and three in San Francisco against the Giants. The Phillies were 4-6 on the trip, and slipped from one game to three games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. Four of the losses came on walk-off homers - Rheal Cormier gave up two (Mike Piazza and Todd Helton), as did Turk Wendell (Robin Ventura and Andres Gallaraga).
So. Here we go again. Three games in Colorado and three in Frisco. Just like two years ago we trail the Braves, this time by 11, but the difference is that this time the Phillies have a two-game lead over Florida in the wild card race. We still have Cormier and Wendell, but we also have Joe Kerrigan as pitching coach. Joe has made Cormier and Wendell better, but he seems to have made Jose Mesa worse. Two years ago, Pat Burrell homered in all three games in Denver. This year Burrell is striking out about once every three times and is hitting .198 with only 14 homeruns although he did hit one yesterday against Oliver Perez, a 21year-old lefty who struck out 13.
So. Here we go again.
The kid is just 22 years-old,
But he's cut from the team-hero mold.
This night he threw darts,
That broke Rockies' fan hearts,
And not a few bats, we are told.
Tuesday, August 5, 2003 Coors Field, Denver, Colorado. Philadelphia 7 Colorado 2
HELTON AND TSAO
When you throw three straight changeups to Helton,
Don't be shocked at a 3-run beltin'.
A pitcher from Taiwan named Tsao
Then stopped the Phillies, and now,
Our wild-card lead is meltin'.
Wednesday August 6, 2003. Coors Field Colorado 5 Philadelphia 1.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN LOW
We gave him a 3-1 lead.
How much does this guy need?
The great Millwood blew it,
Somehow we all knew it.
Our hearts are beginning to bleed.
Thursday, August 7, 2003. Coors Field. Colorado 4 Philadelphia 3
ACES AND EIGHTS
The eighth day of the eighth month was bad.
Our ace, Randy Wolf has been had.
Barry Bonds hit a splash,
Give Jose Mesa the lash.
To see our team die is so sad.
Friday, August 8, 2003 PacBell Park, San Francisco, California. Giants 9 Phillies 1
Prolipsis is the Greek word for superstition. It also happens to be the name of the god of baseball in Pennsylvania. She lives on Mount Pocono, and she has it in for the National League team from Philadelphia. It goes back to the early days. In 1916 Prolipsis cast a 100-year curse on the Phillies because she was outraged that Phillies' pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander would give up a crucial homerun to a bandy legged outfielder from Brooklyn named Casey Stengel in a pennant-deciding game.
Prolipsis was up to her old tricks today in San Francisco-teasing Phillies fans with caught line drives and deep flyballs just short of the wall. But she upped the ante when she gave us hope that Pat Burrell is finally out of his season-long slump. A game-tying homerun in the 8th followed by a game-winning big fly in the 10th? This is too cruel oh Baseball god.
PAT THE BAT
Is he really over the hump?
Out of his season-long slump?
Or is it a trick?
Like a Hollywood flick?
To leave us once more in the dump?
Saturday, August 9, 2003. PacBell Park. Philadelphia 8 San Francisco 6 (10 innings)
TIED FOR THE WILD CARD LEAD
It's certainly not a disgrace,
To lose to a team in first place.
It's just that it seems
That those other teams
Are pulling too close in the race.
Sunday, August 10, 2003. PacBell Park. San Francisco 5 Philadelphia 2.
COUGHED UP THE LEAD
We now have lost five out of six,
Half a game out in the mix.
We are playing a team that is last,
The time for gloating is past,
We need to invent some new tricks.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Milwaukee 6 Philadelphia 3.
We need to win 10 in a row.
To stay in the playoff flow.
When Thome hits two
To smash the Brew crew,
Our class is beginning to show.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 11 Milwaukee 4.
RETURN OF CHASE UTLEY
The Phillies have picked up the pace,
Recalled the young slugger named Chase.
Three hits and two double plays,
The kid showed us the ways
He will keep us on top of the race.
Thursday, August 14, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 4 Milwaukee 3.
The Cardinals have rolled into town, tied for first in the Central Division.
Albert Pujols thinks triple crown, he hits with alarming precision.
They also have Rolen and Drew,
two guys who don't have a clue.
The home crowd enjoyed the collision.
Friday, August 15, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 7 St. Louis 4.
MARLON BIRD'S HEAD
I admit it, I thought we were dead,
When Edmonds bounced a triple off Marlon Bird's head.
But back-to-back longballs,
Jim Thome's and Lieberthal's,
Gave us a big win instead.
Saturday, August 16, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 5 St. Louis 4.
Last week he was far far away,
Pitching at Scranton-Wilkes Barre-triple A.
But tonight at the Vet he was great,
Made the Cardinal's bats swing way too late.
Wahoo, yippee, and hurray!
Sunday, August 17, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 6 St. Louis 4.
Here's the pitch: the team is 69-54, a game up on the loss side over Florida with 39 games to play. A winning percentage of .561 will mean 22-17 in the final 39. The Phillies top four pitchers are: Wolf and Myers 12-7, Millwood 12-8, and Padilla 11-8. That's 47-30 with a winning percentage of .610; times 39 = 24-15. Enough to win the wild card? Maybe. In 1980 the Phillies won the National League East by a single game over Montreal when they got a 5-0 September from Marty Bystrom, a rookie righthander. Amaury Telemaco is not a rookie, but if he pitches in September like he did two days ago against a good-hitting St.Louis team, it might be enough.
Hang onto your hats, we're off on a 13-game road trip.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN, AUGUST 19-31, 2003
We'll stop in Milwaukee first,
Never mind that they are the worst.
They've got Richie Sexson,
He could put a hex on,
Our 10-year without, pennant thirst.
Glassboro, August 19, 2003
A GUY NAMED SMITH
A guy named Mark Smith did us in,
A three-run longball for the win.
In the eighth with three men on base,
DeJean got the kid Utley to chase
A high fastball-to lose was a sin.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003. Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brewers 6 Phillies 4
We lost to Milwaukee again.
Will somebody please tell me when
We will win on the road?
I'm about to explode.
Randy Wolf pitched like 10 cardboard men.
This time we really got beat.
The players are feeling the heat
Of a hot pennant race,
We must pick up the pace,
Or get left standing out in the street.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003. Miller Park. Milwaukee 10 Philadelphia 1
Bob Uecker can stand up and cheer
The second Brewer sweep of the year.
Our big hitters slept,
And so we got swept.
I think I'll go cry in my beer.
Thursday, August 21, 2003. Miller Park. Milwaukee 5 Philadelphia 2.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
Hard to believe, Harry.
Four homers by Thome and Burrell is scary.
The Cardinal's were cruisin'
The Phillies were losin',
What's the Greek word for carry?
Friday, August 22, 2003. Busch Stadium, St.Louis, Missouri. Philadelphia 9 St. Louis 4
Somehow we're staying on top.
Though the road trip so far is a flop.
Four losses in five
Is no way to stay alive,
These frustrating losses must stop.
Saturday, August 23, 2003 Busch Stadium. St. Louis 5 Philadelphia 3.
BLANKED - BY BRETT TOMKO?
Once again the big bats were blanked.
They were limp, they were silent, they were tanked.
Hey guys, we know it's a tough game,
But this time it's a pure bloody shame.
Shutout by Brett Tomko? You should be spanked.
Sunday, August 24, 2003. Busch Stadium. St. Louis 3 Philadelphia 0
NEVER TOO LATE
Once again Kevin Millwood was great.
Three hits and no runs through eight.
Pat Burrell hit a homer,
It scored him and Thomer.
Take heart men-it's never too late.
Friday, August 29, 2003. Shea Stadium, New York. Philadelphia 7 New York 0
The report on the standings is filed,
When you see it you'll know it's not mild.
Eight teams in the race
In the fight for first place.
Raise a cheer, it's authentically WILD.
Standings of the Clubs - August 30, 2003
Team Won Lost
Philadelphia 71 63
Florida 71 63
Montreal 71 65
Houston 70 64
St. Louis 70 64
Arizona 70 64
Chicago 69 64
Los Angeles 69 64
KING OF THE HILL
Maybe Wolfie has turned it around,
In Shea his pitching was sound.
Six hits and two runs through seven,
Compared to before it was heaven.
Tonight Wolf was King of the mound.
Saturday, August 30, 2003. Shea Stadium. Philadelphia 4 New York 2
Okay, so we beat the Mets all three,
Should we be shouting with glee?
Or should we be wary?
The schedule is scary,
One month to go - we shall see.
The road trip from Hell is done.
It wasn't a whole lot of fun.
We lost nine of thirteen,
A record unclean,
Think where we'd be if we won.
Sunday, August 31, 2003. Shea Stadium. Philadelphia 4 New York 1
On the first of September we fell
Into second. We need David Bell.
Trot Nixon a grand slam to seal it,
Six Red Sox runs in the 9th to steal it.
Our pitching is starting to smell.
The baseball gods must be giggling,
To see we Phillies fans wiggling.
13 hits, 13 walks, 13 runs,
it's like we've been hit with siege guns.
Give us a break here we're sniggling.
Monday, September 1, 2003. Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pa. Boston 13 Philadelphia 9
CHASE AT THE BAT
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Phillies nine this day. The score stood 3-2 with but one inning left to play. . .
The rookie, Chase Utley stood in,
Enduring the 8th inning Vet Stadium din.
The bases were drunk,
The Phillies near sunk.
The kid hit a triple to win.
Tuesday, September 2, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 5 Montreal 3.
EASY DOES IT
It's hard to beat a six-run inning
When your goal is to keep on winning.
Millwood and Thome were great,
The offense woke up to score eight.
Maybe now my hair will stop thinning.
Wednesday, September 3, 2003. Veterans Stadium Philadelphia 8 Montreal 3.
BACK FROM THE BRINK
Jose Mesa blew a big save,
Crushed our hopes for the pennant we crave.
But the pain eased a bit
On a 9th inning Lieberthal hit.
We won but by too close a shave.
Thursday, September 4, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 6 New York 5.
Jae Seo and Padilla were great.
Nothing to nothing through eight.
Then we managed a run,
This game can be fun.
We still lead the wild card slate.
Friday, September 5, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 1 New York 0.
Five wins in a row.
Twenty games to go.
If we win all the rest
We will show who is best,
And bring on the postseason show.
Saturday, September 6, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 9 New York 6.
FRIED IN PHILLY
The Phillies would not be denied.
No matter how hard they tried,
The triple-A Mets
Lost all their bets,
And like Philly cheesesteaks were fried.
Sunday, September 7, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 5 New York 4 (11 innings).
FAILED IN ATLANTA
When you start with a 4-run lead,
You think you are bound to succeed.
But Millwood, our ace,
Was all over the place.
He failed, and so we must bleed.
Monday, September 8, 2003. Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta 6 Philadelphia 4.
LAUGHER IN ATLANTA
Two grand slams in one game?
Are you kidding? It can't be the same
Phillies team that last night
After one looked a fright.
Tonight the best team in baseball looked lame.
Tuesday, September 9, 2003. Turner Field. Philadelphia 18 Atlanta 5.
FOILED IN ATLANTA
Excuse me, is this the same team
That last night made Atlanta scream?
Four time Jim Thome struck out,
Now it is our turn to shout:
Are things as bad as they seem?
Wednesday, September 19, 2003. Turner Field. Atlanta 4 Philadelphia 2.
FUN IN ATLANTA
Greg Maddux is still hard to beat,
But tonight he gave Philly a treat.
His pitches were up,
The Phillies cried, Yup!
And turned up the Wild Card race heat.
Thursday, September 11, 2003. Turner Field. Philadelphia 8 Atlanta 3.
The Pirates would like to be spoilers.
This night they cranked up all their boilers,
And smacked down the Phils,
Compounding the ills,
Of the sad Quaker City toilers.
Friday, September 12, 2003. PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh 8 Philadelphia 4
It looks like we lack what it takes.
Way too many rookie mistakes.
Are we trying too hard
To grab the only Wild Card?
It seems we've been bitten by snakes.
Saturday, September 13, 2003. PNC Park. Pittsburgh 5 Philadelphia 3.
Breath a sigh,
At last we squeaked by.
The Pirates are rough,
They played us damned tough.
They gave it the old college try.
Sunday, September 14, 2003. PNC Park. Philadelphia 10 Pittsburgh 7.
We're heading right down to the end.
The question is, who first will bend?
Three home with the Fish,
Our tasty dish?
Or a ripping that's too late to mend?
Standing of the Wild Card Clubs
Monday, September 15, 2003
Team W L To play
Florida 83 66 Home- Philadelphia 3 New York 3
Road - Philadelphia 3 Atlanta 4
Philadelphia 82 68 Home - Florida 3 Cincinnati 3 Atlanta 3
Road - Florida 3
Los Angeles 80 68 Home - Arizona 3 San Francisco 3
Road - San Diego 4 San Francisco 4
The Phillies played shortball and long,
Before a dizzily happy Vet throng.
No chances were wasted,
The Marlins were pasted,
And left thinking 'man, what went wrong?'
Tuesday, September 16, 2003. Vet Stadium, Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia 14 Florida 0.
The Fish have this guy called Conine.
Just our luck he picked this night to shine.
There he was, standing tall
On both sides of the ball.
If we beat them today we'll be fine.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003. Vet Stadium. Florida 11 Philadelphia 4.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
The Fish thought they had this one hooked.
That's for sure the way things looked.
But Polanco and Thome said "no!"
We will not allow this one to go.
And so 'twas the Fish who got cooked.
Jim Thome put this one away.
It's hard thinking up things to say,
That can tell how he thrilled all
With his 8th inning long ball.
And now only 9 games to play.
Thursday, September 18, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 5 Florida 4
A first inning 3-run long ball
By Phils' catcher Mike Lieberthal.
He's done it three times in two weeks,
His eyes on the goal that he seeks - -
He sees his team winning it all.
Friday, September 19, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Philadelphia 7 Cincinnati 3
They didn't play like a last place team,
Caught every line drive and short hop, it would seem.
Once more we're a half-game behind,
Scratching and searching to find,
The key to get back on the beam.
Saturday, September 20, 2003. Veterans Stadium. Cincinnati 2 Philadelphia 0.
HERB WAS RIGHT
My pal, Herb Rogoff was right.
The Phillies are woefully light.
Losing four to the Pirates and Reds
Leaves us all shaking our heads.
Once again, it's a sad Phillies plight.
Sunday, Sept. 21.2003 Fan Appreciation Day. Cincinnati 4 Philadelphia 3.
Six games to play.
What can I say?
In the end it has come down to this.
Will it be hit or will it be miss?
Will we play on an October day?
Monday, September 22, 2003. Facing a three game series in Florida, trailing the Fish by one game in the wild card race.
LOSING IS BRUISING
Through six Kevin Millwood was cruising.
After seven the Phillies were losing.
The guy let us down in the clutch,
Jeff Conine again was too much.
Our hearts and our spirits are bruising.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003. Pro-Player Stadium, Miami, Florida. Florida 5 Philadelphia 4
A - FOR EFFORT
The baseball gods were not on our side.
It was us not the Fish who got fried.
But however you slice it,
Cut it or dice it,
You cannot deny that we tried.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003. Pro-Player Stadium. Florida 6 Philadelphia 5.
A week ago we were on top.
Then came a sickly 5-game flop.
You can look for a reason,
But the fact is the season
Is dead as a wet kitchen mop.
Thursday, September 25, 2003. Pro-Player Stadium. Florida 8 Philadelphia 4.
The answer is Chase Utley. The questions are three: 1) Who was the last rookie to hit a grand slam homerun at Veterans Stadium for his first major league hit? 2) Who got the last walk-off hit at Veterans Stadium? 3) Who made the last out at Veterans Stadium?
Who turned out the lights at Veterans Stadium? It was September 28, 2003 and along with almost 60,000 other Phillies fans, Liddy and me were there to help flip the switch. Atlanta 5 Philadelphia 2. What else? The Phillies lost. Not much consolation that the winning pitcher was Greg Maddux, the guy we beat in game 6 of the 1993 League Championship series right here at Veterans Stadium.
Oh yeah, there were some high moments here at Veterans Stadium.
Here are some that I remember:
1971 - Larry Shenk of the Phillies sends six complementary tickets to 14-year-old Katie Fritz in Hershey for her epic poem "Willie At the Plate".(see below) Katie treats the whole family to a day at the Vet where we meet Willie Montanez in the batting cage underneath the grandstand. Katie presents a purple Fez to Rich Ashburn outside the stadium before the game.
1972 -Steve Carlton pitches 30 complete games, 8 shutouts, wins 27 of team total 59. It is an election year and we decide that anybody who can pitch like that would make a good president. The Democrats have nominated George McGovern for president and Thomas Eagleton for vice-president. We have a better idea. We carry a bed-sheet banner around Veterans Stadium, it reads: TWO TON TICKET - CARLTON - EAGLETON.
1973 - There we are, standing on the turf at Veterans Stadium, Liddy, me and the four kids, Katie, Keri, Konrad, and Kurt. It is camera day, and everybody is having a great time. Everybody except Jim Bunning. The ace pitcher is concerned that people are not observing the 'no autographs' sign displayed on the message board way up there on top of the stadium, close to the Liberty Bell. When Dodger infielder Bobby Valentine signs a ball for us, Bunning puts on a stern face, shakes an index finger, and points to that sign. For his trouble, he is forever after known in our family as "Gunky Bunning". Valentine, on the other hand, with his "ain't-life-great? smile, becomes a family favorite. We like him so much that we break out another bed-sheet, paint it with "Corky Valentine Fan Club", and follow him to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and later Baltimore. He signs that ball in all those places. He wonders why we call him Corky.
1974 -We are there for opening day. It is a cold April day, but not cold enough to prevent a streaker from jumping out of the stands and taking off at a frantic gallop for a slide into second base, to the astonishment of shortstop Larry Bowa, and the delight of maybe 40,000 fans. Phils win on a walk-off homer by Mike Schmidt off Tug McGraw of the Mets. Life is good.
1976-Liddy and me are up from Hershey for a twi-night doubleheader against the Cardinals. It is a dark and stormy night. Two or three rain delays. Game two begins about 11 P.M. It is a 17-inning game. Sitting behind the third base dugout we had a great view of Bowa's bugged out eyes sliding into third when he got thrown out trying to steal.
1980-Game six of the World's Series. We are watching on television in Hershey. In the sixth inning the telephone rings. It is Katie-she is at Veterans Stadium. She sees an event unique as the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The only World's Championship the Phillies have ever won.
1996-Fan Appreciation Day. The final home game of the season. Phillies vs. New York Mets with their new manager, our old pal, Bobby Valentine. Liddy and me are now living in center city Philadelphia, close to the Art Museum, so it is easy to catch the Broad Street subway to Veterans Stadium. When it's all over, we sit around wondering what kind of fate, or which of the baseball gods got it in their head to see to it that Liddy's ticket stub was the one out of 28,000 picked to win the grand prize-an all expense paid trip for two to London. That's in England, where they wouldn't know a baseball from a sticky wicket. We're not complaining-just wondering.
1997-It's the London influence. I wear my tuxedo to opening day at Veterans Stadium. It doesn't help: Schilling gets bombed by the Colorado Rockies. Liddy and me go to Susannah Fu's for dinner after the game, where I am mistaken for a waiter.
2003-When the Phillies signed Jim Thome over the winter they picked up a few thousand extra season ticket customers, including Liddy and me. What could we do? Thome is from Peoria where I grew up playing baseball against Jimbo's Grandpa Chuck and his Uncle Art. Also, it didn't hurt that this guy has hit way over 300 homeruns for Cleveland, and promises to do the same here in Philly. What could I do? We get the Sunday package-we like the day games. Section 318 row 3 seats 14 and 15. Behind the Phillies dugout. Good seats. We're not even through April when we see Kevin Millwood beat the National League champion Giants 1-0. We know it's something special when Millwood slings a 95 MPH fastball across the inside corner at the belt for strike three to end the 7th inning, and leave Barry Bonds standing there shaking his head. It's a no-hit, no-run game, and Liddy and me are there. At Veterans Stadium.
2003-September 21, Sunday. Only 7 games to play and we got this wild card thing right where we want it. If we beat Cincinnati today and Florida loses to Atlanta, we are half a game ahead looking at three games in Florida then back to Veterans Stadium to close it out with three against Atlanta. Cincinnati is a last-place team that has traded away all their best players so they can play a bunch of young guys who don't get paid so much. In the sixth inning Jim Thome slugs a three-run homer sending 50 some thousand Philly fans into a screaming frenzy. We go into the seventh up 3-1 with Vicente Padilla, a 14-game winner, in control. All of a sudden Padilla is no longer in control, the Reds score three and we lose 4-3. Fifty some thousand fans take it sitting down. They don't know who to boo.
2003-September 28, Sunday. The final game at Veterans Stadium. The Phillies collapsed in Florida and the Wild Card race is history. We lose. Again. But we still have to play this one last game. Against the team that has wrapped up its 12th consecutive division championship-the Atlanta Braves. And facing the guy who has had more than his share to do with all those winning seasons-Greg Maddux. Kevin Millwood,who won 17 games for the Braves last year, is trying for his 15th win as a Philly, but he is plum awful. The Braves treat him like batting practice and he leaves in the 4th inning before he gets killed. The guy we cheered in April for his no-hitter gets booed in September. Millwood, in a fit of anger, fires his glove and cap into the seats behind the dugout as he leaves the field. Somehow it seems a fitting end to our memories of Veterans Stadium.
But wait 'til next year.
WILLIE AT THE PLATE
by Katie Fritz
The rowdy Phils were down by one
With 8 and 1/3 innings gone.
The 'Frisco gang was filled with glee
For this would clinch the pennant spree.
Then guess what man was due up next?
The bullpen wanted Lucchesi hexed.
The bench jocks cried out "Tell us which!"
Defensive specialist Vukovich.
But lo! John looped one in left center field.
Oh maybe, just maybe ol' Perry will yield!
But at the next batter, a few fans dispersed
The loudspeaker boomed out: "Pitcher, Barry Lersch."
And sure enough, what he did made Luke frown:
Struck out hopelessly swinging and made it two down.
Yet hope was struck in the heart of the fans
For Bowa came next--no also-ran.
He ran the count up to three-and-two
Belting fouls down the lines, while the Giants muttered, "Boo!"
The next pitch came in right at the knee,
Perry whispered, "Is it strike three?"
But the Philly fans let loose a roar
For the umpire cried out, "Baw Four!"
From the dugout leaped out Manager Fox
And the bench screamed loudly, "A Pox, a Pox!"
They argued loudly, long, in vain,
But the umpire said slowly, "On with the game."
The Philly batter in the box next was Money.
Speier giggled, Fuentes muttered, "ain't funny."
Money nodded across to DeMars
Who was pointing out at the parking lot cars.
Myatt bellowed "Awright, yer awright!"
Then Dietz' heart froze with fright
For Vucky and Bowa darted out with zeal.
On the radio, Ashburn said, "Double steal!"
Perry looked nervous and looked for the sign,
Nodded, stretched, threw the ball right on a line.
Money jerked, ducked, and went down in a heap.
"Hit by the pitch," said McCovey. "That's cheap."
With the bases now loaded, the infield gathered `round.
They conferred and talked shop 'til the umpire frowned.
"Let's go," he said and Lucchesi agreed.
"Good luck," said Fox to Perry. "Let's go get that Freed."
The fans rose to their feet and lustily cheered
For out of the dugout a pinch-hitter appeared.
Even Ashburn in the booth, in a purple-gold fez,
Sounded excited when he said, "Montanez!"
Willie stepped in; with a flip of his bat,
Wiggled his wrists and settled his bat.
Perry on the mound hemmed and hawed
And around the rubber nervously pawed.
Dietz squatted slowly and signed the pitch.
The delivery went off without a hitch.
"Stee-rike, strike one!" the umpire said.
Paper cups rained down on the umpire's head.
The next pitch came in; Willie fouled it back.
Oh-and-two went the count, alas and alack!
Perry stretched and threw, quickly and curt.
Ashburn said, "Low, in the dirt."
Willie stepped out and checked with the coach.
The look Perry gave him was filled with reproach.
Dietz sighed and made gestures, gave tongue,
Yelled "Get him good, Gaylord!" and then Willie swung.
His muscles rippled, the bat lashed with fury,
The ball rose in the air, Mays' brow creased with worry.
The little white pellet sailed over the fence
And Vukovich went into his victory dance,
On the radio Ashburn choked in his glee
And screamed, "The Phils are the champs! They win 6 to 3!!"
In the clubhouse amid shouts and champagne,
The reporters begged, "Willie, tell us again!"
"It was a good pitch," whooped Willie, so merry.
"A hanging curve," said Gaylord Perry.