Max Blue / Historic Teams / Phillies
Philadelphia's Phillies - Baseball Thrills in Three Centuries - Includes game summaries and daily limericks and for 2009 and 2010 seasons. Published March 5, 2011.
LORDS OF THE FLIES
To say nothing of the grounders and the Ks
By Max Blue
In the beginning there was the bat and the ball, and god saw that it was good. The field took the shape of a diamond, the most sparkling gem in the Universe, and god was pleased. Then, casting about in his ball bag for a sign, god came upon a granite slab on which was etched the sacred numbers - 90 feet between the bases, 60 feet six inches from the middle of the diamond to the base called home. And god saw that it was a game, and he called it Baseball.
And the games began, but before god knew what had happened, the devil's evil form took shape behind the pitcher, saying "I am the umpire, and though I cannot see, you must obey my judgements."
And, in spite of the blindness, the game prospered as spectators, called cranks by pundits hired by newspapers and magazines to document what was happening on the field, viewed the eternal battle of good versus evil, and were entertained by men with colorful names like, The Only Dolan, Wee Willie Keeler, Razor Ledbetter, and Phenomenal Smith.
Then, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the gods of money took note that the baseball cranks were spending their hard-earned dough to gain entrance to the rickety grandstands that edged the playing fields. They were paying to see the games! It was a short circuit for the money gods - competition was the soul of the Earth - two leagues were the answer - the American League and the National League - and a World's Series between the league champions to cap the season. The money gods saw to it, while the baseball gods - there had to be a god for each league - scrambled to keep up, and gathered in a baseball blessed village called Breinigsville in the foothills of Pennsylvania's Pocono mountains to consider the circumstances and to plan strategy.
The gods deliberated for ten years, then twenty, trying to get it right - they needed more gods, one for each team, and in the end one for each position of each team. They saw this as a way to allow extraterrestrial games between the gods. Now wouldn't that be fun? The real fun began when it was pointed out that the time had come to begin using a ball that was not dead. It was 1920, the war was over, the flu epidemic was over, the Republicans were in the Whitehouse, and when this guy Ruth began to launch moonshots, the decade began to roar.
The gods concluded their marathon Pennsylvania convention with a known-only-on-a-need-to-know document called the Four B - the Breinigsville Base Ball Bible.
The Four B did not waste time with frivolous diversions: the home team gods were tasked to affect the games in the most extraordinary, unexpected, and outrageous ways that they could devise. They wanted the home team to win, but only after suffering. The visiting team gods had the same mandate for their team, resulting in dueling gods and fun-filled, if nerve-racking, entertainment for the hometown cranks.
How the gods handled the Umpire problem was their unending dilemma - how do you deal with a group of opinionated and stubborn men who are godless and eternally blind?
The Missouri National League baseball gods picked up their batbags and chest-protectors, and headed West from Breinigsville in search of a suitable location near Saint Louis from where they could plan strategy when they were working, and relax and recharge when they were resting. They found it on a high bluff with a stunning view of the tree-lined, north flowing, Big River hugging the bluff, and the miles-wide carpet of pasture land dotted with lazily grazing cows and bulls, some 40 miles southwest of Sportsmans Park where the Cardinals played ball. It was called Cottage Farm, and it came with a ballfield featuring a rusty wired backstop, a bumpy and gravel-strewn infield, and an outfield that swept downhill to a bordering cornfield. Just what the gods needed to polish their skills, and invent new ways to prevent the game from becoming ordinary and predictable.
The gods of Cardinal baseball passed their first test in 1926, overcoming the powerful New York baseball gods in a World's Series 7th game Yankee Stadium showdown that ended with Babe Ruth thrown out trying to steal 2nd base in a 3-2 St.Louis win for the championship. A secret room in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame main building in Cooperstown, New York, contains the carefully maintained gods of Baseball archives, available to all the gods of course, but also to those who have deciphered the code embedded in the Four B. My research has revealed that Babe Ruth's ill-fated steal attempt was sealed when CF3, one of the Missouri gods, was able to overcome one of the New York gods in an arm wrestling contest.
The Pennsylvania gods stayed in Breinigsville with their Four B's in hand and looked Southeast to Philadelphia and West to Pittsburgh.
And so to the present, 100 years since the baseball gods gathered at Breinigsville. The St. Louis Cardinals' gods have been shiningly successful, racking up more pennants (17) and more World's Series championships (10) than any other National League team. They have won 9,015 games compared to 8,351 losses in regular season competition. In contrast, the Philadelphia Phillies' gods have been dismal, more than 10,000 losses, the most by any professional sports team in history. The Phillies have scratched for seven pennants and two World's Series championships - in 1980 and 2008 against expansion teams, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, with their novice sets of baseball gods.
In 2011 the Phillies won their fifth consecutive National League East Division title, winning a franchise record 102 games. The team was paced by a pitching rotation of Roy Hallady, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt - a glittering collection of ball tossers widely hailed as The Four Aces. When the St. Louis Cardinals grabbed the National League Wild Card spot, thanks to a Phillies season-ending three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves (Cardinals' gods were present to lend a hand if needed), it set up a post-season match between the Cardinals and Phillies for the first time in the 111-year history of the National League.
The Pennsylvania baseball gods thought they were ready, did they not have Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball? The St. Louis gods knew better, they had been here before; seven times they had triumphed over the best pitchers in baseball in a World's Series game seven - 1926 - Yankees Waite Hoyt (16-12) and Herb Pennock (23-11); 1931 - Philadelphia A's George Earnshaw (21-7); 1934 - Detroit's Eldon Auker (15-7) and Schoolboy Rowe (24-8); 1946 - Red Sox's Boo Ferriss (25-6); 1964 - Yankees' Mel Stottlemyre (9-3); 1967 - Red Sox's Jim Lonborg (22-9); 1982 - Milwaukee's Pete Vukovich (18-6). Bring it on.
The Pennsylvania bb gods were in uncharted waters - no 7th game experience for them. The Cardinals' gods were at the top of their game - after spooking Cliff Lee and his 4-run lead in game two of the Division Championship Series, they took care of Roy Halladay after three pitches in the fifth and deciding game; the Pennsylvania gods had failed to warm up properly. One precious run for the Cardinals; the St.Louis gods knew the urgency of getting to Hallady before he got comfortable. And then they called in their defensive experts - six were needed in the fourth inning when Phillies' leftfielder Raul Ibanez' homerun bid, a high drive to right with two men on base, was turned back in a ferocious tug-of-war between the six Cardinals' gods pulling it back, and the undermanned (only five) Philadelphia gods pulling it toward the eager hands of the right field bleacherites. The body language of 47,000 pleading Philly fans made it close, but the ball was caught by Cardinal rightfielder Lance Berkman with his back against the wall.
Cardinal righthander Chris Carpenter outpitched the best pitcher in baseball and sealed his complete game, three-hit shutout when after more help from his gods on Chase Utley's 9th inning centerfield bolt, he retired Phillies' big piece Ryan Howard on a weak tap to second base.
The Cardinals' bb gods added injury to insult by conspiring to effect a ruptured achilles tendon to Ryan Howard on the game's final pitch.
At Cottage Farm, the champagne flowed once more.
In Philadelphia, the only thing flowing was tears.