First entry disclaimer: This is a long one. It will never happen again. I hope this achieves what Rob had in mind.
At last, I have arrived!
This is my first official entry as a blogger. Is it natural for me to suddenly be experiencing an inflated sense of self worth? Should I start contemplating the magnitude of being me? Am I the straw that stirs this drink? Does Reggie read this blog?
Seriously, as a long time reader, I am honored that Whit and Rob invited me aboard. I hope I can earn my keep around here by bringing a Phillies’ fan perspective that’s fractionally as humorous as my counterparts’ usual witticisms. I will make only one promise – I shall never use “ph” in the place of “f” except when typing the name (and all its variations) of the lovable inhabitants of Broad and Pattison Streets.
I now will provide some vital information about me which will hopefully engender pity and charity.
I grew up nowhere near Philadelphia. Pittsburgh was the closest team (about 40 miles away) but rooting for the Battlin’ Buccos was not an option in my house. Pops forbade it. He never actually had to speak this rule but I remember vividly his reaction when the Pirates came from behind to clip the Orioles in 1971. I think he hated the Pirates more that he loved his Cubs. Not entirely sure why he was a Cubs fan but the story goes that all his schoolyard mates were avid Pirates fans in 1938 and the Cubs were Pittsburgh’s nearest rival for the NL pennant that season. It seems my dad did what contrarians by definition always do and he cast his lot with the Cubs who went on to win the pennant. Poor bastard never had a chance.
I came along relatively late in my fathers’ life – I know, I know, this sounds too much like Ray Kinsella’s life but it’s true. My rationale for picking a team was rooted foremost in fear and then in fascination. One day after work, my dad dropped a pack of Topps 1976 baseball cards in on the living room floor between the TV and my body posited roughly 2 feet away. I opened it up and the first thing I remember was the swirly white P with the baseball in the hole. That did it for me. My dad saw history repeating itself in its cruel way yet did nothing to stop me. Apparently, he saw a kindred soul and let things progress as if he was abiding by the Prime Directive.
1976, 77 and 78 were three of Philly’s most successful if not glorious seasons in their history to date. Each season ended in a gut wrenching NLCS ouster. In ’76 of course, no one was stopping the Big Red Machine, one of history’s all time greats. In ’77 and ‘ 78, it was the Dodgers turn to lose to the Yanks.
1979 brought free agent Pete Rose to Philly. It was hoped that he would bring his inimitable brand of hustle to a talented team of underachievers. Pete was my brother’s favorite player. The Reds were his favorite team. My brother’s team selection process, while different in kind, was not different in its whimsical nature. My brother’s name was Pete. He shared an April birthday with Charlie Hustle and was born in 1963, Rose’s rookie season. We never made fun of my brother Pete because his Reds came through 3 times which makes him a sharpshooter in our gang that couldn’t shoot straight. At least one of us got it right even though it wasn’t exactly a well researched decision. Pete's dead now so I am hoping I can catch him if I live to my '90s.
The 1979 version of the Phils were hampered by injuries and by August, they had sacked manager Danny Ozark and replaced him with an organization man – Dallas Green. Green humiliated those supremely gifted yet woefully underperforming Phillies into the franchise’s first and to date, only world champion. The very thought of such a managerial style seems so anachronistic today. No matter, Green delivered the title and I was forever cursed.
After 5 seasons as a fan, I witnessed 4 division titles, one pennant and one world championship. 1981 was a year to forget. The Phils were going strong until the strike and when they returned, baseball instituted a split season playoff format which meant the Phillies had already clinched a spot in early August. They mailed it in the rest of the way and got dumped by a great, young Expos team featuring Tim Raines, Gary Carter and Andrew Dawson.
A second place finish in ’82 was followed up by the improbable title run in 1983 when the Wheeze Kids of Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Pete Rose lost to Baltimore in five games.
At this point, I am eight seasons into my fandom and I am sitting on a dynasty of sorts.
1984 was a .500 season for an aging club. 1985 was the first losing season and although I was familiar with this club’s history, I never imagined those days would return. Little by little though, this club aged and fell apart. First it was Luzinski going to the White Sox. Then Bowa to the Cubs. Manny Trillo and Bake McBride to the Indians. Pete to the Expos. Steve Carlton to 13 different teams in one of baseball’s all-time most pathetic twilights. They were all gone and so was the savvy organization that procured top notch veterans to go along with their home grown talent. The Phillies returned to their historical form. 1986 was a minor blip. The Phils would experience losing seasons in 1987 through 1992. 1993, of course was a team for the ages but was most definitely a statistical outlier. We stunk up the 1990’s and by the turn of the century, I had long accepted that I made a big mistake a quarter century ago. I will now share a dark secret. In 1997, in a fit of frustration, I briefly flirted with becoming a Red Sox fan. The rationale was that I would not be accused of being a bandwagon fan given the Sox history. All the while I knew something had to give with the Red Sox and very soon. The Cubs of course, were never considered.
So far, this first decade of the 21st century has been numbingly mediocre. Not too bad. Good enough to keep me interested but never seriously. There are gaping holes everywhere and its only the wild card format that makes it interesting after Labor Day.
There you have it. Equal parts misery and mediocrity though I am not certain which is worse. A couple fantastical Cinderella seasons capped by a lost slipper. And one shiny, glittering, glorious, incomprehensibly ecstatic foray into baseball nirvana.
Misery loves company indeed! Glad to be here.
(Oh, before I go, I have one question for the venerable MLC founders, are we going to change the name to reflect the numbers? I put forward the idea that like the Big Ten with its 11 teams, MLC: Two Guys has brand name quality and recognition that cannot be replaced simply to reflect the changing mathematics. (If my newly obtained membership affords me a vote, of course.)