Today is my 30th anniversary…as a Phillies (and Philly) fan

Phillies logos during my 30 years of "phandom."
Phillies logos during my 30 years of "phandom."

For the first eight years of my existence, my dad raised me to be a New York Mets fan, believe it or not. Growing up in Brick, N.J., we would make one or two trips each summer to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play, but I never really got into it. Strangely, though, my favorite player from those awful Mets teams in the mid-to-late 1970s was catcher John Stearns. More on that later.

But my dad grew tired of making the drive up to Shea from our house in Brick, which was located close to Route 70, an east-west state highway that extended all the way to Pennsauken, N.J. From there, one would merge for a short time onto Route 38, pick up Route 130 South, and then head on over the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philadelphia. In other words, it was an easy 90-minute drive. Hence, my dad decided we were going to see the Mets play the Phillies at Veterans Stadium on Sunday, April 22, 1979.

Initially, I was upset — mostly because I was a temperamental 7-year old (I would turn 8 in July). But Shea Stadium was the only ballpark I knew and that’s where I wanted to go.

However, once we got to “The Vet,” something happened. First of all, compared to Shea, The Vet was spectacular (The Vet may have been a dump in reality, but Shea was — by far — the bigger dump.) Plus, there was the Phanatic! That was fun. And the Phillies had a pretty good pitcher on the mound that day…future Hall of Fame southpaw Steve “Lefty” Carlton. And I remember Pete Rose, in his first year with the Phillies, diving into the first couple of rows of seats along the first-base side to catch a foul pop. And for the first seven innings, Carlton and the Phillies were cruising along with a 2-0 lead going into the eighth. I immediately switched allegiances and became a Phillies fan.

That’s probably where the day went wrong for the Phils, as the Mets went up 4-2 in the eighth, when Carlton surrendered three runs before reliever Ron Reed gave up an unearned run in the frame. That would turn out to be the final score, but it didn’t matter…I had a new team.

(By the way, I didn’t remember all those details…most are courtesy of the great

And when we left the stadium, we wound up walking next to offices for the Eagles. I asked my dad who they were and he said they were Philadelphia’s football team. I asked about the arena across the street and he told me that’s where the Sixers and Flyers play. So, really, April 22, 1979, marks the day I became a fan of all Philly teams — and of sports, in general.

But Phillies baseball became my greatest passion that day. And, because I was at the game, I hadn’t yet heard the legendary broadcast team of Harry Kalas and Richie “Whitey” Ashburn calling the Phillies games…that was another plus of being a fan of the team.

Although my dad was still primarily a Mets fan, he began to like the Phillies, too, and we went back to The Vet a few more times that year — and for many years after that (my dad has pretty much become a Phillies fan these days…his days as a Mets fan ended when they fired Bobby Valentine as manager). The Phillies — after winning three straight NL East titles from 1976-78 — finished in a disappointing fourth place in 1979. Of course, in 1980, they became world champions of baseball for the first time in the franchise’s long history.

And that brings me back to Mets catcher John Stearns. As I mentioned, he was my favorite Mets player around 1977 and ’78. Since I wasn’t a big sports fan back then, I never looked at Stearns’ career statistics or history. It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned that Stearns was drafted in 1973 by — guess who — the Philadelphia Phillies. In December 1974, he was traded to the New York Mets. The key player the Phillies received from the Mets in that trade? Relief pitcher Tug McGraw, who struck out Willie Wilson in the ninth inning to clinch the Phillies’ World Series title in 1980.

So, before I became a Phillies fan, my favorite player on the Mets turned out to be a former Phillie (Stearns played one game with the Phils in September 1974) whose trade allowed for the iconic image of Tug McGraw’s celebratory leap upon winning the 1980 World Series to become a reality.

I guess it was just meant to be.

Goodbye, Harry…and thank you, Phillies

This fan-made artwork was one of many tributes to Harry Kalas left outside Citizens Bank Park
This fan-made artwork was one of many tributes to Harry Kalas left outside Citizens Bank Park

I, along with many Phillies fans, paid their final respects and said goodbye to longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas at a memorial service held this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia.

My fiancee and I got on line at 8:30 a.m. and entered the third-base gate about 40 minutes later. Once through the turnstiles, I saw a table with free coffee set up on it. As a huge fan of coffee, especially a little after 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I was excited. However, I caught a glimpse of two people standing a bit beyond the coffee station…and I was floored.

I whispered to my fiancee, “Oh, wow! Bill Giles and David Montgomery are up there greeting everybody.”

Now, Bill Giles is one of the Phillies’ owners and is the team’s chairman. David Montgomery is president and chief executive officer of the Phillies. And they were personally shaking hands with every single person walking into the ballpark and thanking them for being there.

During the late 1990s and the early part of this decade when the Phils were pretty much dreadful, both of these men took a lot of heat from some of the very fans they were now shaking hands with on a very emotional day.

Seconds after I noticed them, a few other people on line in front of us did too…and had pretty much the same reaction as I did (“Oh, wow!”). I said to a guy in front of us, “That is real class. They did not have to do that.” He agreed.

It was the first of many first-class touches the Phillies displayed during the day. And that’s one thing I want to bring up in this post…for all-non Phillies fans out there, say what you want about Philly fans and the teams, but anytime the Phillies hold a ceremony, they always do a top-notch job with it. Some of the so-called “upper crust” teams in baseball might want to take a lesson from the Phillies on how to stage a special event.

OK…so, anyway…I was going to write a lot more, but it really comes down to this: The Phillies did a great job this week with honoring the legacy and memory of Harry Kalas. And they capped it off with an outstanding memorial service and final goodbye to an icon whose voice will echo around my mind for the rest of my life.

Sound of Summer Silenced (for Harry the K)
6:24/8.8 MB

This is a song I wrote over the days following Harry Kalas’ death. I used some radio calls, which are likely not covered by fair use, but I felt they added to the song and were an appropriate tribute. I’ll remove them if asked.

A personal memory of Harry Kalas

Harry Kalas (1936-2009)
Harry Kalas (1936-2009)

Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas collapsed at Nationals Park and later died in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, just hours before the Phillies’ game today against the Washington Nationals. He was 73.

I became a Phillies fan in April 1979 and Harry’s voice is practically embedded in my brain — something I am sure I have in common with many other die-hard Phillies fans.

I convinced my family to make the trek up to Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2002 to see Harry enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s broadcasting wing as that year’s Frick Award winner. I even shook Harry’s hand a couple of times in my life, both coming while getting his autograph. However, the second time features a pretty cool Harry the K story.

My friend, Cliff, and I were at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium to see the Phillies play in a spring exhibition game. After the game, we went up to the window of the broadcast booth to get Harry’s autograph. However, Cliff saw the people in front of us give Harry a cell phone and he was either recording a message or talking to somebody. So Cliff decides to call our friend Jimmy — a huge Phillies fan — with the hope that Harry would talk to him for a few seconds.

So we finally approach Harry. After Harry talked to us for a few seconds and signed our programs, my friend handed Harry the phone and asked him if he could just talk to our friend for a bit. Harry says, “Sure, what’s your friend’s name?” We tell him that it’s Jim…Harry takes the phone and all we hear is something like this:

“Hey, Jim, this is Harry Kalas. How are you?…Watching the NCAA Tournament, eh?…Well, take care, Jim. It’s getting late so I am outta heerrrrre!”

We again shook Harry’s hand and thanked him. Cliff puts his phone back up to his ear and hears Jimmy say this: “That was awesome. I gotta call my dad.”

Earlier today, I sent Jimmy a text message saying that I was thinking about that time. In his reply, he said “…that’s how cool Harry was. It’s like a small piece of my life is gone.”

A lot of Phillies fans feel the same way.

RIP, Harry the K…Phillies baseball will never be the same.

(Photo courtesy of

Phinally…Phillies are World Series champions!

Brad Lidge closes out the 2008 World Series
Brad Lidge closes out the 2008 World Series. (Source:

For the first time since 1980 and for only the second time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Phillies are the world champions of baseball after beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, at Citizens Bank Park on October 29, 2008. The Phils won the best-of-seven series in five games.

The victory also gives Philadelphia its first major professional sports title since 1983, when the Sixers won the NBA championship.

Savor this, Philly fans…you deserve this.

And congratulations to Charlie Manuel and the 2008 Fightin’ Phils! Thank you very much for this.

Watching Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins leads off Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS with a home run.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins leads off Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS with a home run. (


Posted at 9:13 p.m. ET
Well, it is the bottom of the second inning and I am so hoping the Phillies wrap up the 2008 National League pennant with a win over the Dodgers tonight…not just because I am a HUGE Phillies fan, but because I will run out into traffic to avoid hearing the audible vomit coming out of FOX announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

McCarver won’t stop with his “Cole Hamels does not look right” schtick and keeps calling Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz (Ru-eez), Carlos Ru-ez.

Also, I don’t want to hear crap from anyone about Phillies fans. Yeah, there are a good number that are dopes who overdose on mega-dopey 610 WIP. But most are pretty intelligent…really. And you know what else? They show up for playoff games.

They just showed a shot of Dodger Stadium — keep in mind it is now the top of the third inning as I type this sentence — and there appears to be 35,000 (if that) there. The place holds 56,000. Now, I know the stereotype of the typical Dodger fan is that he/she arrives late and leaves early. But reports earlier today said that StubHub was reporting tickets going for as low as $8 at one point. At that same time, the average price for a ticket to tonight’s Game 5 was just $89 on StubHub.

$89…for Game 5 of the NLCS. Are you kidding me? So the great Dodgers fans don’t want to be there for what could be the final game of the season for their beloved team…some loyalty, eh?

That being said, since I have been typing, they showed another crowd shot and it looks a bit more full, but there are plenty of empty seats still visible.

Anyway, the Phils are up 1-0 at this point and they have two men on with two outs in the third…Ryan Howard, who seriously needs to get a big hit soon, is at the plate.

And he just missed an extremely hittable 1-1 fastball on the inside part of the plate for strike two…the next pitch is in the dirt to make it a 2-2 count to Howard…here is the 2-2 pitch…BASE HIT TO RIGHT FIELD…JIMMY ROLLINS SCORES, CHASE UTLEY GOES TO THIRD…RUNNERS ON THE CORNERS FOR PAT BURRELL…2-0 PHILLIES!

OK…I’ll post a bit later…unless Pat Burrell adds onto the lead.

Posted at 9:15 p.m. ET
And Pat Burrell DOES add onto the lead with a single to right…Utley scores to make it 3-0 and Howard went to third to again put runners on the corners, still with two outs. And, with Shane Victorino at the plate, a wild pitch sends Burrell to second and now Victorino will be intentionally walked to load the bases for Pedro Feliz. And now there will be a pitching change, as Dodgers manager Joe Torre comes out to take out starter Chad Billingsley.

Posted at 11:23 p.m. ET
Well, Cole Hamels struck out Jeff Kent looking with two men on base to end the seventh inning to close the book on his day…and, again this postseason, the lefty came through for the Fightins with seven strong innings. The only blemish was a solo home run off the bat off, you guessed it, Manny Ramirez in the sixth.

The Phils went up 5-0 in the fifth inning when Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal made three errors in the inning, including two on one play. With one out and runners on first and second, Pat Burrell hit a grounder to Furcal’s right. Furcal got to the ball, but then booted it…literally. He kicked the ball away from him, allowing Chase Utley to score from second. Furcal compounded the first error by making a wild throw home that allowed Howard to go to third and Burrell to advance to second.

After Shane Victorino was intentionally walked for the second time in the game, Pedro Feliz struck out and Carlos Ruiz hit a grounder to Furcal for what appeared to be the third out of the inning. However, Furcal made an awful throw to first that allowed Ruiz to reach safely and plated Howard with the Phils’ fifth run of the night. Here is my photographic tribute to the Dodgers in that inning:

As I type this, the Phils hold a 5-1 lead in the top of the ninth and need closer Brad Lidge to get three more outs in the bottom half of the frame to reach the World Series for the first time since 1993 and the sixth time in franchise history.