Friday, September 28, 2007

Things You Don't Know About the Radical

I am from Philadelphia.

I received my first official Phillies hat for my sixth birthday.

I went to my first game, at Connie Mack Stadium, that summer. My mom taught me to keep a box score and yell "Pitcher's blowed!" at the opposing hurler. I watched every game on TV that I could, keeping the box score for the whole season. The games that weren't on TV, I listened to on the radio. That was 1964. Do I need to explain the significance of this date? There are people in Philadelphia who are more permanently damaged by 1964 than by their own birth trauma.

I once watched Dick Allen foul off twenty pitches in a row, deliberately and with precision, as Philadelphia fans booed him lustily. This was a little-known event in the struggle for African-American civil rights, but an event all the same.

I listened to Jim Bunning's no-hitter on Mother's Day.

There was a time in my life I thought Astro-Turf was the most beautiful thing in the world.

In 1980, when the Phillies won the World Series, I started to weep as Tug McGraw faced the final batter, and I didn't stop crying for an hour.

During one of my father's hospitalizations that led eventually to his death, my mother and I would occasionally leave in the evening, and go down to Veterans Stadium spontaneously, to have hot dogs and beer for dinner and watch the game. We didn't talk much: we just watched the game.

I now live in this god-awful part of the country where the only question people ask me is "Yankees or Red Sox?" And in fact, if I lived anywhere north of here, all the way to the Canadian border, or anywhere south of here, all the way to Staten island, they wouldn't even ask. The team to the North is just as hopeless as the Phillies; the team to the South is evil. As they say in South Philly, "Whaddayagonnado?"

I vowed not to follow the Phillies closely this year, as they grimly hung in within 8 or 10 games, losing franchise players to injury and having the same slightly-better-than-average pitching rotation they always have. This year they didn't even have a Jim Bunning, a Steve Carleton, a Curt Schilling -- brilliant guys who would gut out 1-0 victories, sometimes notching RBI's to make it happen, in years their teammates couldn't hit their shoe size.

And yet. A month ago, after a small losing streak, I couldn't help but notice that my Phillies were starting to pull themselves together, as they always do in August, lighting that beacon of hope that raises blood pressure from Wilmington to Trenton, from Allentown to Princeton, causing all of us to say casually, "Oh yeah, I think I'll watch the first couple of innings tonight."

Incredibly, the Mets have gone into a Phillies-like season end collapse. This morning I found myself in the car, on my way to rowing practice at 5:15, pumping my fist wildly and screaming "YEAH!" Why?

Because I heard on the radio that the Phillies tied the Mets for first last night.

I have two responses.

Dear God, no not again. And:

If I believe in them with all my heart, somehow they might just do it. There is no choice not to commit. One more time.


Susan said...

What a great story.

My husband is English, and is a fan of his home county, Somerset, which has a history of romantic come-from-behind wins but also of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They have never won the championship. Transplanted to the US, he eventually became a Red Sox fan, recognizing its similarity to Somerset. When his oldest son went to college in Philadelphia, his one piece of fatherly advice was, "Don't become a Phillies fan". He didn't think it was wise to be a fan of three teams that work to break your heart.

Tim Lacy said...

Dear TR,

Well, you'll appreciate my Bob Dernier reference at H&E today. His mother, a grade-school librarian, lived across the street from me when as a kid I resided in Raytown, Missouri. Small world!

Anyway, I'm dealing with similar emotions this week (and for this coming weekend) as a Cubs fan. Yes, that's right, as a simultaneous fan of the KC Royals, all my teams are generally losers. We can get together in DC to talk about our memories of 1980. That was my first taste of baseball excitement as a kid!

- TL

kermitthefrog said...

As of 3:30 on Sunday, it looks like they might pull through...

Lesboprof said...


I am a Phillies fan myself, even tho I grew up on the other side of the river. I'll be here rooting with you!

GayProf said...

Interest in sports alludes me.

So, the ASA will be home for you this year. Next year it will be in my home city of Albuquerque.

GayProf said...

eludes... Sigh

Siva Vaidhyanathan said...

My very first baseball glove was a Dick Allen signature model.

I still miss it.

Lesboprof said...

Congrats! I thought about you when I heard about the Phillies.

TA said...

As a lifelong Reds fan, and fellow National Leaguer (growing up in the days when it meant something), I wish you the best. The Phillies have a good chance this year, with its solid pitching and lineup. Of course, so long as the Yankees lose, I'm happy.

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