162-0 – No stopping us now, Babee! Call it the Power of the Peanut! But the most important story of course is that just when I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to sell any more beer at CBP this year, everything changed.(Explanations to follow) And who needs Chase Utley and Jason Werth?!
No doubt in the headline above, it’s explained that this is one person’s account of Opening Day at the ole ballpark. I guess I’ve gone to about 20-25 opening days for the Phillies through the years and have the ticket stubs to prove it. I’ve been to a Stanley Cup clincher in 1974, the World Series clincher in 1980 (no ticket stub for that one – I bribed a guard to get in), the 1981 Super Bowl, NBA championship games, and over 1000 consecutive home Flyers games. I've been to Broadway on a Saturday night (American Idiot last month), and I've eaten Hominy Grits in Hominy, Oklahoma, caviar in Russia and french fries in France. Heck, I've even seen Sinatra sing Chicago in Chicago. But there is just something extra special about Opening Day of baseball.
Like my wife, Cheryl said, as we navigated the Schuylkill Expressway along with Cheryl’s 18 year old daughter, my step-daughter, Evelyn, “Ah, Opening Day. There’s so much hope! It’s like waiting for the election returns in November of 2008!” We hoped things would turn out as well for the opener as they did that night…and did they ever!
But back to opening days – it’s a very festive scene, all things are possible, we’re still undefeated, even when the Phillies had no prayer of even having a winning record, they are still tied for first place until the game actually starts.
I remember Mike Schmidt hitting a home run in the bottom of the 9th off some Mets pitcher, name of Tug Something - Irish guy, I think, to win opening day in 1974. I remember going to the first game ever at the Vet with my buddy, Jim Daly. The Phillies won 4-1 behind a guy who was a far better pitcher than Senator – Jim Bunning. Seems like they’ve lost more openers than they’ve won, but the good ones have been great…like this one.
Well, instead of giving a play-by-play of the game or game summary, since you find that elsewhere in this paper or on the internet, written far better than I could, I’ll write various notes, thoughts and observations:
- We woke up to find snow on the ground and temperatures in the 30’s – a perfect day for baseball! Or even to play two, as Ernie Banks used to say.
- Even though the game was at 1, we left our home in West Vincent at 10:40am, to beat traffic and to arrive early enough to take full advantage of the buffet in the suite we were sitting in, thanks to our hosts. In the category of You have to know someone to get Phillies tickets these days, these tickets were provided to us through work. I work at the North American Land Trust in Chadds Ford and our bank, National Penn, got us the tickets, thanks to Lloyd Reichenbach who met us at the game. He was as generous and gracious in the booth as he is in helping us with our banking. (Hey, I gotta give em a plug so we might be asked back next year! And luckily, it also happens to be true.)
- OK, now that I said such nice things, I can now add that the food in the suite was pretty disappointing this year. It was so great last year, that we arrived very hungry. But as my first wife used to say, the only thing better than food is free food, so I’m not complaining…anymore.
- The traffic did slow to a crawl at one point on the Schuylkill so I asked Cheryl for a little pad to start writing some notes on, which I did as we crawled forward. It struck me that it was texting-while-driving old-school.
- We’d heard on the radio that it might go up to 50 during the game, and when Cheryl winced, I reminded her that 50 is the new 70...at which point she winced again.
- Watching the introductions before the game, it was nice to see the fans give a nice ovation to JA Happ. And even nicer to hear them boo Brett Myers, of wife-beating fame. He looks like he’s lost weight, but I can’t imagine a baseball uniform has ever looked good on the guy. Just the opposite of what my sister Laurie would say about Chase Utley.
- Of course maybe they were also booing Myers’ beard, which has to set new standards of worst beard ever to appear on a professional sports field/court/pitch/rink. He looked like he would have felt more at home at a Lancaster County farm auction.
- You go to enough ballgames, and I’m sure I’ve been to hundreds, you think you’ve seen it all, but this was a first. As the three of us got out of the car in the parking lot, a 6 seat golf cart-like thing pulled up with two young male Phillie employees driving and they said, “Can we give you a ride to the gates?” You bet! Cheryl told Evelyn it was only because they saw her with us, that they gave us the ride, being young men with exceptional taste. I have a feeling I missed a cue there to say, “Oh no, honey, I’m sure you had something to do with it too!”
- As we first walked to our seats, seeing the beautiful field it reminded me of the first game I ever went to at Connie Mack Stadium. I have a challenge for you. Think of someone you know who might have gone to their first baseball game ever at Connie Mack Stadium and ask them what they most remember about walking into the stadium the first time, and I guarantee they’ll all say the same thing. They remember the bright colors – the red of the uniforms, the blue of the seats, the green of the grass. The reason they remember it so well, I finally figured out? Because we had never before seen a baseball game in color. We’d only seen the games on our black and white televisions.
- We were surprised there were no paratroopers bringing in the first ball like they usually do. Cheryl explained it though “Remember…we’re in three wars now.” Of course that didn’t diminish a strong military theme and presence at the game, from the fly over, to the holding of the huge flag in center field, and repeatedly through the game. A lot of people reading this will excoriate me for this, but I gotta say it to be true to my beliefs. As a Quaker and a pacifist, I resent the glorification of the military at a baseball game (or anywhere else, to be honest). But I also have to admit that it does add a certain amount of panache or je ne sais something to the festivities. OK, that’s the most positive thing I can say, trying to be open-minded.
- Looking for omens, I swear the first time the sun came out was as the Phillies were first being introduced. Of course, the night before, I three times tried to close a door and it got hung on something each time, which I hope doesn’t mean the Phillies are going to have a hard time trying to find someone to close the door in 9th innings this year.
- I know it’s been a few years since they retired, but it is still weird seeing the Astros without Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
- There is a large sign now in center field that tells the fans that if they need help with anything they can text their issue and location to the Phillies. Because, you know, flagging down the ushers who are at LEAST 20 feet away can be such a hassle.
- Charlie Manuel came out to argue a call by the ump early in the game that not even the first base coach argued. He got quite the ovation…which I couldn’t help thinking was part of the reason he came out. After being made fun of by us fans early on, yes, I admit it - I did it too, he can do no wrong now. He scratches his butt, he gets an ovation now.
- I was glad to see the Astras third baseman, Chris Johnson, have a bad game. He's on my fantasy team, and I'd deactivated him this week, just because he was playing the Phillies and I didn't want to have mixed feelings as to how he'd do when he came to bat. Well, I also deactivated him because he'd be facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt this weekend.
- One thing I don’t think anyone else has observed is that one thing the Phillies will miss with Jason Werth out of the lineup is how many pitches he took and how over the course of 3-4 at bats, that’s maybe 10 fewer pitches a guy will have to throw against the Phillies this year. OK, it’s not a major thing, but seeing Brett Myers still at 50-some pitches in the 6th inning made me think of it.
- About an inning after I told Lloyd that I felt like I have a lot less confidence in Ben Francisco as a rightfielder based on watching him there in limited roles last year than others I've heard talk about him...and by "others", I mostly mean, Cholly...he botched a fly ball. "Thoughts are things", Cheryl likes to say, which I finally understood to mean that if you think it, chances are it'll happen exactly that way. Probably helps explain why the Eagles never win the big one, the way we Iggles fans think. So, I take full responsibility for Ben dropping the fly ball.
- Six innings down, the wife-beating Amishman, Bretty Myers, has as many hits as the whole Phillies team and is outpitching the Cy Young winner. Thinking good thoughts though...cuz, you know, thoughts are things...and we still have our ace in the hole. No, not Danny Baez. The Peanuts.
- Great to see Lauren Hart singing God Bless America in the 7th inning. I remember when she used to come up to the Flyers TV booth when she was a little girl to see her dad after the game, when I worked the games as statistician for the telecasts. Her dad, of equal amounts enormous talent and fragile ego, was lucky enough to see her sing the anthem at a few games before he passed. Was he ever proud of her!
- Listening to Mike the bartender in our suite at one point talking about the Flyers, he said the same thing I keep hearing from Flyers fans over and over: “You know they’re going to finish first in the regular season and then lose to the Rangers in the first round, don’t you?” Funny how Flyers fans still retain the negative Philadelphia fan mindset, but Phillies fans are so full of total unbridled optimism. And they are the same people.
- Ninth inning now, Phillies are losing 4-2. Things are starting to annoy me, even the scoreboard. One of the reasons Cliff Lee said he wanted to come to Philly was that the fans don’t need a scoreboard to tell them when to cheer, but there it is on the scoreboard: “Clap your hands!”. Ok…if we have to!
- But wait, for the first time since the introductions, could it be?! Yes, the sun is peeking through again!
- But more importantly, if you really want to know why the Phillies came back to win, it was something my family discovered a few years ago, by accident. One time we were at a game, and the Phightin’s were down a few runs, and my family was shelling peanuts and eating them. I picked one out of the bag and said, “Here’s how I eat them.” And promptly shoved the whole thing, shell and all into my mouth. Amidst mouths watching alternately gaping and dissolved in laughter, someone noticed that the Phillies got a hit to lead off the inning. And Cheryl said, “Hey, have another one!” And I did – and sure enough, another hit. And 5-6 more unshelled peanuts and as many hits later, the Phillies were back in the lead. And since then, every single time we’ve done that, though it’s only for select important games, the Phillies have come back to win. It’s no wonder my buddy, Mike Rellahan gave me a huge bag of peanuts for my birthday last December. And I don’t even like the dang things! But sometimes we just have to sacrifice for things we feel strongly enough about, I guess.
- So, as the 9th inning started, I turned to Ev and Cheryl and said, “Time for… the Power of the Peanut.” So I had one. And sure enough, Jimmy Rollins got a hit. So I had another and Cheryl did too, wincing as she chewed. Bang – Ryan Howard singled. So now, Ev, who first said No Way but even she now popped one in her mouth, and she too chewed away in full grimace. Well, you know the rest of the story.
- Oh yeah, and why can the Phillies serve beer after all at CBP this year? Duh – because they didn’t lose the opener!
- Go Phillies – 162-0 here we come!