Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Are Number One

I'm still trying to figure out how to put into words what's going through my mind after watching the Phillies win the World Series last night.

In the meantime, here are some videos to help fill the space.

The final pitch as heard on Fox, for as long as Youtube will allow it to stay on its site.

And, the same pitch as described by legendary Phillies announcer, Harry Kalas...

Final out as seen at P.J. Whelihan's Blue Bell

The view from Section 209 - Row 6 - Seat 22 at the Bank.

The last out, from section 122

Not the best quality, but the final out call with Kalas' call in the background

and, the scene in one of many living rooms of Phillies fans across the country

Makes me wish I had video going at my place last night.

It's an unbelievable feeling. I'll share more later.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Phillies Stuff

It'll still be a few more days before I have the desire to blog about anything other than the Phillies -- when your favorite team gets to the World Series for the first time since 1993, it tends to consume a lot of your thoughts -- and as I glanced over the last few posts on this blog, I noticed something: I neglected to say anything about game 1.

I think my thought process was something along the lines of not wanting to write too much about it for fear that it would jinx them down the line.

Still might.

That is also the explanation for the short posts after the game 2 and 3 posts.

But, at the very least, I wanted to at least mention how excruciating it is as a baseball fan watching your favorite team try to hang on to a one-run lead for an extended length of time.

Actually, the Phils had a 3-0 lead briefly, before Tampa Bay scored one run in the 4th, and one more in the 5th.

So, from the 5th through the 9th -- an agonizing five innings, when nails disappear and heart rates soar -- I, along with every other Phillies fan, held our breath and exhaled with every single pitch, until Brad Lidge finally put an end to the game.

It didn't help matters that Philly was in the early stages of a 3 1/2 game long offensive funk, failing time after time to bring home runners in scoring position.

The game reminded me of game four of the 1993 NLCS when the Phils took a 2-1 lead in the 4th inning in Atlanta, and proceded to retire the Braves for six straight innings without allowing a run.

Exhilarating, exhausting, and not for the faint of heart. Even more so back then, with Mitch Williams as the closer (who would blow a 3-0 lead in the 9th inning of game 5, only to have the Phils bail him out with a 4-3 win in 10 innings).

So, watching game 1 of this year's World Series probably took a few weeks off my life, but since they won, it was worth it.

As heart-pumping as that win was, however, I would much prefer a blowout of such magnitude that even Mitch Williams could hang onto the lead.

Is there such a (wild) thing?

Phils One Win Away


Sunday, October 26, 2008

HalPHway There

Who needs Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell to perform when you have Eric Bruntlett and Carlos Ruiz on your team?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Phils Are Offensive

When Eric Bruntlett is providing the power, and you wish out loud that pitcher Brett Myers be allowed to hit to help spark your offense, things are going bad.

The Phils offense sputtered yet again, failing to drive in runners in scoring position at a horrific rate, as Tampa Bay evened the World Series with a 4-2 win.

1-28 with runners in scoring position? And that hit didn't even bring in a run! Plus, they are 0-7 with 5 strikeouts with runners at 3rd and less than two outs.

It's been painful to watch. Even the night they won.

The whole time watching game one, I was pleased they were able to grab an early lead -- and hang onto it -- but as each missed opportunity passed by, my frustration level grew. If the bats were going to stay silent, it was either going to cost them in game one (it didn't), or later in the series (it did).

As important as getting the win in the opener was, last night's game was equally important.

Had the Phils found a way to, oh I don't know, score a run here or there, put some pressure on the Rays, and squeak out a game two win, the series would likely be over.

Now, it's 1-1, and although the Phillies have gained home field advantage with the split, in order to win the series at home they have to win three straight games.

It's likely that will go out the window Saturday night, when ALCS MVP Matt Garza takes on ancient Jamie Moyer. Moyer's arguably been the Phils' most consistent starting pitcher all year long, but he has been awful in two postseason starts.

Granted, those two starts were on the road, and maybe pitching in front of the home town fans will make a bit of a difference -- hopefully for the offense, too -- but, odds are, the Rays will take game three, and retake control in the series.

But, that's the beauty of baseball. Things change quickly. Home cooking could help turn things around. Playing in front of the rabid Philly fans could be a bit of a remedy.

Maybe a shakeup in the lineup will help, or a voodoo ritual in the clubhouse. Maybe they can ask the White Sox for some advice on how to bust out of a slump.

So, Saturday night becomes the next "most important game in the series." If the Phils can find a way to beat Garza and take a 2-1 lead, it will be huge, knowing that Cole Hamels has one more game to pitch Monday.

If not, it's going to start feeling a whole lot like 1983 again.

That year, the Phils played the Orioles in the World Series. Philly squeaked out a 2-1 win in game one in Baltimore. They lost game two 4-1, mustering just three hits.

The next three games in Philadelphia were miserable for the Phils, as they scored just six runs in those games, and were swept at home, losing the series in five games.

Uh oh. Must...stop...negative...feelings.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series

Well, here we go. It's about an hour before the first pitch of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays.

...Let me take a moment to read that last sentence again.

I still don't know which team I'd rather see the Phils play in this series. The Red Sox are a little more banged up, but have plenty of history on their side. The Rays are more talented and balanced, but are inexperienced.

I guess the whole experience factor became a bit of a moot point when trying to use it as a defense of the Red Sox, now that Tampa has disposed of them.

Truth is, no matter who the Phillies would end up playing, they need to get at least one road win, and it wouldn't have been easy at either place.

That's why tonight's game is big. When your ace is on the mound in a playoff series, you'd better win. Cole Hamels has come up huge so far this postseason, and Philly needs him again tonight.

No Phillies fan wants to see this team down one game, pinning their hopes for a split on the right arm, and the not always right mind of Brett Myers, who hasn't pitched in almost a fortnight.

It's a strange feeling now that we're so close to the first pitch. I'm excited, but nervous. Hopeful, but cautious.

These next few days and games will offer many memorable moments, and trying to predict how any of it will turn out is pointless.

Obviously, a Phillies championship would take care of so many negative feelings and years of despair in Philadelphia.

I've given you the gory details of what it's like to follow this team before.

Four more wins, boys, and all of it goes away. Until next year, of course.

Just four more wins.

I think they get them, too.

Disney World

Some random thoughts on Disney World, where we spent most of last week on vacation:

* Fast Pass is a must if you want to avoid big lines at the popular rides. The Fast Pass allows you to come back later in the day -- usually within a couple of hours -- and wait only with fellow Fast Pass returnees, instead of having to stand in the general line.

It saves a ton of time. The only problem is that you can't accumulate multiple fast passes, even if the times don't overlap. At 9:30am on one day, I got Fast Pass for Toy Story Mania that told me to return between 12:30pm - 1:30pm to be able to ride. Then, I went to Rock 'N' Roller Coaster at 10:00am, tried to get a Fast Pass, which was having people come back between 10:50am - 11:50am, only it wouldn't let me.

A certain amount of time has to pass until you get to have a second Fast Pass.

* Another tip for saving time in long lines, go in as a single rider. Granted, this may not be available on that many rides, but for Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, I went on as a single rider and waited about 10 minutes, instead of 60.

Even if you're going on a ride with someone else, or a group, if you don't mind riding without them, you can really save time.

* Speaking of Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, I highly recommend it. One of the best thrills anywhere in Disney World is the first three seconds of that ride, when your car goes from 0 to 57 m.p.h. Makes my tummy tickle every time.

* I also enjoyed Tower Of Terror, which never disappoints, and Expedition Everest was solid, too.

* Test Track is ok. I rode it in 2003 -- and videotaped it as well -- and went on it with Megan this year. I think there should be more time on the outside track, and it should go faster, but that's just me. Good to see they still have the video at the beginning of the ride featuring John Michael Higgins.

* You absolutely must go to Beaches And Cream at the Yacht and Beach Club to have their No Way Jose ice cream treat. Look at this thing. It's about $7, and it's underpriced. Go ahead and have your cheeseburger or whatever you want for dinner, but make sure you save room for this. Helps if you're a peanut butter fan.

* The chocolate shake at Ghirardelli's at Downtown Disney is also splendid.

* Some of the best views and settings, for me at least, involve water. Find time to take the monorail from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom, if for no other reason than to see the view of the Grand Floridian Resort.

I also like the view outside of the Yacht and Beach Club, looking over water to the Disney Boardwalk.

There's also a nice setting overlooking the water at Downtown Disney.

* It may be a bit pricey, but the character breakfast at Chef Mickey's -- also at the Contemporary -- is worth it. The kids get to meet the heavy hitters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto), and everyone gets to enjoy a help yourself feast. Four types of potatoes, omelettes, french toast, waffles, breakfast pizzas, muffins, fruit...just about everything you could want.

* Bring your comfortable shoes. The amount of walking for the time you're there is insane. In addition to the walking inside the parks, there's all the walking to get from your room to the bus, and from the bus stop to the park. Of course, when you stay at the economy friendly places like we do, the walks are a bit longer.

* I can't say that it's like this all the time, but going in October, weather wise, was fine. It was hot all of the days we were there (mid to upper 80's), but the humidity wasn't too bad, the evenings were pleasant, and there was a nice breeze each day.

Now, try to avoid going the week of Columbus Day like we did. Apparently, a lot of southern schools take that whole week off, so it was more crowded than usual.

So, there you have it, some of my recommendations for good ol' WDW. If it were up to my wife and kids, we'd go back every year. Twice.

I'm fine with not going back for at least a few years, maybe more. But, as long as we got to do all of the things above -- with an added day or two for a trip to the beach and a round of golf -- I could possibly be talked into going again sooner.


Throw in a massage from Ariel, or Jasmine, and then we could be getting somewhere.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Phellow Phillies Phans

Back from our vacation at Disney World, and had to share a story about a very cool experience I had Wednesday night, as the Phillies clinched their first NL pennant since 1993.

This vacation was booked months ago, and although I clearly remember seeing the dates and thinking to myself, well, at least it won't be during the World Series, I really had no thoughts at the time that the Phils would even be playing in the middle of October anyway, so the thought that I'd potentially be missing NLCS baseball didn't occur to me, or have me worried.

Once the Phils reached the playoffs, and then disposed of Milwaukee, I knew I'd be missing some NLCS games while we were on vacation, but I figured that since we were on the East Coast, games wouldn't end until near midnight anyway so I could at least catch the last few innings of most of the games that were played while we were away.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I did get to see all of game 1, and I was able to see most of game 2. I had to broadcast a football game that night, so I was able to watch Philly grab an 8-2 lead, and I left for my game right after Manny's homerun made it an 8-5 game.

Listening to the radio broadcast, I was able to follow along until the top of the 9th, when my broadcast had to start. I signed on for my broadcast as the Dodgers had mounted a 2-on, 1-out rally against Brad Lidge.

Luckily, at my high school football game, the national anthem happened at a point in time -- during our commercial break -- that I could go back to the radio broadcast of the baseball game and find out that Lidge had put out the fire, preserving the win.

We left for Disney World the next morning, and had actually budgeted a quiet Sunday night for me -- the girls stayed at the Magic Kingdom while I came back to the resort -- so I got to see game 3. However, the Phils were blown out early, and I watched something else in my room, before falling asleep.

As we were enjoying our time at Disney World, I started to notice something. A lot of people were wearing Phillies stuff. Shirts, hats, jerseys, you name it. For about 5 seconds I thought to myself, "Yeah, sure...everyone's coming out of the woodwork now that they're in the NLCS."

But, then I thought, so what! I'm seeing other people openly showing love for the Phils, outside of Philadelphia. Who cares if they're long time fans or not. In fact, I'd offer to hold the bandwagon door open for anyone who wanted to jump onboard.

Then, that night, as game 4 was taking place, I was trying to figure out the timeframe of certain events, and if I'd have a chance to catch any of the game.

Turns out, we had a late night planned watching fireworks, parades, etc. at the Magic Kingdom. Add in the extra time for walking to and waiting for a bus back to the hotel, and I was looking at about a 11:30-12:00 arrival, most likely after the game had ended.

I was all set to just go back to the room, click on ESPN and look for a score on the ticker, when I started to make my way from the Pop Resort main building, out to the pool area that led to our room.

That's when I heard it.

The sounds of Phillies fans gathered around the Petal Pools Bar that sat nearby one of the resort pools. I could see red hats, and various Phillies shirts and jerseys in front of one of the TV's behind the bar, and the game was still on!

I walked over to see the score, and it was 7-5 Phils in the top of the 9th.

My wife agreed to take our daughters back to the room, and I decided to stick around to see the end.

There I bumped into several phellow philly phans, all sounding as if they were from Philly themselves (hard to misplace the accent), and it was such a treat to be able to cheer on the final three outs with them.

You see, I live in Illinois, and have for most of my life. With the exception of watching various Eagles games of importance over the years with my brother and several of his friends, most of my viewing of Philly games -- and certainly the open cheering for those Philly teams -- has been done alone.

But, here I was sitting with phellow Phillie Phans, probably all from Philly, cheering on the final few outs of a most improbable win. I was clued in by one of them on the game tying homerun by Shane Victorino, and the go-ahead homerun by Matt Stairs to give the Phils the 7-5 lead.

As midnight came and went -- the bar actually was supposed to close then -- so did the Dodgers, and the Phils went up 3-1 in the series.

Everyone that was there cheering for the boys in red vowed to return Wednesday night for game 5, and I thought to myself that I'd like to be a part of that, too.

Wednesday found us again at the Magic Kingdom, and I had bargained my way into a secnario where I would leave around 9:30 to head back to the resort to watch the end of the game.

A phone call from my in-laws clued me in to the fact that Philly had jumped out to a 1-0 lead, and that it was the 3rd inning.

About an hour or so later, I was off to catch a bus back to the Pop Resort, and hopefully to share in the pennant clinching celebration with my new friends.

The Phils had to clinch that night. Hamels was pitching, Philly had stolen back L.A.'s momentum with the 8th inning game 4 comeback, plus, I knew I'd miss game 6 due to yet another football game I had to work, so the game 5 win in L.A. just absolutely had to happen.

I walked fast to the bus, willed a bunch of green lights, and reached the resort shortly after 10pm.

As I walked to the bar, there was a commercial break on the TV, and there were my phellow phillie phans, all gathered, chatting, and looking fairly happy. No hanging heads, no dejected looks, no frowns. Then I heard one of them say, "There's no way Hamels is giving up 5 runs."

That's when I knew we were in good shape. Sure enough, the game came back on the television, and it was 5-0 Phils, but only in the 5th inning!

Wow, a long way to go. I re-introduced myself to the throng, took some bags back to the room, and walked right back, grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a beer, and proceded to watch, root, cheer, and enjoy the Phils' march to the pennant.

With the Phils leading 5-1 heading to the bottom of the 9th, I grabbed our video camera and videotaped the final moments of the game, and the subsequent jubilation shared by the group of phans present. High-fives, woo-hoos, and bought drinks were the norm as the game concluded.

I thanked everyone for making it such a fun experience, and congratulated them on our team reaching the final stage.

Then, I walked back to the room where the rest of my family was relaxing, and told our oldest daughter Megan to grab her suit for a late night swim.

She had been bugging to do some swimming, and as this was our last night in Florida, the time had come. We walked down to the pool by our room, just past midnight.

She had a great time, getting to do something, at a crazy time as well, that she really enjoys doing, and I had fun, too. Reflecting on a memorable night, thanks to the guys in grey on the field in Los Angeles, and the strangers from Philly, who, for a few nights at least, became friends of mine, getting to share in something that hasn't happened since 1993.

Now, here's hoping a similar scene plays out at that very same bar in the next few days.

Cheers to all of my phellow phillie phans.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pat The Bat

I'll be taking some vacation time this upcoming week. Combining that with my work schedule, there's a very good chance that last night's opening game of the NLCS will be the only game I'll get to see from start to finish.

No complaints so far.

What was looking like a classic Phils' laying of a turd offensively turned around thanks to a fielding error and two big swings.

Chase Utley's 2-run home run, followed shortly by Pat Burrell's line-drive solo shot suddenly gave Philly a 3-2 lead, got "The Bank" rockin' and rollin', and the bullpen shut it down for the win, including a 1-2-3 inning from Brad Lidge in the 9th.

Watching your team trying to nurse a one-run lead in a playoff game is frightening. Your heart never stops racing, you take deep breaths after every pitch, fingernails disappear in record time.

I love every minute of it.

Great win, but it won't mean much if they blow a gasket today.

Brett Myers, it's your turn.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dodger Blue, Cubbies Blew

Well, at least when the Phillies eventually blow a series in the playoffs, it won't be against the Cubs.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Phils Go Up 2-0

We're in the midst of getting a new roof. The primary day of work was yesterday. All day long, loud bangs, thuds, and constant noise.

However, the only time I ever saw my daughters cover their ears, was during my reaction to Shane Victorino's unexpected grand slam in the 2nd inning of last night's 5-2 Phillies' win over the Brewers.

We were in the kitchen -- the game was on in the sunken family room, within view of the dinner table -- and as Victorino made contact, it looked like a routine fly to left. I didn't realize how solid the contact was. Ryan Braun kept going back, and I started to shout, "Get out. GET OUT!"

Once it hit the stands, giving the Phils a 5-1 lead against no-longer-immortal C.C. Sabathia, I did my dorky at-home celebratory maneuver: Hard hand clap, a shout of "Wooooooo", a fist pump, then a "Yes!"

Hey, when you're a Phillies fan living in the Chicago suburbs, in a house with 3 girls, you end up celebrating in understated ways. Plus, it was only the 2nd inning.

After my display, I looked at my daughters (ages 8 and 2), hands over their ears with dazed, confused, and slightly concerned looks on their faces. The way most Americans look after hearing a Sarah Palin quote.

Hopefully, they'll eventually understand what it's like to be a suffering die-hard fan, suddenly staring at a possibility of better things to come. Oops, can't get ahead of myself. All the Phils have done is hold serve. Be nice to wrap this up Saturday night.

The Victorino home run was even appreciated by my wife, who is rooting for the Phillies simply for the fact that would mean me being in a better mood around the house, as after she realized it was him that hit the home run declared, "that's my favorite player! His name reminds me of beef-a-reeno," from the classic Seinfeld episode featuring Rusty, the flatulent horse.

Naturally, the Phillies wouldn't score another run after Vic's blast -- leaving the bases loaded in successive innings -- but were able to hang on for the 5-2 win.

Brett Myers was fantastic on the mound, a huge relief after his last two lousy starts, but it was his at-bat in the 2nd inning that will be remembered most of all.

With a runner on 2nd, and with two outs, Myers strolled to the plate against Sabathia, and everyone in the park -- probably Myers as well -- fully expected a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning.

Myers quickly fell behind 0-2. Then a slider missed. Myers then fouled off a 1-2 pitch, which drew a few "wow, you actually made contact" sympathy applause from the crowd.

Sabathia tried another slider, only this one dropped to the dirt, and Myers didn't offer. Suddenly it's a 2-2 count. Crowd starts to sense that C.C. is having some trouble putting away a guy that had just six hits in his last 127 at-bats.

C.C. tries to blow Myers away on the next pitch with a fastball, but Myers fouls it off. Now, the crowd is into it.

After failing to get Myers with the slider and the fastball, Sabathia tries the changeup, but it misses the plate, and Myers watches it for ball three.

All of a sudden, Myers is one pitch away from extending the inning, bringing up Rollins with two-on and two-out in a 1-1 game.

If nothing else, he was forcing C.C. to throw more pitches. After all, he was making his 4th straight start on short rest.

Payoff pitch, a fastball fouled off. Crowd on their feet, waving their towels, and getting into C.C.'s head.

One more try at a fastball from Sabathia, and it just missed the plate. Myers jumps out of the box on his way to first, while the crowd, already standing and cheering, erupt even more as they realized how valuable that at-bat was.

After C.C. continued to struggle with his control -- walking Rollins next -- Victorino came up and launched a big fly that will go into the annuls of top Phillies moments of all time.

Without the instant classic at-bat by Myers, it would have never happened.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thome Launches White Sox To Playoffs

There are plenty of smiles at work today. All three of our favorite teams have reached the playoffs.

Last night, Jay Capron's White Sox clinched the final playoff berth on the strength of Jim Thome's bomb to center field, and some fantastic pitching and defense, in a tense 1-0 win over the Twins in the AL Central tiebreaker.

I'm sure Minnesota is feeling pretty bad right now. Tough break that despite defeating the Sox 10-8 during the head-to-head meetings, they had to settle for the 50/50 chance of a coin-flip to go their way -- it didn't -- to get the home game for the tiebreaker.

Oh well. The Sox will take it.

I thought the blackout was a cool idea (fans wore black and were given black towels to wave). However, watching it on TV, it was hard to even notice the towels because they blended in with everyone's outfit.

And, if it's supposed to be a blackout, why were the Sox wearing their white uniforms?

Shouldn't they have fielded an all African-American lineup?

Inquiring minds.

So now that the palehose are in, Jay, my newsman, is now smiling along with fellow co-worker Kevin Schramm. His Cubs have had things wrapped up now for over a week.

And, yeah, I'm smiling today, too. My Phils clinched their berth on Saturday. I figure I might as well smile now, before the inevitable game 1 loss in a few hours.

Until then at least, everyone upstairs here at work -- us on-air guys work on the 2nd floor -- is feeling good about the chances of our respective teams. It's been 102 years since the Cubs and White Sox were in the playoffs at the same time.

The fact that each of our favorite teams -- and the Sox are my 2nd favorite, for whatever that's worth -- has reached the postseason is borderline insanity.

We'll see how long our smiles last.