Thursday, October 30, 2008

One victory, one column 25 years in the waiting

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

I’ve been waiting 25 years to write this. And now that the time has come, I’m not sure how to do it. It just feels a little too surreal right now.

But I’ll give it my best shot; just start typing and see what comes out…

You see, the world makes a little bit more sense today.

There's finally a rewarding destination at the end of this painful journey filled with heartbreak and disappointment. And now the sun shines a little brighter today. Hell, the sun is actually shining today period, which is miraculous in and of itself lately!

The scene that I witnessed last night, outside of Citizen’s Bank Park at 10:00, in the madness of the surrounding parking lots at 11:00, mingling with thousands of elated people, drunk on life as well as beer, wandering aimlessly down Broad Street toward City Hall, well into the early morning hours, giving and receiving hugs and high-fives to hundreds of strangers, people from all walks of life whom are more accustomed on most days to wallow in their own self pity… well, it was something that even the greatest writers could struggle to put into acceptable words.

It was also something that, up until then, I’ve only viewed secondhand, on TV, wistfully wishing, wanting, waiting… and as the years turned to decades, it began to feel that this viewpoint would be the one fated for me for eternity.

But, suddenly, the demons have been exorcised. The Curse of Billy Penn can rest in peace. The ’64 Collapse, Whiz Kids, Wheez Kids and Black Friday no longer sting as much for the older folks. For me, Mitch Williams is now completely exonerated, and years from now will be known more for his outstanding baseball analysis in town than for his misplaced, soul-crushing pitches. Hell, Joe Carter can have his glory now, too.

And in one night, one victory which will culminate in one incredible party this Friday, can be dedicated to many who have trudged through this interminable path along the way.

This one is for Brett Myers. A hot prospect with a wicked curve frustrated fans for years by not living up to his potential, both on the field and off. Finally finding his niche as a reliever went short lived when the starting rotation remained short on talent. Came back as the Opening Day starter, a de facto ace, he struggled once more, this time to such an extent that he was forced to swallow his pride – as well as an enormous piece of humble pie – and head back to the minors. The struggles continued there and Myers essentially was deemed a non-factor in the forthcoming push for the playoffs.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line: The Myers we always knew existed but never were convinced could perform, did just that. And then some. His heart finally overcame his head.

This one is for Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell. The two with the longest tenures here. Drafted while the franchise was still in laughing-stock mode. The identity of this team through thick and thin – both cool, calm and collected, with the occasional burst of enthusiasm.

And for Pat the Bat, as disappointing as his tenure here may have been at times, his last at-bat in a Phillies uniform may have occurred last night, and if it did, it was only two inches away from being poetically ideal – a thunderous blast which was ironically held up by the winds in the alleged band box of a ballpark, settling in for a double which would eventually set up the Series-winning run.

This one is for Ryan Howard, who has endured a love-hate relationship with the fans from the first time he put on the Cursive P: Love the raw talent, hate the nonchalant approach. Love the homers, hate the strikeouts. Love the clutch hits, hate the klutz defense. But in the end, love conquers all, and we love the fact that he took part in turning the team into champions.

This one is for Cole Hamels. It’s funny to say that, for a guy who was the bar none best pitcher on a championship team yet only had 14 wins in a full season, that it was a certain victory each time he stepped on the mound, but that’s how it felt. And the postseason may just have been his coming-out party, the moment when he went from very good to historically great.

This one is for Jamie Moyer. As we speak, I’m certain that Disney is in the process of buying the rights to his story. Jamie got to take part in both of the two World Series championships in this team’s 125 year history – one as a spectator, the other as a contributor. Never one with dominating stuff, he’s somehow lasted 22 years and well over 200 victories at the big league level. And at 45 – almost 46 – years old came one of his better seasons. “Invincible” and “Rocky” have nothing on him.

This one is for Brad Lidge. Written off as damaged goods after serving a deflating home run in the National League Championship Series, the man with the devastating slider was predicted to never be the same again. In his first season with his new team, his fresh start, he was simply perfect. Literally. Not one blown save.

In fact, this one’s for all the relievers. For how many years was this crew deemed to be the Achilles’ Heel? Instead, they were more solid this season than the Gibraltor-esque statues of Schmitty, Whitey, Robin and Lefty which linger outside the Bank.

This one is most definitely for Charlie Manuel. Say what you want about Uncle Cholly (and I’ve certainly said my share), but it turns out that he was the perfect man for these players. He masterfully brought together a group of fragile egos, even as he struggled to master proper syntax. An amazing contradiction to the MENSA applicant sitting in the opponent’s dugout during the World Series, Charlie proved that substance truly does win out over style in the end.

But, most of all, and most selfishly, this one is for us, the fans. And the fact that the deal was sealed on our home grounds was only right.

It’s also for me, personally.

You see, on Oct. 31, the day of the largest parade that’ll ever be thrown, will mark 25 years to the day that I moved to this area. Yes, Oct. 31, 1983 was Day One of the ghoulish suffering I would come to bear as a fledgling, 6 year-old brand-spanking-new Philly sports fan, a fourth generation one at that.

And now Halloween will no longer be as scary.

However, both sides of my family dating back to great grandparents have called these grounds their home. And when my father brought he and his family back to his native dwellings after years away, it was a chance for him to relive his passion for Philly sports – a passion he passed on to his son – up close again.

Memories of watching and playing baseball with my dad are some of the most vivid I still have left of him. In 1987, four years after moving back to the Delaware Valley, he passed away, and never did have the opportunity to celebrate a World Series with his son.

So yes, this one is for my dad, too.

And generations before him, to boot. It’s very likely my father’s father’s father had felt the pain I felt, and cried in his Prohibition beer after another disappointing loss at the Baker Bowl.

But now those tears have dried. Now there is a dawn to a new day, a new era. Now a city which has long suffered, long carried the burden of being labeled in such ways as “loser,” and “disgruntled” bears a new brand to wear proudly on its chest:



Laurie said...

Why did no one comment on this fantastic piece of prose yet? Jeff, I think this is the best thing you've ever written (although I must say you had a pretty amazing event help to inspire said prose!)

I am happy for you.....Winner.

Dave said...

You have a way with the words my friend and I am glad that you didn't have to wait a 26th year to write this ... now if you could only start preparing something for my Cubs that you will actually be able to use in my lifetime! What is life without dreams I guess ...