A Show of Brotherly Love

I love Philadelphia. I’ve loved it since Ryan was little and being treated at Shriner’s Hospital, and one day I asked if I could go out to get him some McDonalds for lunch as a treat. The nurses said, “Sure! Go on out and take a break. He’ll be fine.” I’ll never forget pulling out of the parking lot with the windows down and smelling the clean, fresh air. Anyone who’s been on North Broad Street in the summer would die laughing, but that’s how it felt to me. People were nice, the air was clean, and I felt like I was home, even though I lived in New York at the time.

Now, chances are good you’ve heard stories of the other side of the coin where Philadelphia is concerned. The dumbass kid who ran onto the ball field during a game. (And the copycats later.) The guy who got drunk and threw up on a cop’s kid. The fights in the stands. The snowballs thrown at Santa Claus (and I still hold that if the guy shows up at a football game with 70K people in attendance and he doesn’t bring any presents, he gets what he deserves). The way the Phillies’ fans took over Nationals Park for Opening Day a couple of years ago. (I don’t hear Nats management complaining about the revenue they took in, but that’s a different can of worms.)

Today I experienced Brotherly Love.

I had our usual Sunday season tickets for the Phillies game. It being the first Sunday home game of the year, I couldn’t wait. I missed the place over the long and lonely winter. Citizens Bank Park is practically my second home. I know where everything is, to the point that I could probably navigate the place blindfolded. I love it there and I love baseball. If Heaven doesn’t in some way resemble Citizens Bank Park, I’m not going and that’s all there is to it.

John went to the Saturday game with a friend, and a Mets fan’s kid dropped his ice cream down his back. Not on purpose, of course, but still an inconvenience when it’s the 1st inning. I didn’t give his bad fortune a second thought as Alex and I walked around the ballpark today, soaking in the atmosphere as fast as the crab fries. We got to our seats, the game started, I was knitting, Alex was recovering from eating $50 worth of food, and all was just great. Cole Hamels looked pretty good despite giving up a 2-run homer in the first; he put it behind him and got on with the game. Awesome stuff.

Fourth inning, and behind me I hear, “BLURP.” I feel something hit my back. I look behind me. The woman 2 rows back has vomit down her shirt, across the bag on her lap, down her shorts and legs…and across the seat in back of me. And, consequentially, my back. Then I turn to Alex. It’s down his back too. I look at her. She looks like a mannequin, staring straight ahead of her like nothing’s happened, other than she’s been pithed through the spinal cord. I wait for a word, an explanation, an apology; something. Nothing.

I think, “Well, okay, I’ve got a problem here.” I wave to get the usher’s attention, to get a rag or something. He’s distracted. I dig some napkins out of my bag and start wiping off Alex’s shirt. Pretty futile, but it’s better than doing nothing. A woman in the row behind me hands me a handful of baby wipes, bless her heart. It does more for Alex’s shirt, and I can clean off the seats too. I peel out of my jersey (thank God I opted for the tank-under-the-Utley-jersey look) and hang it inside out on the railing.

Alex and I sit back to watch the game–it was the bottom of the inning; of course I’m not leaving–and then I tell Alex we’re going to go get him another shirt. I’d seen t-shirts with Hunter Pence’s famous, “Good game; let’s go eat” on it, and it’s perfect for Alex (considering he just ate $50 in concessions). I wanted it anyway; now I have a reason.

We get the shirt. I ask for a shopping bag. I take Alex aside and have him change shirts right there. I put the dirty shirt inside out in the shopping bag, and we go back to our seats.

Where three rows around our seats applaud us. I’m blown away. I guess they were glad I didn’t blow up or cry or do something pathetic. I just cleaned up and went back to the game. Pretty sweet.

Someone in our row says she talked to a CBP employee about getting Alex a replacement shirt, saying it’s the least they could do. (Someone else complains that the woman who threw up had staggered into the seat. Apparently she was WAY overserved. I’d like to credit her as a Mets fan, but I couldn’t tell; she wore no identifying fan colors, or maybe it was hidden under the spewage.) When I get back, the area manager has a shirt but says, “It’s not big enough. We’re looking for a bigger one.” An inning later, another CBP employee comes to the seats and brings us both shirts “because you deserve them.” More applause in our section. She also notes, “Just so you know, you can’t buy these.” One shirt is mostly red with the CBP logo on it. I’m guessing it’s something they only give employees. (It’s a 2XL so it’ll fit Alex.) I tell the woman, “He wears red for his soccer team so this is perfect.” She was delighted. The green shirt is from the Phestival, the one volunteers were given. That’s mine. 🙂

Other ballparks, I’m sure, might’ve seen the same scenario played out and said, “Wow. Sucks to be you.” But not Philadelphia, and not Citizens Bank Park. I love this place. This was home to my family a few generations ago, and it’s home to my family now. When someone asks where we’re from, there’s no hesitation in my heart. I may have been born in NYC, but I’ll hold my head up and say, “I’m from Philadelphia.”

And in case you were wondering, the Phillies avoided the series sweep by beating the holy snot out of the Mets. Despite the puke shower, it was a good day all around.

Mr. Webster

Ever hear the joke, “What’s the Webster’s definition of mixed emotions?  Watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Mercedes.” 

That’s how I feel this morning after watching the World Series last night.  I grew up a Yankee fan but I couldn’t root for them in the Series this year because they played against the team from my adopted home town, the Phillies.  Call ’em what you will:  the Frillies, the Sillies, the Fillies.  I don’t care.  They were the only game in town and I came to know and love these guys.  I still carried around my Yankee heritage like my maiden name, but when I came to Philly, I got to know the home team and I adopted them much the way they adopted me. 

I’ve seen the Yankees play the Phillies before.  They had a 3-game series in Philly in 2007, so I wore a Yankee cap and a Phillies t-shirt.  Someone in the parking lot yelled at me to “Make up your mind!” but at the time, there was just no way for me to divide my loyalties.  As I told someone else, I can’t lose, but I can’t win; either way, one of my teams is going to lose this game.   (The Phillies lost that series, 2 games to 1.)

As the last few years have gone on, I cheered my heart out for the Phillies and got to know more about the players as individuals.  I don’t know them personally but I feel like I know who they are as people.  They’re just like us:  guys with jobs.  Granted, no one will ever buy a ticket to watch me reconcile invoices or even write stories, and I sure don’t get paid what ballplayers do, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re not that far removed from each other.  We’re all just people, doing the best we can with the skills and talents God gave each of us.

I had a bad feeling, when the ’09 Series began, that the Phillies were going to get outplayed.  The Yankees are a tough team, even if it looked like they phoned in their appearance in game 1.  (I think they seriously underestimated Phillies talent, but they corrected that in game 2.)  As the game 5 sign read, “The Yankees have $ but the Phillies have <heart>.”  The guy holding it was standing in front of us, section 210, row 9.  And they still have heart.

So this morning I’m kinda happy for the Yankees—even if the rest of the world may hate them even more—but more than anything else, I’m proud of my Phillies for giving it everything they had.  They’re still World Champions in my book, and they’re officially the 2009 National League champions.  In baseball, just like in life, there’s always next time.  Go get ’em, Fightins!!

Just to be a good sport about the whole thing:  my congrats to the Yankees.  They played a good game, but they better be prepared to defend that title in 2010. 

For those conspiracy theorists out there:  Did anyone else notice that all week long, Fox aired commercials saying “All new ‘Bones’ and ‘Fringe’ on Thursday night!”  If you do the math, had the series gone to 7 games, game 7 would’ve been played on Thursday night.  It’s as if Fox knew well in advance that there would only be 6 games played in this series.  Methinks something smells fishy…  (After last year’s World Series, I still don’t trust or have any love or respect for Bud Selig, so if this was all pre-planned, I’m not the slightest bit surprised.)

There IS crying in baseball

And not because of any particular game.  (Sorry, Stevie; yes, this blog will be about baseball.)

I don’t know what it is that gets me so emotional, but I cry at baseball.  I cried when McGwire broke Maris’s record (and this was when juice was only a liquid squeezed from fruit).  I cried when Ripken broke Gehrig’s record.  I cried when the Yankees paraded up Broadway in ’96.  (It was a few weeks after delivering my 2nd child; I wasn’t just emotional, I was hormonal.)  And all the ones that came after.  I cried like a baby when the Phillies won last year.  Heck, just thinking about it, I still tear up.

While enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, John found a documentary about Ted Williams on HBO, so we watched.  You guessed it:  I cried.  I’m not even a Red Sox fan.  (I’m REALLY not a Red Sox fan.  I respect their immense talent, but I prefer it when they don’t win.)  I knew a little about the Splendid Splinter, but not that much.  Today I learned about the person he was, and I empathized.  More than anything, I could see why Boston and all of baseball fell in love with the man.  He put everything he had into the game; maybe even some things he shouldn’t have.  (That line about, “I smell sh*t.  There must be a writer around” had me rolling.)  He gave everything, and he held nothing back.  I could aspire to be like that, but I’m too much of a marshmallow. 

Watching the story of his later years, and his last appearance in Fenway at the ’99 All Star Game, and the way the players walked up to him “wide-eyed, like kids walking up to Santa Claus”, I cried all over again.  He was larger than life.  He was almost larger than baseball itself. 

We keep our signed Harry Kalas baseball on the TV.  It’ll be there all season.  Once in a while the Superpretzel commercial comes on, the one that ends with a black-and-white photo and the words, “We miss you, Harry”, and I choke up all over again.  The games go on, but I miss Harry Kalas like I miss my own grandfather.  After all the Phillies games we watch, I may have listened to Harry more than I did Grandpa.  I love ’em both.  (Note the use of present tense, not past tense.)

I went to the Tim McGraw concert in Allentown a few years back, and when he sang “Live Like You Were Dying” and he held up Tug’s World Series ring for the camera (and I wore a Phillies jersey!), I will bet you anything there wasn’t a dry eye in the county.  Certainly not mine. 

When the Phillies had their ring ceremony this past April and Pat Burrell came back to stand in line with his former teammates and get his ring, and Pat Gillick sobbed, I was right there with him.  At home, of course, but I don’t know which of us cried more.  (It was a class-act move on the Rays’ part to let him come back, and I salute them for that.)

I was in the ballpark on a sunny summer Sunday when Doug Glanville shattered teammate Eric Milton’s bid for a no-hitter.  In the 4th inning I turned to John and said, “Don’t look now, but there’s something on the scoreboard you need to notice.”  (It’s tradition to never use the words “no hitter” when a pitcher is working on one.  Unless, of course, you’re a position player, who will try to bust the pitcher’s balls by saying, “Hey Joe, is that a no-hitter you got going?”)  In the 6th we held our breath.  The guy behind us got on his cell phone and called home.  “Honey, turn on the game.  I can’t tell you what, but just trust me.  You want to see this.”  In the later innings, if the no-no is still on the board, in a show of respect, the other players will move down and let the pitcher sit alone on the bench.  To this day, I have a hard time forgiving Glanville for screwing up that simple pop fly in the 8th, and then killing Milton’s try for a shutout in the next play.  Maybe on my deathbed I’ll say, “It’s okay, Doug.”  Then again, maybe not. 

When MLB Network got started, they showed segments of Ken Burns’ “Baseball”, and I cried then too.  Laughed a lot also, but some things about baseball never fail to make me cry.  It’s the vintage clips of historic games, amazing plays, classic players exhibiting almost superhuman feats of strength.  There’s something about baseball that’s infinitely rich in tradition and hope.  Baseball endures like the human spirit.  It takes a hit, slips a little, sometimes it falls, but it always gets back up and keeps going because tomorrow is another game.  It leaves us bored and restless in one minute, and breathless with anticipation the next.  With baseball we feel extreme highs and lows, just minutes apart, and we keep coming back for more because we want to know what happens next.  It’s the story that never, ever ends.

I love the Walt Whitman quote at the end of Bull Durham: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”  Why yes, I do have a copy of the script.  Surprised?

And yet I don’t cry at football.  I scream and I curse, but I don’t cry.  Why is that?

Yes, I guess you could say baseball makes me cry.  I have no problem with that.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Harry is “Outtahere”

The incomparable Harry Kalas passed away today.  Being someone who pays attention to words, I’ve noticed how everyone’s been saying, “Harry Kalas passed away,” not “Harry Kalas died.”  It’s just too hard to think of him being gone, so “passed away” seems the easiest way to put it, and for Harry, it just fits. 

I feel like I’ve lost my grandfather all over again, partly because Harry died the way my grandfather died:  suddenly, with no warning, and in the location he loved the most.  (For Harry it was the broadcast booth; for Grandpa, it was the garden.)  I cried most of the way to picking Ryan up, and I cried again when the radio station rebroadcast Harry’s play-by-play of the top of the 9th in Game 6 last October.  It wouldn’t be so bad but when Scott Frantzke’s voice cracked as he talked about Harry, I lost it all over again. 

Harry will be missed.  Baseball in Philadelphia (and sports, since Harry did voice-overs for NFL Films, too) will never be the same.  We’ll miss you, Harry, but we know you’ll be watching the game with Whitey, and wherever you are, we know you’re smiling. 

I took this picture at the Phillies Phestival last July.  I found it interesting—and somehow, appropriate—that sitting beside Larry Anderson in his shorts and sandals, Harry showed up in his crisp powder blue suit and white shoes.  Ever the class act.  🙂

Harry Kalas

That’s John’s hand holding the ball Harry had just signed.  It occupies a place of honor in our collection.

Maybe This IS Heaven

I’m on (so-called) vacation this week and in trying to keep off my feet for a few hours, thanks to the heel spurs (that I keep mistyping as “hell-spurs”) in my right foot, I turned on the TV and went looking for something to keep me sitting for a while.  I landed on “Field of Dreams”, which I watched for about the 300th time.  Not complaining, mind you.  🙂

It refreshed my memory where I keep getting the dialog wrong, like “I would’ve played for food money” (not “meal money”).  It also reminded me of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham.  Too many similarities to sit and type in one afternoon.  I’ll forever fear I’m him, that I had one chance, it didn’t work out, and if I’d stayed and done what I wanted to do, it would’ve been a “tragedy”.  I don’t know what that other thing is that I should be doing, and I think that’s where the biggest fear is. 

It’s all about passion.  No surprise that’s one of my all-time favorite movies, EVER.

Double A

As opposed to AA, which Laura was certain I’d need after the NJ conference.  I was actually pretty well behaved.  It’s a trade-off for not singing Monkees karaoke with the rest of the VFRW.  Of all the things I regret doing in my life, that’s not one of them.  🙂 

I was listening to the iPod this morning when a song came on that Robin Lanier recommended, Dave Potts’ “If I Broke the Record”.  It’s perfect for Release Point because it mentions wanting to play the game clean and pure, the way it was meant to be.  I started noticing a connection between writing and baseball, and I came to this conclusion:

Writer with finished novel, no agent =  A ball

Writer with finished novel and an agent =  Double-A ball

Writer with novel, agent, and major contest win =  Triple-A

Published author = Major Leagues

In single A, you’re good (how many people say they’re going to write a book, but they never get around to it, much less finish it?) and you know what you want, but there’s a long road ahead of you.  In double A, you’ve got someone else believing you can do it–or else you wouldn’t have stepped foot out of single-A–but you’re still a long way from The Show.  In triple A, you’re getting your name out there, people notice you; you’re really close but you’re not there yet.  In The Bigs, The Majors, The Show, you’re there and you’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to stay there.  But once you’re there, you might wind up back in the minors but you’ve been to The Show and you know what it’s like.  You’re among the Best of the Best. 

Me, I’m in double A, and I’m happy to be here (“and I hope I can help the team”).  I’ve cleared one hurdle, and it feels damn good to know someone else believes in what I can do.  (Someone I’m not related or married to.)  But I want to be in the majors, just like the rest of us down here in the minors.  We’re not all going to make it, not all of us have what it takes, but we’re damn well working on it. 

I would’ve written for meal money.  🙂

RED OCTOBER!!!

A picture’s supposed to be worth a thousand words (and I tend to run on when I’m talking baseball), but these pictures say it all for me. 

2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
WE DID IT!!
WE DID IT!!

 

Celebrate
Celebrate!
Tug, we believe!
Yes, Tug, we believe!

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but these pictures are Priceless.  Thank you, Phillies, for giving this to Philadelphia and all us fans.  Can’t wait to see the 3 new banners at Citizens Bank Park next season, and the Phestival and Baseball 101 when we can all check out your new hardware!!

Geez, how many days ’til Spring Training?  🙂

Where Would We Be Without Friends?

I am SO excited!  My friend Adele DuBois linked my blog to hers in celebration of the Phillies victory in Game 1 last night (a hard-fought 3-2 Phillies victory; Brad Lidge was “Lights Out” once again!), and I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve seen since the Phillies won the NL Pennant.  🙂  Please take a look and share in the joy of watching Our Boys in the Fall Classic!!  Adele DuBois

And don’t forget that Adele’s “Desert Heat” releases November 5th, the same day we close on our house!  For both our sakes, I hope that’s not the same day as the Victory Parade (not to jinx it; I’m just saying) because I’ll really have a hard time deciding which to go to.  The closing or the parade…?  Hmmm.  Right now it’s a toss-up.  On the other hand, if they win in 4, I’ll gladly take time off next week to be there on Broad Street!

GO FIGHTIN’S!!!  🙂 

Oh, and BTW, this is my 100th post!  How cool is that?  😉

The Big Dance

Folks at my office are all decked out in their Phillies red today, and it’s wicked cool.  Everybody’s excited beyond words for tonight’s game.  Being a born-and-raised Yankees fan but an adopted Phillies fan, I’m used to late October baseball but nothing like this.  There’s an energy in the air I can’t begin to describe.  All I can think is that this must be what it’s like when you’re going to the Prom. 

At the same time, I’m starting to get excited because the NJ Romance Writers conference starts on Friday and “Release Point” is a finalist in their Put Your Heart in a Book contest.  I’m told that they read excerpts from the finalist entries for the entire crowd (200+, I’m estimating) to hear.  My fingers, toes, eyes and intestines are all crossed that there will be editors in the audience who hear “Release Point” and fall madly in love.  I have a pitch session with an editor on Saturday afternoon.  Laura and I are getting to NJ early so we can raid…uh, browse AC Moore.  We’re staying late on Sunday to have a plotting session with Robin Kaye and Robin Lanier.  Instead of just a few hours with the girls, I’m getting 3 whole days to talk writing and publishing with my favorite people (that I’m not biologically or maritally connected to).  I’ve already laid out what I plan to wear.  And beneath it all, I’m scared spitless because I’m one of 3 finalists in the PYHIAB contest, and I have a 1 in 3 chance of winning, which would mean going up on that stage and accepting a plaque and saying “Thank You” in front of the entire room.  It means being told I’m the best at something.  (And doesn’t that concept scramble my neurons!)

I find it an interesting parallel that the Phillies are going to the Series and I’m up for a writing award at pretty much the same time.  In both cases, it’s a dream that started WAY long ago, to be recognized to be among the best in one’s field.  In both cases, just getting the pennant (or being a finalist) is a huge honor.  In both cases, we’re up against highly qualified opponents.  In both cases, should a win occur, there will be voluminous celebrations going on.  (In my case, if I lose, there’ll be even more drinking going on.)  I wonder if the Phillies are as nervous as I am.  At the same time, I’m not sure who I’m more nervous for, the Phillies or me.  🙂

I’m leaving early on Friday and I doubt, between the Series tonight and my nerves tomorrow, that I’ll be coherent enough to post anything between now and the awards ceremony, so please, wish us both luck.  If I don’t win, I think I’ll be fine with that, so long as the Phillies come home with the World Series trophy.  It’s been a long, wonderful, exciting ride for all of us, and be it my finaling or their NL Pennant, that’s an honor that nothing can ever erase.

WORLD SERIES BOUND!

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies and all us Phillies fans!  Was that an awesome NLCS series or what?  No matter what else happens next–and I won’t make any predictions, because the Sox and the Rays are both worthy adversaries–the Phillies are the National League Champions for 2008, and NOTHING can take that away! 

from MLB.com/galleries
from MLB.com/galleries

And thank you to the Los Angeles Dodgers for an exciting NLCS.  They were nothing if not challenging.  Please don’t sign Pat Burrell away from us next year!  🙂

Today’s not going to be a high-functioning day.  The boys’ bathroom toilet sprung a leak in the 4th inning and the plumber got there and fixed it in time for the three of us to stand in the living room watching the bottom of the 9th.  (Also very reasonably priced for a late night call; I can highly recommend Patrick McCloskey Plumbing in Conshohocken.)  Between the game and the toilet, the excitement didn’t wane very quickly, and the alarm clock rang again way too soon.  But I came in to work in my Utley jersey, wearing it with intense pride in knowing the Fightin’s are going to the Series!  Maybe someone will throw it over my shoulders after I doze off at my desk…