Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chasing down some bobbleheads

(If it weren't for the "Roy Oswalt" you wouldn't know who that is)

As a Sunday Game Plan ticket-holder you end up attending a lot of giveaway games. The majority of these giveaway games are for kids 14 and under. The exceptions are Mother's Day and Father's Day. That being said it's not like I have the tickets to get "free" stuff. But we all like to get presents. And after looking into buying some face value tickets for the Roy Oswalt bobblehead night and seeing that you couldn't get an individual ticket for that game I looked at other clubs and what they were offering. There is some really cool bobbleheads to be had out there in Major League Baseball this year. So much so that you could make a road trip out of it. Below I've complied a list with dates, cities and the bobblehead given away on that day. I've made it in accordance of ease of travel as well as cool-ness of the bobblehead itself. There are many clubs giving out multiple bobbleheads this year so attending all events is impossible. (June 12 has three clubs with giveaways that day) So ladies and gentlemen here we go!

  • April 3rd Toronto Jose Bautista

  • April 8th NY Mets Mr. Met (to be used for voodoo although one wonders if the Mets aren't already being subjected to it. It is also down right creepy)

  • April 10 Houston Michael Bourn (this one features the center fielder who was traded for Brad Lidge showing off his gold glove award)

  • April 24 Milwaukee John Axford (St Louis also has a Stan Musial giveaway this day but you can't argue with Axford's moustache)

  • April 30 Chicago Frank Thomas (this would have been your favorite bobblehead in 1995)

  • May 6 Seattle Ichiro (this is one of the more inventive selections this year as there is a counter included on the base so you can track Ichiro's hit total in real time)

  • May 14 Houston Chris Johnson (here we are back in Houston. Not only is Chris Johnson taking his stance with a pink bat and wrist bands but it is also "Wine and Cheese night" for all you classy fans out there)

  • May 22 Milwaukee Casey McGeehee

  • May 24 LA Angels Kendry Morales (choice of two bobbleheads. choose wisely)

  • June 1 LA Dodgers Don Mattingly (Donnie Baseball!)

  • June 4 San Franciso Cody Ross (burn this one at Frankford and Cottman)

  • June 12 Milwaukee Zack Grienke (careful this one is fragile)

  • June 25 Baltimore Buck Showalter (recreate that scene from Seinfeld!)

  • July 10 Milwaukee Sausage Hot Dog Racing Sausage (best giveaway ever?)

  • July 17 Oakland MC Hammer (nope, this is the best ever)

  • July 26 LA Dodgers Fernandomania (thats all it says!)

  • July 30 D.C. Jayson Werth (don't get this one too close to that Cliff Lee bobblehad)

  • August 4 Chicago WS Beer Vendor (if they can get a beer vendor we need the Cotton Candy Guy)

  • August 5 Minnesota Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant (action poses!)

  • August 13 Cleveland Mike Hargrove (described as "Human Rain Delay". You'll probably have to wait a bit for this one)

  • August 18 LA Angels Gnome (seriously?)

  • August 27 San Fran Tim Lincecum (no joke required)

  • September 3 KC Joakim Soria (Sure to not be on the team within 2-3 years)

  • September 10 DC Fan's Choice (perhaps they'll choose better management?)

So there you have it. If you plan to travel this map please do not submitt your mileage to Drunk Phils Fans as we will not reimburse you. A lot of great ones in Milwaukee so you could just spend your time there all year. They have good beer. It's also probably just cheaper to buy them all off of ebay.

JMurl's Microbrew and Fantasy Sleepers

JMurl's Microbrew of the Week

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale

Brewed by: Lagunitas Brewing Company/Petaluma, CA

Abv: 9%

Copper and red hues...fabulous aromas of prunes, brown sugar, and rich malts...full bodied, slight abrasive hop coarseness...a one of a kind...4 out of 5 burps

Rating system:

5 burps- The cream of the crop...your taste buds will thank you
4 burps- Good brew, but not the crème de la crème that would get 5 burps
3 burps- Okay, but “I'm not a big fan” and its got alcohol in it, so I'll drink it
2 burps- “Do you have any Bud Light instead of this?”
1 burp-   This brew sucks so bad, it make you want to run to the closest AA meeting

The definition of a “sleeper” is a lower-ranked player who come through and outperform their draft-day value.  In many cases, finding the right sleepers at the draft can go a long way toward winning a title.
Here are JMurl's top fantasy sleepers at each position:
Mike Napoli (Rangers): Questions about playing time and his batting average will keep his draft stock low, but despite always splitting time, Napoli has more home runs over the past three years than any other catcher.

First base
Ryan Howard (Phillies): It's important to realize that Howard is no youngster; he has been in the league for seven seasons now, five of them with 500 at-bats or more. Howard is still worth a third or forth  selection with the overall numbers that he provides. Just be prepared to absorb some K's with his long swing and he will have to carry the load with Utley out of the lineup early in the season.

Second base
Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Twins): He would be a lot more attractive if he ended up at shortstop. Regardless of position, he is a guy who will hit for average, steal 20 bases and score runs, which is what your want from your middle infielder.

Ian Desmond (Nationals): Where does the better value lie? Is it with Desmond as a double-digit rounder (13th or 14th round, most likely) or with Derek Jeter, who will go in the sixth or seventh round? Desmond's numbers were almost identical to Jeter's in 2010. Snag Desmond late if you get shut out of top shortstop options.

Third base
Casey McGehee (Brewers): June 1, 2009, is about when McGehee became a full-time starter. From that date through the entire 2010 season, only Alex Rodriguez has more RBIs among third basemen. McGehee hit .293 over that time, is sixth in homers and ninth in runs. Here are his totals from that date: 927 at-bats, 123 runs, 39 home runs, 167 RBIs, .293 average. Here's Evan Longoria over that same time frame: 959 at-bats, 158 runs, 42 home runs, 162 RBIs, .279 average. Just saying.

Colby Rasmus (Cardinals): Rasmus is in a for a huge breakout season, whether he commits to being a power guy or not. His numbers have increased as a whole over the past two seasons in a similar number of at-bats.

Drew Stubbs (Reds): Hitting 22 homers with 30 stolen bases in your first full season is quite the feat. A few years ago, those numbers got Grady Sizemore pegged as a top-five outfielder. Stubbs will come at a much larger discount.

Jason Bay (Mets): Sure, his first season in Queens was a disaster, but if he's healthy, he still has the talent to produce, even in Citi Field. It's still best to take him late, which is quite possible given how the bottom fell out last year. This of course if he comes back from his recent setback.
Matt Garza (Cubs): For reasons I don't quite grasp, Garza isn't being granted the usual AL-to-NL benefit of the doubt that most high-skill pitchers get. This isn't Jake Westbrook. This is a guy who has posted a sub-4.00 ERA for four consecutive years in the AL East. By way of comparison, Josh Beckett has accomplished that feat in only two of his five seasons in the division. I see Garza jumping back to the 7.5 K/9 range or better and carving up the National League for a career-best WHIP in sub-1.20 territory.
Javier Vazquez (Marlins): His 2010 campaign in the Bronx was a nightmare, but two years ago, Vazquez got Cy Young votes. He's back in the National League, in a pitchers' park, and probably not being drafted in most leagues. All we need is 12 wins, a sub-4.00 ERA and 175 strikeouts, numbers reachable even in decline, and he's a top-50 starter.
Leo Nunez (Marlins): Among closers, Francisco Cordero has long been the poster child for the "mediocre skills, great job security" closer. Nunez could be the new version of that model, but with far better skills. A 9.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are a devastating combination, and even if Nunez falls off a bit from those marks, he should do well enough to save 35 games and hold on to his job for the entire season.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Introducing the newest DPF Writer..Welcome JMurl!

I remember it like it was yesterday.  The date was May 7, 1984 and the Vet seemed empty that day as only 17,000 were in attendance. The Vet was always empty unless it was a playoff game.  Marty Bystrom was on the mound for the Fightins’ as they battled their now NL East rival Atlanta Braves.  Schmitty was 0 for 3 that night, but Von Hayes belted 2 long HR's.  Before then, I had been to many Reading Phillies games, but this was my first trip to South Philly to see the “Big” Phils.  I was eight years old. 

The Vet was no Comiskey, Fenway, or Wrigley, but the Vet had character.  The Vet wasn't glamorous, but it was our house.   The Vet was home to the likes of many great players that didn't care if their uniforms got dirty.   Nails and Charlie Hustle just to name a couple.  These players put everything on the line for their team and city, night in and night out.  They slid head first into second and took out catchers when coming home.  If they were trying to catch a deep shot to center field, and the wall was in their way, they would run right into it, but they would still not drop the ball.  It was qualities like these, that made me a lifelong Phillies fan. 

Fast forwarding to October 13th, 1993.  It was game 6 of the NCLS and the opponent, oddly enough, were the Atlanta Braves.  Again, I was with my father but the Vet was a little more full that night as each and every one of the over 62,000 in attendance were hoping for the same thing- Phillies win this game and they go to the World Series.  Our seats were very close to ones we always had for Eagles games, in the 700 level and as we climbed the ramp, the smell of urine and marijuana got stronger and stronger.  The Phils were victorious that night and went on to the World Series, but unfortunately as you all know, did not win.  15 years later they returned to the Series and finished what they started.  The Vet was gone, but its character still remained.  Instead of “Nails”, we now have “The Flying Hawaiian”.  Instead of “Wild Thing”, we now have “Lights Out Lidge”.  The players and stadiums may have changed, but the fans will always remain the same.


You'll know where to find The Franchise...

Sitting in the friendly confines of Veterans stadium on a drizzly and cold September day in 2003, the battle-cry rang out through the near-empty venue.

"GO SOX! Atta' boy, Nomaaa!"

You could see the disdain wash over the already grumpy, but devoted Phillies fans who were holding tough through yet another mediocre season. They were still the lovable tough-luck Red Sox fans, but in a little over one year, they would transform into "those" fans. You know who they are. The ones whose memorabilia collection rises and falls with the team's wins and losses. The ones who give you a bad name.

On the whole, Phillies fans are wonderful. Please don't think I'm blanketing the whole of the fan base with these statements. However, recently more and more new fans are puking and tazing their way to a bad reputation for us all. They're the ones who pop up as our representatives on the national news. They're "those" fans. The ones that other cities love to hate. The cocky, unapologetic jerks who dare you to say a negative word about their team.

Who are these people? People like the picture I added above..Where were they when Francona and Bowa were sleep-walking their way through season after season?

They've been spoiled, but it's really a shame. They've missed out on so much. They'll never know the legendary exploits of Ron Gant, Rico Brogna or Mickey Morandini. They'll remember Lenny Dykstra as a wacky, failed businessman who pals around with Charlie Sheen rather than the enigmatic, juiced-up spark plug that roamed the chaw stained turf of the Vet. Who could blame them? These are special times. We've all lived and died with the team. The recent years seem to be karma for the miserable late 90's, but those years built character. Along the way, we learned to never take it for granted. That's what separates the die-hards from the new kids in town.

This team has made Philly a baseball town again, and that's admirable. The new influx of fans has been great for the city, and when the teams are winning, this is an amazing place to live. We deserve this new winning attitude. No, we're not "Red Sox Nation," but we don't want to be. We're the guys who miss Harry AND Whitey. We're the guys who worried about Scott Rolen's back problems. We're the ones who hope you all stick around for the long haul. If you aren't? Well, that's fine. We'll be waiting to welcome you back with open arms. You'll know where to find us, we've been sitting in the same spot for the last 20 years.

Random Past Phillie: Rheal Cormier

Name: Rheal Paul Cormier
Position: Relief Pitcher
Born: April 23, 1967 in Moncton, New Brunswick
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on November 30, 2000
Phillies Debut: April 4, 2001
Final Phillies Game: July 25, 2006
Uniform Numbers: 33, 37
Career Elsewhere: Cardinals (1991-94), Red Sox (1995, 1999-2000), Expos (1996-97), Reds (2006-07)

About Rheal Cormier: With free agency being what it is today, it can often be difficult to get attached to individual players. So many come and go through the years, it sometimes seems shocking when a player sticks with a club for any significant amount of time. Sure, there are still a decent amount of stars who have long tenures with one team and in some rare instances spend their entire career in one place. But more often what we see are journeymen who are signed to fill a specific need on a team, then move on when they've outlived their usefulness on that club. It's uncommon that a team keeps such a player around for more than a couple seasons. When they do, it can seem like he's been with them forever. This is especially true of relief pitchers, particularly those nomads who work primarily during the middle innings of a game for a living. Rheal Cormier was one such pitcher who was used in that role, and when compared to many contemporaries, the French-Canadian southpaw ended up having quite a lengthy stay with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Like the vast majority of relief pitchers, Rheal Cormier began his professional baseball career as a starter upon being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixth round of the 1988 Draft. Three years later, he was a Major Leaguer after being called up by the Cardinals in August. Cormier would pitch in 11 games for the Cards in '91 (10 starts), posting a 4-5 record with a 4.12 ERA. After going 10-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 1992, Cormier struggled early in the 1993 season and ended up bouncing back and forth between the starting rotation and bullpen. He would find his way back to the St. Louis rotation in 1994, but shoulder and back problems limited Cormier to just seven appearances in what would be his final season with the Cardinals.

When the infamous strike that wiped out the 1994 postseason was settled in April of 1995, Major League Baseball and its teams were forced to scramble through an abbreviated Spring Training. A massive amount of unsigned free agents found new homes and several trades were made to patch holes. One such deal involved Cormier, who was shipped to the Boston Red Sox along with outfielder Mark Whiten in exchange for third baseman Scott Cooper and pitcher Cory Bailey. After starting the '95 campaign in the rotation for the Red Sox, Cormier was moved to the bullpen, only to be put back in the rotation late in the season. In all, 12 of Cormier's 48 appearances in 1995 were starts as he went 7-5 with 4.07 ERA for the American League East Champions. Cormier would be on the move again after that season, as the Red Sox sent him to the Montreal Expos along with pitcher Shayne Bennett and first baseman Ryan McGuire in exchange for infielder Wil Cordero and pitcher Bryan Eversgerd. Getting the opportunity to play in his native Canada, Cormier was 7-10 with a 4.17 ERA in 1996, including what would be the final complete game and only shutout of his career, a three-hitter at the expense of his former Cardinals teammates on April 22.

In 1997, however, Cormier's career would take a major detour. After allowing five runs in an inning and a third to the Colorado Rockies in his first start of the campaign, Cormier was pulled from the game. It would be his only appearance of the '97 season as an elbow injury finished his year just as it was getting started. Cormier would undergo ligament transplant surgery, a procedure that would also limit his 1998 season to three appearances with the Akron Aeros, the AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. He would return to the Red Sox for the 1999 season, surprisingly making the club out of Spring Training. The suprises didn't end there though, as Cormier wound up appearing in 60 games for the eventual AL Wild Card qualifiers, posting a 2-0 record and 3.69 ERA. He'd make 64 appearances for Boston in 2000, going 3-3 with a 4.61 ERA. That was where Cormier's second stint with the Red Sox came to an end, as the next chapter of his career would be written in Philadelphia.

Coming off a 97-loss season in 2000, the Phillies were in need of help in many areas. To shore up the bullpen, they signed a trio of veterans. Among them was former All-Star closer Ricky Bottalico, returning for a second stint with the club. Jose Mesa was also brought aboard and would eventually become the franchise's all-time saves leader. Also among the newcomers was one Rheal Cormier, who inked a three-year deal with the Phils. The moves were in no way Earth-shattering, but they did pay some dividends in 2001 as the 'pen proved to be the biggest strength on a Phillies club that came within two games of dethroning the Braves atop the National League East. Overall, the team finished 86-76, a 21-game improvement upon their 2000 record and the first winning season for the franchise since 1993. Cormier had a somewhat up-and-down '01 campaign, going 5-6 with a 4.21 ERA in 60 appearances. The Phillies would take a step back in 2002 as a horrendous April pretty much ended any chances of building on their 2001 showing, the end result being an 80-81 record. The bullpen was also unable to duplicate its '01 success. Cormier in particular struggled badly, as he went 5-6 with a 5.25 ERA.

When it became evident that fellow lefties Dan Plesac and Hector Mercado would be heading north with the ballclub out of Spring Training in 2003, Cormier's days in Philadelphia seemed to be numbered. He got a reprieve when the unusual decision was made to carry three southpaws in the 'pen. Still, when Cormier was torched by the Florida Marlins for five runs in his first appearance of the '03 season, it was pretty much assumed to be a matter of time before the Phillies and the 5'10" lefty reliever they dubbed "Frenchy" would part ways. But then a funny thing happened. Cormier basically became unhittable. In fact, he did not allow a single hit in seven appearances between April 24 and May 9 of that season and didn't allow another run until May 21, a span of 16 appearances. After his disastrous debut, Cormier allowed just 11 runs for the remainder of the '03 campaign, boasting an 8-0 record while fashioning a 1.70 ERA in 65 appearances, with a 1.20 ERA over his last 64 games. For the most part, the Phillies got strong starting pitching and setup work in 2003, but an awful season by closer Jose Mesa and an inconsistent offense caused the club to miss out on a postseason berth that appeared to be theirs for the taking heading into the season's final week.

The Phillies re-signed Cormier after his tremendous 2003 season, and he went 5-6 with a 3.56 ERA in 2004, appearing in a career-high 84 games. Cormier's 2005 season was marred by a hip injury and despite a 4-2 record in 57 appearances, his ERA skyrocketed to 5.89. Healthy again in 2006, Cormier pitched in 43 games for the Phils and regained some of his '03 magic, compiling a 2-2 record with a 1.59 ERA. It was a different story for the ballclub, who suffered through a miserable first half and unloaded a slew of veterans at the trade deadline. One of those vets sent packing was Cormier, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitcher Justin Germano on July 31. He'd go 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 21 appearances for the Reds in '06, then was released by Cincinnati after six outings and a 9.00 ERA in 2007. Cormier signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves shortly after being cut loose by the Reds but never did get called up to the parent club in what turned out to be his final season.

Personal Recollection: I think there are certain players who regardless of how long they've actually been with a team, it just seems like they've been there forever. Rheal Cormier was definitely one of those guys for me. Perhaps it was because he was with the Phillies for five and a half seasons, which you don't see very often with a middle reliever or setup man anymore. Whatever it was, it just seemed like Cormier pitched for the Phils even longer than what he did.

Cormier's 2003 season is one of the greatest by a Phillies reliever that I've ever seen. It was amazing how there just didn't even seem to be a role for him when that season began and most people questioned why he even made the team out of Spring Training. Then he got absolutely lit up by the Marlins in his first appearance and I was convinced he would be designated for assignment the next day. I mean, what was the point of having him on the team? But give the man credit, he never complained or felt sorry for himself and was basically automatic the rest of the season. With Jose Mesa pretty much imploding that year, I wondered if Cormier would be given a shot to close. He may have been a victim of his own success in a way, as he did so well setting up that they didn't want to remove him from the role. Cormier was decent in 2004, but never really came close to duplicating his '03 output. He did pitch well before being traded to the Reds in 2006, though his ERA was a little misleading as he allowed a lot of inherited runners to score. Still, Cormier had one great season as a Phillie, a couple good ones, and a couple bad ones. You could do better, but you could do a lot worse. Such is life for a lot of relief pitchers.

Cormier was involved in a pretty memorable incident while with the Red Sox in 1999 involving his future Phillies teammate Jim Thome, who was then with the Cleveland Indians. The two teams had been involved in a bit of a beanball war and during one particular game at Fenway Park, Cormier plunked Thome, who then charged the mound. The fight didn't really amount to much, just some grabbing and spinning around between two pretty mild-mannered guys. As it turned out, there weren't any grudges held as Cormier gave Thome a ride back to the hotel where the Indians were staying. The Phillies featured a segment about this on their 2003 video yearbook, with John Kruk serving as a Dr. Phil-type moderator. Weird, wild stuff.

That's my story on Rheal Cormier. Feel free to share your own recollections

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beer Cozies are in!

Check out the Drunk Phils Fans Beer Cozies for sale now! Each cozy will be only $5.00 . All proceeds will be going to the charity . Comment here or join the Drunk Phils Fans Facebook site to order yours today!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tailgating Booze Draft

I had this idea for a "for fun" draft. The premise: Three rounds to draft booze. The thought behind it would be that these are the only three libations you can have during a tailgate. You would be limited to choose at least one beer/bottle alcohol and one liquor. So you wouldn't be able to draft all beer or all liqour. (eg Smirnoff, Miller and Twisted Tea or Smirnoff, Jameson and Miller)

I think this would need at least 6 people to work well and I guess the more the merrier. If you're interested go to this thread on the Facebook page and sign up. Once I get enough people I'll use to set the draft order. Results will be posted here once it's all finished.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter from Ed Rendell to GQ Magazine

This is a letter from Ed Rendell to GQ magazine. It was originally posted on and I just thought it was appropriate to repost on the blog.

So, here we go again.
Another national publication resorting to tired clichés and jumping on the "throwing snowballs at Santa" bandwagon to describe Philadelphia sports fans.
In the current issue of GQ magazine, you ranked the 15 worst sports fans in America, and in a tie for the title of worst in the nation you selected the fans of the Eagles and Phillies. Your magazine described them as the "meanest fans in America."
The "worst fans"? "Meanest fans"? I've been following sports in this town for years, since I came to Penn. Jim, you and your magazine took the easy way out. And you have it all wrong.
To support that contention, you say the fans have booed everyone from Santa Claus to their own star players, and that they cheered Michael Irvin's injury. You also referenced a recent horrendous incident in which a drunken fan deliberately vomited on an 11-year-old girl. Lastly, you quoted Pete Rose about the fans booing the crack in the Liberty Bell.
Let's examine your evidence:
First, the Santa Claus incident was more than 40 years ago - there are very few of us left who pelted that forlorn, scrawny Santa, and certainly current fans cannot be blamed for that. Second, it is true that, on occasion, some of our fans have booed our players but the vast majority are incredibly supportive. The vomiting incident was horrible, but it was one incident perpetrated by only one fan. As for Pete Rose, when he came here to play, he found the fans to be very supportive (we love and appreciate hustle and effort) and has developed a special, lasting relationship with this city's fans.
You want to talk about evidence to define Philadelphia sports fans? This is a city where fans' intensity, passion and excitement can actually dictate the outcome of events. There is no doubt in my mind, because I have seen it:
* Ask Burt Hooton about Game 3 of the National League Championship Series in 1977. In the second inning, Hooton was unmercifully booed at Veterans Stadium as he disputed balls and strikes and delayed the game. The louder it got, the wilder he got. Four consecutive walks later, the Phillies had the lead and Hooton was out of the game. That would not have happened anywhere else.
* Or how about that Eagles-Cowboys game in 1995, when Dallas coach Barry Switzer called the same play twice. The Cowboys lined up on fourth-and-a-short-1 at their 29 in a tie game in the fourth quarter. Even the Eagles players looked as if they thought the Cowboys would get the first down. The Eagles stuffed the Cowboys, but the officials ruled the 2-minute warning came before the play. The Cowboys lined up again. The fans continued going crazy, as only they could in the Cowboys game. The players' body language changed. All of a sudden, they became defiant. They stopped the Cowboys, got the ball on downs and won the game on a field goal. It was stunning.
* Or, Brett Myers working a walk off the Brewers' CC Sabathia in Game 2 of the NL Division Series in 2008, thanks to some help from the crowd. With every pitch to Myers, the fans further helped unnerve Sabathia. Myers walked, Jimmy Rollins walked on four pitches, and then Shane Victorino hit a grand slam.
Yes, there are a few isolated incidents of bad behavior by Philadelphia fans, but some have been misconstrued by the national press, such as the fans booing Donovan McNabb's selection on draft day (they weren't booing McNabb, they were booing the Eagles for not choosing Ricky Williams).
But, consider the following incidents committed by other cities' fans:
* Jets fans boo their team's draft selection not only 1 year, but every year. The national and New York press never mention that.
* In 1986, a Yankees fan threw a knife at the Angels' Wally Joyner, grazing his arm.
* In 2010, some Yankees fans in the stands harassed the wife of then-Ranger Cliff Lee.
* In 2002, two White Sox fans jumped out of the stands and attacked Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa.
* A year later at a White Sox game, a fan ran onto the field and tried to tackle an umpire. Later that year, Cubs fans threw a cellphone that hit San Diego third baseman Sean Burroughs.
* In 1999, Denver fans threw snowballs with batteries in them at Raiders players.
* In 2003, Oakland fans hit the Rangers' Carl Everett in the head with a cellphone. Later that year in Oakland, another Athletics fan threw a cherry bomb from the upper deck and burned an 8-year-old boy.
* In 2003, a Giants fan was fatally shot by a Dodgers fan in an argument in a Dodger Stadium parking lot.
* In 2001, Browns fans threw beer bottles onto the field to protest a referee's call. Police had to escort the refs from the stadium.
 * In 2009, Dallas Mavericks fans poured beer on Kenyon Martin's mother and Carmelo Anthony's fiancée.
So, the "meanest fans in America"? . . . Not even close.
Booing an emaciated Santa, even booing your own players pales in significance compared with these acts of physical violence. The key fact you're clearly missing is that one can point to isolated incidents of poor fan behavior in almost every city. Unfortunately, again, you chose the easy way out.
Now let's take a look at the other side of the equation. When rating the "worst fans in America," you surely would also have to look at the good things they do as well.
First, Eagles and Phillies fans are incredibly loyal. When the Birds suffered through several four-win seasons, they still sold out. The Phillies have played before 123 straight sellout crowds at Citizens Bank Park. The fans' support is intense and electric. It inspires and motivates players. It literally lifts our teams.
Ask Brian Dawkins, the ex-Eagle now with the Broncos, who are the best fans in the NFL and he will tell you there are good fans in many places, but none like ours. And, Jim, did anyone at GQ listen to star pitcher Cliff Lee when he turned down an offer of more money from the beloved New York Yankees to sign with the Phillies? This is what Cliff had to say about the "worst fans in America":
"You can feel the volume. Every game has got an elevated feel to it compared to everywhere else. It's completely different. I don't know what the fans do to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but it's definitely something extra here. I don't know what it is, but it's something they're doing. They get excited. They're passionate fans. They understand what's going on. They don't need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer, to do that. No, it's exciting."
Lastly, let's talk about the good our fans do. In the last 6 years, Eagles fans have helped raise more than $1.5 million to fight breast cancer and have donated more than 21,000 pounds of food to hunger relief organizations. Not to be outdone, in the last two decades Phillies fans have donated $11 million to help fight ALS, $800,000 last year alone. And incredibly - in what has to be an unprecedented gesture - the fans funded the creation of a 7 1/2-foot bronze statue of the Phils' beloved, now-deceased announcer Harry Kalas and presented it as a gift to the club in Harry's memory.
"Worst fans"? Hardly. "Best fans"? Probably.
Jim, I understand you come to Philadelphia often to dine at Vetri, one of our great gourmet restaurants. Perhaps the next time you come into town you should head down to Pat's Steaks at 12th and Passyunk and give the people of South Philly a chance to talk with you about the article.
Better yet, come with me to the Phillies' Opening Day, and you will feel that passion - that love - that the "best" fans in America have for their teams.
Sincerely Yours,
Ed Rendell

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beer & You at Citizens Bank Park

As April draws near and fans start lining up at the gates for another season of America's pastime I come here today to talk about another great American pastime: Drinking Beer. As gas prices make their annual rise towards summer we want to get the best value for our dollar in terms of beer. Everyone knows going into any ticketed event that the price for concessions is outrageous and in a way strangely American. We all know that buying in bulk is usually your best bet. A case is always cheaper per bottle when compared to a 6 pack or a pint from a tap.

With that thought in mind you should know to partake in a drink before going through the gates, after you've driven there of course, instead of within your friendly confines. Let's say you happened to fall into a situation where you weren't able to have a beer prior to scanning your ticket and you wouldn't mind pay the $7.25 to Arimark for water, malted barley, hops and yeast. Continuing along with the American way of being-able-to-charge-whatever-they-want Citizen's Bank Park also boasts the freedom-est variety of suds that you the consumer have the right to choose from. If you like to be stuck in your Communist ways and believe that you should only have one brand of beer ever I suggest you open your eyes to what The Bank has to offer. Below I've assembled a list of some of the choices you have at the ballpark in order of their ABV % going from least to greatest.*

Miller Lite (Light Lager) 4.17%
Bud Light (Light Lager) 4.20%
Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale (Pale ale) 4.30%
Yuengling Lager (Lager) 4.40%
Kenzinger (Kolsch) 4.50%
Smithwick's (Irish Red) 4.50%
Flying Fish Xtra Pale Ale (Pale ale) 4.70%
Sly Fox Pikeland Pils (Pilsner) 4.90%
Sam Adams Boston Lager (Vienna Lager) 4.90%
Anchor Steam Beer (Steam Beer) 4.90%
Budweiser (Lager) 5.00%
Troegs Sunshine Pils (Pilsner) 5.30%
Otter Creek Copper Ale (Altbier) 5.40%
Blue Moon Belgian White (Witbier) 5.40%
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Pale ale) 5.60%
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (India Pale Ale) 6.00%
Red Hook Long Hammer IPA (India Pale Ale) 6.50%
Victory Hop Devil (India Pale Ale) 6.70%
Yards Tavern Ale (Strong Ale) 8.00%

*List may not reflect current 2011 options

Now, if you've purchased a beer or merely glanced at the menu you've probably noticed that a beer is generally around the 7 dollar range. The beautiful thing about Citizen's Bank Park is that even though the prices are a little steep they are pretty much standard for every beer. You may pay a little more for something in draft than in bottle but the price isn't more than a dollar in difference. With that thought in mind you can get more ABV per dollar by having a Sierra Nevada instead of a Miller Lite. Budweiser actually happens to be right there in the middle with a 5% ABV which is not too shabby. Although if you want a tastier beverage go down only .10% in ABV with an Anchor Steam which is also a lager and it packs in some flavor. Also if you want to help stimulate the local economy drink Kensinger and any Yards products - both are brewed right here in the City of Brotherly Love.

Enjoy, my friends, as you have plenty options when it comes to boozing at Citizen's Bank Park. Choose wisely and drive safe.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Random Past Game: May 9, 1993

Date of Game: Sunday, May 9, 1993
Location: Veterans Stadium
Opponent: St. Louis Cardinals
Final Score: Phillies 6, Cardinals 5
Winning Pitcher: Mark Davis
Losing Pitcher: Lee Smith
Save: Mitch Williams
Home Runs: Gregg Jefferies, Mariano Duncan

Phillies Starting Lineup

Lenny Dykstra, cf
Mickey Morandini, 2b
John Kruk, 1b
Dave Hollins, 3b
Darren Daulton, c
Wes Chamberlain, rf
Milt Thompson, lf
Mariano Duncan, ss
Curt Schilling, p

Cardinals Starting Lineup

Ray Lankford, cf
Ozzie Smith, ss
Gregg Jefferies, 1b
Mark Whiten, rf
Todd Zeile, 3b
Luis Alicea, 2b
Ozzie Canseco, lf
Hector Villanueva, c
Bob Tewksbury, p

About This Game: Usually when I do these Random Past Phillies/Games/Seasons posts, they're a celebration of the obscure. I find it to be a fun look back at times that were often forgettable and seeing if any readers have their own stories to tell about certain players or events. This time, however, I've chosen a game that is far from obscure if you followed the Phillies through the magical 1993 season. In a year that was filled with memborable wins, this one ranks right up near the top, especially among regular season games.

The Phillies entered play on this Mother's Day in an unfamiliar position. Instead of taking their usual place among the league's also-rans, the Phils boasted the best record in Major League Baseball at 21-7, good enough for a 5.5 game lead over the Montreal Expos. The St. Louis Cardinals were running third with a 15-14 record, 6.5 games out. This Sunday afternoon tilt would be the conclusion of a three-game weekend set at the Vet. The Phils had taken the first two games of the series, but it was hardly a cakewalk as both were decided by one run. The Cardinals jumped to a 3-1 lead in the series opener, but a two-run homer by Dave Hollins off Joe Magrane in the fifth inning put the home team ahead by a 4-3 score which ultimately proved to be the final. The '93 Phillies didn't often get involved in pitchers duels, but that's exactly what the middle game of the series produced as southpaws Terry Mulholland and Rheal Cormier locked horns. The future Phillie Cormier allowed a run on five hits in nine innings, but had to settle for a no-decision when the St. Louis offense could only manage a run itself in regulation time. Mulholland bent but didn't break, yielding ten hits but allowing just a single run while staying on the hill for all ten innings. He would get a complete game victory when pinch-hitter Ricky Jordan (batting for Mulholland) singled Milt Thompson home to give the Phillies a 2-1 decision the bottom of the tenth. In the series finale, the Phils would send budding ace Curt Schilling to the mound against the established ace of the Cardinals staff, veteran righty junkballer Bob Tewksbury.

The day got off to an auspicious start for the home team. The Cardinals were unable to take advantage of a Mariano Duncan error in the top of the first, while Lenny Dykstra led off the bottom of the frame with a double and came around to score when John Kruk singled one out later. At first, it appeared as though that would be all the offense Curt Schilling needed as he set the first eight St. Louis hitters down in order. The first baserunner for the Cards was Schilling's mound adversary, Bob Tewksbury, who singled with one out in the third. That appeared to unnerve Schilling a bit, as Ray Lankford followed with a walk. Ozzie Smith flied to right for the second out of the inning, but Gregg Jefferies put the Cardinals ahead when he unloaded for a three-run homer to make it 3-1. St. Louis would add a run in the top of the fourth when Todd Zeile led off with a double and scored on a single by the next batter, Luis Alicea. The Phillies followed suit in the bottom of the fourth when Darren Daulton doubled with one out and came home on a two-out single by Milt Thompson, who subsequently stole second but was stranded there when Duncan struck out to retire the side. The fifth Cardinals run was unearned, as Alicea doubled to score Zeile, who had reached on a Dave Hollins error leading off the sixth. When Tewksbury stranded two Phillies runners in the seventh and retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth, it appeared as though the Phils and the Mother's Day crowd would be left saying "two out of three ain't bad." But a game never seemed to be lost for the 1993 Phillies until the final out was recorded, and this day would prove to be a prime example of that.

The eighth inning uprising for the Phillies began innocently enough when Darren Daulton singled with two outs and nobody on base. Dutch would advance to third when Wes Chamberlain followed with a double and just like that, the tying run was stepping to the plate. Cardinals skipper Joe Torre took no chances and lifted Bob Tewksbury in favor of Lee Smith, who at the time was baseball's all-time saves leader. The first batter Smith faced was Milt Thompson, who worked the count full before taking a 3-2 fastball just wide to load the bases. That set the stage for Mariano Duncan, owner of seven hits in 14 lifetime at-bats against Smith to that point. Duncan jumped all over a first-pitch fastball and sent it to the seats in left-center for a grand slam and a 6-5 Phillies lead. The crowd of 43,648, which had more or less been lulled to sleep by Tewksbury's offspeed offerings, was suddenly whipped into a frenzy. The always unpredictable Mitch Williams got the call in the ninth. Ray Lankford kept the Cardinals alive with a two-out single, but the Wild Thing finished off the three-game sweep when he got Ozzie Smith to pop out appropriately enough to Duncan at shortstop.

Mark Davis got the win after working a scoreless eighth in relief of Curt Schilling, with Lee Smith taking the loss. It was the first decision on the season for both Davis and Smith, while the save for Mitch Williams was his 13th. Even at this early point of the season, it was pretty obvious the Phillies were on their way to something special. They'd go on to win the National League East with a 97-65 record and ultimately defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS before falling to the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. The Cardinals recovered enough to make a midseason run at first place, but another three-game sweep by the Phillies at the Vet in late July finished St. Louis once and for all. They'd end up in third place at 87-75, ten games behind the Phils.

Personal Recollection: Taking into consideration the fact I was two months old when the Phillies won the 1980 World Series and a little more than three years old when they won the NL Pennant in 1983, this was arguably my greatest moment as a fan up to this point. It wasn't uncommon for the Phils to be pretty much out of the race by Mother's Day back then. Even though it was still extremely early in the season, the buzz surrounding the team was palpable. Keep in mind, this wasn't exactly a Golden Era for Philadelphia sports. A little over a month earlier, the Eagles had lost Reggie White to free agency and many key players would follow in the near future. The Flyers had missed the playoffs for the fourth of what would become five consecutive seasons. The 76ers had completed their worst season in nearly two decades, would soon waste the second overall pick in the NBA Draft on Shawn Bradley, and wouldn't return to the postseason until 1999. The Phillies hadn't reached the postseason since 1983 or even finished above .500 since 1986, so everyone rode the wave all season.

As for the game itself, I was there in section 344 on the Sunday plan. It was a gorgeous day, and I remember Dan Baker must have had a good feeling about things when he was doing the pregame announcements. He said something like, "What a beautiful day! Look at the sky! Look at the standings!" Maybe the Cardinals didn't take too kindly to that. Bob Tewksbury was frustrating as usual, the exact kind of soft tosser the current team seems to struggle against. As the game entered the late innings, you couldn't help but think "well, at least we got two of three." The Phillies kicked up a fuss in the eighth, but there was always that groan when Lee Smith would come in. Lee Arthur (as Harry would call him) probably hung around a couple years too many at the end, but he was still close to automatic in '93. Still, you started to get a good feeling when Smith walked Milt Thompson on a pitch I was amazed Uncle Milty was able to lay off. It was definitely off the plate, but Thompson stood in the batter's box an extra second just to make sure he got the call. Mariano Duncan's slam was gone off the bat, but you still couldn't believe what you were seeing.

Being at the game, I didn't get to hear Harry's call live but eventually caught it on the news. "Well hit...WELL HIT! IT MIGHT BE! IT COULD BE! GRAND SLAM! A GRAND SLAM, MAR-I-AN-O DUN-CAN! THE PHILLIES LEAD 6 TO 5 IN THE EIGHTH!" That of course was accompanied by Whitey's ooohs and aaahs in the background. The sheer joy of Harry's call and Whitey's reaction are something I and so many Phillies fans still miss dearly to this day. Duncan would hit one other grand slam in 1993, on September 28 against the Pirates in Pittsburgh off Denny Neagle. That one gave the Phils a 9-4 lead in the seventh inning of a game they'd go on to win 10-7 to give them their first National League East title in ten years. It was fitting for Duncan to seal the Division with his second slam of the season, since the first was one that convinced a lot of people the ballclub was headed in that direction.

In 2003, I wrote a weekly Phillies column for a site that no longer exists. Throughout that season, I had a countdown of the top 25 Phillies games I'd ever attended. I believe the May 9, 1993 game ranked fourth or fifth. We've been lucky that the Phils have provided a plethora of memorable moments in the years since then. Still, if I had to do the list all over again to include the current era, I imagine this game would still rate in the top ten or very close to it.

That's my story on May 9, 1993. Do you remember this game? If so, feel free to share your own recollections!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Always Knew When The Spring Had Come

In honor of Harry Kalas and a few days before the Spring Equinox, please enjoy a poem I wrote a year ago:
I always knew when the Spring had come
Could not wait to hear his voice
Now the airwaves are empty
And Wheels is my only choice

All I have are memories
Of a man I felt I knew
This spring won’t seem as sunny
The sky won’t be seem that blue

No more Summer nights
Of listening to his calls
“Number 500 for Michael Jack Schmidt!”
Or “Right down the middle for a ball.”

The Fall will seem a bit lonelier
Without Harry at the mic
But we will always have 80 and 08
When he called the last strike

I can still see him in the booth
With his heater and mug of beer
What I wouldn’t give
For just one more “It’s Outta Here!”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

1996: My Recollections and Other Ramblings

First of all, I'd like to say how much I enjoy Ricky Jordan's Fan Club's posts. I was going to leave a comment however, I knew that it would be too long. His stories are well thought out and researched. They bring a smile to my face, of a time not so long ago yet simultaneously a lifetime ago.

In 1996, I fulfilled my childhood dream. During the winter doldrums of February, I booked my first trip to Chicago to see my beloved Phillies play in the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field. This was a fantasy of mine since that Thursday afternoon with the wind blowing out in mid-May of 1979. I was a young girl and listened to all 10 innings of what was named ''The 23-22 Game." I finally found a friend to take this journey and I booked it immediately. The flight, the hotel, the tickets to all four games were all paid in full. I just had to wait out the four months.

My 17 game plan was already paid in full by December of 1995. I loved those games at the Vet when you could just spread out and enjoy the game. It was all I knew. I sat in section 314, which was at first base, in the third row. They were great seats. If the game was dull, there was always something to look at from those seats. There was a walkway separating the 200 level from the 300 level. People were constantly parading in front of us. It was so amusing. Remember, I'm talking about the late 80's and the 90's with the hair and fashion of that time. There was not a lot of fan gear back then so people were either decked out in what they thought was cool or they were utter and complete slobs. It didn't matter, it was entertaining no matter what the extreme.

RJFC wrote about Philadelphia hosting the All Star Game in 1996. I highly anticipated this event because I've never been to an All Star Game. I was so there! I was all paid up and I knew that I was guaranteed seats to the festivities, Home Run Derby and all.

I trudged through the rest of that winter waiting for the first sign of Spring. I celebrated St Patrick's's getting closer. I was celebrating my father's 60th birthday when it happened. I lost my job of 11 years. I have never been unemployed. I had a mortgage. I had a catered Surprise Party for my father at a local club. Fuck! Well, my father was the best guy in the world and he deserved the party. I refused to cancel it, even though my mother suggested that. My baseball endeavors were already taken care of, so I just had to suck it up financially and look for a new job.

I survived that season. If you have to get laid off, there's no better time than the beginning of Baseball Season. I tried to keep a positive attitude. I lived for the Phillies' games. It was the highlight of a suddenly boring life. I had all of this time on my hands but I was trying to avoid spending any money. I arrived early for the games and enjoyed batting practice. I stayed until the very last out. I had nothing else better to do. I loved it. It was like being a kid again, I had plenty of free time and I was poor. I could watch afternoon BPS games. I could stay up late for west coast games. I didn't miss a game on tv. Unbeknownst to all of us, this was Harry and Richie's last full season together in the booth and I was there for every inning.

I attended the All Star Game, the Homer Run Derby, and the Fan Festival at the Convention Center. As RJFC reminded us in his last post, Ricky Bottalico was the Phillies lone All Star. It's funny now when you hear Michael Barkann introduce Ricky Bo on Phillies Post Game Live. He really emphasizes his All Star status. Hey Michael, that was 15 years ago and every team gets one representative. Don't get me wrong, I love Ricky Bo. He has great enthusiasm and passion for the Phils. I'm not sure if he is aware of the fact that he is no longer on the team. To me, that's part of his charm.

I made my maiden trip to Chicago and I fell in love with the city. It's beautiful and modern yet you can walk a few blocks and you're on a beach. It has great dining, music and culture, plus friendly natives. I highly recommend a visit. In 1996, due to my personal finances, I kept to a strict budget. Public transportation is readily accessible and runs through the night which is imperative since the best blues clubs are open until 5:00 am. I will give you a full report on Wrigley in the future, although I will say that it is much smaller than I thought.

I was so impressed with my experience in the Windy City that I try to visit every other year. I always stay for a week because there is so much happening. That first trip was in June. The weather was perfect. My subsequent travels have been at the end of July and August, when it's really hot. Since the Phillies only go to Wrigley once a year, you're at the mercy of the schedule. I was really hoping to go this year. Guess what? Two weeks ago, I lost my job of seven years. Well at least this time I don't have any vacations prepaid. Not to worry, my season tickets were paid in full last December. Anyone want to hire a die hard Phillies fan? I'm an excellent employee but I have taken my vacation time the last several years during the month of October and I intend to do so this year.

Katie Casey

Monday, March 14, 2011

Random Past Season: 1996

Ricky Jordan Fan Club is pleased to bring you the debut of the Random Past Seasons feature. As you can probably imagine, there won't be as many of these as Random Past Phillies or Random Past Games, but we hope you enjoy nonetheless!

Year: 1996
Record: 67-95 (5th in NL East, 29 games behind Atlanta Braves)
Manager: Jim Fregosi
Coaches: Larry Bowa, Dave Cash, Denis Menke, Johnny Podres, Joe Rigoli, John Vukovich, Jim Wright
General Manager: Lee Thomas
All-Star: Ricky Bottalico
Top Draft Pick: Adam Eaton (1st Round, 11th overall)

About 1996: When a Major League Baseball season gets underway for any team, there is always that sense of anticipation, that air of excitement. Some teams are prohibitive favorites and the fun of the season lies in seeing how well they can carry the weight of those enormous expectations. Many teams have a bunch of question marks, but you think maybe if things break their way, it could be a special year. Then there are teams who you know have absolutely no shot, whose seasons seem to be over before they even begin. We still follow them because they are our team and we know no other way, thinking maybe someday it will all be worth it. A prime example of that latter category would be the 1996 Philadelphia Phillies, a team that after a couple competent months to start the season soon found themselves living up (or down) to their cellar-dwelling expectations.

After boasting the National League's best record for much of the first half of the strike-shortened 1995 season, the Phillies limped through an injury-riddled second half en route to a 69-75 finish. In lieu of rebuilding, General Manager Lee Thomas opted to add several low-priced veterans to an aging roster, which did nothing to calm criticism of a front office often accused of being unwilling to spend the money necessary to become a legitimate contender. Among the new acquisitions were pitcher Terry Mulholland and outfielder Pete Incaviglia, who were both returning for a second stint with the Phillies. Third baseman Todd Zeile was brought aboard to man the hot corner at least until top prospect Scott Rolen was ready to join the big club. Catcher Benito Santiago was signed prior to Spring Training after Darren Daulton announced his knees could no longer handle the rigors of catching and he would thus be moving to left field. The pitching staff was full of uncertainty, as offseason shoulder surgery would cause Curt Schilling to miss the first six weeks of the season. Arm woes would wipe out the entire season for Tyler Green, who had been an All-Star as a rookie in 1995 after an excellent first half.

Speaking of All-Stars, the Phillies were chosen as the host of that season's midsummer classic. As the season got underway, it seemed as though that was all the ballclub's fans had to look forward to in 1996. Adding to the predictions of doom and gloom was the fact that Darren Daulton's knees had betrayed him once again, and he was shut down for the remainder of '96 before the season was even a week old. The injury bug also bit first baseman Gregg Jefferies during the first week, as he tore a ligament in his thumb during the third game of the season and would be out until June. Despite all this, the Phils came out of the gates somewhat strongly as they won 16 of their first 27 games. Included was a 6-3 victory over the Braves in Atlanta on May 3 in which Benito Santiago delivered the decisive blow with a ninth-inning grand slam off Greg Maddux. Nine days later, rookie righthander Mike Grace bested Maddux and the Braves in a 6-0 shutout at the Vet. Still, it was early, and by the end of May the team found itself hovering around the .500 mark, including a three-week stretch in which they were never more than a game above or below sea level. But then the month of June rolled around and the Phillies fell victim to a June swoon that they seem to be famous for even in the best of seasons. A 12-3 romp over the Chicago Cubs on June 4 evened the club's record at 28-28, but the Phils would fade into oblivion by losing 19 of their next 23 games. Perhaps the thought of hosting the All-Star game inspired the Phillies a little, as they won five of seven leading into the break and their first three games after. This 8-2 run improved the team's record to 40-49, but any chance at salvaging the 1996 season was lost when the Phils followed that up by losing 13 of 14.

With the season officially deemed a lost cause, the Phillies entered a rebuilding mode. Terry Mulholland was the first veteran to go, as he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop prospect Desi Relaford. Scott Rolen would be called up on August 1, with Todd Zeile moving over to first base and Gregg Jefferies heading back to left field, which was where the Phils had signed him to play prior to the 1995 season. Zeile's tenure at first base didn't last long, as he and Pete Incaviglia passed through waivers and were sent to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Calvin Maduro and Garrett Stephenson in late August. A patchwork group of Phillies managed to go 13-13 over the season's final month, which of course didn't mean a whole lot when they were already 28 games under .500 entering September. In all, the 1996 Phillies finished the season with a record of 67-95. The day after the season ended, Jim Fregosi was relieved of his duties as manager. He'd been openly critical of the product he was being given to manage on the field, which strained his relationship with longtime friend Lee Thomas. It was assumed by many that Thomas would also be fired, but he was kept on and ultimately chose Terry Francona to succeed Fregosi.

As for on-field performances, there weren't a whole lot that stood out in a positive light. Jim Eisenreich was certainly an exception, as he hit .361 in his final season as a Phillie before missing the final month with a broken foot. Eisenreich signed with the Florida Marlins after the season, with whom he'd win the World Series in 1997. Benito Santiago hit 30 home runs, something that no Phillie had done since Mike Schmidt hit 35 in 1987. The 1996 season would be the only one for Santiago with the Phillies, who decided to move forward with Mike Lieberthal as their starting catcher. Todd Zeile's stint with the Phillies was also short and productive, as he blasted 20 homers and drove in 80 before being dealt to Baltimore. It wasn't a banner year for some old 1993 heroes. In addition to Darren Daulton's injury woes, Lenny Dykstra would go down for good with a back injury in May. The Dude would never appear in another MLB game, spending the entire 1997 and 1998 seasons on the disabled list before officially retiring following the '98 campaign.

On the mound, no Phillies pitcher won more than nine games, the first time since 1945 they failed to produce a double-digit winner. Curt Schilling led the National League with eight complete games, but had just a 9-10 record to show for it. Terry Mulholland was 8-7 before being shipped to Seattle, while Mike Grace fashioned a 7-2 record before an elbow injury ended his season in early June. The ballclub's lone All-Star came from the bullpen, as Ricky Bottalico notched 34 saves. It was the third of three consecutive seasons in which the Phils sent a different closer to the Midsummer Classic as Doug Jones had represented the team in 1994 and Heathcliff Slocumb did the same in 1995.

The 1996 season was a forgettable one for the Philadelphia Phillies. In fact, the most memorable events related to the Phils in '96 had nothing to do with them on the field. The National League posted a 6-0 win in the All-Star Game, with Los Angeles Dodgers catcher and Norristown native Mike Piazza taking home the game's Most Valuable Player honors. It was the third straight All-Star win for the NL, who would not emerge victorious again until 2010. Also noteworthy was Jim Bunning being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, making 1996 the third straight year in which at least one inductee went in wearing a Phillies cap. Steve Carlton had been immortalized in 1994, while Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt were memorably enshrined together in 1995.

Personal recollection: I'm generally seen as a pretty positive and optimistic person, not just about the Phillies but life in general. When it comes to the 1996 team, however, I can't think of too many positives. It was gloomy, depressing, and really just a hopeless season. I suppose when Sid Fernandez is your Opening Day starter (he actually pitched quite well for the Phils in '95, but you know what I mean), you know you're in no danger of getting pennant fever anytime soon. Even when the team got off to a halfway decent start, you knew it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing down, which it eventually did. Things got so bad that pitching coach Johnny Podres had to retire due to health concerns early in the season. He was replaced by Jim Wright. Going to the Vet for games the second half of that season was almost a masochistic experience. The stands were empty and the diehards that were there were too depressed to even boo the team going through the motions on the field. It was always nice on those rare occasions where the team played well, though players like Gene Schall, Ricky Otero, Jon Zuber, etc. weren't exactly guys who gave anyone visions of a bright future ahead. Rich Hunter, Rafael Quirico, Carlos Crawford, Ron Blazier...ugh! Adam Eaton was the organization's first round pick in that year's Draft. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

How bad was the 1996 season for the Phillies? Well, during the late 1980s throughout the 1990s, they put out a Home Companion video following the season, similar to the Video Yearbooks they do now. The "Home Companion" name came about because the team pretty much always wasn't good enough to warrant an actual highlight film, so they focused on a lot of offbeat and behind-the-scenes stuff. In 1996, they didn't even bother to make a Home Companion. The only other years I can remember them not doing one were the 1994 strike year and 2000, when the Phils went 65-97.

Even in the worst seasons, though, there's always some positives here and there. I was at Scott Rolen's debut, which came during a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, things didn't end well for Rolen in Philadelphia, but man did it look like we had something special on our hands at the time. Jim Eisenriech was terrific amidst all the incompetence surrounding him. I was extremely happy when he and Darren Daulton won the World Series with the Marlins in '97. Mike Grace really burst on the scene early in '96, and looked like he was going to run away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. Unfortunately, he had a strange pitching motion in which he threw across his body, and that really took its toll. He was never the same after that injury.

I was also lucky enough to attend the 1996 All-Star Game and Workout Day, which concluded with the Home Run Derby. Barry Bonds defeated Mark McGwire in the final round, which I guess says a lot about that era of Major League Baseball. That and FanFest (which was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center) were a blast, though. Hopefully we'll get another All-Star Game in Philly before too long.

That's my story on the 1996 Phillies season. Feel free to share your own recollections.