Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Remembering Andy Musser

By now, I'm sure all of you have heard about the passing of Andy Musser, who died of complications from heart disease on January 22, 2012. He was 74. A native of Harrisburg, Musser was a Phillies broadcaster from 1976-2001, and also made a few substitute appearances in the season or two following his retirement. In addition to his 26 seasons with the Phils, Musser was the play-by-play voice of the Eagles, 76ers, and Big 5 college basketball from 1965-71. He returned to the Sixers for separate stints in the 1980s and 1990s and was also the radio voice for Villanova men's basketball for several years in the 80s and 90s. Musser also did play-by-play work for the San Diego Chargers and covered the World Series, Super Bowl, and Masters golf tournament for CBS.

Though he didn't have quite the impact on me that Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn did, Andy Musser was certainly a key part of my youth as a Phillies fan growing up in the 80s and 90s. Brought in to replace retiring Hall of Famer Byrum Saam in 1976, Musser proved to be a very capable backup to Harry the K, providing an understated delivery and a knack for providing off-the-wall statistics that, while not always completely relevant to the action on the field, were a testament to Musser's preparation. It probably should come as no surprise over the past couple days that when former colleagues share their recollections of Musser, the word "professional" is invariably uttered.

As I've mentioned numerous times on here, my family had Phillies Sunday season tickets from 1979-2001 before switching over to our current 17-game plan in 2002. On the way home from Sunday games, we'd always turn on 1210 to hear the Star of the Game show and highlights. Since those games were broadcast on over-the-air stations, Harry Kalas would do innings 1-3 and 7-9 on TV, with Musser handling the radio duty during that time. While Musser wasn't necessarily known for making emotional calls, he would raise the excitement level for a key Phillies hit late in the game. A big Phillies home run would often produce a call that sounded something like, "High drive, deep left field, way back.....GAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHNNNNNN!" There were quite a few people who didn't particularly care for Musser's style, but I never had a problem with him at all. Over his final three seasons with the Phils, Musser was relegated to part-time duty as Scott Graham handled the bulk of the radio play-by-play. I was probably in the minority, but the more I heard Graham, the more I appreciated Andy (I was always on the fence about Scott Graham. Thought he had a good voice and liked his enthusiasm, but that atrocious "Say Goodbye!" home run call from his early years that he fortunately ended up dropping made a lousy first impression. I may get flamed for this, but I also felt that his "Put this one in the win column for the Fightin' Phils!" trademark call sounded really forced).

When thinking about Musser's passing, it occurred to me that for every great Harry Kalas call over the course of a quarter-century, there was often an Andy Musser call being made at the same time. While obviously not coming anywhere close to Harry's legendary status, Andy proved he could also come up with some classics. The most famous of these occurred on October 4, 1980, when Mike Schmidt connected for a two-run homer in the top of the 11th inning off Stan Bahnsen of the Montreal Expos, giving the Phils a 6-4 lead that Tug McGraw would preserve in the bottom half to give the Phillies their fourth National League East title in five years en route to the franchise's first World Series victory. Most of you have heard this call many times, but in case you haven't, it went like this: "The pitch to Schmidt...LONG DRIVE TO LEFT FIELD, HE BURIED IT! HE BURIED IT! WAY BACK, OUTTA HERE! HOME RUN, MIKE SCHMIDT, PUTS THE PHILLIES UP, 6 TO 4! Oh, what a drive by Schmidt, unbelieveable! He hit that thing DEEP to the seats in left field! And the Phillies greet Schmidt at the plate, Mike clasps his hands, he shakes hands with all of his teammates, what a wild scene in Montreal!"

In 2000, the Phillies produced a video to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1980 World Champions. When Musser described that call, he said that Schmidt's home run was such a no-doubt-about-it shot, that he said "HE BURIED IT!" for whatever reason, never saying it before or after. It wasn't the last memorable call Musser would have in 1980, as he at the mic on radio when Dick Ruthven got Enos Cabell to line out to Garry Maddox for the final out of the decisive fifth game of NLCS against the Houston Astros: "Swing and a punch-shot into right center, Maddox races over...he catches the ball! Phillies win the pennant! The Phillies have won the pennant! The Phillies win the ballgame, 8 to 7, they go to the World Series for the first time in 30 years!"

There were many other quality calls that I can't recite word for word, but some of those include Ozzie Virgil's walkoff grand slam to beat the Giants in 1983 ("He hits it a ton...that ball is a GRAND SLAM HOME RUN, OZZIE VIRGIL!"), the Paul O'Neill drop kick against the Reds at the Vet in 1989 ("Jeltz rounding third, the ball gets away...and he goes BACK!"), and Dave Hollins hitting a tremendous two-run homer of Greg Maddux to give the Phils a 4-1 lead over the Braves in Game 6 of the 1993 NLCS en route to a pennant-clinching 6-3 victory ("Watch it! Watch it! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHNNNNNNN TO THE SEATS!").

I can't speak of Musser's play-by-play with the Eagles or early Sixers work, since it all came before my time and I have never heard any of it. The only CBS call of his that I've ever heard is a Larry Csonka touchdown from Super Bowl VIII (Dolphins vs. Vikings) that NFL Films runs from time to time, and the only part they show is "Touchdown, Larry Csonka!" I've also mentioned on here before that my family didn't have cable until 1997, so I didn't really get to hear much of Musser on Sixers telecasts, since he only did cable games. In 1992, I was in attendance at a game against the Orlando Magic where Manute Bol blocked four consecutive shots on one possession. When watching highlights on the news later that night, they showed Andy's call ("There's a block...there's another one....another one....another one!") which was outstanding to just hear the sheer amazement in his voice. Like everyone else in the Spectrum that night, Musser couldn't believe what he was seeing. I also enjoyed Andy's work on Villanova basketball, especially those mid 90s teams that featured the likes of Kerry Kittles, Alvin Williams, Chuck Kornegay, Eric Eberz, Zeffy Penn, etc. I remember one broadcast in which color analyst Whitey Rigsby remarked that an opposing center (can't recall the opponent or player in question) looked like "a big dumb kid" and probably wasn't doing much studying in college. Without missing a beat, Andy simply replied, "Aw, Whitey, you know that kid's probably a Rhodes Scholar."

As was the case with By Saam and Richie Ashburn, and would later be the case with Harry Kalas, Musser's eyesight began to slip during his final years in the booth. To put it mildly, fly balls became somewhat adventuresome with Andy. But still, he rose to the occasion during his last home broadcast before retirement (September 23, 2001) as Johnny Estrada sent the Fan Appreciation Day crowd home happy with a walkoff home run against the Marlins that helped pull a surprising Phillies team into a tie for first place with the Braves: "Acevedo's pitch...a drive to deep right it is GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHNNNNNN, Johnny Estrada wins the ballgame! A leadoff home run in the 10th inning and the Phillies have defeated Florida, 5 to 4!"

A noted beer connoisseur who no doubt would've been a perfect fit with this blog, Musser kept busy after retiring from broadcasting by serving as an ambassador for the Anchor Brewing Company. I'd never heard of Anchor Steam beer until Joe Sixpack did a feature in the Daily News on Musser's work for them. In fact, I'm not sure it was even sold in the Philadelphia area before then. Now it's one of my favorites. It's also available at Citizens Bank Park, and I would imagine his affiliation had something to do with that. So if you like to indulge in an Anchor Steam at a Phillies game, I'm sure Andy Musser will be smiling somewhere.

All in all, a great career and life. Though he wore many hats, Andy Musser will best be known as second banana to Harry Kalas, but if you're going to be second banana to anyone, you can do a whole lot worse. Rest in peace, Andy. You're yet another voice from my childhood that may be gone ("GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHNNNNNNNN!") but will never be forgotten.

Monday, January 23, 2012

This Day in Phillies History or Why I Hate the Mets

As long as I can remember, I have hated the New York Mets. I never had any particular reason other than the fact that they are the Stinkin' Mets. Perhaps being a lifelong die-hard Phillies fan has much to do with it.
I'll be turning 38 right in the middle of the 2012 season. That means for nearly 4 decades, I have lived and breathed Phillies baseball. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve watching my guys do what they do.
In 1980, my impersonation of a fidgety Tugger made my mother and cousin laugh. So engrossed in the World Series, I spat on my living room floor as though I were one of the on-field nine. Mom forgave my little indiscretion; she knew how much I loved the game.
In 1983, my heart broke as the Orioles made short work of my beloved Phils in the World Series. My dreams were again shattered as Joe Carter homered off the Wild Thing in 1993.
Trivia Time: Who was the only player to play for both the 1983 and 1993 World Series-losing Phillies squads?
Then, in 2008, I felt just like that little kid again when the Phillies fought through rain delays and Joe Buck's incessant put downs to take the crown. Ah, what joy!
The joy of winning championships, while great, is fleeting. The sting of chips lost also fade with time. One thing, however, keeps me going throughout the summer doldrums. Only one thing really matters: beat those stinkin' Mets.
Too long between WS appearances was I forced to watch Daryl, Doc (Gooden of course, he's no Halladay), Hojo, Keith stinking Hernandez, et al. compete for NL East titles. 1986 didn't just suck for Red Sox fans. Let's face it, the Mets were good. And that was painful to experience.
That's what made 2007 so great. Not only did the Phillies win the NL East. They did it amid and due to a fantastic Mets collapse. How awesome it was to see those friggin' bums fall apart! Granted, the Phils went on to get swept by the Rockies (the Rockies? Yeah, that still stings a little too).
With 26 days, 17 hours and change until pitchers and catchers report
http://www.springtrainingcountdown.com/home.php), my mind is abuzz with baseball. I am compelled to study stat sheets and box scores of years and games past. I tried answering the quiz posted on DPF's Facebook page and only got four of the 37 Phils pitchers to have homered since '80. That's unacceptable!
Therefore, I thought it might be fun to do some Phillies research. While I'm at it, why not start with significant dates? Being the egomaniac writing-type person that I am, what date could be more significant than that of my very own birth?
July 4, 1974.
Turns out the Phillies split a doubleheader at Shea the day I was born. I'm going to assume this was a day-night double dip. The Phils lost the afternoon portion 5-3. That may account for my surly attitude. Born at roughly 4 p.m., I likely showed up with a scowl and a message.
"Wah, fuck the Mets! Wah!"
Or something to that effect. But there must've been something in the air, something that carried word to the Phils that their newest, biggest fan had just arrived and that it was paramount they avenge their earlier loss. Which they did, 6-2.
For complete coverage of the doubleheader, check out:
So they split, leaving an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. Fireworks to cheer me up? Yeah, they're nice and all, but I still feel unsatisfied. Not even a day old, you say? Granted, but I've been alive long enough to know two things: I like breasts and I hate the Mets.
What more do I need to know?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Difference of Opinion on the Madson Talks...

Reports now surfacing that Madson would've been comfortable signing the alleged 4/$44mil contract, but the Phils walked away at the last minute...if you believe super-agent Scott Boras. RAJ sees it differently, saying no such deal was in place, and basically if they (the Phillies) wanted Madson, they'd have him. They didn't, so they don't. I'm certain it wasn't as clear cut as either side is making it. There's probably something to be said for the Phils not wanting Boras to dictate the process - which he assuredly would have, free markets be damned - but I think the Pap signing was a knee jerk reaction the other way. Either way, I think both sides come out a little banged-up. Boras read the closer market wrong, or maybe he didn't and the market placed Madson where it placed him for a reason; and the Phils very likely flushed a decent chunk of coin in the crapper.

Sure would be interesting to see the Reds and Phils in the post-season now though, huh?

Any thoughts on who screwed the pooch here? Who walked away from the table?

Madson to the Reds

ESPN saying former Phillie Ryan Madson has signed a one year deal with Cincinnati. Didn't catch all of the terms, but I'm guessing he lowered his asking price substantially. More to come for sure...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Drunk Phils Fans Fantasy League - Owners Needed

We are looking for more owners in the Drunk Phils Fans Fantasy Baseball League. EMail me at DrunkPhilsFans@gmail.com if interested and you want more info.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Don Carman

In 1990, weary of repetitive interviews, Phillies pitcher Don Carman posted this list of responses on his locker. “You saw the game,” he told reporters. “Take what you need.”
  1. I’m just glad to be here. I just want to help the club any way I can.
  2. Baseball’s a funny game.
  3. I’d rather be lucky than good.
  4. We’re going to take the season one game at a time.
  5. You’re only as good as your last game (last at-bat).
  6. This game has really changed.
  7. If we stay healthy we should be right there.
  8. It takes 24 (25) players.
  9. We need two more players to take us over the top: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
  10. We have a different hero every day.
  11. We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.
  12. This team seems ready to gel.
  13. With a couple breaks, we win that game.
  14. That All-Star voting is a joke.
  15. The catcher and I were on the same wavelength.
  16. I just went right at ‘em.
  17. I did my best, and that’s all I can do.
  18. You just can’t pitch behind.
  19. That’s the name of the game.
  20. We’ve got to have fun.
  21. I didn’t have my good stuff, but I battled ‘em.
  22. Give the guy some credit; he hit a good pitch.
  23. Hey, we were due to catch a break or two.
  24. Yes.
  25. No.
  26. That’s why they pay him _____ million dollars.
  27. Even I could have hit that pitch.
  28. I know you are, but what am I?
  29. I was getting my off-speed stuff over so they couldn’t sit on the fastball.
  30. I had my at ‘em ball going today.
  31. I had some great plays made behind me tonight.
  32. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.
  33. You saw it … write it.
  34. I just wanted to go as hard as I could as long as I could.
  35. I’m seeing the ball real good.
  36. I hit that ball good.
  37. I don’t get paid to hit.

Monday, January 2, 2012


So how 'bout that? Our Citizens Bank Park in the national spotlight. (Or region north of Nascar Country into parts of Canada spotlight?)

I’m sorry, Flyer fans. That was a tough one. The flurries, the crazy third period, the penalty shot, and all of the anticipation leading up… I know.

After weeks of ice rink construction, a sellout crowd of 44,000 got to watch a professional hockey game outside. To prepare for the Winter Classic, crews hauled in hundreds of wooden planks, aluminum panels, and about 20,000 gallons of water. Coolant was pumped in from a refrigeration truck to make the ice. Even the Majestic Clubhouse Store was overtaken with Flyers black and orange…and a hint of Rangers gear.

What the hell did they do to our ballpark?

But seriously, all of this revamping had me thinking of the old days when the Phils and Birds were roomies.

The Vet (may it rest in peace) was sort of like a row home basement that two stinky brothers shared as a bedroom. One of them would go to fold up the pullout couch and the other's dirty tracked-marked underwear would be right there on the floor for all of their friends to see.

I am reminded specifically of the 2001 preseason debacle at the Eagles Ravens game. Only at the Vet (God rest its soul) would a football game be called off due to uneven turf caused by a pitchers mound and some bases.

Aside from the field, I mean turf, conditions of the Vet [removing hat and placing over heart] was all of the goings-on aside from the game. With the amount of the corporate ballyhoo surrounding today’s Classic, I can't help but laugh at the thought of such an event taking place at the Vet. [Forefinger pointing to sky.]

As we know, Veterans Stadium was originally touted as a state-of-the-art multi-purpose venue and quickly became the armpit of professional sports. Lore has it, rats the size of Chooch scurried past guys in the weight room and dingy sewage water leaked from pipes right into staff members' coffee. Holes and cracks in walls had unsuspecting cheerleaders being spied on as they changed.

Then there is my own personal memory of the 700 Level where a couple of drunk Phils fans (not you guys, but the real a-hole kind) were engaged in fisticuffs and after falling on my mom and me continued throwing punches.

What a stark contrast that is to the image of the little girl throwing back the foul ball her dad caught. That was adorable and sweet and made national news. “Handsome Dad Comforts Daughter at Ball Game.” See, where that happened is the kind of place Winter Classics are held.

But of course meaningful parent-child moments happened at the Vet. (Never Forget.) And sure CBP has had its share of intoxicated violent fools. Really, while the facilities have changed, the fans have not and never will.

I remember the first year Citizens Bank Park opened, doing the stroll-through before the game. I'll admit I was enjoying the mall experience and, well, I may have ended up inside of the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Standing off to the side was a gentleman in a nice jean short and wife-beater ensemble.

“Would you like to fill out the birth certificate?!” the girl behind the counter (who might as well have worked at Disney World) asked him in the most ridiculously cheerful tone.

Not realizing he had been standing in front of the “birth certificate station” while waiting for his girlfriend, he awkwardly held his drink and responded in THE best Philly accent one could imagine.

“I have NOW idea what's gowin’ awn.”

I giggled to myself, shook my head, and continued to ponder over the selection of Joe Boxer underwear my Phanatic should rock under his tiny little jeans.