The Phillies Are Not Phigments of Imagination

by Walter Brasch

Newspapers are often a “court of last resort” for our readers whose problems can’t be dealt with elsewhere.

Thus, it was no great surprise to receive a letter from a young girl who was confused about the Philadelphia Phillies. In her short life, she had never seen the Phillies.

Her little friends, so she wrote me, said that the Phillies were a figment of her imagination, a team that was made up so that there would be something to anchor the National League basement. She says she was told that sportswriters went along with it because they always wanted to write fiction and needed something to do between calls from irate Little League parents.

Well, Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the cynicism of reporters and the skepticism of a nation with no direction. They think nothing can be that bad unless it was made up. But, Virginia, the truth is that there are Phillies and, unfortunately, they are that bad. But, it wasn’t always that way.

The first game ever played in the National League was played in 1876 in Philadelphia. Of course, the Philadelphia team didn’t last a season, but if it did, it would have been a great team. In 1883, the Phillies showed up and never left-even if it seems that way now and then. In fact, since 1900, the Phillies have earned six of the top 20 spots of the worst records of any baseball team. That may or may not be why the Phillies tried to disguise themselves under aliases-the Philadelphia Quakers (1883-1889) and the Philadelphia Blue Jays (1943-1949). The Quakers, of course, are a peaceful people who don’t believe in battle; blue jays can be vicious. Neither name helped the team.

Your little friends may tell you the only reason the Philadelphia A’s and Connie Mack of the American League eventually left the City of Brotherly Love, whoich has the most rabid sports fans in the nation, was because they were tired of competing for tickets against a team that sold about as many tickets for losing as did the A’s for winning. But, you must believe that even in losing, the Phillies are real.

Not believe in the Phillies? You might as well not believe in their seven league championships, in the Whiz Kids of’ ’50, or the great collapse of ’64 when they were leading the league by six games with just two weeks to go, and then finished in a tie for 2nd. Only a Philly could pull that off. You might as well not believe in the Phillies of ’80 who won the World Series, the only time in a century that happened.

Not believe in the Phillies? You’d have to not believe in Mike Schmidt, maybe the greatest third baseman ever; you’d have to forget Garry Maddox, the “secretary of de-fence” who covered the outfield better than snow in February. You’d have to give up believing in Ed Delahanty, the first Philly to enter the Hall of Fame, or Chuck Klein who entered the Hall with a .326 average and statistics that would choke even the Nielsen ratings.

If there were no Phillies, there would have been no Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers, who was sold because the owner needed the money. You’d not hear about Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts or Tug McGraw, no Richie Ashburn, Bob Boone or Del Ennis, no Larry Bowa, Granny Hamner, Jim Konstanty, or even “Puddin’ Head” Jones. Not believe in the Phillies? You might as well not believe in John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal, Jim Bunning, Curt Schilling, and Lenny Dykstra.

If there were no Phillies, there’d be nowhere for Jimmy Foxx, Pete Rose, and Dale Murphy to have gone at the end of their careers.

You’d have to forget about managers Dallas Green and Paul Owens. And, you’d have to not believe in Charlie Manuel, the manager with the most wins for the Phillies and who led the team in 2008-the year after it racked up its 10,000th loss in its history-to its second World Series title, only to be fired three years later.

Not believe in the Phillies? How could someone not believe in Harry Kalas, the Voice of the Phillies for almost four decades.

Not believe in the Phillies? You’d have to not believe that owners are poor judges of talent who can take great teams and trade them away, and then spend millions for a pitching staff that proved it could be competitive at the Little League World Series.

Not believe in the Phillies? You’d have to suspend your disbelief that a beer and hotdog can cost $11.50, and the cheapest seat, with a view of-well, actually, nothing-is $20.          Your little friends with their little minds can’t comprehend the vastness of a team that is again about a decade or so out of 1st. In this great playing field of ours, we are but mere synthetic fibers on the Astroturf of life, unable to grasp the universe, let alone the origin of the Phanatic.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Phillies. It exists as certainly as injuries, dropped balls, and parking lot jams. No Phillies? Thank God it exists, and will exist forever. A decade from now they may even again win a championship, and continue to make glad the heart of frustrated fans everywhere.

Somewhere, Virginia, the sun is shining bright. But, there is no joy in Citizens Bank Park, for the anemic Phillies have once again struck out.

[Assisting on this column was Francis Church of the New York Sun. Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigative analysis of the economic, political, environmental, and health effects of fracking throughout the country.]

News & Notes August 30, 2011

The Phillies have finally joined the “It Gets Better” effort begun by Dan savage to encourage teenage LGBT victims of bullying:

Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence appear and we thank the Phillies for their commitment to our youth.

When Congressmen Tom Marino and Lou Barletta began prohibiting the use of cameras and video equipment at their town hall meetings I condemned their actions as illegal.  Now the federal courts have agreed saying it is an unconscionable act of free speech violations.  The First Amendment, according to the court, guarantees citizens the right to record or take pictures of their government officials at public functions.  It’s too bad these Tea Party morons who got elected while clinging to the constitution forgot to read the document.

The Amendment was intended to provide the people with oversight and accountability of our government officials and prevents them from interfering, in any way, the dissemination of information about how they are performing their duties.  This was also extended to police in a case from Boston where police were taped during an arrest.

I want to drive up to the area where wildfires devastated an area near bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Santa Clara Indian Reservation earlier this year.  The southwest has had a major climate change related drought for several years and Arizona was the scene of a major fire.  At the time Fox News blamed the inferno on illegal immigrants.  Now, it turns out, they were wrong.  Two Arizona residents have been charged.  Both are U.S. citizens.  Gee, Fox News caught making up stories…again?

Eric Cantor thinks the storm damage from Hurricane Irene should come from cutting other government programs.  This is just after an earthquake centered in his District was felt all over eastern states.  I wonder how everyone thinks about having something like Pell grants dissolved, LIHEAP for heating your home next winter or food stamps for those unworthy poor the right wing is demonizing will feel about this?  How about if we cut Congressional salaries and perks instead?

News & Notes June 4, 2010

Between a short week and two Board meetings I haven’t had time to catch up so we’ll see about this morning.  Things are a bit slow this time of year any way with the lull after the primary and before the fall campaigns launch.

Democratic county parties will be electing leaders soon and then State Committee meets June 18-19 to elect a new Chair.  Traditionally the nominee for Governor gets his choice and the State Chair reports to him/her.  TJ Rooney was Ed Rendell’s guy and did the Governor’s bidding.  Dan Onorato is selecting Allegheny County Chair Jim Burns and Bob Brady has already lined Philadelphia County behind that selection.  Expect a reform minded challenge to Burns at the meeting.  Some Democrats, especially in western Pennsylvania which just saw a rigged selection process in the 12th CD, are fed up with the back room politics as usual and will attempt to elect someone else.

The fallout from news the Obama White House offered positions to two Senate primary challengers isn’t really news and there’s nothing wrong with it, these things happen all the time with both parties.  Some Republicans are still trying to make hay out of the Sestak offer but as they say in Pennsyltucky that dog won’t hunt.  What has people disapppointed is that Barack Obama promised to change how things were done but is doing the same old things.  I think I recall criticizing him for pandering to the voters that way.

BP continues trying to cap its gushing oil well and some experts say it might be December until the pollution is stopped.

Is it a requirement that to be a Republican you have to be stupid?  I suppose, at the least, it helps.  A South Carolinian Senator called President Obama a “raghead.”  Too many of the folks are stupid, ignorant racists but then, this is South Carolina.  

In New Mexico the successor to Bill Richardson will become the Land of Enchantment’s first woman Governor.  Both Parties have nominated women.

A recent poll has Congressman Joe “He’s the” Pitts ahead of challenger Lois Herr by only 9 points in a heavily GOP Congressional District.  Why is Pitts still running when he promised to abide by self imposed term limits when he first ran?  Is Joe Pitts a liar?

Israel claimed its military commandos were acting in self defense when they attacked six relief ships and killed ten humanitarian workers on the high seas this week.  How is it attackers can act in self defense?  Isn’t that reserved for those being attacked?

The Phillies continue in a bad funk where they can’t hit and score runs.  In light of the umpiring fiasco the other night where a Detroit pitcher was deprived of a perfect game the Phils will go to Detroit so Mr. Gallaragga can throw another one.  The only way a Phillies pitcher can win these days is by throwing a perfect game.

The Supreme Court gutted our rights again this week by watering down Miranda rights.  Why are conservatives so caught up in preserving the constitution then gutting its rights?  I’m thinking the only parts they like are the Second and Tenth Amendments because they are doing all they can to ignore the rest of the document.  This reminds me of their actions with the Bible also:  they are very selective about the parts they like and ignore the rest.  I say we begin executing all brides who aren’t virgins.  Has it occurred to Pat Robertson yet that the BP oil spill was god’s way of preventing sinners from eating shellfish?

AT&T (my Blackberry service provider) is changing its data plan to charge more to those who use lots of data.  Don’t you actually have to be able to use your phone that way to use lots of data?  Mine hardly works anywhere except for voice and SMS.  After having one break down a few months ago and not work at all the replacement is now doing the same thing (trackball won’t work).  If this is their idea of customer service these companies need more competition.

Protests around the state are calling on Tom Corbett to resign.  The AG has been making a sham out of his office by wasting tax dollars trying to make himself look good to the voters.  Wasting tax dollars in a tight economy is no way to convince Pennsylvanians you should be the next Governor.

Shopping For the Halladays

Seguing into sports once more as a distraction from politics, reports began leaking yesterday afternoon the Phillies are close to trading for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.  I was just leaving Harrisburg when the first Tweets came in.  When I stopped in Frystown I checked a couple links but, as of this morning, no one seems to know the details.

The Phils have coveted Halladay since last July when they justifiably balked at the price and landed Cliff Lee instead.  Lee proved he is Halladay’s equal with his World Series performance.  He is also two years younger which is significant.  However he isn’t willing to resign with Philadelphia at a cost the team can afford.  Since there are players for which being in the World Series is a higher priority than how many millions they earn this means trading Lee.  Using him to nab Halladay is smart.  Ruben Amaro Jr. was clearing salary space to swing a deal for the Blue Jays pitcher anyway and this way the team winds up with one of the two studs for the long term.  Not doing this would mean losing Cliff Lee next fall and not being able to land Roy Halladay as a replacement, assuming he’d have been traded somewhere by then (likely).

This morning the Phillies announced this on Facebook and say the deal has Lee going to Seattle, Halladay and some Seattle prospects coming to Philly and three Phillies prospects, Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud going to Toronto.  The Phillies receive top prospect Phillippe Aumont from Seattle.  ESPN had him going to Toronto last evening but if the Phils nab him that provides a replacement for Drabek who is closer to being able to pitch at Citizens Bank Ballpark.  So, what are everyone’s opinions on this trade?

Random Thoughts

This is a special Phillies edition.  Many more games like the one last night and I’ll have to buy more antacids.  When they win game 1 behind only their fifth best starting pitcher (sorry Cole but it’s the truth) things are looking good.  No one call me during this afternoon’s game unless you’re willing to speak with my voice mail.

Rep. Sam Rohrer, the Crazy Fundie, is going to join the Republican field for Governor.  He says Gerlach isn’t conservative enough and Corbett has no legislative experience.  I though Governor was an executive position?  Rohrer is on record as saying government’s only function is for national defense.  Since Governor’s have no role in that function outside the National Guard does this mean Sam would dissolve state government?

While CNN is touting its “Latino In America” special non stop it also airs racist rantings against Latinos every evening at 7 pm.  Anti-immigration bigot Lou Dobbs undermines everything CNN tries to do the other 23 hours it airs daily.  

If you’re in Pittsburgh watch “Out In The Silence” at 10 pm tonight on WQED.  This is a documentary film about a teenager coming out in conservative Oil City and the repercussions of bullying and bigotry against gays here in PA.  I saw the movie last month in State College and recommend it.  The couple who made the film are traveling throughout the state giving screenings.

On Tuesday single payer supporters will hold a massive rally in Harrisburg from 10 AM to noon.  The event will be in the Rotunda.  Maybe some media will deign to cover the event this time.

The Turnpike from Breezewood to Carlisle will be closed for 5 hours just in time to screw up Penn State Homecoming this weekend.  Another genius move by PennDOT.

There was another fatal car crash locally this week because of an idiot driver.  This is happening far too frequently in areas with no local police operation.  Too much of the state is NOT covered by the Keystone Kops and with no real traffic enforcement running stop signs, red lights, tailgating and other reckless driving goes with no accountability.  The cost in property damage from no traffic enforcement has to be greater than the cost of allowing countywide police forces.  The state legislature needs to change the law prohibiting the establishment of such police operations because few areas can afford their own police forces.  I sit at my computer every day and watch drivers running the three stop signs out front.  I call it the trifecta when someone runs all three.  Too bad I can’t cash in this trifecta because I’d be a very wealthy man.  Unfortunately many of the cars wind up in our front yard as the result of the crashes.

I missed the stupid TV coverage of the boy in the balloon yesterday as I was out at the store.  Don’t these networks have anything else to cover?

Wall Street is celebrating another record year by rewarding themselves record bonuses.  What’s that you say, it wasn’t a record year?  Yes it was, for calamity, losses, bailouts and catastrophe.  Of course they should be rewarded, after all they got you to cover all their losses didn’t they?

How does one qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize one week then escalate an unwinnable war the next?

A Magistrate in Louisiana denied a marriage license for a mixed race couple.  He says he does this all the time for the sake of the future children.  Of course he also says he isn’t a racist.  He even allows Blacks to use his bathroom.  How white of him.

A nurse in New York is suing to prevent her employer from forcing her to get the H1N1 flu vaccine.  The state is requiring all health care workers to get the flu shot.  Of course she has the right to refuse, she just then surrenders her right to be a nurse.  I think in the face of an increasingly frightening pandemic asking all health care workers to be vaccinated is a serious public health issue.  I wouldn’t want any nurse around me right now who isn’t vaccinated, that’s MY right as a hospital customer.  There are enough dangers from germs in these hospitals without inviting more.

PoliticsPA has redesigned its website.  They still haven’t updated our link, however, 18 months after moving from Typepad…


Is Baseball A Fraud?

Is all of major league baseball a fraud?  We interrupt our normal political discourse to discuss the steroid scandal.  Sports Illustrated published a story online today outing Alex Rodriguez as another steroid user.  Can anyone pay their hard earned money to attend a baseball game and have any confidence they’re watching a legitimate sport?  Steroids, amphetamines, human growth hormones, all sorts of illegal, controlled substances seem to be so common in baseball locker rooms and its culture that what has been a clean game and what was nothing more than a bunch of criminals running around bases?

Too many people in baseball turned blind eyes in an attempt to revive their sport after self destructing with strikes and labor strife.  The players union seems to have gone off the deep end protecting their players from testing knowing full well they were breaking federal drug laws.  How did those honest, clean players compete with the many players pumped up on speed, HGH and steroids?

Where does baseball go from this new scandal affecting its marquee player, a player who steadfastly denied he ever used these drugs and now refuses to deny SI’s allegations?  Perhaps any player found to have used these performance enhancement drugs should forfeit their contracts, be banned for life and their riches distributed to the few remaining players who are clean.  Then the clubs should refund all ticket holders who were defrauded into believing they were paying dearly to watch a level, even competition.

Baseball fans were defrauded make no argument against that point.  I had Phillies Sunday season tickets for several years and this makes me wonder how many juiced players were on those fields and how fair were those contests?  Baseball has some serious questions to answer to the feds, to the fans and to the players it failed.