“Take me out to the ball game...”
I have written about a lot of things in these newsletters over the years. I have talked about biridng, the weather, the moon, and the seasons. I’ve discussed going camping, taking trips to different museums, and wonderful visits to several different cities. I have written a number of pieces about teaching and retiring from teaching. I have discussed and paid tribute to books and poems, holiday origins and word origins, and many other things. One of the things I have rarely written about, however, is sports, and particularly, my ongoing love affair with The Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.f Looking back on it, it is odd that I have not written much about that because it has been an important part of my entire life. So I need to give it some attention now.
I grew up in Philadelphia during the 1950’s, and like many boys of that time, I both played and loved sports. Growing up we listened to games on the radio and occasionally watched them on TV. On our own we played running bases, half ball, and eventually graduated into a neighborhood baseball league composed of different Philly neighborhoods from around the city. I tried out for both baseball and football in junior high and high school, but that was going from being a mid-sized fish in a small pond to being a tiny fish in a gigantic lake. There were way too many boys who were much more skilled than I was. So that ended my playing career. But I continued to be and am still a big fan.
Many of my years as a Philadelphia sports fan were mired in great sadness and epic disappointment. The Phillies particular brought years of sadness. They were perennially in last or near last place from 1952 well into the mid-1970’s. In fact, when they had a great chance to win the National League championship in 1964, they experienced one of the most epic collapses in sports history. They held a 6 1/2 lead with only 12 games remaining in the regular season. They then proceeded to lose 10 games in a row, had to go into a playoff against the Cardinals, and ended up not winning the championship. Whew! That was an exceptional occurrence, and it hurt a great deal. Looking back though, it maybe should not have been so surprising. The Phillies have lost more games than any other sports franchise in world history. Being a Phillies fan meant long dry spells.
Things starting turning around in the late 1970’s, however. The Phillies have been near the top of the league most seasons since then. They have won 8 National League championships, been to the World Series 6 times since 1980, including last year, and have won The World Series in 1980 and 2008. For a lifelong fan who went through all of the years of disappointment and shame, the recent history of the team has been good to witness and to cheer.