A Fitting Goodbye

I commented on Julia’s blog the other
day saying “There is no crying in baseball!” Well, this morning at Citizens
Bank Park would be the exception to the rule if there ever was one. Thousands
gathered from 8 a.m. until noon – some camped out as early as midnight — to
pay their respects to a man they might have never met in person, yet invited
him into their living room night after night for 38 years.


http://espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4079400

The Phillies organization has done a
first-class job in honoring Harry Kalas. I outlined some of the tributes
in my last post and they have been executed perfectly. In addition, his
three sons – Brad, Kane, and Todd — each threw out the first pitch before last
night’s home game to “catchers” John Kruk, Jimmy Rollins, and Mike Schmidt.
Kane performed the National Anthem.

 

The most accurate quote I’ve read was from a
71-year old retired Philadelphia police office
r: “You don’t realize what you got. You just get so used to it.” I
don’t think fans have taken Harry for granted, but the old adage rings true:
“you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

HK.jpg

____________________________________________________________

Who knows how much the emotional toll has
taken on the team right now. They won the game on Monday, just hours after
Harry collapsed and died at Nationals Park, but that was likely too soon for
the reality to sink in. The main problem plaguing the team is pitching. Cole
Hamels continued to struggle last night giving up 5 runs in 6 innings of work.
Brad Lidge has extended his saves streak to 47, but has given up runs in two of
his three saves this season.

 

How else
do you explain losing to a 0-7 Nationals ballclub? There is certainly no
sympathy on the field in baseball.

 

Last night was the worst possible scenario
for me on so many levels. First off, rooting for reality always comes before
fantasy baseball. I have Chris Young of the Padres on my team and contemplated
benching him just because he was facing the Phillies and CBP is a hitter’s
paradise. He was dominant in his first two starts, so I started him. Ideally, I
wanted to see a low-scoring Phillies victory.

 

A Chase Utley three-run 1st inning
homer and a 7-1 lead after 4 innings chase Young, but at least the Fightin’s
had the game in the bag, right? Wrong. San Diego slowly chipped away at the
lead and Greg Dobbs was gunned down at home plate in the bottom of the 8th
by Chase Headley to preserve an 8-7 Padres W. To make matters worse, Flyers
hockey dropped Game 2 in overtime to Pittsburgh less than a minute later.

 

Around the Majors

Some run support would be nice: Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren has given up four runs in
19 innings, filling in as ace with Brandon Webb on the DL. His record? 0-3!
Arizona has had exactly ONE runner cross the plate in his three starts. That
offense better wake up or Haren might sneak some diamondback snakes in their
lockers. (Disclaimer: Dan Haren is on this blogger’s fantasy team and he would
like some wins.)

 

Who knew hitting for the cycle was so easy? Orlando Hudson, Ian Kinsler, and now Jason Kubel of the
Twinkies have “re-cycled” and the season is only 12 days old! Kubel did it in
grand fashion, hitting an upper-deck mammoth shot to give Minnesota the 11-9
victory over the Angels. If my math is right, there were only five cycles
all of last season. That should be eclipsed fairly soon.

 

Cool victory song: I watched the end of the Cubs-Cardinals game yesterday
and the Wrigley faithful sing
a pretty catchy song
after the Cubbies get in the win column.

 

The Yankees are very welcoming hosts at new
ballpark:
The Indians lead 22-4 going to the bottom of
the 9th – this after losing 10-2 in the opener. And who can forget
the 22-0 drubbing the Tribe handed New York a few years back. Chien-Ming Wang
has now allowed 23 runs in 6 innings…ouch. The new stadium could be seeing a
lot of high scoring affairs. There have been 17 long balls in only three games,
most of them to right field.

 

Congratulations to Gary Sheffield on hitting
#500!

 

Quick football note: Congrats to Brian Dawkins on winning the Byron White
Award (a former running back and Supreme Court justics), given to the player
who is charitable in the community. This is another reason why he was so
revered in Philly. The Eagles also have the best offensive line in football
after acquiring pro bowler Jason Peters from Buffalo. McNabb is going to have
ALL day to throw!

 

1-0: My
intramural softball team recovered from an exhibition blowout loss to win 15-11
last night. There are seven games on the season, so 7-0 is obviously the goal.

 

Happy 4th birthday MLBlogs! The
b-day is shared with former Phillie Rico Brogna, who is 39 today. Brogna was
one of the names fans loved to hear Kalas pronounce, as he would emphasize
every single syllable.

rico.jpg

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Emotional Homestand Awaits this Weekend

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kalas2.jpg

What a negative beginning to the 2009 regular
season. Harry Kalas was an integral part of the fan experience for
Philadelphians and I think I will wonder to myself how Harry would have called
important plays throughout each game. It is obviously too soon to speculate,
but I like – and think other fans would be quite receptive of – the idea of
bringing in Harry’s son, Todd, currently the announcer for the Rays. (Only if
he wants it, of course.) Just think of the astronomical odds of a Rays-Phillies
World Series last year that gave the father-son combo a once-in-a-lifetime
experience of broadcasting “against” each other on the biggest stage. What a
blessing.

nats park.jpg

I am going to link to my personal favorite
two tributes of Harry. The first
one is by Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
who does a magnificent job
using analogies to show what the city lost on Monday. The second is an audio
obituary by Jayson Stark of ESPN
, who used to cover the Phillies for the Inquirer.
If you haven’t read or watched either one, I highly recommend doing so. (Also,
if anyone could comment and let me know how to embed videos on MLBlogs, I would
appreciate it. I thought I could just use the embedded code and paste it in the
text body, but that didn’t work.)

http://espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=4066191The last couple of days have resulted in a
couple of postponements. Visiting President Obama at the White House was put on
hold until later in the season and rain forced a second consecutive off day
yesterday. Hopefully, the club will pick up where they left off on Monday with
a three-game winning streak.

nats2.jpg

Last night’s cancellation wasn’t all bad as
the Flyers were scheduled to open up their playoff series versus Sidney Crosby
and cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, it was a lackluster
effort and throwing away home-ice advantage on the final day of the season
might prove costly.

 

To honor Kalas, the Phillies have organized
several tributes when the team returns home tomorrow and some throughout the
season. Notably:

  • players will an “HK” patch above their heart on the uniform
  • a Harry Kalas billboard will be featured on the outfield wall at CBP
  • the first half-inning of tomorrow night’s Comcast telecast will have no commentary
  • Kalas’ signature home run call, “Outta here!”, will be played over the PA system after Phillies homers
  • Kalas’ actual signature (or autograph) will be painted on the field for the seven-game homestand
  • Beginning at 8:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Saturday morning (for a 7 p.m. night game) fans will be able to pay their respects on the field at CBP in front of Kalas’ casket at home plate. I’m sure the line will wind into Deleware and New Jersey. Kalas will be only the second person ever to be waked at a stadium on the day of a game. The first? George Herman Ruth. Not bad company to keep.

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Around
the Majors

  • New York officially pulled the curtain off of two luxurious stadiums this week…..in a losing fashion; the Mets to San Diego and the Yankees to Cleveland. Jody Gerut and Jorge Posada hit the first home run in each stadium, respectively. Gerut became the first batter to ever lead off a stadium’s first game with a homer.
  • Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff’s auction for two opening day tickets for the poshest seats at Citi Field went for $7,500! Who would want to shell out that much money for the bad karma that lurks in those seats?!
  • With the Phillies being rained-out, they were unable to participate in the Jackie Robinson Day festivities, but it was cool to see every play donning #42 yesterday. It might have provided a little confusion identifying players, but cool nonetheless. Last season marked the first time in 13 years, 1995, that there was an increase in African-Americans on big league rosters. Ten managers of color also ties the most at one time.
  • Lastings Milledge might be referred to as the scapegoat for the Nationals 0-7 start, but he might have warranted the demotion to AAA even if the team was playing well. Missed team meetings and a hot dog style (full of condiments) did not sit well with Manny Acta.
  • Ken Griffey Jr. received a hero’s welcome in his first home game as a Mariner at Safeco Field and singled in his first at-bat. I thought he hit his first homer at Safeco Field last night, but learned that the stadium had an unusual mid-season debut in July 1999 — Griffey’s last season before he was traded to Cincinnati.
  • There have been numerous no-hitters being taken into the 7th and 8th innings already this season. I have a feeling one will happen before the month is over…

The Nationals lead 3-2 after 5 setting up for another phantastic Phillies come from behind W! Hey, it worked last week.

“We lost our voice.”

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harry.jpg

In the pit of my stomach, something is lost and will never be replaced.
I’m watching the Phillies-Nationals in D.C. and Harry Kalas, the legendary
voice of the Phillies, is not behind the microphone. While preparing for today’s
game, he collapsed in the press box and was taken to the hospital where he was
pronounced dead. He was 73. After letting out a couple shouts of “Nooo!” in
disbelief of reading the news, I called my dad, who grew up listening to Kalas.
We agreed that it was a blessing we were able to listen to Harry a few more times during the first week of the season. I give credit to Gary Matthews Sr., Tom McCarthy, and Chris Wheeler who have
appeared on Comcast SportsNet, reminiscing about Harry just a couple hours
after his passing. Here are the two calls I will never forget from the late,
great Harry Kalas:

 

April 18, 1987:

“Swing and a long drive, there it is, number 500! The career 500th home
run for Michael Jack Schmidt!”


 

The last pitch of the 2008 World Series:

“One strike away; nothing-and-two, the count to Hinske. Fans on the their
feet; rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0-2 pitch — swing
and a miss, struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions
of baseball! Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season!
48-for-48 in save opportunities, and watch the city celebrate! Don’t let the
48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment, and the celebration. And it
has been 28 years since the Phillies have enjoyed a World
Championship
; 25 years in this city with a team that has enjoyed a World Championship, and the fans are
ready to celebrate. What a night!”

 

Rest in peace Harry the K, you were the best.

 

———————————————————————————-

 

This is what I was about to post before hearing of Harry’s passing:

 

Yesterday’s Phillies game was the first of the season that I did not
watch in its entirety. I had it muted on my computer while I watched one of the
greatest final rounds in golf history. Anyone who says golf is boring can’t say
that after yesterday’s Masters. However, I did get to see the most important
plays of the Phillies series finale in Denver (and security attempt to tackle a
fan who was on the field getting a foul ball until they released because he
FELL onto the field…riiiight). Chase Utley hit his first homer on the year to
tie the game at 5 in the 8th before Matt Stairs came through in the
clutch with a go-ahead two-run job in the 9th off Huston Street. All
of this saved Chan Ho Park from being dealt a loss after a miserable outing.

 

Abreu v. Beckett: Our
first benches clearing incident happened at Angel Stadium after Josh Beckett threw
a high and inside fastball to Bobby Abreu after the umpire granted time. It is
difficult for a pitcher to hold the ball in the situation and avoid injury, but
Abreu has reason to react because he is in a defenseless position. Talking
between both clubs ensues for several minutes and Beckett had a heated
discussion with Mike Scioscia. Nevertheless, I don’t think this series needed
any extracurricular activities after the difficult circumstance facing the
Angels.

Update: Harry’s final home run call yesterday afternoon in Denver:

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“Long drive into deep right center field, this ball is outta
here…..Matt Stairs with a two-run pinch-hit home run and the Phillies have taken
a 7-5 lead here in the 9th inning…..and have battled all the way back.”

Rocky Mountain Climbing Back to .500?

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My last
Phillies-related post was in the middle of game three, a game that the Braves
stretched into a 10-3 lead. Thanks to Atlanta’s relievers — who walked in four
runs and couldn’t even find the strike zone with a MapQuest search – the Phillies
led a game for the first time after 25 innings of play and earned their largest
comeback victory since 1990! You still have to be patient at the plate to draw
bases loaded walks. It is the little things that win ballgames. That’s why they’re
called the Fightin’ Phils!

mapquest.jpg

An odd one
series road trip out west will have a rubber match tomorrow. The battle of the
previous two National League champions started off with a 10-3 Colorado Rockies
win and has Phillies fans worried about Cole Hamels’ left elbow. His velocity
remains down in the high 80’s instead of low 90’s. Even Charlie Manuel is
concerned and there is a possibility he will miss a start. The World Series MVP
was penciled in as the Opening Night starter before this setback and I’m
wondering if he was still rushed back too soon. I’m all for sitting Hamels all
of April if it means he will be the much-needed Ace from May-October.

Every team
goes through slumps during the course of the season. It just so happens that
the Phillies started the season off in one. Besides Chase Utley and Jayson
Werth, the rest of the lineup has been nonexistent offensively. Tonight every position
player got involved banging out 15 hits highlighted by Ryan Howard’s
bases-clearing double and Werth’s two RBI triple. Brett Myers was credited
with the W despite now giving up SIX homers in 13 innings. Fortunately, four of
them have been solo blasts.

Injury Bug: Carlos Ruiz was the first victim this
season, straining his right oblique Friday night and he will miss some time. Lou
Marson was called up from AAA Lehigh Valley and will make some starts behind
Chris Coste (who made a catch tonight similar to that of Bob Boone/Pete Rose in
the final inning of the 1980 World Series. He bobbled a pop-up in foul
territory and made a diving bare-handed snag.) Marson made his Major League
debut in the regular season finale last September.

coste.jpg

Diehard Indians Fans: A shout out to the 500 or so fans who
remained at The Jake for the Tribe’s home opener Friday afternoon – which turned
into a late night before all was said and done. Thanks to a non-stop rain delay
totaling almost FOUR hours, the final out was recorded over seven hours after
the first pitch. The 0-5 Indians need to win a game for these diehards. This
game reminded me of the home opener I went to in Cleveland two years ago
against Seattle. The grounds crew did everything in their power to get the game
played, but white snowflakes don’t mix well with a white baseball. Paul Byrd
had a no hitter through 4.2 innings before former Indians manager Mike Hargrove
strategically convinced the umpires to pull the players off the field. The
entire four game series would be postponed and played at different times during
the season.

tribe.jpg

No More Unbeatens: Livan Hernandez, now with the Mets,
outdueled Ricky Nolasco to hand the Marlins their first loss of 2009. The
Indians and Nationals remain winless. And if the Nats don’t beat Atlanta
tomorrow – uh, oh – because they play their next three games versus the
Phillies!

Yovani Gallardo!: Congratulations, you became the first
pitcher to go yard
off of the most intimidating pitcher of this era, The
Big Unit a.k.a Randy Johnson. It was a no-doubt-about-it homer, too.

All-Stars to Gather in the Desert: Chase Field, home of the Arizona
Diamondbacks, will host the game’s best for the Midsummer Classic in 2011. St.
Louis is this summer’s host, while the Angels do the honor in 2010. Veterans
Stadium was the choice in 1996 and I’m hopeful that CBP will get selected in
the near future. Pittsburgh’s PNC Park hosted just 12 years after Three Rivers
Stadium did. The problem is so many new ballparks have opened in the last
decade that there is a long wait in line.

Some people
from my dorm created an intramural softball team and our first game was a few
days ago. I pitched a complete game nine inning 32-hitter! I caught one line
drive in self-defense, but another one breezed by my head before I could react.
The reason I mention this is because later that same night I’m watching San
Francisco reliever Joe Martinez suffer a concussion after Milwaukee’s Mike
Cameron smoked one off his forehead. Baseball is far from becoming compared to
football in terms of danger, but there are certainly high risks.

Happy Masters
Sunday everyone! And Easter too, of course. 😉

masters.jpg

Nick Adenhart, 22, Killed in Crash

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adenhart.jpg

(photo courtesy Los Angeles Times)

I’m not sure how to put this into words, but Los Angeles Angels
starting pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed shortly after midnight Pacific, along
with two others, by a car that ran a red light. The driver was caught after he
fled the scene and alcohol is suspected. Senseless…

 

Baseball is clearly on the backburner today. My prayers go out to
Adenhart’s family and the Angels organization. The Angels will hopefully
postpone their series finale against Oakland.

 

This really puts things in perspective. The 43,000+ that saw him pitch
six shutout innings at Angel Stadium last night went home thinking they had a talented
youngster. Now they are left to wonder, what if – both on and off the field?

 

We hardly knew you Nick, rest in peace 34.

Update: Adenhart went to high school in Maryland about an hour north or where I live in Virginia. Here’s a link to hear his coach reflecting on the tragedy.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/sports/2009/04/09/bts.mlb.pitcher.death.cnn

Bling, then Baseball

The
Phillies just put on a ring ceremony fans will never forget. Since the Rays don’t
play in Boston until tonight, Pat Burrell came back and received the loudest
standing ovation easily. The players were genuinely impressed by the 14 karat,
103 diamond-studded rings. It has the player’s name and number on one side and “PHI
4, TB 1” on the other.

ring.jpg

Question:
when should fans start growing frustrated with losses at the beginning of the
season? Games in April mean just as much, if not more, than those in August and
September. The major similarity in all three games? Atlanta starters Derek
Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, and Javier Vazquez have each had a 2-0 lead BEFORE they even
took the mound.

Last
night, the Phillies were hitting the ball hard, but right at guys. This
afternoon, Raul Ibanez hit his first homer as a Phillie and the team’s first
round-tripper on the year.

I’m going
to wait a few series before I overreact to a slow start. This start is
identical to 2007. Atlanta swept Philadelphia at CBP to open the year and the
Phillies got as bad as 1-6 and 4-11. Well, that was a division championship
season.

bling.jpg

My
fantasy baseball team was in first place (out of 15 teams) after three days,
ha! Here’s the roster – hopefully they can keep it up.

C – John Baker,
FLA
C – Mike Napoli,
LAA
1B – Adrian
Gonzalez, SD
2B – Placido
Polanco, DET
3B – Aramis
Ramirez, CHC
SS – Jose
Reyes, NYM
OF – Nelson
Cruz, TEX
OF – Jack
Cust, OAK
OF – Cameron
Maybin, FLA
OF – Xavier
Nady, NYY
OF – Travis
Snyder, TOR
MI – Mike
Aviles, KC
CI – Conor
Jackson, ARI
UTIL – Travis
Hafner, CLE
P – Josh
Beckett, BOS
P – Scott
Downs, TOR
P – Brian
Fuentes, LAA
P – Jon
Garland, ARI
P – Kevin
Gregg, CHC
P – Dan
Haren, ARI
P – Andy
Pettite, NYY
P – Jered
Weaver, LAA
P – Chris
Young, SD

Bench – Jeremy
Bonderman, DET
Bench – Chris
Dickerson, CIN
Bench – Sean
Gallagher, OAK
Bench – Jerry
Hairston Jr., CIN
Bench – Jason
Kendall, MIL
Bench – Kevin
Millar, TOR
Bench – Jon
Rauch, ARI


Here’s to
a phantastic Phillies late-inning comeback!

Ceremonies, Not Game, Will Be Remembered

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There goes the dream 162-0 season! That was a disappointing
start on the diamond Sunday night.  Outside of those nine innings, however, the evening
was a final celebration of what happened last October.  (Okay, the World Series rings are given out
tomorrow, so the ceremonies aren’t over yet.) Players aren’t used to entering
the game from through hoards of fans in Ashburn Alley behind centerfield, so
from the get-go you could tell this was not your ordinary game. The players
will tell you otherwise, but defending champions often do not fare well in
their first home game the following season because of all the distractions.

ashburnalley.jpg

The 44,000 fans at CBP received “2008” pennants and three
lucky fans had an opportunity to throw back souvenir home runs courtesy of
Brett Myers – before the third inning! Myers would go on to settle down, but
the damage was done since the Phillies bats made Derek Lowe look like Cy Young
in his Braves debut. The faithful fans didn’t have much to cheer about until
the 9th. After Jayson Werth drove in a run to break up the shutout
off closer Mike Gonzalez, Ryan Howard took strike three looking and Raul Ibanez
fanned in a opportunity to be a hero in his first game as a Phil. Slow starts
are nothing new as the Phillies have dropped four straight openers and six out
of eight.

pennant.jpg

4/6/09 MLB Highlight: Ken Griffey Jr. homering in his
second at bat during his return with the Mariners. How great would it be if he
had a phenomenal year?

Game 2 is underway and not starting off much better. Kelly
Johnson took Jamie Moyer yard on the FIRST pitch to leadoff the game and Chipper Jones scored on
an error by Chase Utley. It would be nice if I was able to watch the game
online, but mlb.tv has been having some technical difficulties to start the
season. (edit: problem fixed)

No class for me tomorrow and the Phillies play an afternoon
game! Sweeeet.