The Phillies alumni weekends are always good for some unintentional comedy. For instance, amidst guys like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts, a player like Doug Clemens or Keith Hughes trots out onto the field to be introduced before the game. Looking back at the records, Hughes played in exactly 37 games for the Phillies – 93 over the course of four seasons with Baltimore, New York and Cincinnati.
So maybe a few years down the road guys like Nelson Figueroa and Jack Taschner will jog out onto the field before a game in a Phillies uniform to some polite golf applause.
But after the end of last season the Phillies alumni weekend is something of a relic. Better yet, it reinforces the idea that we are in the midst of the second golden age of the team’s history. There were the years from 1976 to 1983 when the Phillies went to the playoffs six times and the World Series twice.
Baring a collapse of Mets-like proportions (or ’64 Phillies style), the Phillies will go to the playoffs for the third year in a row for just the second time in team history. Moreover, the team already has one World Series title and is a favorite (along with the Dodgers) to get back to the Series for a second year in a row.
No one needs to see old ballplayers like Keith Hughes or even Jim Bunning to trot out onto the field from a historically moribund franchise to realize that these are the good ol’ days. Right here, right now.
That’s the thing isn’t it? By winning the World Series the Phillies have made alumni weekends useless. Sure, it’s neat to see Mike Lieberthal and Jim Kaat around the ballpark again, but really, if there is anything that the Phils prove with their old players is that they weren’t very good for a long, long, long time.
Besides, it used to be that the team needed to summon Mike Schmidt from the golf course in Florida and Steve Carlton from his underground bunker near the Four Corners region of Colorado in order to get folks to come out to the ballpark. That little glimpse at members of the team’s only championship used to put fannies in the seats before folks realized that a contending ballclub was far more interesting than a trip down amnesia lane.
Hey, there’s Greg Luzinski! Didn’t I just see him out in right field eating ribs?
Apropos of nothing (and as pointed out by another scribe), is there another franchise that has a weirder collection of Hall of Famers than the Phillies? Sure, Robin Roberts is a true gentleman and as nice a man there is walking this earth, but the other three? Really? How crazy are Schmidt, Carlton and Bunning?
Plus, why is Jim Bunning in the Hall of Fame to begin with? He never pitched in the World Series and was the ace pitcher on a team responsible for one of the greatest late-season collapses in sports history… hey, winning matters. That’s why they keep score.
If Bunning is a Hall of Famer, then so too are Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Jack Morris, Luis Tiant and Bert Blyleven.
Anyway, at the alumni things Crazy Steve is introduced as “the greatest pitcher in team history,” which is fair. It’s impossible to deny Carlton’s greatness. However, Robin Roberts was no slouch either and it makes one wonder what kind of video-game like numbers he would have produced if the Phillies had been even a bit respectable.
After going to the World Series in 1950, the Phillies finished better than fourth place just one time in Roberts’ tenure with the team. Still, the great righty figured out how to win 20 games and pitch at least 300 innings in six straight years.
Or try this out… after going to the World Series in 1950, the Phillies finished better than third place just twice until getting into the playoffs in 1976. Old-timers day?
No thanks. The good memories are being created out on the field right now.
Another interesting tidbit from the alumni weekend was watching Pedro Martinez trot out to the first-base line in his Phillies uniform to salute the team alums. The interesting part about that was that a lot of stat heads and baseball historians regard Martinez as one of the best – if not the best – pitcher of the past 60 years and he still can’t get into a game for the Phillies.