As far as circuses go, this one was hardly any fun. In fact, when I asked Larry Shenk, the Phillies’ vice president of public relations, if the there was going to be a big top installed, all I got was a terse, “No.”
That doesn’t mean there weren’t moments of levity. For instance, upon arriving in the Phillies’ dugout after listening in with the media throng in Giants skipper Felipe Alou’s office and checking out the scene in the visitor’s clubhouse, some wise writers staying along the fringes asked me what was happening on the other side.
“It’s just a whole bunch of guys over there watching another guy listen to his iPod and mark his bats,” I answered.
“Yeah, and you were one of them,” hooted Jimmy Rollins.
“No, it was worse than that – I was watching other guys watch him,” I shot back.
That’s the way Rollins and I talk to each other sometimes. But I digress.
Him, of course, is Barry Bonds, and what everyone was watching and making all sorts of clever remarks about was the wild and wacky atmosphere around the star-crossed slugger’s parade toward Babe Ruth’s career home run total of 714.
Will he hit the two he needs this weekend in Philadelphia? Well, there are about 250 extra writer-types hanging around for the three games thinking he has a shot.
But surely, there has to be some inconvenience to anything worthwhile. I bet the number of media credentials for the Gettysburg Address numbered in the thousands. Think of how crowded the press box must have been for Nixon’s farewell.
“It’s history,” Ryan Howard said. “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen that much.”
“I bet it’s kind of a pain for you guys,” said Howard in as close to commiserating tone an athlete will ever get with the press.
Just to show it was a two-way street, we let Howard know that we felt bad about all of asinine questions he has to field nearly everyday from folks who don’t show up at the park everyday. It was especially bad after he smacked that home run over the batter’s eye against the Marlins a few weeks back.
Nonetheless, in the time that I have written about the Phillies, which dates back to the middle of 2000, I have never had the chance to see playoff baseball in person nor a real media throng. There was a time when I went to Yankee Stadium to write about Scott Rolen soon after he departed for St. Louis, but what I saw as a media frenzy was a regular old Saturday afternoon in New York City.
They do throngs for lunch. We just wonder what it’s like to go to a playoff game.
Anyway, I’m one of those expect-the-worst, but hope-for-the-best kind of guys, so I did my best to get to the ballpark as early as possible to see if I had been bumped out of my regular seat (thankfully no) or just how wild the circus was (not that bad, actually).
In a nutshell, Friday night’s game was kind of like a convention for the Baseball Writers Association of America. You name him, he was here.
OK. Without further ado, here’s the day in Barry excluding the nightmare of a drive to the park on the Schuylkill Expressway.
4:32 – Enter Giants clubhouse to find that everyone has camped out in the rare hope that Bonds might say or do something. Quickly, word trickles out that Bonds will say and do nothing. Everyone leaves the sauna that is the visitor’s clubhouse for the apron of the field. Highlights include Marcus Hayes hijacking a package of Certs from Rob Maaddi, and Dennis Deitch offering $100 for anyone who chooses to take a drink from the industrial-looking faucet in the hallway in the basement of the stadium.
4:46 – The first of many Jack McKeon references is flung toward Jim “Stansberry” Salisbury.
5:00 – Meeting time in Felipe Alou’s office where the Giants’ writers have to deal with the Philly and national guys (as well as a camera crew from ESPN – a faux pas in normal times) hoping for a nugget about Bonds. Because the room is so crowded, it gets pretty warm and unbearable. Upon walking into the hallway to chat up the Giants’ PR guy, I catch a glance of the man himself less than 10-feet away. Dressed in workout gear with black headphone buds in his ears attached to a black iPod on his right arm, Bonds quietly marks his Sam Bats with a Sharpie. Just from a cursory view, Bonds looks like a veteran baseball player – nothing more, nothing less.
5:01 – PR guy says: “It would have been nice if [Bonds] would have done something in a big room beforehand so everybody could have gotten something in about 10 minutes. Sometimes logic doesn’t always win out.” It’s no big deal, I tell him. Besides, what can Bonds be asked or what can he say that he hasn’t been thrown out there already? Besides, isn’t a media frenzy fun by itself?
An aside: 12 years ago I nearly went to work for the Giants PR staff. The problem was that they wanted me to start before the semester was over and like a fool I stayed in school. Let that be a lesson to all you kids out there.
5:06 – Hey, there’s Tim Worrell!
5:11 – Back over to the Phillies’ dugout where Phil Gianficaro, Ken Mandel and Deitch are sitting with Rollins and Howard. They ask me what’s happening on the other side. I tell them. Rollins makes his crack.
5:17 – Decide to go to press box and get myself together and figure out what to write. Once there, Mike Radano asks me if I want to eat. Having had only two Power Bars and a banana to eat all day, I’m ready to swallow my computer bag.
5:22 – Chicken, green beans, a little macaroni, a salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, chick peas (no dressing), and the worst crab cakes in the free world. That’s a shame, too, because crab cakes are my favorite and the press dining room at Camden Yards has some of the best anywhere.
5:34 – Bonds! Live! TV! He spits! Turns around! Warms up before batting practice! Oh my!
5:37 – Bonds swing a bat! He takes BP!
5:40 to 6:00 – TV cameras follow ever move Bonds makes. He smacks some really long batting practice home runs all over the park, but they don’t count. There is no sound on the TV so we can’t here the
6:02 – Marcus Hayes appears on the TV screen. We scream. The others indulge me while I tell them what a good guy Marcus is. That gentle rant morphs into a general announcement of how much I enjoy the company of the other baseball writers. Mike Radano rolls his eyes and then repeats a funny story for Dennis Deitch.
6:11 – Comcast SportsNet’s Marc Caputo comes by and says something funny and then leaves. If only it were that easy…
6:14 – Another McKeon reference for Salisbury.
6:20 – Time to start writing. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun is assigned the seat to my left. He’s from York, Pa. so we exchange some general baseball information and stories and discuss our South Central Pennsylvania-ness.
7:01 – Anthem.
7:07 – First pitch.
7:10 – Here comes Bonds. The crowd boos with some cheers sprinkled in, but not many. How weird would it be to get booed? Such an odd custom, but it gets it point across.
7:11 – Bonds swings at a first-pitch fastball from Gavin Floyd. He hits it straight up into the air in center field where Aaron Rowand waits for it and catches it.
7:15 – Bonds heads for left field where a big banner reading “Babe Ruth did it on hotdogs and beer” is unfurled. That’s probably true, but it isn’t exactly too healthy, either. Just think how good Ruth would have been if he did it on plenty of rest, a good diet, weight training and extra batting practice.
7:50 – Bonds draws an intentional walk from Floyd. People boo, but I’m not sure if they are booing Bonds or the intentional walk. A man holds a sign that says, “Pitch to Bonds.” After the game, Charlie Manuel says it will be hard to pitch to Bonds if first base is open.
8:03 – Moises Alou rolls his ankle in the right-field corner while chasing a foul ball. It doesn’t look too bad on the replays, but Alou gets carted off the field.
8:31 – Dan Connolly says Bonds is going to hit one this inning.
8:32 – Bonds taps into a 3-5-4 double play. Yeah, the old 3-5-4.
9:22 – Bonds strikes out on a nasty change up from Aaron Fultz. After the inning he stays in the dugout.
That’s pretty much the Night of Bonds. The mass media went into the Giants clubhouse following the game only to find that the slugger had left for the night. Meanwhile on the Phillies side, everyone is happy about the sixth win in a row. Ryan Howard was happy to hit two homers, win the game and meet Bonds. Charlie Manuel was cracking jokes at Mike Radano’s expense.
It’s now 12:01 a.m. I’m going to drive home to Lancaster, wake up for a 7 a.m. workout and come to the park in the afternoon ready to do it all over again.