THE PROVERBIAL PHIGHTIN' PHILS A Brief History of the Team Since 1964
Yes, I know. Do NOT mention 1964 to any Phillies fan. But that's when this NL team, second only to the Cubs in terms of ineptness, became more than a glorified Triple-A team.
The only pennants won by the Phils from 1883 through 1964 (That's 82 seasons) happened in 1915 (One win in the World Series), and 1950 (Swept by the puke-inducing Yankees).
In 1964, the Men in Red, appeared to be rolling into a rematch with the dreaded Bronx Bombers. They were 6.5 games up with 11 to play.
And they lost the pennant by dropping ten in a row. If you really want to play Russian roulette with your face, mention "Chico Ruiz" to anyone from the City of Brotherly Love.
The Phils, and the city, had to sit home and watch Bob Gibson and the Cardinals vanquish the Yanks. Not sure the Phillies could have beaten New York, but therein lies a tale of pro baseball in Philadelphia.
Well, pro baseball that was NOT the crosstown (sorta) American League team of some repute. From 1901 to 1931 (31 Seasons), the Philadelphia Athletics won 9 pennants and 5 World Series, a truly great baseball team. They were so good, that from 1929 through 1931, the Yankees were too busy reading their Murderers Row press clippings, to notice the Athletics reeled off three straight American League titles, all the while kicking New York Ass.
But the Phillies? Horrible. Cellar Dwellers. Fodder for the Giants and the Cardinals.
Then in 1974, Danny Ozark, the oddly named, gnomish former coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived. Call it the start of the alchemy of a franchise that still can't completely get out of its own way, or call it payback for 92 years of stupidity. But the Phillies became winners.
From 1976 through 1983, the Phils won the National League East six times. They went to the World Series in 1980 and FINALLY won. 97 years into their franchise and they had their first championship. The city was so elated that when they went back in 1983, they forgot to show up against the Baltimore Orioles and lost in five games. They did, however, beat Tommy Lasorda and the execrable Dodgers in the NLCS. For that alone Paul Owens, who topped the actual Ichabod Crane in an Ichabod Crane Lookalike Contest, will be forever loved in Phillies lore.
The Phillies slipped back into, well, being the Phillies after 1985, but it would be worth the wait.
In 1993 a collection of reformed alcoholics, unreformed alcoholics, junior high dropouts, nightclub bouncers, leg-breakers for the South Philly mob, and juvenile delinquents, came together to form baseball's last real team of "guys."
The '93 Phils boasted a pitching staff of Curt Schilling, a 57 years old Danny Jackson, a perennially sore-armed Tommy Greene, and Mitch "The Wild Thing" Williams.
The infield had nicknames like "Bulb" and "Dutch" and "Krukster" and "Who is that at shortstop and second?" The outfield had the thumb-sized Lenny Dykstra, the Tourette's-suffering Jim Eisenreich, and some dude in Left.
And they won the National League East.
Then they beat the Atlanta Braves for the pennant. The Phillies that season had no business winning any game which did not have Curt Schilling on the mound.
And here they were squaring off against the defending champ Toronto Blue Jays. Helmed by the dumbest manager since Eddie Sawyer, Cito Gaston, the Jays were a collection of Cleveland INDIANS, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland Athletics.
The Phils battled to the very end. If Mitch Williams hadn't been burned out getting the team to the Series, he might have gotten Cleveland INDIAN Joe Carter to ground into a double-play and there would have been a Game Seven. But, again, the 1993 Phillies should have finished fourth in the NL East.
Unlike Yankee fans, Phillies fans are happy when the team is competitive. We love overachievers, and for the Phils to get that far is monumental. Overcoming odds is what baseball used to be about. Now it's about overcoming the MLBPA.
After the Lightning in a Bottle season of 1993, the Phillies retreated to more comfortable confines and flirted with more than a decade of last place. At the very least, a losing record appeared next to the team in league standings for several seasons.
Jamie Moyer's Father.
And the Phightin's went to the Big Dance two years in row! Not making that up. Two straight years in the Series. They nearly swept the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008. But sadly, their 100 million dollar payroll couldn't beat the wretched Yankees 200 billion dollar payroll and New York won in 2009, four games to two.
And once more a plunge (Okay, it took two years) off the playoff charts occurred. Once more the team looked like the New York Knights at the beginning of "The Natural" from 2012 through 2020, which wasn't really a baseball season of anything.
But here we are.
It's 2022, and a collection of expensive free agents, awful defensive players, terrible bullpen pitchers, and a starting rotation of Zach Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and, well, gosh, no one else, will be taking on the absolutely loaded Houston Astros, a team of monumental success (Yes, some sketchy success too) since 2017.
What do I expect?
The Phillies of 1964 evaporated.
They imploded in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1981.
They shocked the Hell out of the KC Royals in 1980.
The team forgot to show up in 1983.
In 1993 they were so darned entertaining, but lost.
2008, for the first time, they were the BEST TEAM IN MLB
Regarding 2009? Screw the Yankees.
Best to put it this way. This magical team of my youth, and I remember my neighbors excoriating them on in 1963, and dying with them in 1964, has enchanted me for almost 60 years (Let's take a separation from them for quite a while in the mid 90s after that STUPID strike.), but they are emblematic of Spring, unrealized potential, heart break, humor, courage, resolve, defeat, victory (rare as it is), love, affection, laughs, and rebirth.
The Phillies are life. Everything that is beautiful about life is in that team. You're not supposed to be the Yankees. It's a cold, unrealistic, unemotional, shallow existence.
You are required to have your heart broken . . . a lot. You're supposed to get up off the canvas . . . every time. You're meant to finish what you start . . . it's noble. You do get to win . . . but not all the time, so that it means something, maybe everything.
If you can live your life like a Philadelphia Phillies fan, you will have truly lived with all the bitter and all the sweet.
It's why we're here, ain't it?
Go Phillies! Beat those Astros!