Thursday, August 14, 2008

PHILLIES: Victims of Freeway Drive-By In L.A.

Well, nobody can say that the Phillies don't have a sense of history.

That is, for those of us Phillie Phans who were born in L.A. ... at St. Joseph's Hospital ... just a few miles from Elysian Park ... north on I-5 ... less than 10 minutes from Dodger Stadium ...

Oddly enough, that uneventful-and-probably-fateful delivery occurred only a few months after the new stadium in Chavez Ravine first opened its doors to fans who'd spent the previous 4 yrs. watching the transplanted Brooklyn ballclub playing its home games in the L.A. Coliseum.

For those of us who were born the season after that 47-107/Gene Mauch disaster of '61, these past 4 days could've been just as painful, except for the fact that when the Phillies' wild-card hopes are fizzling out during that 6-game homestand against The A-T-L and the Gnats during the final week of Sept., it won't matter much because the Steelers will have (hopefully) drilled the Raisins on MNF; the Sooners will be preparing for their 56-7 win over TCU; and the Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings will be a little more than a week from opening their season at home vs. Toronto and raising the Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.

Which is the great thing about Phillie/Steeler/Sooner/Red Wing overlap at this time of year (although it's never easy when it comes to deciding whether to wear the Steelers T over the Sooner T, vice-versa or Phillie sweatshirt over Steeler T or Steeler swweatshirt over Red Wings T or Red Wings windbreaker over Sooner T ...

Not that any of these combos lessens the quasi-misery of the Dodgers' first home sweep of the Phillies since 1962.

The sequence of events played out thusly:

MON. -- Kendrick, in his first start since blanking the Martians, implodes during a 6-run Dodger third, just a few hours after the Mutts blow a 5-1 lead at Shea vs. the Buccos (the Pirates scoring 3 in the 9th to win) ...

TUES. -- Phils lead, 3-1, thru 5 ... but another strong performance by Hamels (7 IP, 2 ER) is wasted as L.A. scratches across the tying run in the 8th against Durbin and the walk-off winner vs. Romero ...

WEDS. -- A trio of 2-run HRs in the first 2 inns. (by Howard, Dobbs, Werth) stakes team to 6-1 lead ... Durbin falters in the 8th, Condrey in the 9th (Nomar walk-off HR) ...

TONIGHT -- Something named Hiroki Kuroda and Hong-Chih Kuo silences the Phils on 2 hits (Mike Cervenak strikes out in his only AB) ...

The fallout: Coupled w/ 3 consec. NYM wins, Phils slip to 1 GB (Howard: 1 for 14 in series, but manages to drive in 2 runs w/ the longball and 3 runs w/ 3 RBI groundouts) ...

It's painful to revisit ... much more so than rewinding to that series from July 1962 which was the most-recent occasion when the Dodgers had swept 4 from the Phils in L.A. (a few days before the aforementioned delivery-room event).

For the Phillie Phaithphul who still live in L.A. and who love L.A. or hate L.A. because of the '77 and '78 NLCS games there (that ... and the fact that the John Vukovich character in "To Live And Die In L.A." wasn't half as tough as our Vook, god rest his soul), well ... justice WAS served (and served cold) to those '62 Dodgers.

Although the Phillies' 81-80 record, in and of itself, was nuthin' for closet Fightin's to use against the Angelino populace, it was better than the 47-107 disaster of '61 which included the record 23-game losing streak (which remains the MLB record, thanks a lot, Gene Mauch

+++ Footnote: Gene Mauch lived and then died more than once in L.A. -- or in "the Southland," as they call it ... 'cuz, before his actual death in Rancho Mirage three years ago, Gene Mauch died a thousand deaths in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the '86 ALCS when Baylor's long fly ball and then Henderson's long fly ball were sailed over the fence ... ). [OH, RIGHT ... BACK TO 1962]

'62 was an expansion year in the N.L. as the league ventured into new frontiers (boomtowns ... "cities of tomorrow" such as "New York" and "Houston)" so, there were some quirks in schedule-making (such as the Phillies' 5-game series vs. L.A. at the beginning of June ... not to mention L.A.'s 18-game road trip following the Phils-Dodgers doubleheaders on July 2 and July 4 (L.A. had a 19-game road trip in June not long after the 5-game set vs. the Phils).

So, even though the '62 Phils hit some high notes (Don Demeter 29/107/.307 ... Johnny Callison 23/83/.300 ... Tony Gonzalez 20/63/.302 ... and Clay Dalrymple had his best season!), it seems pretty obvious that three of the '62 Phillies with ties to the modern day -- Frank Torre - brother of the current L.A. mgr. ... Dallas Green - "awww, Christ! ... and Ruben Amaro's dad -- were to blame for basically everything that went wrong with that squad.

Sure, that 16-1 loss to Koufax in the third game of that 4-game set (the opener of the Fourth of July twinbill ... they called 'em "twinbills" back then ... before "twinbill" was outlawed in favour of "double dip") was harsh, but at least there was a Phillie rookie named Ted Savage (real first name: "Ephesian") who had the gumption (the term they used in place of today's vulgarity -- "balls") to homer against Sandy Koufax (real last name: "Braun") and wreck the shutout.

Some of us still don't know why Ted Savage and Pancho Herrera (real first name: "Juan") were shipped to Pittsburgh for Don Hoak at a time when Don Hoak and Dick Hoak (Steeler RB ... no relation) ruled the Steel City.

Anyway, it came as great consolation to us newborns that those L.A. Dodgers of '62 were up 4 games in the standings with seven games to play (fashioning a 100-55 record in the new 162-game schedule) .. but then Drysdale got roughed up in the final game in St. Loo ... and then, upon returning to Dodger Stadium for the final homestand, the Bums lost 2 outta 3 to the Colt .45s (who the Phillies of '62 beat 17 of 18 times) and then got swept by the Redbirds to force a 3-game playoff with Frisco, which L.A. lost, oddly enough, in Game 3 when, three outs from sending the Dodger Stadium crowd home happy to all cozy, white neighborhoods such as Buena Park and Chatsworth and Pico Rivera and Van Nuys and Tarzana with a 4-2 win and hosting Game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees in the new ballpark THE DODGERS LOST, boo hoo once Ed Roebuck (10-1) started walkin' everybody, a bases-loaded free pass to Jimmy Davenport forcing in the tiebreaking run in the top of the 9th which had to aggravate future Phillie pitching coach Johnny Podres (who stood to earn the W) but also N.L. MVP Maury Wills (middle name: "Morning," who, thru 8 innings had gone 4 for 4 w/ 3 SBs to bring his season total to 104, the first player to eclipse the 100 SB mark), who led off the bottom of the 9th with a groundout to third ...

Actually, before some of us became Phillie fans, we were into the Dodger Blue movement, but once the Bavasis or the O'Malleys or the Campanises (or whoever the hell was in charge at the time) began tradin' away our favorite Dodgers in the span of eight months in '75/'76 -- Jimmy Wynn (Nov. '75 ... for Dusty Baker) ... Willie Crawford (Mar. '76 ... for Ted Sizemore) ... Joe Ferguson (Jun. '76 ... for Reggie Smith) ... and once that loudmouth third-base coach named Lasorda replaced Walter Alston for the final four games of the '76 season, the relationship HAD to end.

What a front-office calls "business," a 13-year-old calls "betrayal."

And, then that kid might shop around and say something like, "That ballclub in Philadelphia looks like a real up-n'-comer" (or words to that effect).

Those were some tough times, runnin' the California Bureau of the Dept. of Phillie Phanatics for a scant more than 20 years.

This oh-for-L.A. series was tough, but it just means that the fellas will have to get serious when L.A. comes to The Cit next weekend.

It's up to Frank Torre, Dallas Green and Ruben Amaro's kid to make amends ...


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