No phrickin' way ... Phrancona phailed (?) to bring a Phall Classic to Phenway ... and there'll be no Game 3 homecoming in Philly?
Everything was all lined up for a Game 1 ceremonial first pitch at the Fens wherein Heathcliff Slocumb would've performed the honors to a standing ovation as players for both teams -- with tears in their eyes -- cheered his two greatest career accomplishments:
1) Earning the win as a Phillie in the '95 All-Star Game ...
2) Serving as trade bait as a Red Sox reliever in '97 when Boston acquired Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe ...
However, we have a startling paradigm shift now that the Schwinn Stingrays have qualified for the United States Championships of the Major Leagues of Pro Baseball (remember: It was a "world series" during the World Baseball Classic in '06 and it will be a "world series" again next spring during WBC 2.
Not that these developments faze the Fightin's.
Tampa Bay's berth opposite the Phillies in this U.S. Championship Final merely means that the ceremonial first pitch guest list requires only a minor tweaking.
Brace yourself, America ... tossin' out the ceremonial first pitch for the 2008 MLB Finals will be the only logical choice:
It's as logical as logical gets -- after all, K-Stock was an original Devil Ray for that inaugural '98 season (after the Phillies traded him to T.B. following the '97 season to acquire a then-little-known outfielder named Bobby Abreu) -- and K-Stock was the player who helped the Phillies to their most-recent MLB Finals (in '93) when, after the Phillies burned through four or so shortstops (or didja forget Joe Millette and Opening Day SS Juan Bell?), they called up the baby-faced kid (who was batting .233 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) and watched him post a nifty .324 average with the big ballclub while performing slick manuevers afield.
Although it is with some sadness that we report that K-Stock is only #3 on our all-time Favorite #19 Phillies depth chart -- behind the Bull and Dobbs -- we can all take heart that, in K-Stock, America has itself a likable Ceremonial First Pitch Tosser-Outter.
Unless, of course, a less-qualified douchebag is allowed to make that ceremonial first pitch (y'know ... such as the lovable egghead named Dickie V or the lovable gerbil named Don Zimmer, who walked on the Colorado Rockies, mid-game, a bunch of years ago because he was sick of baseball, but, wait ... here in the classified ads, it sez that the Yankees are having open tryouts for a bench coach to fall asleep next to Joe Torre, hmmmmm ... ).
Either way, whooda thunk the Schwinn Stingrays had it in 'em after blowing that 7-0 lead the other night and then lookin' mighty helpless last night vs. Beckett?
The Stingrays' victory in Game 7 means that Phillie Phan will not reunite with his/her faves from yesteryear at The Vet (i.e. Francona, J.D. Drew and Schill).
In that sense, America loses something special.
While Phils-n'-Rays is "allegedly" not on par with a sexy, made-for-TV matchup of Manny vs. Beantown, all we can do is wonder how much venom Phillie Phan had built up for Francona if he had returned to the scene of his 68-94 disaster of his rookie season in '97 (a team which went 8-38 during a 2-month stretch and was on pace to finish 45-117 until the fellas got serious and went 43-30 to end the season) and that 65-97 mess of '00 which got him (justifiably) canned.
Jimmy Rollins' first 14 games of big-league action occurred w/ that '00 team ... just as Pat Burrell was with the big club for the entire season, gettin' his feet wet as a rookie first baseman wearin' #33 because Ronnie Gant was wearin' #5 while patrolling LF and putting up a magnificent stat-combo package (20 HRs, 38 RBI) before he was dealt to Anaheim before season's end.
20 homers ... 38 ribbies ... that almost ranks up there with Rob Deer's second monster year in Detroit (in '92 ... 32 HRs, 64 RBI following his first monster year in Detroit --> 25/64 and .179 avg. in 448 ABs w/ 175 SO ... un-frickin'-believable ... you coulda bounced a pitch three feet in front of the plate and, chances were, Rob Deer woulda swung at << WHOA! >> ... let's stay on point as per disparaging remarks re: Tito Francona's kid.
And about J.D. Drew, who won't be coming to Philly to stand in RF amid a chrous of "DARE-rulllll! DARE-rulllll!" (Wait ... that doesn't make sense -- but, this does --> ) Phillie Phan realizes that it's just as well that Drew ain't comin' home ... because a double-A battery thrown at the right fielder from Section 304 of a 44,000-seat ballpark isn't the same as chucking one from the 600 level of the 63,000-seat Vet.
Same deal with setting a trash can on fire and tossing it from the first row of the top deck.
It's not worth wasting negative energy on J.D. Drew, not after what he did last time we saw him (in mid-June) when his 3-run homer in the first inning against Kyle Kendrick highlighted a 4-for-5 day for the guy who was slightly-belatedly (by two weeks) celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the day that the Phillies made him the overall No. 1 pick in the draft.
Funny thing is: Three weeks after the Phils' front office wasted that No. 1 pick on J.D. Drew (the centerpiece of a team which seemed destined to win world championships in 2000, 2003 and 2006), the Phillies welcomed to the Vet for the very first time the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays (and shortstop Kevin Stocker) for a weekend series.
The Saturday game of that 3-game set, as we all recall, was anointed "Darren Daulton Night" -- a special occasion for Phillie phans to pay tribute to the player whose career spanned 18 pro seasons from the day he was drafted in the 25th round in 1980 to the day he was dealt to the Florida Martians in '97 ... the hero who batted .245 in his 13-1/2 seasons w/ the big ballclub ... the gamer, who, somewhere in between Knee Surgery #4 and Knee Surgery #5 (or was it between #6 and #7), allowed his skull to violently kiss the dashboard as an inebriated Lenny Dykstra steered the vehicle into a tree while driving home from Krukker's bachelor party.
"Dutch" was the stalwart who batted .389 with 2 doubles and a homer in a World Series triumph which wasn't Philadelphia's World Series triumph, yet, with each swing of the bat, Phillie Phan knew that Dutch was saying, "Thank you, Philadelphia! (For setting me free ... )"
It reminded us of the way we felt one year earlier when we saw Mariano Duncan and Charlie Hayes helping the Yankees win a world title, but Philly didn't throw a parade for them -- just as the city didn't close the schools and shut down local businesses two years ago so that there'd be a "Scott Rolen Day" which people would never forget.
That's the thing: You can't have a "Scott Rolen Day" for a guy who plays his tail off and provides tangible production for some shitty teams once Larry Bowa calls that guy "a red ass" and once Dallas Green offers less-than-flattering commentary on that guy perhaps before Greenie has finished his fifth Scotch-rocks in the past hour.
And Phillie Phan cannot uphold the motto of "City of Brotherly Loathe" if he/she is doing the responsible thing in '98 (such as justifiably stuffing the ballot box to get Rolen on the N.L. All-Star team) instead of the irresponsible thing (showing up 44,000 strong for a "ceremonial night" to honor its .245 career hitter).
None of us who were there will ever forget "Darren Daulton Night" -- especially the magical moments when Desi Relaford went 3 for 3 ... or when there was that special moment of silence when Paul Sorrento sent Schilling home a loser with that pinch-hit, opposite-field grand slam (that's a "grand slam home run" for you Scott Rolen boobirds).
Lost in the shuffle of the bitter and the bittersweet was the fact that in the first-ever Phillies/Devil Rays game -- the night before "Darren Daulton Night," Tyler Green blanked the D-Rays on 3 hits in 7 IP to raise his record to 6-4 ... slowly-but-surely(?) making his comeback from the injuries which had caused the 1995 All-Star to finish that all-star season with an 0-5 record and then to miss the entire '96 season.
The story didn't end well for Tyler Green -- for June 26, 1998 marked the final W in his star-crossed career.
Tyler Green, not Tommy Greene, made 11 more starts for the Francona Phillies of '98 and went 0-8/5.45, though, after 30 days on the DL, he was masterful in limiting the Giants to one hit and no runs in six [[[ hey! ]]] How did Darren Daulton Night de-evolve into "Our Most-Heartfelt Tribute To Tyler Green"?
Some of us who attended DARREN DAULTON NIGHT AT THE VET (purely by accident ... the Mrs. had tickets well beforehand) have probably ranked Bubba, despite the abundance of grit and charisma, only #3 at catcher in our all-time Phillies all-time roster (behind Boonie and Lieby).
Don't look now, but if Carlos Ruiz has one or two more quality seasons in the red pinstripes, yup ... Dutch'll slip to #4.
Of course, none of this has anything at all to do w/ this modern-day World Series ... and the only "Ray" that most of us can name from the Phillies encyclopedia in our brains is Ray Culp, the Phillie rookie pitcher from '63 who made the All-Star team (14-11/2.97) that year and then, as a 21-year-old, came into that game protecting a 4-3 N.L. lead.
Lo and behold, Ray Culp's one inning of work began with Al Kaline hitting a comebacker and ended with Carl Yastrzemski hitting a foul popup.
So, why no "Ray Culp Night" at the ol' ballyard?
We'll have to ponder that after we figure out how/why the Phillies are 5-10 all-time vs. Tampa Bay (and that's only the baseball side, which doesn't include the Eagles-Buccaneers NFC championship game from whenever nor the Flyers-Lightning NHL conference finals from whenever else).
ESPN's Basebore Tonight show has punched up that stat ... mighty silly when ya get right down to it.
It's a lot like that AP story from the other night which began with: "The losingest team in pro sports history was soaked in champagne and whooping it up Wednesday night ..."
Such unkindly-worded prose -- "the losingest team in pro sports" -- is apt to make a Phillie Phan get a mite defensive and pointedly ask, "What the (flock) is THAT supposed to mean?"
Unless he/she barks, "Don't blame me. Blame frickin' Scott Rolen!"
Sure ... we all remember the hype of the 10,000th loss in franchise history last year ... but, that's all in the rear-view mirror now.
The 43-111 season of 1941 and the 42-109 season of 1942 were not the fault of Chase Utley.
We need to blame Danny Maurtaugh (yup ... THAT Danny Murtaugh), Pinky May (Milt's dad) and something known as WWII (which doesn't stand for World Wrestling whatever ...).
Last Weds. nite's NL-pennant-clinching win was the franchise's 8,882nd victory, which, in fact, ranks them among the Top 20 all-time winningest teams in pro sports history.
So, to answer the question: "No" ... we'll never vote for Travis Lee (Phillie for 2.5 seasons, '00-'02 ... Devil Ray in '03, '05, '06 -- except for that one week he spent w/ the Yankees in '04) to conduct that ceremonial first pitch ...
Tragic Lee got squeezed by the numbers game -- because he's only #4 on the depth chart of all-time fave Phillie #16s (behind J.C. Romero, Tony Longmire and -- gulp! -- Luis Aguayo).
Sorry, Travis-Tee ...