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Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Next Vince Papale Story -- Again

Most of the recent hits to this blog have been from people who have "Googled" Vince Papale's name and come up with a story I wrote about 2 years ago on now-former Eagle TE Jeff Thomason, who was plucked at Super Bowl time from being a site manager for the home builder Toll Brothers in southern New Jersey and added to the Super Bowl roster after his good friend and former fellow Eagles TE Chad Lewis suffered a Lisfranc sprain to his ankle and wasn't able to play in the Super Bowl. The analogy was somewhat attenuated, because unlike Papale, Thomas had played college football and had played pro football before returning to the NFL. I summoned the image of Papale because once again the Eagles plucked someone from the working world and added him to the roster. It was a great story while it lasted.

Well, there's another "Made for Disney" story going on in Philadelphia right now, and you can click here to read all about it. Phillies' catcher Chris Coste is an amazing story in perserverance, as he was a career minor-leaguer (playing in Indy leagues, the minors and in Mexico) for about the past 15 years. At 33, Coste came to the Phillies' camp in spring training, auditioning for a job as a back-up catcher and corner infielder. He hit about .470 in Spring Training, only to be the last cut when the Phillies acquired David Dellucci from the Rangers.

So Coste got sent to AAA, to Scranton Wilkes-Barre, where he handled the pitchers well and, yes, honored that euphemism by hitting about .177 or thereabouts. When Mike Lieberthal went down with a knee injury and prospect Carlos Ruiz struggled in his first call-up of the season, Coste was called up (given what Coste was hitting at the time, the call-up seemed odd, but the Phillies were thin at catcher and Coste had showed them something in the spring). At the end of July, his job became more secure when the Phillies had sent Ruiz back down to the minors and designated back-up catcher Sal Fasano for assignment (ultimately trading him to the Yankees for two Tom Tresh cards and a Reggie bar).

There were very good reasons for all of this -- Coste is now hitting about .365, catching Cole Hamels and Jon Lieber and, at 33, making a case for himself that he should be the Phils' starting backstop next season (Lieberthal is a free agent).

And, yes, the movies have come a-calling.

Forget about that, though, as this is a very good story. And before Phillies' detractors point to the ascension of Coste as what's wrong with the Phillies and their farm system, think again. Offense isn't the Phillies' problem -- they're in the top 3 in runs scored in the National League. Pitching woes have plagued the team all year, and no one has griped about the catching, just the throwing from the mound.

Especially when one of the catchers is hitting about .365 in his rookie year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just watched "Invincible"last night and was inspired to Google him. Interesting stuff, and made a great story. While I watched this I could not forget an experience with a player I knew who had an equally remarkable story. Disney might be interested....

In 1982, Don Beebe was at least a 2 sport athlete at Kaneland high school about an hour west of Chicago, IL. This was a farming community, and certainly not known as a birthplace of a lot of professional athletes. Don was good enough in track to go downstate, and eventually attended Western Illinois University before transferring to Chadron State University.

As the story goes, NFL scouts were at his (?) college timing someone for possible selection in the upcoming NFL draft. Don, walking through the gym barefooted, was not even on the scope of the NFL scouts. He looked over the shoulder of one of the scouts, asking what the time was for the guy who had just run the 40. When informed of the time, his reply was "I could do better than that". The scouts timed him, barefoot in a gym, running and he did indeed best the time of the prospect the scouts had come to see.

Don ended up the 82nd overall pick in the 1989 draft to the Buffalo Bills. He subsequently played in 6 Super Bowls, 4 with the Bills and 2 with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he ended up winning a ring at Super Bowl XXXI. He is best remembered for knocking the ball from a prematurely celebrating Leon Lett's hand in Super Bowl XXVII, saving a touchdown even though his team was down 52-17 at the time.

After retiring from football, Don opened "Don Beebe's House of Speed," which he still operates. While in the NFL he was considered one of the fastest players, turning in 4.3 times in the 40 yard dash.

One last note: when nearby Aurora Christian was looking for a coach, Don interviewed. The interview went well, but the interviewer was worried they might not be able to afford the salary they thought Don would be looking for, and told him this. When asked how much he wanted to coach their team, Don's reply was "nothing". His team, which had been 23-36 in the previous seven seasons started his first season as coach at 3-0.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and for the record, Beebe's 6 Super Bowl appearances is an NFL record.

4:16 PM  
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