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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game 3 of the World Series -- I Was There

The entire family ventured (and, if you know about last night's game, ventured is the right word) to Citizens Bank Park to watch Game 3 of the World Series between the hometown Philadelphia Phillies and the visiting (and media darlings) Tampa Bay Rays. The game itself was compelling, and, as you know, the Phillies won, 5-4, in the bottom of the ninth. The following are some observations:

1. Major League Baseball dishonored and disserved the Philadelphia fans last night. The Phillies have very devoted fans. The team sold out 50 of its 81 home dates. The Phillies hadn't hosted a World Series game since 1993, and this was the first World Series game at Citizens Bank Park. During the regular season, the home team can call off a game before it starts, and, once the game starts, the crew chief determines when and whether to call a game. Understandably, because it's the World Series, the Commissioner of Baseball makes both calls.

And he blew it last night. The game should have been postponed. Yes, I know that my team won (and I shudder to imagine the mood of the fans upon exiting the stadium had the team lost), but to start a game at 10:05 p.m. or so was wrong. Fans were encouraged to get to the stadium early to avoid parking hassles, and, probably, to eat a pre-game meal at the stadium (regular-season games start at 7:05 p.m., a natural lead-in for dinner, whereas many fans -- we included -- opted to eat at home (and save considerable money and enjoy better nutrition) because of the posted 8:35 p.m. start. So, many fans got to the stadium at 5:30 and got soaked (one fan told me that he and his family got so soaked by 6 p.m. that they left the stadium, went home to change and came back).

Our story was different. We arrived at an overpriced parking lot (I don't see the justification for charging $11 for parking during the regular season and $25 for parking during the post-season. Heck, downtown Philadelphia restaurants suffer because those who own parking garages charge around $25 for an evening's worth of parking -- many opt to dine at fine establishments in the suburbs, where they can park on the street for free). We arrived at 7:10 p.m. and stayed in our car until 8 p.m., at which time we walked toward the stadium. We got inside at around quarter after eight and headed toward our seats.

We stood under an overhang until about 10:00 p.m.

Puddles. Wind. Nowhere to sit and be dry. An edgy group of fans not happy with their circumstances. People with children wondering how long their kids would last. And, of course, up in the upper deck on the leftfield line, we had to endure a group of adult-adolescents who were shouting profanities to Tampa Bay fans who were walking by. Some of it was pretty vulgar, and I did take a stand for dignity and decency by calling them on it and telling them to watch their mouths because children were present. (I also had an umbrella with me that I was prepared to use to defend myself should I need it; thankfully, challenged and somewhat chastened, they retreated, at least for the moment).

Finally, it was 10:00 p.m., and it was time to take our seats.

But, Bud Selig, what you did was not fair. Kids aren't playing baseball in greater numbers. Starting a World Series game at 10:05 p.m. doesn't help your case.

Sponsors or no sponsors. California TV audience or no California TV audience.

2. Tampa Bay fans who came to the game were brave. I talked with several and assured them that not all Philadelphia fans were drunken, profane ignoramuses. They conceded that they had met several dozen, and they agreed that there are probably similar ignoramuses in each stadium in the country. Philadelphia is no different from many places, especially New York. Still, profane and assaulting behavior toward anyone is not acceptable.

3. The sign of the night. Fans in left field unrolled a banner that had a picture of a cow bell (the Tampa Bay trademark noisemaker) with the headline "This Isn't a Bell," right next to a picture of the Liberty Bell with a headline, "This Is a Bell." When that poster was flashed on the big screen at Citizens Bank Park, the fans roared.

4. Philadelphia fans made a statement to the world last night. It might have rained on us, it might have gotten a little chilly by the end of the game, and the late start meant that the game went to almost 2 in the morning, but we sat and stood together, tall, proud and loud, until the wee hours. If anything, we gathered strength toward the game's end, and we told everyone that despite any weather thrown at us, we'll stay, we'll cheer, and we cheer loudly to the very end. Except for the ignoramuses out there, Philadelphia fans did a great job last night (and, by the way, rumors about our throwing snowballs at Santa Clause in the early 1970's are greatly exaggerated; the fans who did so did so because the guy playing Santa was drunk and disgracing the costume -- nothing more).

5. World Series fans are wealthier than the regular-season fans and, as a result, aren't used to sitting in the seats for the Series, or, aren't used to going to the games because they only go when the game is an event. What do I mean? Translated, that the fans aren't as passionate and knowledgeable as the regular-season crowd. They'll cheer for ordinary fly balls because they can't judge them the way regular-season fans can (in determining which will or will not fly out of the park). They also don't seem to cheer as loudly as regular-season fans, which is somewhat hard to believe given how loud CBP was last night.

6. I actually had a guy sitting behind me who was yelling that Grant Balfour had pooped in his pants. Continuously. Okay, Bozo, if you read blogs, you exposed yourself for being a fool last night. The est of the section looked at you with a mixture of contempt and incredulity.

7. I also had a guy sitting behind me who left his seats and must have opted to stand somewhere because he couldn't stand the fans who were waving their towels. Okay, first they were heavier to wave because we used ours to dry our seats. Second, why didn't you mentally prepare for this before you got to the game? Where have you been? We've been waving towels since the end of September? Deal with it.

8. I also had a guy sitting behind who yelled loudly and voiced his displeasure because the fans were unwilling or too chilled to cheer as loudly and frequently as he was. I admired his zeal, but not his profanity. He used the "f" word as creatively as contestants on Food Network's Iron Chef use the ingredient of the show. Our kids weren't thrilled. Thankfully, they're well-versed in dignity and manners not to adopt that behavior. Memo to Hard Case: Chill out and let people enjoy the game the way they want to. If you want to be a cheerleader, get some electrolysis and waxing, a better face, dress in drag and try to become an Eagles' cheerleader.

9. Oh, the Ancient Mariner! We Philadelphia diehards knew that Jamie Moyer had a good game in him for the post-season. There were several reasons for our optimism. First, Moyer had a good season, even if he had two bad starts in the post-season. Second, the Rays are a young team who hit fastballs well, and Moyer relies on command and changing speeds. Third, the Rays hit righties better than lefties. Moyer was masterful last night, and got a huge ovation when he left the game. It was a great moment for a grand guy.

10. Unsung Phillies! Eric Bruntlett. J.C. Romero. Carlos Ruiz. Bruntlett has been a good man off the bench all year. Romero aced his post-season exam last night. And Ruiz has become the master field general, an excellent pitch caller and handler of pitchers who has displayed great offense in the post-season. Rays' skipper Joe Maddon had a five-infielder defense in the bottom of the ninth to create a 1-2-3 double-play situation, and Ruiz chopped one down the third-base line for an infield hit and the Phillies' victory. The place went nuts (as it did on Ruiz's home run), and we couldn't have had a more worthy hero.

11. The "Rocky" theme still resonates. The home club played the theme from Rocky going into the bottom of the ninth. Yes, the movie won an Oscar before the Phillies' only World Series win, but the inspiration of the song pumped the crowd bigtime. Thereafter, the Phillies managed to pulled out the game, a dramatic victory.

12. The Phillies might have had their goats, too. RF Jayson Werth has been inept on the bases in two of the three World Series games. Manager Charlie Manuel has made some questionable calls deploying pinch hitters and in positioning his infield. It was curious that he went with lefty Geoff Jenkins in the seventh instead of Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs both of whom are better hitters. Also, it was curious that with the Phillies up 4-1 he all but conceded 2 runs to the Rays in the 7th when he kept the infield back with men on second and third and no outs. Still, the home team won, and that's what matters.

13. I was happy to leave the park with a victory. The wet, tired and cold crowd wouldn't have been happy leaving with a loss. That would have been understandable, given how long we stood and waited for the game to start.

14. Going home it was great hearing a replay of Harry Kalas's home run calls on the radio. Thank God for simple joys. Hearing Harry's dulcet tones with his signature cry of "That ball is outta here!" is a real treat. Hearing Larry Andersen's guttural "Get outs" or cheers is a distraction.

All in all, though, a great night. Jamie Moyer was terrific, the bullpen pitched well enough, and we saw home runs from Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Yes, we did think that Evan Longoria's long fly to left was going out (only to remain inside the park enough for Pat the Statue Burrell to catch). Yes, we dismayed about the Phillies' inability to hold B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, and, yes, we were ticked when the 1B umpire missed an "out" call on Carl Crawford's drag bunt. But that's baseball. And all our team needed was one run more than the other guys.

We were there together, as a family, spending good times together at the crowning event of the baseball season, the World Series. It was a priceless evening, all things considered.


Blogger Chickadee said...

This is a clash of two very good teams (too bad a couple of Rays aren't hitting at their best), it's a shame that it's not getting good ratings.

2:10 AM  

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