A Phestival in Philly

Friday, July 23, 2010–Phillies 6, Rockies 0

After my visit to Yankee Stadium, I took off for 2½ weeks in London. I have written extensively (and perhaps exhaustively) about that experience elsewhere, but since there was no baseball in the UK (I didn’t even get a chance to check out a cricket match), I’m just going to skip to when I got back to the states and continued on down the coast. All that really needs to be said about my trip to London for the purposes of this blog is that by this point, I was worn out from traveling–physically, emotionally and mentally drained.

That means I didn’t get to do the kind of wandering around in Philadelphia that I wanted to. So, I guess I’m going to have to talk about the last time I was in Philly, way back in ’92. At that time, I was collecting mints. As in United States Mints. A trip to the Denver mint that my parents probably thought was something to do with their 9-year-old to kill an afternoon sparked a numismatic fever that lasted a good 10 years (and which I still suffer the occasional relapse). Of course, after seeing one mint, I had to see them all. Fortunately, there were (and still are) only four of them, and only two were open to the public. So, on a trip to Washington and New York, we stopped for a day in Philadelphia to see the mint and Independence Hall. I’m sorry to say it was so long ago, I don’t really remember much more than impressions of the city, it felt like the block that both those buildings fronted on was very long and there were a lot of neat old brick buildings around there.

So, when I go rolling into town 18 years later, I decide that after I’m settled into my hotel (within walking distance of the stadium), I might just go back and see what else downtown Philadelphia has to offer, and what other insights–besides “neat”–can be gleaned. I got to my room around 2pm, and promptly crashed. I woke up about 45 minutes before first pitch. I decided to do the exploration of downtown the next morning, so I set the alarm for 7:30 am and headed for the ballpark.

So, that ballpark… It’s a party zone. The crowd got there pretty late, but by first pitch the place was rocking. In terms of buzz, this place was comparable to Boston, but unlike Fenway, I suspect the baseball game was just an excuse to party, and for hard partying people to be seen partying by as many other people as possible. There was a very loud bachelorette and her bachelorette party the next section over that had a large banner printed for the occasion, “phinal phling before the ring.”

Meanwhile, an army of “Phanstormers”–Phillies employees, paid to spread cheer–roamed the stands looking for phans who were celebrating a birthday. The young man two seats over (who had just reached the big 1-5) was one such victim. Between the 2nd and 3rd, a Phanstormer came right to his seat and asked “are you Justin?” Upon confirming that she had the right person, she proceeded to bellow to the entire seating section “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Justin, and it’s his 15th birthday today, so let’s all give him a phantastic Phillies welcome and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him!” and, as we all did so, she proceeded to throw confetti on him from a Phillies batting helmet. By the time it was over, Justin had turned as red as the Phillies cap he was wearing.

Roy Halladay wasn’t perfect, just very good, shutting out the Rockies for eight innings on five hits. None of the Rox made it to third. Meanwhile, Aaron Cook was playing with fire the first 4 innings, getting out of jams in the 2nd and 4th. The first 4 batters got on and eventually scored in the 5th, and Cook was given his walking orders after Ross Gload’s 3-run homer. The only other excitement was I had a birds-eye view of some of Philadelphia’s finest removing three fans from the section in the lower deck. I hesitate to call them “unruly,” because–how could anyone tell?

The next morning, around 7:30, the alarm went off, and I got up, got dressed, and promptly crashed again–just barely making the 11:00 checkout time or my 11:30 train to Baltimore. So, my impressions of Philly are still that it’s “neat.”

Here’s the scorecard.

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Rocky Mountain highlight reel

Sunday, April 29, 2007–Rockies 9, Braves 7 (11)

This was a bus-by-night operation. I went up to Denver on the overnight Greyhound, went to the game and came back on the overnight bus back. I couldn’t sleep on the bus, and because there wasn’t much to see, I wound up spending the entire trip up looking at the moon. About the time we got Las Vegas (New Mexico, that is), I felt a tickling at the back of my throat. By the time we got to Springer, I was talking to the moon. In Raton, I bought a roll of cough drops and found myself dizzy walking around.  By Colorado Springs, I was half expecting the moon to start talking back. It was just about the worst 24-hour flu I’ve ever had–I  belonged at home, in bed with a thermometer in my mouth and a cold compress on my forehead.

In Trinidad, the entire bus got a very important civics lesson. A gentleman who didn’t speak English wanted to get off the bus, not understanding that we weren’t scheduled to stop there. At first, the driver tried to explain to him that he’d have to go to Pueblo and change busses there, but then made an announcement over the PA, explaining the situation in succinct terms. “Who wants me to keep on schedule, and who wants me to turn around, let this guy off and possibly make you miss your connections?”
     “I don’t mind turning around,” I said.
     “Is that the consensus?” he asked.
     “That’s just me.” Nobody else said anything, so we turned around. Later, people who were trying to catch a connecting bus in Denver were grumbling about being late. A nice little fable about taking part in our great democratic process, two of them would have been able to outvote me.

I walked around Denver a bit in the early morning, but soon decided that if I couldn’t be in bed, I should be as inert as possible, so I went to the ballpark at 10:00 for a game that started at 1:30, and sat outside the gate. I swore I’d keep the cheering to a minimum because my throat was really bothering me. That proved to be problematic.

I know that usually when I see a team on its way to the World Series, I say that there was some sort of special buzz around the stadium. Not so here. It was April 29, and the Rox were still in single digits in the win column. In the sports section, there were suggestions from (those oh so erudite and refined) sports fans that the owners be fired, that the manager be fired, that the GM be fired, and my personal favorite: that the team change its name to the Pebbles. About a third of the announced attendance of 31,445 came dressed as empty seats, and another sixth were in Braves apparel. There was no buzz at all—until the seventh inning.

On my scorecards, I use exclamation marks to denote moments of great excitement. Usually, an outstanding defensive play or a walk off, but also occasionally a particularly high-tension strikeout or other moment when a pitcher wiggles his way out of a jam. I do not hand out exclamation marks liberally. A typical game gets one or two, and some don’t get any at all. This game has nine. Here’s the rundown:

  • 1) Chipper Jones robbed Troy Tulowitzki of a double down the line in the first (Remember that-Jones and Tulo, it comes up again). 
  • 2) In the third, Tulowitzki went deep into the hole to take a hit away from Edgar Rentaria.
  • 3, 4 & 5) In the seventh, Tulo was in the right place at the right time, snaring a sharp line drive off the bat of Chipper Jones on a hit-and-run. He then stepped on second to double off the runner there before tagging the guy coming in from first. An unassisted triple play¹, which gets three exclamation points. (Why three? Because it’s an Unassisted! Triple! Play!) That preserved the tie.
  • 6) On the other side of the stretch, Jeff Francouer got an exclamation point for hauling in what should have been an RBI double by Garret Atkins…
  • 7, 8) …and then picked up two more in the ninth with his diving, corkscrewing robbery of what would have been the game-winning hit, a little Texas-leaguer off the bat of Clint Barmes, to send the game into extra innings.
  • 9) In the eleventh came the cherry on top: one point inside the diamond representing Matt Holliday’s walk-off 2-run homer.

So much for not cheering. Because it was a 9-exclaimation-point game, and I found myself in a section with a large group of Braves fans doing their tomahawk chops, I took it as a point of pride that even though I am not a Rockies fan, I was able to drown them out on the line “Root, root, root for the ROCKIES…” In the ninth inning, a young boy in orange was having a grand time dancing in the aisles on the jumbotron. He had an even grander time in the eleventh when he was again on the big screen with the words “rally dancer” superimposed and the crowd going nuts for him.

I got home entertained, but feeling like I was gonna die. But I didn’t, and that’s what’s given me the opportunity to upload the scorecard.


¹ This is one of the rarest plays in the game. In the hundred-plus years that Major League baseball has been played, Tulowitzki’s unassisted TP was only the 13th to be turned in a regular season game, and the 14th overall.