April 13, 2012

Harry, Whitey, and the Pizza Twins

Someone once told me that if you are born in Philadelphia, you will most likely die here. While I'm not sure if statistics can actually prove this, the thought of dying in Philadelphia led me to compile a list of things to do here before I die, a "Fuck it!" list. While I was actually born in Waterbury, CT, my visiting friends that were born in and will most likely die in Waterbury have described Philly as "Waterbury South" and "just a better Waterbury". Plus, I don't feel like I'm leaving any time soon.

So far, I've checked off a number of things on the list, none of which involve running up the Rocky steps or braving the lines at Pat's or Geno's - although, I've accidentally (drunkenly) done the latter in the past year. Twice.

While that first Sixers game I went to ended in over 100 points for Philly and free Big Macs for all, it will never beat my bike ride from my apartment in West Philly to Harry Kalas's grave site in Laurel Hill Cemetery. It wasn't the anniversary of HK's call of Matt Stairs' moon shot or the day the Phillies won the World Series. It was just a perfect kind of Sunday morning and the Phillies would be on later.

My favorite thing in the Harry Kalas Museum Exhibit, which is just one tiny room in a rickety house at the cemetery's entrance, was a Celebre's pizza box. Next to it was its story which is best summed up here in the speech HK gave when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame:
This is the ultimate honor in a game that I have loved since I was 10 years old thanks to Mickey Vernon. It’s very special to be inducted with the most acrobatic shortstop I ever saw play this beautiful game, Ozzie Smith, and the legendary Joe Falls from the Motor City. I now join my two partners with whom I worked when I first came to Philadelphia in 1971, By Saam and Richie Ashburn.
People ask me what it was like working with Richie. His Whiteness and I were together for 27 years, and it was such a joy. He not only brought to the booth baseball expertise, but also laughter. Whitey had a marvelous sense of humor. I remember doing games with him, and it would be getting late in the game, late in the evening, and Whitey would say on the air, “I wonder if the people at Celebre's Pizza are listening tonight?” Well, within 15 minutes, bang, pizzas are delivered to the radio booth.
This went on for a little while, and pretty soon Phillies management called him in, and they said, “Richie, Celebre's Pizza is not one of our sponsors. We can’t be giving them free plugs.” Now, we do do birthday and anniversary announcements on the air. So shortly after his meeting with the Philadelphia brass, it’s getting late again in the evening, and he’s getting hungry, he said. “Well, I have very special birthday wishes to send out tonight to the Celebre's twins, plain and pepperoni.”
I want to thank the Phillies for their undying support for the last 32 years. Especially to Bill Giles, who brought me to Philadelphia in 1971, the best professional move I ever made. To the players, coaches and managers over the years, one of the many beauties of this game is no matter how long you’ve been in it, you learn more about it every year, every day. Every year I see things on the field that I’ve never seen before. A feel for the game was learned from so many men in uniform I could not possibly name them all. But you know who you are, and I love you.
To the members of the media who have been so supportive over the years — my colleagues, the beat writers and columnists, the radio/TV productions staff and crews across the USA. To the scouts and general managers over the years who have shared their baseball knowledge and experience in hundreds of press rooms across America.
The love of my life, my wife, Eileen. My sons Todd, Brad and Kane. My stepdaughter, Kiki, my stepson, Travis, my stepgrandson, Cole. My brother, Jim, and his wife, Mary, and my nieces and nephews. Families sacrifice when their man is a baseball man. For seven months a year, we spend more time with our team than we do with our families. I thank you for being so understanding and supportive.
We come here to Cooperstown to laud our baseball heroes each year. But all of us laud America’s heroes from all walks of life whose selflessness is on display daily. Those that lay their lives on the line for our safety, you are in our hearts. There are some loved ones in heaven looking down on us today. Mom, Dad, Celia, Byrum, Whitey, Ray Shore, Art Perkins, Mike Capredo, I thank you. And to the most passionate sports fans in America, the Philadelphia fans. I have written a brief poem to you beautiful fans.
This is to the Philadelphia fan.
To laud your passion as best I can.
Your loyalty is unsurpassed.Be the Fightins in first or last. 
We come to the park each day,looking forward to another fray. 
Because we know you’ll be there,we know you really care. 
You give the opposing pitcher fitsbecause as one loyalist shouts, everybody hits.
To be sure in Philly, there might be some boos.Because you passionate fans, like the manager, hate to lose. 
Your reaction to the action on the field that you impart,spurs as broadcasters to call the game with enthusiasm and heart.
We feel your passion through and through.
Philadelphia fans, I love you.
And thank you all for sharing in a day that I will never forget. I love you. Thank you.
What a class act. Even though Harry Kalas passed away three years ago today, it's the retold stories, like that one about the pizza twins or where you heard that final out of the World Series called, that will keep this city thinking about him until the end. Thanks for all of the memories, HK.

April 5, 2012

Charlie Manuel, Man of Mystery

I was wide awake at 5:30 this morning. I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, and frantically began clicking through site after site hoping to find today's lineup somewhere. No cigar. All Uncle Cholly has revealed to the press - you know, the sports bloggers that matter, is the following:

"We've got a lineup. We have a left fielder, a first baseman, a second baseman, a catcher."

Today's lineup against the Pirates doesn't really matter all that much. It'll probably be John Mayberry Jr. or Ty Wiggington at first, Freddy Galvis (or is it Galveeees?) at second, and either Juan Pierre or Layce Nix in left field if Mayberry's at first. One thing that's certain outside of the Whos, Whats, and I Don't Knows is that Doc will return to the bump at 1:35 PM.

I'm just glad that the part of my brain that gave me fuzzy, nervous Christmas morning feelings as a seven-year-old still works. Baseball's so much easier to believe in.

Happy Opening Day!

This just in: