BACK IN THE ’60s, when I was in grade school in Glenside, two of my classmates were named Dawn and Lori. Dawn was the daughter of Phillies catcher Clay Dalrymple, and Lori was the daughter of Phils right fielder Johnny Callison, MVP of the 1964 All-Star game. Know what I remember about those dads? Not one thing. I went to birthday parties at their houses, watched them mow their lawns (themselves), had them serve me hot dogs at neighborhood picnics — and they didn’t stand out in a crowd any more than my dad did.
I thought of Dawn and Lori for the first time in a long time in July 2007. I was watching TV; the Phillies were playing the Rockies out in Denver. It was a historic occasion: The Phils had racked up 9,999 franchise losses and were waiting for the 10,000th shoe to drop. Still, they were up 5-4 when the game went into rain delay just after the sixth inning. The Rockies ground crew brought out the tarp, but a gusty wind whipped it onto their heads instead of the field. The home team had bailed for the locker room, but Shane Victorino led a charge of Phillies back onto the rain-swept diamond. Ryan Howard pinned the tarp down with one mighty knee while pitcher Adam Eaton and rookie Michael Bourn helped Victorino wrassle it into submission. The job done, they trotted away with no more ado than Lori’s father handing out candy on Halloween. After the delay, Shane slammed a two-run homer, and the Phils won, 8-4.
That was when I knew: This was our team.
The Phils would lose that 10,000th game a week later. They finished 89 and 73 that season, good enough for first place in the NL East, then dropped the division series to the Rockies. We were okay with that. We were still getting to know these guys — Chase and Ryan, Cole and Jayson and Carlos — and manager Charlie Manuel, after his third season. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves, get too greedy. This wasn’t the Yankees, yo.
It would take the next season, 2008, to make us true believers. Philadelphia fans aren’t easy — hell, the world knows that. But why should we be, with what we’ve been through — those 10,000 losses, the ’64 debacle, not to mention a pro basketball team that’s going nowhere fast, a hockey franchise that can’t get its act together, and a football team led by a quarterback who thinks getting to the playoffs ought to shut us up? Brrrr!