ThinkFest Preview: John Middleton on Innovation in Business, Sports and Philanthropy

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The Phillies ownership used to be a group of silent partners. But, as Philadelphia magazine has chronicled, in recent years one co-owner has stepped into the spotlight: John Middleton. The former cigar magnate is the public face of Phillies ownership — and is on a quest to return the team to its glory days of, um, eight years ago.

On November 15th, Middleton will do a Q&A session at ThinkFest, Philadelphia magazine’s annual big ideas event.  Read more »

Six Years Ago Today, Roy Halladay Threw a Playoff No-Hitter

On October 6, 2010, the Phillies began their playoff series against the Reds with the best record in baseball — 97 games won in the regular season — for the first time in team history.

Their starting pitcher for that game was Roy Halladay, making his first postseason start after a long, successful career. He’d finished that season with 21 of the Phillies wins, a 2.44 ERA, nice complete games and four shutouts — including a perfect game. But how would he handle the playoffs?

What happened was incredible. The Phillies jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings, with Halladay knocking in one of the runs. The game was basically over. Doc cruised, walking just one, and striking out eight. And though he needed some heroics from Carlos Ruiz to get that final out, the result was the same: Halladay pitched only the second playoff no-hitter in baseball history. The Phillies have been around since 1883; five years ago today was one of the best moments of their history. Read more »

Ryan Howard’s Long Goodbye

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For a second there, you could feel something familiar stirring in your chest again — a little surge of adrenaline, fluttering like a butterfly’s wings.

Ryan Howard had just reached out and swatted at a belt-high pitch, and the ball exploded off his bat the way it used to, and most of the people in the chilly ballpark leaned forward in anticipation the way they used to. If Harry Kalas had still been alive, his voice would’ve been climbing along with the spinning white dot, adding a touch of suspense for his listeners: “It could be… it might be…”

But Harry’s been gone for seven years now. The ball took a nose-dive at the warning track in centerfield, and slammed into a red Toyota advertisement in front of the bullpen. Howard, all 6-foot-4, 250 and some odd pounds of him, chug-a-lugged into second base with a double in his first at-bat in Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

The fans gave him an appreciative round of applause. It was the first of his final three games in a Phillies uniform, maybe the final games of his storied 13-year career. If Howard allowed his eyes to roam the stands, he surely noticed whole sections of empty blue seats. Even worse, there was a large, vocal contingent of New York Mets fans in the house, chanting “Let’s go Mets!” like they owned the joint. So this was how the most joyful era in Phillies history was drawing to a close. Goddamn it all.  Read more »

Phillies to Host Inaugural “Pride Night”

MLB pride logo.

MLB pride logo.

The Philadelphia Phillies will have an LGBT-themed night on their official calendar for the first time on Monday, August 29th.

Gay Community Night, an unofficial pride-themed event backed largely by the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (GALLOP), had been held during a Phillies game for the past 13 years but could not be listed on the team’s calendar because it was being hosted by an outside entity. Now under the direct support of the Phillies, the event will feature a scoreboard recognizing the community during the second and sixth innings, a rainbow flag flying under the American flag throughout the evening, and performances by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. This is progress for the National Baseball League, which currently has fewer than 10 teams hosting official LGBT-themed nights. Read more »

Why We Loved Carlos Ruiz So Much

Photo | Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

Photo | Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

The ball bounced in front of the plate, and it looked like Roy Halladay’s no-hitter was over.

It was the first game of the 2010 playoffs. The Phillies, riding high off consecutive World Series trips, were looking to make another run. The Phillies grabbed a 4-0 lead after two innings — including an RBI and a run from Halladay — and the game was pretty much over. As Halladay mowed down batter after batter, things got even more special. He was going for only the second no-hitter in postseason baseball.

Of course it looked like it might end on a dribbler in front of the plate. But the batter, Brandon Phillips, dropped his bat in front of the plate. Carlos Ruiz was blocked for a half second. Phillips sprinted toward first. The Phillies were probably still going to win the game if Phillips got on, but the incredible moment of a playoff no-hitter would be wrecked.

Friends and I watched the game upstairs at Jose Pistola’s. The whole bar held its breath when that ball bounced in front of the plate. It seemed to take forever. We shouldn’t have been that worried: Ruiz waited for a beat, scooped up the ball and tossed it to Ryan Howard at first. The no-hitter had been preserved.

“I was lucky,” Ruiz said afterward. “It was hard. He’s a fast runner. I had to throw it hard.” Read more »

Eric Bruntlett’s Unassisted Triple Play Was 7 Years Ago Today

Eric Bruntlett only played two seasons with the Phillies. They were his last two seasons in Major League Baseball. And with good reason: The backup utility infielder and outfielder hit just .202 in his two seasons with the Phillies.

But he had quite a few incredible moments as a member of the Phils. He hit a home run in the 2008 World Series, and scored the winning run in Games 3 and 5. He also, amazingly, is just one of 15 players to turn an unassisted triple play. He’s just one of two whose unassisted triple play ended a game.

It happened seven years ago today, a feat even more impressive than an earthquake. (After all, there have been more than two earthquakes in Philadelphia, but only Bruntlett and Mickey Morandini turned unassisted triple plays for the Phillies.) Read more »

MLB Clears Ryan Howard in Drug Probe

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball announced today it had cleared Phillies slugger Ryan Howard in its investigation into the Al Jazeera performance-enhancing drug report released late last year.

The international media giant’s report into the world of sports doping used an undercover athlete to secretly record people peddling PEDs. It linked Howard, two-time Super Bowl champ Peyton Manning, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and others to edge-enhancing drugs. MLB cleared Zimmerman today also; the NFL is investigating other football players named in the report.

“This thorough investigation did not find any violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by either Howard of Zimmerman,” MLB said in its statement. “Both Howard and Zimmerman fully cooperated with the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.” Charlie Sly, the pharmacist secretly recorded in the report who accused the two baseball players, did not cooperate with MLB. Read more »

Here’s What the Phillies Would Look Like if They Were Beatles

Lost in the hub-bub over Chase Utley’s return to Philadelphia was this: It was also Beatles night! On August 16th, 1966, the Beatles played JFK Stadium — which once stood catty-corner from Citizens Bank Park, roughly.

That show cost $5 and got you 11 songs. The stadium was about a third full. The Beatles would only play nine more shows.

The Phillies brought out Philadelphia’s Official Designated Beatles Stand-In™, Larry Kane, and Beatles tribute band Britishmania. The Phillies’ in-stadium crew also photoshopped the Phillies to be wearing mop-top Beatles hair. Presented below, a collection of those edits. Read more »

Did Phillies Fans Cheer Too Much for Chase Utley?

Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley waves to the crowd after he hit a grand slam against the Philadelphia Phillies during the seventh inning at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, August 16, 2016.

Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley waves to the crowd after he hit a grand slam against the Philadelphia Phillies during the seventh inning at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, August 16, 2016.

It wouldn’t be a sporting event in Philadelphia without a fan controversy.

This one was different, though. Instead of an incident involving a boorish fan that people needed to condemn — or explain — Philly fans are now in trouble for cheering too much. Cheering too much! This was a weird one.

It involved Chase Utley. He made his return to Philadelphia for the first time since the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers last season. Utley is no longer the player he once was; he’s been a below-average hitter this season. But against the Phillies last night, he looked like the Chase of old. He hit two homers, including a grand slam, in the Dodgers’ 15-5 destruction of the Phillies.

And, after both home runs, he was cheered. Extensively. And got a curtain call out of the dugout each time. It caused a bit of concern. Analyst (and former player) Marlon Anderson said on the postgame show it was disrespectful to Phillies pitchers to cheer the opposition so much. “Was it OK to cheer?” was the topic of discussion on Breakfast on Broad. Sports talk radio is buzzing. People are talking about it on Twitter. Was the cheering too much? Read more »

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