Matt and I left State College in a minivan heading east on 322 and it was raining cats and dogs. By the time we got to Harrisburg and banked left to the Pennsy turnpike, it was no longer raining cats and dogs; it was raining bull mooses and elephants. Wipers at high speed was the only possible way to see twenty feet of highway. 'This is crazy,' I thought.
"You got to dance with the one who brought you"
Going into center city the rain was back to cats and dogs and slacking off. We parked on Broad Street and looking like two deck hands on the Maid of the Mist, we anxiously skipped down the subway steps and caught a train that was jammed packed. We stood the ten minutes or so to the Pattison stop, then followed the multitude back up the steps and into the cool October night air. It was sprinkling now and by the time we got to our seats, the rain had stopped.
"Stay with the one that wants you"
Matt was 13 when he and his dad on a perfect evening for baseball, watched from their first row upper deck seats behind first base at the Vet, Curt Shilling take apart the Toronto Blue Jays with a five hitter in game five of the 1993 World Series. What a game! What a night.
It took 14 years and lots of report cards through junior high, high school and college--some good, some not so good, and some that didn't make it to mom and dad's hands--to replicate that championship feeling. In the final game of the 2007 season against Washington, with 44,000-plus towel waving fanatics at Citizens Bank Park--scroeboard watching and roaring on every pitch from the sixth inning on--a talent loaded Phillies team back-peddled into a division championship. (And what it looked like from our seats.)
"The one who is going to love you when all the others go home"
Fourteen years is a lot of time to think about a fastball down and in, which is exactly where Mitch Williams threw it to Joe Carter in the bottom of the ninth; at night, in a foreign country, with lots of kids staying up late. "Aw, Ma, one more inning, please? It's the World Series."
"Don't let the green grass fool ya"
The 13 year old is a big boy now and has his own company; a big shot entrepreneur, and William's fastball to Carter is old news. But the lanky, funky, smart-aleck hard throwing lefty who struck me out in Dream Week, just got a major career boost from the New York Times with a nice feature in Sunday's paper. Well, sort of.
"Don't let the moon get to ya"
The Times story, nearly a full page, isn't all peaches and cream. It points out some of the Wild Thing's weaknesses, like anchoring 610 radio and yelling profanities at a female referree at one of his kid's games. His response? He's an emotional guy. I am too, but...
"Dance with the one that brought you and you can't go wrong"
Which brings me around to Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler. Wheels is without a doubt the best analyst in baseball, bar none. I've played some ball in my life, been to some Phillies games--still go to 15-plus a season--and listen, watch and read about baseball as much as I can, even write about it now and then. But when I listen to Wheels I can appreciate his depth of knowledge for the game. I learn something every time I watch or listen to him, whether he's with T-Mac, Sarge, or Harry the K. I tip my hat to the Phillies because along the way, they could have replaced Wheels with an "up and comer." But they didn't, and shouldn't. It would have been a big mistake.
And sure, I get pumped when Harry (plus Sixers call "are you kidding me?") makes a home run call, who doesn't? But when it comes to knowing the game and articulating it day in and day out, nobody does it better than Wheels. He's a hall of fame broadcaster who adds so much to the game and is appreciated my thousands of staunch Phillies fans. Wheels has been there and has been good long before Tim McCarver dyed his hair.
Mitch Williams and others like him are working their way through the system to be where Wheeler is now, and perhaps take his place when retirement calls.
But I have some advice for them: Keep practicing.