Monday, July 16, 2007

This one goes out to the Phillies we love

A quick tribute to a monumental achievement in sports before we return to all things Royals:


First loss: May 1, 1883, to the Providence Grays
10,000th loss: July 15, 2007, to the St. Louis Cardinals

Bill Lyon, a former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, had some poignant, rather heartwarming things to say about this occasion.

It's great the Phils lost No. 10,000 at home, because for about five minutes straight, Citizens Bank Park was filled with whistling, chanting and cheering. And why not? You can accuse Philadelphians of a lot of things, but not of being ashamed of their teams, which seem so closely entwined with the city's identity.

By the ninth inning, with the outcome inevitable, the boos turned to cheers. Fans in the sellout crowd of 44,872 thumbed their noses at the dubious mark, standing and applauding. One held up a sign that read: "10,000 N Proud" as NL MVP Ryan Howard struck out to end the game.

There's a poll from the above link, in which the question is posed, "Which major league team is most synonymous with losing?" The results so far:
Cubs, 43%
Devil Rays, 18%
Royals, 16%
Phillies, 13%
(A glimpse into the national psyche.)

A couple weeks back, a Franz Lidz article in Sports Illustrated, "The Beautiful Losers," pretty much took the best approach to No. 10,000. Extended excerpt:

The existentialist Samuel Beckett exhorted, "Fail better." And no professional sports team has ever failed better or with greater frequency than the Philadelphia Phillies....

Loss number 2,657, June 29, 1921

"Not anymore. I've been traded to the Giants!"

-- Casey Stengel, gimpy-kneed Phillies outfielder, when asked if his leg hurt. Told of the swap in the Baker Bowl locker room during a rain delay, Stengel dashed half-clothed into the deluge and gleefully circled the bases, sliding into each bag.

Loss number 7,124, June 26, 1971

"We were losing by [seven runs to the Pirates] when a flaky rookie named Roger Freed led off an inning with a hit. When Roger came around to score, he figured he was done for the day. But we nearly batted around in the inning, and Roger was nowhere to be found. Eventually, one of the coaches discovered him in the sauna, where he was trying to lose weight by doing sit-ups as he ate fried chicken."

-- Larry Bowa, shortstop and future Philadelphia manager

Losses number 7,619 and 7,620, July 10, 1977

"The Phillies would win the National League East even though we took only one of the nine games we played at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Two of those losses came during a doubleheader [against the Pirates]. In the clubhouse after closing out both defeats, Tug McGraw announced he had pitched so poorly that he belonged in jail. Then he took a cab to a city jail and asked the desk sergeant to put him behind bars. The cop was happy to, and Tug spent the night in lockup."

-- Jay Johnstone, outfielder

Loss number 9,481, Sept. 24, 2000

"On Fan Appreciation Day my tires were slashed."

-- Terry Francona

Loss number 9,987, June 15, 2007

"If we have 10,000 losses and 8,800 victories, that means we're only a hundred-and-something wins away from reaching the .500 mark."

-- Charlie Manuel, arithmetically-challenged Phillies manager, after a 12-8 loss to the Tigers.

Loss number 9,988, June 17, 2007

"A local sports-radio host wants the city to celebrate the 10,000th loss with a parade. I think that would be a disgrace. The Phils are my grandfather's team, my father's team, my team, my sons' team and my grandchildren's team. We fans will endure this humiliation, and then maybe we'll start on our second 10,000."

-- Ed Deal, 61-year-old ballpark security guard

Way to go, Phils. I wonder what two cents the Iron Lung of Shibe Park might have offered if he were around.

POSTSCRIPT: A delayed link here, but check out the video of the entire Phillies dugout emptying to help the grounds crew with the tarp, which was blowing dangerously out of control.

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