Philadelphia Phillies: Team Chemistry Sets Pace as Playoffs Draw Near
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Team chemistry is a sometimes overlooked factor in sports but it's nothing new in Philadelphia. The 1980 Cardiac Kids with an infield led by Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, and Pete Rose, and an outfield showcasing Garry Maddox, Bake McBride, and Greg Luzinski brought the Phillies their first world championship. The team chemistry in 1980 seemed almost subdued until the final out of the World Series as most of the players were older.
The 1992 Phillies that finished last in the National League East, were described by John Kruk as "24 morons and one Mormon." The clean living Dale Murphy being the one Mormon. In 1993 the Phillies were in my opinion the original "blue collar" or "going to work" team. Mullet Row was led by Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra (a perfect fit in Philadelphia after coming over from the Mets in 1989) John Kruk, and Mickey Morandini.
I usually separate everyday players from pitchers, but in 1993 pitchers Terry Mulholland, Mitch Williams and Tyler Green seemed to fit right into the practical jokes and all-around good time that surrounded this team. Somehow this hard-partying team won 97 games and earned a trip to the World Series. When the dust settled on the '93 season I could see most of these players regardless of their position on the field or status as a starter or backup all sitting around the bar together.
Cut to 2010, while this Phillies team displays a different type of chemistry I believe that it is the most special kind; the team unity that is displayed day in and day out is amazing.
Ryan Howard is the key to this fine-tuned machine. On Monday night after the Phillies clinched the NL East Howard once again showed his class and leadership when he halted the post-game celebration so that veterans Roy Halladay, Mike Sweeney, and Brian Schneider could pop the corks on the first bottles of celebratory champagne. A veteran himself, Howard has had the champagne shower in past years and knows the significance, letting the three who had never been to the playoffs before savor the special moment, unity.
On April 13th, 2009 the Phillies lost a legend in the booth when the longtime voice of the Phillies, Harry Kalas, passed away before the Phillies were hosted by the Washington Nationals.
The Phillies once again displayed the close knit unity that makes this group special when Shane Victorino hit a solo home run. He pointed to the broadcast booth that was missing the 39-year work horse Harry Kalas, whose picture and sport coat hung in the Phillies dugout the remainder of the season.
Before the game Howard organized a team smoke in honor of Harry the K, a longtime smoker and a few Parliament Lights were passed around the dugout. Although it may seem juvenile or politically incorrect to some, this is just another example of these men honoring those who came before them.
While attending Southwest Missouri State University Howard was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. It is this type of fraternity brother attitude that sets the Phillies apart from other teams. A foxhole mentality, when the chips are down you trust the man on your left or right; this is what we are witnessing this season.
Howard is 30 years old with seven years of major league experience but he balances that with a youthful clubhouse presence. You don't find that quality on other teams around the league.
This family-type bond is just the kind of chemistry that can carry a team like the Phillies as far as they want to go. And in the case of the Philadelphia Phillies they want to ride this wave all the way, together.
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