After the Phillies failed in their League Championship quest, I planned a hard luck blog in my head.
While words festered in there like a zit from a chocolate Ding Dong, I asked my dad to share a story I’d once heard him tell. But before he did, he wanted me to make one promise:
“Title your blog: My dad says, ‘Don't pick on the heavy guys.’”
I had to commit because every writer loves a theme and every story needs a hero, and my old man was the key to both. So after I exchanged a title for a gift, he fed me one:
“Bradley was his name. Bradley Johnson. He was our second baseman. Good little leaguer. Always was the best dressed eleven-year-old I ever coached. Hard-nosed and bright—extremely so. We were playing Guttenberg and their pitcher was good-sized for twelve and threw hard. Smoke came behind the ball. After three innings of him it seemed we had done nothing but hit foul balls and cower.
Now I had kids who were not usually afraid because our pitchers threw hard to them in practice. But this guy was exceptional and just that much faster, and perhaps because he was bigger, they were jumping out of the box. So I had a talk about this between innings. I was never one to sugarcoat things, and to stick with this philosophy, I said, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t play teams that are this good. Or maybe I could ask their coach to throw the ball slower. Or perhaps we should just put some girl teams in the schedule.’
No one had anything to say.
The next batter up was Bradley. I don’t remember which pitch it was—the second or third, but he sent it screaming into center field. I was coaching first and after he rounded the bag and hustled back, he looked up from under his too large helmet with bright eyes—eyes that said he’d heard me, and said, ‘That’s a lot harder than you think.’
Our next hitter one-hopped it off the wall and before the inning closed, their coach walked to the mound, head down, and took his pitcher off the field in tears. I found out this was the first time any team had ever hit him. I didn’t share that with my players until much later, and their reactions are a bit foggy in my mind now, but I still vividly recall Bradley’s eyes when he glared up at me and said, ‘That’s a lot harder than you think.’”
The Phillies are still feeling the sting of elimination in a playoff season where all signs pointed to world domination.
We could talk on and on about who was out-pitched, out-hit, out-coached, or out-dueled; we could analyze the stats and ascertain why the underdog came out on top and the odds lied.
We could examine why the Giants “hit the ball where it’s pitched” while the Phillies were looking for their pitch to hit.
We could compare Charlie’s devotion to his starters to Bochy’s bench theory of musical chairs.
We could analyze the shortfalls of a long-ball game and the benefits of small ball.
And we could live the rumors that Phil’s fans are frontrunners or we can stand behind our team and buy what Charlie says, “That’s baseball.”
The reason I’m not distraught about the night where all the rally stayed on the towels is because I spent the hours before that game reflecting on the life of a friend. Glenna’s last wish was to be celebrated in an atmosphere of joy and gratitude with friends rejoicing in the music she loved and the service she had planned.
But as hard as I tried, every word that was spoken made it harder to breathe. Each attempt to utter a word to a song she had chosen made my face tremble, my throat seize and my tears run. It was a trifecta of sadness.
A few hours later, it occurred to me that I had failed miserably to carry through on Glenna’s request to pay my last respects with happiness in my heart, but it wasn’t for lack of effort or desire.
And if I ever see her again, I know exactly what I’ll say: “It’s not as easy as you think.”
I’m sure that’s how the players who made up the postseason roster feel about baseball—someone wins and someone loses.
We can sit back and point fingers, pass blame, analyze misfortune, and harbor guilt, or we can accept that everything worth having in life is hard to get.
I’m not embarrassed by the loss nor do I feel let down by the performance. What disappoints me is that most of the post game reports still refer to the series as lousy.
Maybe they're writing this because that's what people want to hear. Perhaps fans aren’t happy until they know the loss has taken its toll on the team.
One loss that day had taken its toll on me and I refused to let the outcome of Game 6 do the same. So I decided since I’d started Tweeting the series in Game 5, I’d bow up and do the same in Game 6.
I’d failed to keep my chin up for a friend so I thought the least I could do was be there for the Phils. My attempt went something like this:
“If the Phils lose I’m gonna start making Jayson Werth paper dolls—I’ll dress him in whipped cream.”
“If the Phillies are facing elimination, they just had a Kaopectate inning.”
“Ken Rosenthal is hanging out in the Phillies dugout hoping the momentum will help him grow.”
“Jayson Werth's hair is wild. Man, I wish it was regulation to wear no pants.”
“Blown opportunity. I will not expand on that as an innuendo.”
“Watching Jayson Werth on TV through my binoculars definitely enhances a few things.”
“I'm so nervous I've had four hairstyles in five innings. Lincecum's had two.”
“I wish I was a base. What I'd give to be tagged by Jayson Werth.”
“If ears get longer as we age, Lincecum better grow more hair.”
“I've been watching pitch placement on the Fox Tracker. Sooner or later they have to find me.”
“Giants are as hot as jalapeño peppers. You'll feel the effects the next day too.”
“They said, ‘Buster's the kind of guy who would sneak behind the barn to ‘chew a piece of gum.’’ I wish I’d thought to call it that.”
“I'm gonna brew a new Phillies beer. It'll have no calories, no carbonation, and no color. I'm calling it, ‘O-fer’”
“Phillies have a double play deficiency. I probably have a salve for that.”
“My son said if you take the first letter from his name, you have ‘ick.’ I said, ‘If you do that to mine, you're left with an ‘itch.’”
Harmless these one-liners were, but the Tweets that got me in trouble with my dad accumulated over the last two games:
“Sandoval took 10 pitches. They're giving him oxygen.”
“How to get Pablo Sandoval to hit a single: put a chicken pot pie on first base.”
“The Giants gave Sandoval #48 because they needed numerals that covered a lot of space.”
“If I made a Pablo Sandoval paper doll, I don't know that there's enough whipped cream in the world to dress him.”
“I can't tell the difference between Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval, especially at the buffet.”
That’s when my dad said, “Don’t pick on the heavy guys, they’ll come back to haunt you.”
Sure enough, Uribe did. He got me and Ryan Madson with a rare dinger over the right field wall for the go-ahead run. If you want to blame me for the Phillies' downfall, go ahead.
Since my chest is flat, my shoulders have very little to do but carry this burden.
It will simply add to the pain of my Jayson Werth withdrawals.
One fan said to me, “You ho, what happened to your lust for Raul last year?”
Guilty as charged. Matter of fact, that’s probably one thing I qualify for: The Phillies Whore. It has a nice ring to it: A middle-aged woman with a knack for turning a lewd phrase about baseball doesn’t have a lot of options.
My husband says, “Tell them it’s not as easy as they think.”
Now you know why I keep him around.
All the attention I pay to men in uniform including pregame, post game, news and blogging certainly doesn’t pay an enviable hourly wage, but it’s a wonderful passion to have.
Like my friend, Glenna, said about her obsession with playing music: “You might have to pay me to stop.”
That’s exactly how I feel.
See you at the ballpark.
Copyright 2010 Flattish Poe all rights reserved.
Catch life one-liner at a time on Twitter.