In 1979, Philadelphia Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter signed free agent Pete Rose to a four-year, $3.2 million contract.
The signing would pay huge dividends as the Phillies swept their way to their first World Series title in 1980, beating the Kansas City Royals. Sure Rose had plenty of swagger, but his winning attitude convinced Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt that "Herbie," as he called him, was a superstar.
Carpenter, disillusioned by free agency and rising salaries, sold the team in 1982 to a group headed by Bill Giles.
In between, there was a lot of losing. I had a 12-game plan at Veterans Stadium in 1986, when the Phillies finished 86-75 in second place in the National League East. A mirage for sure.
There was a series of bad managers: John Felske, Lee Elia, Nick Leyva, and yes, Terry Francona, who fashioned a 285-363 record from 1997 to 2000.
The hiring of Larry Bowa and the free agent signings of Billy Wagner and Jim Thome brought excitement back to the city, but Bowa could not deliver and was fired shortly before the end of the 2004 season.
When Charlie Manuel came to town in 2005, he seemed like a country bumpkin, a personal caddy for slugging first baseman Jim Thome. Thome was shipped out of town after the 2005 season to make way for upcoming slugger Ryan Howard.
When Pat Gillick was hired as general manager in 2006, things started to happen. Home-grown talents Chase Utley, Howard, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz, and Jimmy Rollins started to flourish.
Rollins, in particular, after a second-place finish in 2006, predicted that the Phillies were the "team to beat" in the upcoming 2007 season. The impossible happened and the Phillies won the National League East on the last day of the season.
Gillick brought in Shane Victorino through Rule 5; acquired free agents Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs; and traded for Pedro Feliz, Joe Blanton, Matt Stairs, and Brad Lidge.
Gillick is now a special consultant to the Phillies as Ruben Amaro has taken over as GM.
I know the Phillies' story has been hashed and rehashed, but my good B/R friend Richard Marsh is retelling his life as a New York Mets fan, and years, and years, and years of frustration.
It is funny how a baseball franchise can flourish or fall.
This Phillies' 10-game winning streak (which ended with a 10-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs Wednesday) was a heady time for me as a Phillies fan.
I overheard two Spanish-speaking men at work talk in their native tongue and only found out when that they were talking about baseball when I heard them mention "The Los Angeles Dodgers."
"The Phillies are en fuego," I commented, repeating a Spanish saying a friend texted me to mean the team is on fire.
They just smiled and nodded.
"San Francisco," I said.
Oh, yes, they nodded.
It made me realize that there are other teams contending for the 2009 World Series championship. And it is not to mention the American League team, headed by the Boston Red Sox.
I also realized I was lucky to be a Phillies fan, where the World Series conversation is still current.
Sorry Cubbies fans. Your day will come and then you can tell your story.