Crash Landing: Alumni Weekend; Looking Backwards and Forwards

This weekend is one of my favorite annual events on the baseball calendar. Opening Day is a clear number one, but behind that is a cluster of events which are hard to separate. The World Series has the highest upside as an event, but can also be devastatingly disappointing due to a lack of consistency year to year. Although I can understand why this is not a universally held opinion, the Wild Card games are high on my personal list due to the guaranteed high stakes drama. There are other calendar highlights — the All-Star Game and the buildup to the July trade deadline, to name a couple more — but when new schedules are released on event eyes will inevitably gravitate to each year is Phillies Alumni Weekend.

This is already starting to feel a bit like a cheesy commercial and for that, I apologize. If you’ve been reading my work for a while, it won’t surprise you to know that I’m extraordinarily sentimental and, as someone who grew up with the Phillies and their history, an annual celebration of that history is tailor-made for someone like me. I love the fact that historical Phillies greats like Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Dick Allen, and Robin Roberts have been a part of my own baseball life even though I never watched them play. Alumni weekend and Wall of Fame induction ceremonies are a big part of that personal connection I’ve developed with Phillies history.

For the eighth consecutive year now, the Wall of Fame inductee won’t be some anonymous name from yesteryear, but is, instead, one of the Phillies whose career I had the pleasure of watching and enjoying. I wrote a tribute of sorts to Jim Thome‘s Phillies career back in April when it was first announced that he would be the honoree, so I won’t rehash that now. He’ll join Harry Kalas, Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Mike Lieberthal, Curt Schilling, Charlie Manuel, and Pat Burrell on the Wall as key figures who it’s still hard to think of as a part of history no matter how factually true and obvious that may be.

This weekend Thome will give his speech Friday night with a slew of Phillies greats lined up behind him. Two players with tremendous (if not quite Wall of Fame worthy) careers, Placido Polanco and Randy Wolf, will both have their moments to be honored when they retire as Phillies. I’ll reminisce and enjoy the heck out of sappy tribute videos which will undoubtedly include Thome’s 400th homer, the Wolf Pack, and Polanco’s stellar defense. I’ll also think about the ceremonies that await us in coming years — induction ceremonies for Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and more.

But, as is unavoidable in this current era of Phillies baseball, I’ll also think tot he future. Are there any future Wall of Famers on the Phillies roster today? What about the Lehigh Valley and Reading rosters? Reliving past highlights is a natural gateway to thinking about highlights and the great moments yet to be written . It’s also a welcome diversion from a current Phillies season which, while an improvement on 2015, still leaves much to be desired.

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  1. Major Malfunction

    August 11, 2016 04:10 PM

    Nice write up!! It’s a shame you were too young to see some of the greats in their prime.

    I got to watch Schmidt and Carlton in their prime. Carlton, last pitcher to thrown 300 innings in a season. 300 INNINGS..WOW! Today we talk about a pitcher hitting 175 IP and that he’s headed to TJ surgery. Whether the score was 100-0 or he had a no hitter, his face never changed expression out on the mound. He was a machine. And with 2 strikes, you knew the slider was coming, but there was just nothing the hitter could do about it. They always swung and almost always missed. And the guy could hit too! Him and Robin Roberts had the ability to shut you out and win 2-0 on a HR they hit themselves.

    Schmidt was an HR machine, but his defense at 3B was just amazing. Nobody could charge and bare hand like him before or since. Had a cannon and he never seem to miss a ball. His range and quickness was unbelievable for such a big guy. Probably don’t know it, but he actually stole 29 bases one year while hitting 38 HRs. Dude was 30-30 material until his knees said no way. He was putting up a 5 or better WAR every season for 12 years. Had NINE years of 7+ WAR. And we still regularly booed him anytime he struck out. LOL.

    It will be very nostalgic when the core of the 2008 WS team gets inducted onto the Phillies wall. Those will be hard tickets to get! If I don’t get in, I’m just glad I got to watch them in their prime.

    • Romus

      August 11, 2016 04:21 PM

      MajMal….everything so true about Schmidt.
      And the booing…..thinking back how absurd.
      Seemed one reason was he always seemed so aloof and cool and the Philadelphia fans perhaps wanted more of that Bowa/Rose stylish attitude.
      Wished he had stayed for another 7 HRs and retired that season with 555 career dingers…..I like that number.

    • In the Year 2000

      August 11, 2016 07:03 PM

      Most of these full games are now on youtube for everyone to watch if interested. IMO the general level of play today is eons above the 70’s/80’s. Youtube has made my once priceless collection of vhs home recorded games moot.

    • Iatrogenes

      August 11, 2016 07:51 PM

      Talk about old Phillies and the difference in eras. Jim Konstanty, their 33-year-old relief pitcher in 1950, had a 16-7 record. Who ever heard of a relief pitcher with 23 decisions? He appeared in 72 games and AVERAGED over two innings per appearance while we argue over whether Gomez should face a hitter in the 8th in a close game instead of waiting until the 9th. Even though saves weren’t recorded back then, he would have had 22. In one game Konstanty entered the game tied in the 7th inning, which the Phillies finally won in the 15th …with Konstanty still pitching. He went nine innings to get the victory. Two weeks later, Konstanty turned in another ironman performance out of the bullpen. He pitched ten innings against the Cincinnati Reds on September 15. He came into the game in the ninth inning and was relieved after the 18th inning. The Phils won the game 8-7 in 19 innings. The game turned out to be the longest ever played by the Phillies at Shibe Park. Remember, he was a relief pitcher who did not start a single game during the 1950 regular season …but did start the first game of the World Series against the Yankees as Robin Roberts had just pitched the last game of the season. He lost 1-0. That year, he won the NL MVP (no Cy Young Awards at the time). Number 2 in the voting? Stan Musial of the Cardinals. He had a so-so year, hitting .346, 109 RBI and an OPS of 1.034.

      And then there’s Robbie, Hall of Fame pitcher. Starting in 1950, he logged over 300 innings for six consecutive seasons and in the 7th he “only” pitched 297 innings. During that seven year stretch he averaged 26 complete games per year. Now we talk about a Quality Start as being 3 runs or less in 6 innings. Somewhere Robbie is rolling over in laughter.

      • Iatrogenes

        August 13, 2016 01:25 PM

        Forgot to mention, those six straight 300-inning years? Robbie won 20 games or more every season too.

    • Andy

      August 16, 2016 11:36 AM

      Can’t help but wonder how much longer Schmidty would have played if he didn’t spend a decade playing on a concrete field at the Vet. Hands down the greatest Phillie and greatest third baseman in history.

  2. Kyle

    August 11, 2016 04:15 PM

    Obviously Philly bars are preparing for the arrival of Pat Burrell this weekend. Gentlemen, keep your significant others at home.

    • Romus

      August 11, 2016 04:21 PM

      Isn’t he a family man now?

  3. GB

    August 12, 2016 06:02 AM

    Hopefully Bobby Abreu will be inducted soon. I love Thome, but he was here for a very short time and is best known as a Cleveland Indian.

    • Romus

      August 12, 2016 02:19 PM

      GB……..very puzzling indeed why they have not yet put Bobby Abreu on the wall. All he did was play 9 seasons as a Phillie….HR195….Hits1474…RBIs814……SB254….CS80…….BB947…….K1078….BA303/OBP416//928.
      Plus, he leads all Latin born players in BBs with 1476……20th on the all-time MLB list.
      On base Percentage (OBP) of .395….68th on the all-time MLB list….and 3rd of all Latin born players , 3rd only to Miggy C. and Manny R.
      Hits…103rd of all-time MLB players with 2470…and 13th among all Latin born players
      Heck metric-wise he could be a legitimate candidate for the HoF.
      But not the Phillies Wall of Fame!
      Go figure.

      • Kevin

        August 12, 2016 05:46 PM

        Thome vs. Abreu…I think it’s simply a popularity thing.

        Thome was really likeable with his friendly aw shucks demeanor. He was immensely popular.

        Abreu, for all his production, was never as well-liked as a player of his talent would normally be. There seemed to be a perception that he didn’t try as hard as he could have; apparently the things he did well, he made look too easy. He also had a rep for being afraid of the outfield wall, again part of the “didn’t try as hard as he could have” reputation.

        I’m not commenting on whether any of that was deserved or not – I don’t think I’m qualified to do so – but that’s my sense of why Abreu wasn’t a fan favorite. He also wasn’t flashy, just really consistent. Consistent doesn’t spark the imagination – it doesn’t stand out in the memory like the big moments do.

        Bobby still gets on the Wall before So Taguchi, and So was on the WS team!

      • Francisco (FC)

        August 15, 2016 10:52 AM

        This is the problem with not watching the LVBP. Abreu had BIG moments there. I’m talking about Championship Game, bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, win or go home stuff. I distinctly remember a home run of his that tied the game when the opponent was 1 strike away from winning it all, forcing the whole thing into extras. The crowd went nuts. And it wasn’t against AAA pitchers, in the LVBP playoffs you often find MLB caliber reinforcements. Not always but there’s always a few in the playoffs.

    • Frank S.

      August 15, 2016 07:54 PM

      Perhaps Abreu hasn’t been added the “Wall” because he showed such an abject fear of walls (especially the right-field wall) during his playing career?

  4. Tim

    August 12, 2016 11:00 AM

    I love Jim Thome and I’m glad to see him go up on the Wall of Fame. Thome is 23rd on the Phillies all-time HR list, which is pretty ho-hum as rankings go (especially since he’s 7th all-time). But he managed that in just 391 games, or less than two and a half full seasons worth of games.

    I’ll also point out that I don’t like the DH and would hate for the NL to adopt it. But imagine for the moment if they had introduced it in, oh, let’s say 2006. The Phillies could have had Howard and Thome playing full time on the same roster through 2009. Could you imagine all of the monstrous home runs? Still don’t like it, but I wouldn’t mind watching an alternate universe 2006-2009 Phillies with DH.

  5. Frank S.

    August 12, 2016 12:10 PM

    Always resented Polanco a little bit for clogging up 2nd Base in the early-mid 2000’s preventing us from seeing Chase Utley for two years earlier than we otherwise would have. The should have moved Polanco to 3rd and traded the awful David Bell for a sack of beans in 2003, thus making room for Chase as full-time 2nd Baseman.

    • Tim

      August 12, 2016 12:18 PM

      Plus we all would have been able to enjoy those beans.

    • Steve

      August 13, 2016 08:15 AM

      Dont resent Polly, resent manangement for not having the vision to move him. He had played 3b in st louis before they traded him to Philly. He had a few stellar years in Det in between his years in Philly.

  6. Berdj Joseph Rassam

    August 14, 2016 09:49 PM

    The Phils have quite a strong set of alumni led by Allen, Schmidt, Carlton and others.

  7. GB

    August 15, 2016 06:15 AM

    I think that is the crux of my issue with the Phillies WOF. Is it a selection based on organizational politics and popularity or on who truly deserves accolades for their production on the field as Phillies? I think the exclusion of Abreu makes the reality clear unfortunately.

    • Romus

      August 15, 2016 08:05 AM

      GB….Oddly, I think Abreu was there for the weekend bash.
      Golf tournament today to climax it for those sticking around and who golf.

      • GB

        August 15, 2016 08:38 AM

        Romus – that is good to hear, always thought Abreu got overly blamed for the Phillies not getting over the playoff hump and not just by the fans/media unfortunately. Anyone who listened to Wheeler or heard from Dallas Green knew their voice for the organization routines included bashing Abreu. Hopefully the new regime gives him his due soon and he stays close to the franchise like many other have. It would be a nice story.

      • Romus

        August 15, 2016 02:35 PM

        GB……question……in a few short years the Phillies will have to add.
        7. Werth
        10.Maddog Madsen
        11.Scott Eyre
        12.Pedro Feliz …whew
        And maybe also Bobby Abreu and Pete Rose…….do you know where the overflow wall is located?

      • JRFarmer

        August 15, 2016 05:20 PM

        Scott Eyre and Pedro Feliz don’t make it to the wall. Probably not Stairs or Werth, either.

        I predict lots of pitchers inducted to the wall in the next few years… Myers (eligible next year) and Jamie Moyer will be up there sooner than anybody else on your list. Halladay and Lee will be there soon enough as well.

      • Romus

        August 15, 2016 06:51 PM

        Farmer…yeah forgot all about Lee, Halladay and Moyer…the wall is going to get crowded.
        As for Werth….four years like Thome….but a key ring contributor…hard to keep him off.

  8. GB

    August 15, 2016 04:15 PM

    Romus, that is my fear: players who truly deserve to be honored at at risk of being left off.

    Abreu is only one example – off your list I’d take the first 7 for sure.

    Rose I’m really torn on because I think what he did was so egregious and completely support his banning since he committed the cardinal sin of baseball and then lied about it for 20+ years. Plus again Rose was only a Phillie for 4 years.

    I’d put Dykstra on before Rose (dives for cover from battery attack). I know Dykstra is a scumbag too, but for that 1993 team he was the engine pure and simple.

    The other I’d consider is Wolf (another guy unlucky in when he played for the team).

    The other test case is Scott Rolen who I think deserves it, but I’m pretty sure neither the Phillies nor the fans/media are ready to mend that bridge yet. Rolen may not be either for all I know, but I hope a detente is reached at some point. IMO he is the second best 3B in Phillie history after Schmitty.

    • Romus

      August 15, 2016 04:46 PM

      GB…I say Rose because the Reds were able to put him on their ‘wall’ this year… MLB may ne relaxing a bit with him. Myers and Madsen…the buds….did play significant roles in bringing the Phillies around to their championship form.
      If Lieby is there with a plaque, I would think those two would also be eligible to qualify.
      As for Feliz, Eyre and Stairs….yeah probably too short and too average career in a Phillies uniform

    • Romus

      August 15, 2016 04:48 PM

      Oh…Lenny D…….tough call.
      Deserving based on baseball accomplishments…..but you know the other stuff.

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