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.