Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 10/The Philly '03 Game Revisited

10-game plan is paid for for '08. One of the games is on my birthday. The other usual suspects are there--two Yankee games, a game in the first series of the year, an interleague game (Arizona), Devil Rays games.... (Although they have taken the "Devil" out of their name officially now. Wasn't hurting anybody, I don't think.) And the best part, of course, the chance to buy a first-round playoff game.

In the past, we've received DVDs and other special things. This year it was, Oh, whoops, we forgot to tell you which games you have until after we put the initial run of tickets on sale, and a very short "thank you" letter. They're lucky they're giving us the most important thing, World Series victories, or I might have written a letter by now. I'll just be glad for the good things, and just the fact that I get the chance to renew every year. So far, anyway. Again, though, terrible job on raising the price of bleacher seats--the ultimate "common fan" location, and the location of my plan, more than any other seats this season.

That '03 Philly game was brought up in comments, and I'd like to talk more about it. I was down there by myself that day. What a crazy game at the old Vet, my first trip there. They go up 1-0. We tie it at 1. We go up 2-1. They tie it at 2. It goes to extra innings. In the 12th, we score one. In the bottom half, they get one back. In the 13th, we score two. In the bottom of that inning, they get three to beat us.

My memories of the game: Seeing the vet to my right across a grassy knoll, but somehow being forced to turn left, then having to turn around in a gas station before finally finding the parking lot entrance, and being one of the first ones there. And I think they were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the '83 NL champion Phillies, because Mike Schmidt and all these other old Phils had a home run hitting contest. I got Brandon Lyon's autograph. I heard these Sox fans behind me yell out to Freddy Sanchez "hey Big Fred!" And I watched as my least-favorite pitcher of all-time BK Kim warmed up in the outfield with his translator there next to him. During the game I walked all around, going all the way to the 8-thousand level, or whatever it was called, and looking down at Pedro from about a thousand feet up and a thousand more over. What a shit-ass stadium that was. Was probably much better for football. The Phils had at least one runner in scoring position in every inning from the sixth to the 11th, and only scored once over that stretch, on Thome's first homer of the game with two outs in the eighth, which tied the game. (Our first two runs were on Walker homers, and we also had a bunch of chances to score the winning run.)

In the 12th, Millar triples home Nomar. Bottom half, we're one out away from winning it. At this point, I'm down behind home plate, standing for the last out. Thome then smacks a ball to center. Outta here. I will never forget the sound of the ball hitting the bat. That's one of those times you truly appreciate what these guys can do. Crack! And that ball just flew straight ahead, way out, and over the wall. At this point, the game is four and a half hours old, and it's just killing me and all the other Sox fans, while the Philly fans that are left go nuts.

However, we rally for two in the top of the thirteenth, and now it seems in the bag. I remember Nomar rounding first and tripping all over himself. I don't know which hit it was on, but he went 6-for-6 that day with a walk. I cursed their carpet as I was really worried that he was seriously injured. Anyway, it goes bottom 13. Now I'm right behind home plate, in the third row or so, as a lot of folks had left. David Bell nearly ties the game with a long fly double to center. (I think it was a deep fly, I could be wrong.) I was all worried as it was still Shiell, who had given up the Thome blast. But fear not, we've got a secret weapon. Rudy Seanez. Todd Pratt, former BritSock, steps up, and boom, game-ending dong. We're in disbelief. As I leave the park, and slam my hand on the side wall of one of the exits in anger, and hope the Philly fas behind me don't beat me up for it. I don't look back, and I get to the car and drive the hell out of there.

A rarity in that game: Papi pinch-hit for Pedro.

I did take pictures. Old-school camera style. This blog wouldn't start until eight months later. I'll do a retro-post one of these days. Look for a shot of Steve Jeltz in the Phils' ring of fame or whatever. And the Phanatic (cousin of former New Jersey Nets mascot Duncan) desperately trying to catch Mike Schmidt fly balls despite not being able to see them through his outfit.

So, media, I guess the thousands of us Sox fans there that day were just bandwagoners, having seen the 2004 World Series, then getting in a time machine, going back to 2003, and following the future champs to other teams' stadiums, right?

We'd get back at the Phils, though. Later that season, in what you probably call "the'03 Philly game," we had a huge comeback win. It was Labor Day. We'd lost the previous two games to the Yanks, dropping to 5.5 back of them, after having shaved four games off their 7.5 game lead in nine days just before. That game put us 4.5 back, and we won the next four, giving ourselves a chance to close the gap to a half-game, in a game at Yankee Stadium which I watched from the right field upper deck. We lost, but went on to win the wild card. It was that Philly game that got us our momentum back. Trot Nixon's grand slam in the ninth put us ahead to stay. I was driving in upstate New York, on the way home from a wedding in Buffalo, desperately trying to get updates on the radio, when I heard what Trot had done.

What couldn't I have gone to that Philly game? All I got were two souvenirs: Brandon Lyon's autograph, and a blue permanent pen mark on the back of my Manny jersey. I'll never know if it was just accidental, as people were sticking out pens trying to get autographs, or if some Philly fan vandalized me....


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Location: Rhode Island, United States