Go ahead and fill in the blank with whichever word you prefer which best expresses your feelings about the Phillies’ 1-3 start. 😉
PNC Park = House of Horrors
Why, oh why, is PNC Park such a House of Horrors for the Phillies? After Doc’s gem gave the Phils an Opening Day win over the Pirates, they proceeded to drop the next two contests in painful fashion by giving up the winning run in the final frame. Since its opening in 2001, the Phillies are a paltry 14-24 in that venue, which is one of their worst records in any road park (if not THE worst).
Yet it looks so nice. And this is the Pirates they’re sucking against – they of the 19 straight losing seasons. Again, what the …? Chalk it up as one of life’s mysteries.
Who’s On First, Indeed?
Last Thursday, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a Phillies Preview under this banner:
An apt question, since the Phillies have used four different first basemen in the first four games – Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, Jim Thome, and John Mayberry, Jr. Hopefully as the season progresses, some sort of continuity will be established, rather than the current revolving door approach.
Ryan Howard, pamper that Achilles and hurry back!
I have a feeling I’ll be using this image frequently this season, or at least in the early going, until Chase Utley and the aforementioned Ryan Howard are back in the lineup.
Currently the Phillies have a collective .198 batting average, ranking them 24th of the 30 major league teams. Yes, it’s only been four games, and yes it’s early in the season, but the Phillies need to start hitting more, and sooner rather than later, or it’s going to be a mighty long season if they dig themselves too big a hole already.
March 14 – Day 4
The Phillies had a road game today against the Orioles in Sarasota. We opted not to make the drive to Ed Smith Stadium, having been there once a number of years ago. It is not a picturesque ballpark. In fact, the exterior somewhat resembles a motel. I’ll have to dig out a photo from those pre-digital days, and scan it in for tomorrow.
Instead, we decided to take in a Blue Jays – Braves game in Dunedin, with a stop by the Phillies’ Carpenter Complex beforehand to check out some of the minor-league training camp action.
Brandon Duckworth, last with the Phillies in 2003, has returned to the organization on a minor-league contract after stints with Houston and Kansas City. As noted in Larry Shenk’s Phillies Insider blog, and evident in this photo, all the minor-leaguers wear their socks knee-high. No baggy “pajama” pants for these guys!
Two minor-league shortstops work on fielding drills on one of the four practice fields in the complex:
Minor-league pitchers wait between the batting cages to take their turn at a bunting drill:
Prospect Anthony Hewitt, the Phils’ top pick in 2008, awaits his turn in the batting cage (is it just me, or do his feet look really big?):
After checking out the workouts for about an hour, we made the approximately 10 minute drive to Dunedin, spring home of the Blue Jays. Sometimes going to a game in which I have no rooting interest is a nice break – I can relax and enjoy the game action without getting worked up about the outcome.
Brandon Morrow was on the hill for Toronto. Not a great day for him – he gave up six hits and four earned runs in three innings of work:
Braves top prospect Jason Heyward makes contact early in the game. He had a good day, going 2 for 4 and scoring a run:
Kris Medlen started the game for the Braves, pitching two shutout innings:
The Blue Jays watch from the dugout as Aaron Hill makes contact:
The Jays’ Jose Bautista was nearly caught in a rundown, but somehow managed to elude the tag of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman to make it back safely to first:
Some people will do just about anything to get a foul ball. Even the umpire seems to be watching the kid, and not the game:
Blue Jays outfielder Chris Lubanski is out at second. Lubanski is a non-roster invitee to the Jays camp, having been signed to a minor-league deal after spending the past 6 seasons in the Royals organization. I’ve always kind of followed his progress, as he is a local guy from my area. Having signed right out of high school, he’s still pretty young, only 24:
The Jays ended up dropping this game to the Braves, 8-5. After the game we enjoyed a refreshing postgame brew at the Dunedin Brewery, before enjoying Mexican food for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants when we are in Florida, Casa Tina.
March 15 – Day 5
From St. Petersburg, Bradenton is an easy drive of 40 minutes or so south over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Pirates were hosting the Phillies today, so we made the drive and got there just before the gates opened.
I parked myself in a prime spot right by the end of the Phillies dugout near the backstop. My husband is left to wander around the ballpark carrying my extra stuff while I’m clicking away at all the activity on the field.
The Phillies came out to stretch while the Pirates were finishing up their portion of batting practice. One anonymous Phillie decided to stick out from the crowd during this drill:
As the players were walking in and out of the dugout, they were mere feet away from me (and everyone else). Most of them seemed to try to not even look up and make eye contact. New Phillie Brian Schneider did come over and sign some autographs for the fans, as did coach Davey Lopes and manager Charlie Manuel – thanks guys! Jayson Werth signed one or two autographs, no more, but I did manage to catch a glimpse of his stylin’ shades:
ESPN’s Dick Vitale and the Schwab were on hand. Dick seemed to be getting a lesson on gloves from Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Dick then came over to the dugout and signed autographs for anybody who wanted one:
Zach Duke was on the mound for the Pirates. Duke gave up one run and two hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four, but also walked three:
Roy Halladay pitched for the Phils. He gave up three hits and one run (his first of the spring) in five innings. He struck out six, and walked two:
John Mayberry, Jr., making a start in center field, connects on this pitch to drive in a run with a sacrifice fly:
Ryan Howard “admires” (not) his mile-high pop-up:
Placido Polanco is helped off the field after injuring his knee. He stumbled near the mound while tracking down a wind-blown pop-up. Thankfully, the injury was not serious, as Polanco is now back in action after a few days of rest:
Lastings Milledge is forced out at second, as Jimmy Rollins throws to first to try for the double play (the throw was not in time):
The Pirate Parrot appears to be using a Phillies fan as a footrest. Yo, Parrot, what’s up with that?
Chase Utley chases down a fly ball in the infield on a very windy day. He made the catch, though it wasn’t particularly graceful:
The Phils came out on top in this game, winning 5-1. Another Phillies victory on another sunny, though windy, day!
On our way out of McKechnie Field, we stopped for a quick photo op at the large AT&T advertisement with a cutout where Zach Duke’s head would be. How do I look?
Afterwards, we took a scenic detour to check out the beaches on Anna Maria Island before heading back to St. Pete. We even stopped to stick our feet into the sparkling Gulf waters, but that water is not very warm in March! That explained why we didn’t see anybody actually swimming.
Next up, the third (and final) installment, covering our last two games in Clearwater before we reluctantly had to head home.
(all photos by me)
Spring training exhibition games have finally started! In fact, I am listening to the Phillies face the Pirates in Bradenton at this very moment. I’m a pretty visual person, so I always have a hard time following games on the radio. I’m anticipating the first TV broadcast of the spring – for you Phillies fans out there, that will be this Saturday at 1:05 pm, when the Phillies will face Tampa Bay in Clearwater.
Currently, it’s scoreless in the top of the second inning, and Matt Capps has just walked three straight Phillies. Dang! Bruntlett just grounded into a double-play to end the threat. Oh well. I’d better concentrate on typing.
Just for a visual, here’s a couple of photos of McKechnie Field in Bradenton, where the Phillies are playing today:
Answers to yesterday’s quiz:
Hope you all had fun with yesterday’s movie-themed quiz. Congrats to the Rays Renegade, who answered seven of nine correctly! By the way, if you haven’t checked out Tom’s profile of the Renegade in his Timeout At The Plate series over at Rocky Mountain Way, what are you waiting for? It’s great!
Here, then, are the answers, with a little extra info for those of you, like me, who love to fill your heads with knowledge:
1. The Rookie is based on the true story of Jim Morris, who is portrayed by Dennis Quaid in the movie. Morris pitched for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999 and 2000, appearing in 21 games with a 4.80 ERA.
2. The character of Jimmy Dugan is loosely based on real-life Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx. After a 20-year career that saw him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951, he spent one season (1952) managing the Fort Wayne Daisies in the AAGPBL.
3. Burrell, Glanville, and Lieberthal all have cameos in Summer Catch, starring Freddie Prinz, Jr. and Jessica Biel.
4. The only non-Red Sox item in Ben’s apartment in Fever Pitch is Yankee toilet paper.
5. In Rookie Of The Year, Barry Bonds is also joined by Bobby Bonilla and Pedro Guerrero as stikeout victims of 12-year-old Henry.
**unrelated tidbit** I was shocked – shocked, I tell you! – to see the actor who plays Henry, Thomas Ian Nicholas, all grown up into horny teenage Kevin in American Pie.
6. Bennie “The Jet” Rodriguez dreams about Babe Ruth in The Sandlot.
7. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham appeared in one game for the New York Giants on June 29, 1905. He had entered the game as a defensive substitution, and was on deck when the game ended, so he never got to bat.
8. Former White Sox outfielder Ken Berry was a technical adviser for the movie Eight Men Out, about the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal.
9. A photo of Thurman Munson, along with a headline about his death in a plane crash, can be seen in Annie Savoy’s shrine during the end credits of Bull Durham.
**extra tidbit** Thanks to Mets Main Man for pointing out to me that there was a real Bull Durham. He played for several different teams from 1904-1909, compiling a 5.28 ERA in 9 games.
(McKechnie Field photos mine)
Yeah, I know, use of the term “turntable” really dates me, but it sounded better than “mp3 player”. When I’m not obsessing about baseball, music is something I hold near and dear. I like listening to all kinds of music – rock, blues, jazz, even a little rap if it’s not a minefield of f-bombs. And there’s even the occasional baseball tie-in.
So I thought it would be fun to create a little quiz, with, appropriately enough, nine questions. Here goes:
1) What musical duo asked the lyrical question, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”
2) What position does John Fogerty want to play when he sings, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play”?
3) What singer “had a friend was a big baseball player, back in high school”?
4) What Hall of Famer calls play-by-play for Meat Loaf as he tries for a “home run”?
5) Joe Pernice asks what slugger to hit a “moonshot” in a song heard during the closing credits of “Fever Pitch”?
6) “The Phillies got the groove” in a lyrically modified version of this song by McFadden and Whitehead. What is the title?
7) The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates co-opted the song “We Are Family” from what musical group hailing from, ahem, Philadelphia?
8) In addition to playing baseball and predicting the future, Jimmy Rollins has a music production company. What is it called?
9) Which former Yankee recorded a jazz album entitled “The Journey Within”?
Extra Innings (I’ll make this one multiple choice, as it’s a bit obscure):
This famous photo of Babe Ruth, taken by New York Herald Tribune photographer Nat Fein, won a Pulitzer Prize.
It was also used on the cover of an album by what rock group?
a) Black Flag b) Black Train Jack c) The Jack Rubies
I’ll post the answers tomorrow. Until then, hope you have fun with it!
(photo courtesy Nat Fein Estate, found on http://www.hagginmuseum.org/exhibitions/pulitzer/photos.htm)
Though first and foremost, I am a Phillies Phan, I do like to travel and experience other ballparks, even if the Phillies are not involved. In fact, my husband and I have an ongoing quest to eventually visit all 30 major league parks. After beginning in earnest in 1996, we have reached the two-thirds mark, just 10 more to go. The first few came rather quickly, but then things like kids threw a monkey-wrench into the plans. Oh well, at least I have a goal!
As part of our quest, we made a cross-state drive in April 2006 to visit the new home of the Pirates, PNC Park. It almost pains me to say this, but I must admit that PNC Park is pretty darn nice. Factoring in the view of the surrounding city and its convenient location, I almost have to give it a slight edge over Citizen’s Bank Park. Here is a photo I took during an extremely pleasant day game:
Note the sunny skies. I have it on good authority from my husband, who spent many childhood weekends and holidays visiting relatives in the Pittsburgh area, that this is highly unusual. I guess the fates were smiling on us after that long drive. They were not, however, smiling on the Pirates, who lost this game to the Dodgers 13-5.
While exploring the stadium prior to the game, we came across this statue of Ralph Kiner’s Hands:
So many questions arise in my mind, just begging for answers. Such as, where is the rest of his body? Why just the hands? Did they run out of bronze? Is Ralph so unattractive they thought people would be repulsed? The plaque on the base does not shed much light on the matter. It simply states that this is a “Bronze Casting of Ralph Kiner’s Hands.” It goes on to recap Ralph’s career in Pittsburgh and his election to the Hall of Fame, but that’s it. I shall have to do some investigating. If anyone reading this has information, please let me know.
Until tomorrow, think Spring (Training, that is)!