Monday, July 16

The Old Folks Home: Philadelphia and Retired Numbers

With a drought of recent championships spanning 24 years, it's no wonder the City of Brotherly Love is disjoined to its own history. That being the case, one cannot be volcanically angry that certain numbers are not retired in the city's "Big Four" of the Phillies, Flyers, Eagles and Sixers, but the fact that a few names are not raised into the rafters does a diservice to the legends that have meant so much to the blue-collar fans of Philly. Some have brought championships, others just took hold of the hearts of the fans, but either way, here are three numbers that simply MUST be retired.

What's missing from this picture? Here's a hint:

Yup, the heart and soul of the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, Tug McGraw.

Ok, sure, he coined his trademark phrase, "Ya gotta believe!" with the hated New York Mets, but the guy is a Phillie through and through. He loved this city, and even became good friends with a local bartender who may or may not have fathered a very sexy young man who may or may not be writing this blog. (Ok, I'm biased)

Regardless, the above picture is one of, if not the most iconic photo in the history of Philadelphia sports. The joyous, emphatic jokester leaping into the air after striking out Willie Wilson with the great maroon "45" emblazoned on his chest is seared into the memory of Phillies fans.

Currently, Tom Gordon holds that number, but A.)He hasn't really done much with it, and B.)He may not be around much longer anyway. Tug represented everything decent, honest and fun about this city and should be remembered at Citizen's Bank Park for as long as it stands. Should Tugger have his numbered painted on that brick wall? Well, ya gotta believe.

The Sixers do a good job of retiring numbers, and the Eagles have a severe lack of recent heroes and did good by the fans by retiring Reggie White's number 92 in December of 2005. The Flyers, however, have been woefully remiss in their acknowledgment of their own rich history. Currently, the Flyers have retired the numbers of Bernie Parent (1), Barry Ashbee (4), Bill Barber (7), and Bobby Clarke (16). In addition, no one has worn 31 since Pelle Lindbergh's tragic death in 1985 out of rememberence and respect, but it is not officially retired. So, taking into account the unspoken gesture for Pelle, there are three Flyers legends who's numbers should be hoisted into the rafters in South Philly.

I don't know if a double-retirement has ever taken palce before in professional sports, but here is a case-in-point example of a great place to start. Reggie Leach was the "L" in the "LCB Line" of himself, Bill Barber, and Bobby Clarke. He scored 45 goals in his first season with the Flyers (their second straight Cup-Winning season) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1976 netting 24 points in 16 playoff games even though the Flyers lost the Cup to the Montreal Canadiens. Flyers fans from the era will always remember "27", "7" and "16" racing down the ice for the old Broadstreet Bullies.

Ron Hextall was an icon between the pipes for the Orange and Black. Just like Leach, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Flyers in a year that they did not win the Stanley Cup (they were ousted in seven games by the Oilers in the '87 Finals). He was also the first goaltender to score a goal (he did it again in '89 to become the first to do so in the playoffs). Putting aside his goal-scoring prowess, he was also the toughest netminder to ever put on a pair of skates and frequently leveled opponents who got too close to the crease. This guy WAS Philadelphia.

Only five players in the history of the NHL have ever won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the losing team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Reggie Leach and Ron Hextall are two of them, and two of only three (Jean-Sibastian Gigure the other in 2003) since 1970. I'd love to see the day where "Leach/Hextall" sat above a giant black "27" in the rafters of the Wachovia Center.

(edit: The Washington Nationals have "10" retired for both Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub for their stint with the Expos, and the Yankees have put the kibosh on new players wearing "8" for both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.)

The final retiree in the Mike Muller Under-appreciated Athlete Hall of Fame is one whom many of my friends disagree with me on, but I'll stick to my guns nonetheless. He is, after all, my favorite hockey player of all time. Loyal readers, I give you the Man, the Myth, the Legend:

Look at this fuckin' guy!!!!!!!! King of Suave. Sultan of Stickchecks. Prince of the Penalty Box. Duke of the Deke. Baron of Broadstreet. Sion of the Spectrum!!!!!!!

Ok, sure we're used to seeing him like this now,

but everyone knows he was framed by Janet Gretzky, Dane Cook, and the Illuminati.

First of all, if anyone doubts how much Tocchet kicks ass, just take a look at this. Also, just search him on YouTube to find some great fight clips of him (my personal favorite being one between him and my other Hockey Hero, Cam Neely). In addition to his fitness at fisticuffs, he was also a preminate goal-scorer and power forward. Along with Pat Verbeek, he is one of only two players in NHL history to record over 400 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes. He did also wear "92" with the Flyers at the end of his career, but that was for a combination of luck (he wore 92 with the '92 Cup-winning Penguins) and a respect for the current "22" on the team in 2000, Luke Richardson. Rick Tocchet will always be Number 22 to the Flyers Faithful.
A workhorse and a leader, Tocchet needs to be remembered by the City that both loved him and spurned him (although it worked out pretty well for him, winning a Cup in Pittsburgh). I, myself, can't imagine anyone else wearing "22" like Rickey the Rocket did, and I would put him up in the rafters if, for nothing else, he was the first star to get a 6-year-old boy to live and die with the Orange and Black.
Apologies to: Randall Cunningham, Mark Howe, Tim Kerr, Eric Desjardins, Koy Detmer and Dikembe Mutombo.
And yes, I wrote this to avoid talking about this Phillies' 10,000th loss.

Wednesday, July 11

Utley, Cole, and Rowand: All-Star Game Running Diary

So Driven to Deep Center is back with a vegenence here at the halfway point of the season. The Fightin' Phils are 4 1/2 back and some of their finest are playing in the Mid-Summer Classic. So I decided to do a running diary, Bill Simmons style. Also, yours truely will be featured on the new Phillies Podcast starting tomorrow at So, without further ado, let's see how the All-Star Game went.

8:21- Old-timer’s game of MVP Baseball 2005 ran late so I’m just getting to the All-Star Game. Game ended when Jackie Robinson scored from second on a ball hit by Eddie Matthews…Ty Cobb was pissed.

8:25-Shakey camera work by the awful employees of Fox during the starters intro makes my buddy, John say, “I’m getting nauseous and McCarver hasn’t even spoken yet.” God bless Fox Sports.

8:26-Introducing the 2008 shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, Number 3, Alex Rodriguez!!! (followed by Tigers 2nd Baseman Placido Polanco, which makes me sad)

8:27: Bonds gets introduced to cheers (strange to watch) followed by Griffey, which makes me think of my steroids theory. Everyone seems to agree that Griffey would have been the Home-Run King had he never gotten hurt, and Bonds has gotten there with a pharmaceutical leg-up, and isn’t even grateful. He’s gotten away with murder and he’s still a dick to people. So I believe in my heart of hearts that Griffey (unabashed LOVER of the game who is the consummate good-guy) should get three to five years of taking steroids for free, just to see what happens.


8:33-Creepy a capella “Star-Spangled Banner” with two dudes giving each other bedroom-eyes through the whole song…Ty Cobb is pissed.

8:34-F-18 flyover accompanied by U2 music. When did U2 become the go-to background music for movies and television? No wonder Bono is spending most of his time in Africa, just out of sheer embarrassment.

8:36-Video tribute to Willy Mays in San Francisco. Ted Williams said the All-Star game was made for guys like Mays. Ty Cobb calls Teddy Ballgame a race traitor.

8:37-Mays comes out on the field being led by the hand by Bonds. The closest analogy I can make to this is if George W. Bush came out for the State of the Union on an ATV wearing the Constitution as a diaper and dragging FDR on his wheelchair by a rope.

8:42- Commercial for “Back to You” starring Kelsey Grammar playing a news anchor named “Crasier Fane.” Bask in the originality Fox, bask.

8:45-Pizza just got here, blog might suffer.

8:52- My buddy John says National League is a “stone-cold lock” to win the game.

8:53-Ichiro leads off the game with a single for the American League. I laugh at John.

8:57-Double-play for the NL. Watching Jose Reyes toss it to Chase Utley leaves a bad taste in my mouth…time for more pizza.

8:59-David Ortiz’s necklace looks like lost Aztec Gold.

9:00-Chase Utley inaugurates the Chase Utley Face, as Prince Fielder drops one of the easiest tosses ever. I have a feeling he makes the same one when Burrell strikes out because he’s taking a phone call from Heather Mitts…AJ Feely is pissed.

9:05-Joe Buck tells me how to feel for the first time tonight, saying “Bonds SHOULD be here.”

9:07-Bonds pops out.

Ok, here’s something that pisses me off. Joe Buck is fine with Barry Bonds as a human being but Randy Moss is worse than Hitler? So, let me get this straight, defraud the game, cheat, and usurp its most hallowed record, and you’re a misunderstood hero. Faux-moon Packers fans and you’re in OJ territory? People like Joe Buck are the reason people get so upset over shit like Don Imus.

9:12-It’s STILL fun to watch Ken Griffey Jr. play baseball.

9:13-Griffey plays for the Reds. Pizza sauce is red. Griffey wants me to have another slice.

9:16-DHL commercial joking about Kenny Lofton getting traded to the Red Sox makes me shit my pants.

9:25-Tim McCarver basically calls Russell Martin’s dad a street hobo.

9:26-Great catch by future Red Sox shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

9:27-Utley flies out but looks sexy doing it.

9:30-Tim McCarver is unbelievably happy with himself for adding 326 and 1 to make 327. This actually IS a major accomplishment for him.

9:36-Ichiro is 2-2 against Jake Peavy and Ben Sheets. Remember when Pat Gillick could run a team?

9:41-Very few things get to me like Dane Cook narrating over Joe Carter taking Mitch Williams deep. Thanks for the memories Fox. And Dane, that’s enough. I mean, forever. That’s enough.

9:43-Jose Reyes actually HITS a knuckleball. I don’t mean Josh Beckett threw one, I mean Jose Reyes’ bat knocked a ball that THEN knuckled and got past A-Rod. God do I hate the Mets.

9:44-Interview with Jim Leyland who is going through nicotine withdrawal. If you could still smoke in the dugout he would beat Carl Yastrzemski’s All-Star game record of 44 Marlboro Reds.


9:51-A-Rod gets a base hit off Hamels, then steals 2nd following a video montage dedicated to him set to “Don’t Stop Believing” that abruptly fades to black. David Chase sues.

9:54- Text message convo with my buddy Dan involving weekend plans:
Me: You still going to Boston this weekend?
Dan: Actually, I’m not now.
Me: Aw, gay.
Dan: No, gay is that I’m not going so I can butt fuck some dude.
I feel like you need to know these things.

9:56-Griffey catches a bounce from Magglio then GUNS A-Rod down at the plate to end the inning. I can’t say enough about this guy!

10:08-Tim McCarver: “That Padres Cubs game…it was like Battle of Thermopylae II in Chicago that day.”
What does that even mean???? Were 300 Cubs standing on the base line keeping 1 million Padres from getting to first? Is Derek Lee actually King Leonidas? Was Trevor Hoffman asking Alfonso Soriano to kneel? This is madness...THIS IS WRIGLEY!!!!!!

10:12-Ichiro knocks an inside-the-park home run off the brick wall in right. He’s 3-3 with 2 RBIs and almost a lock for the All-Star Game MVP. Again, remember when Pat Gillick wasn’t in a coma?

10:13-Eric Byrnes pushes his dog off a boat and into McCovey Cove. Tim McCarver is nonplussed.

10:15-This whole thing with Eric Byrnes and his dog is just weird. He even got told off by Joe Buck. Apparently the dog peed in McCovey Cove and mooned Tony LaRussa.

10:29-Carl Crawford hits one out to right field, prompting McCarver to say “Cordero gets it up, and so does Crawford.” He’s in rare form tonight. 3-1 AL.

10:34-Carlos Beltran looks like he’s wearing lipstick…doesn’t stop him from hitting a triple. Fucking Mets.

10:35-Griffey hits a sac-fly. 3-2. He has both RBIs for the National League. God do I love him.

10:39- John and I discuss how the Phillies should trade for Griffey and the possibility that “someone” could then just murder Pat Burrell to get out of his contract. This is the reality of being a Phillies fan. Goosebumps, my ass.

10:42-Realize that I need to leave soon to go see Harry Potter. My life is so rewarding.

10:49-Aaron Rowand, my favorite Phillie, is finally in the game. Rowand deserves to be there more than almost anyone on that field and no one is talking about him. Kevin Youkilis should be there too.

10:50-Paula Cole is there to sing during the Seventh Inning Stretch, and she looks GOD-AWFUL, not that she was ever a looker, but damn. This is fitting though, cuz “I don’t wanna wait, for the All-Star game to be over” and I need to go see my incredibly cool, non-dorky movie that will no doubt get my laid. So to you Phillies Nation, I say goodnight as I head out to Hogwarts.

Looks like she fell into Dawson's Creek and was ravaged by a bear looking for salmon.

3:00am-Just got back, saw Rowand popped out to end the game with Pujols staying on the bench. I guess LaRussa was thinking…I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking. So home-field goes to the Red Sox in the 2007 World Series. Just a brilliant job all around by LaRussa and Tim McCarver. Definitely a night for the ages.