January 2014

Who Is This?

Who is this guy?

Well, it is a young pitcher named Dallas Green, who was part of an instructional school prior to the start of the Phillies spring training in 1959 in Clearwater, FL. Read all about the camp at http://www.phillies.com/alumni

Welcomed E-Mail
During this winter of winter weather, nothing is more welcome than an e-mail from Frank Coppenbarger, Director Team Travel and Clubhouse Services, “The equipment truck will be loaded and depart on the morning of Thursday, February 6.”

Destination: Bright House Field, where the clubhouse is quiet and empty these days. Ruf, Asche, Miguel Gonzalez and Kendrick worked out on Wednesday.

When the truck is unpacked, 59 player lockers will be ready. Ruben and Ryno will have a meeting on February 11 at Carpenter Field with the staff. Two days later pitchers and catchers practice for the first time.

Out in Arizona this week, Marti Wolever, Rob Holiday and the scouting crosscheckers met to prepare plans for the June draft. Division I colleges begin playing on February 14.

This Week’s Birthdays26—3B Rick Schu (52), C Bob Uecker (79)
28—1B Bill White (80)
30—2B Davey Johnson (71)
31—RHP Joel Bennett (44)
1—RHP Bob Conley (80)

Alumni Notes
Mariana Duncan is a coach for the Daytona Beach Cubs in the Florida State League . . . Warren Brusstar is the pitching coach for Nappa Valley (CA) College . . . Scott Eyre serves in the same capacity for a private high school in his hometown of Bradenton, FL . . . Rod Barajas is the manager of the San Diego Padres team in the Arizona League . . . Kevin Stocker again is a color commentator for the Pac-12 Conference TV network . . . Milt Thompson returns as a minor league instructor for the Kansas City Royals . . . Jared Sandberg (Ryne’s nephew) will manage the Port Charlotte club (Rays).

Fun Fact
70 years ago the Phillies held spring training in Wilmington, DE, because of travel restrictions in the USA during World War II. Camp began March 19 and the first workout was snowed out. Will have a feature on this story in March.

Living a Dream

There were doctors, lawyers, dentists, Hollywood producers and other passionate fans, including two women, who now are back in their normal world. Last week, they were in Clearwater for the Phillies Phantasy Camp, wearing pinstriped uniforms with their names on the back.

Some were veterans who had been there before, others rookies. Two Alumni were assigned to each of the 10 teams. Among the first-year campers was Governor Ed Rendell, who was the general manager of a team managed by Rheal Cormier and coached by Ricky Jordan.

Most of the 120 campers survived although many returned home with new aches and pains. Brian Keaton, a veteran of the Army who was wounded in Afghanistan and spent a lot of time in the Walter Reed Hospital, participated as best as he could physically. During the week he was able to get four at-bats but he ended up on the DL when he stumbled and separated his right shoulder.

Saturday night was an awards banquet at the Marriott Hotel on Sand Key Beach. Scott Palmer served as MC and was joined by Larry Andersen, the camp commissioner. Among the awards were the Most Valuable Player, Gold Glove, batting champion, Cy Young, Charlie Hustle, Maje McDonnell, Tug McGraw Inspiration and presentation of the World Series trophy to the Skychiefs, managed by Bob Boone and Greg Luzinski.

Keaton won the McGraw award and delivered an inspirational and emotional speech, “Thank you for giving me a country to fight for. I’m blessed to be an American and have a wife and five kids…….This has been one of the best weeks of my life.” Keaton also won the award for most standing ovations, three.

Two new awards were unveiled. The Mike Lieberthal Iron Man Award was given to the 10 catchers who were behind the plate for their respective teams all week. “Lieby” was on stage to salute each one.

Then, John Kruk went to the podium to present the other new award given in honor of “the best leader I’ve ever seen, no question. He could give you an encouraging word when things weren’t going good and he could also kick you in the ass. It is my pleasure to announce the Darren Daulton Leadership Award.” Out of a side door entered Darren Daulton, who drew another standing-O, as he and Krukker hugged. Ken Romig, who has health issues as does Darren, was the first winner. Yet another standing-O. Palmer posted a video of the presentation on phillies.com. Check it out.

Darren looks great, fit and trim as always.

Sunday was the big finale, each of the 10 teams getting to play a three-inning game against the Phillies Legends at Bright House Field, where the grass is green. Yep, 10 games in one day!

Among the highlights:

**One noticeable difference from their playing days…..the Legends walked off and on the field, rather than jogging. “Got to save energy. It’s a long day,” laughed Eisey.

**Kruk played second base for a couple of games.

**For a couple of other games, the infield was Dave Hollins (3B), Kevin Stocker (ss), Mickey Morandini (2B) and Kruk (1b). Mariano Duncan took turns at third base.

**Outfield at times included Ricky Jordan (LF), Milt Thompson (CF) and Jim Eisenreich (RF), more shades of the 1993 NL champions.

**Daulton was behind the plate but seated in the stands where he chatted with fans and campers signing a lot of autographs.

**When Danny Jackson was on the mound, he threw a pitch into the third base dugout to keep the enemy on its toes.

**Duncan fielded a grounder but his low throw wasn’t scooped by Kruk, who took off his glove and threw it toward the mound. Duncan then threw his glove and so did Jackson. One the very next play, Kruk successfully fielded another low throw from Duncan. Kruk tossed his glove in the air and walked off the field. Good it was the third out.

**Chris Coste caught all 10 games for the Legends.

**Morandini grounded into a double play when a left-handed shortstop fielded a ground ball, touched second and threw to first. Mickey heard from his fellow Legends.

**Other Legends included Von Hayes, Scott Eyre, Marty Bystrom, Warren Brusstar, Dickie Noles, Tommy Greene, Steve Schrenk.

**There were two still photographers in the infield, one in the outfield and one in foul territory on each side of home plate. As best as I could tell, none got wacked by a baseball.

Everyone scattered to catch late afternoon flights home. The campers packed their uniforms, a treasure from living a dream. More importantly, they had a lifetime full of memories, especially the shortstop that turned a DP on Mickey.

Phantasy Camp Memories

This week, the Phillies are having an annual January event in Clearwater, Phantasy Camp. At one time, it was called Dream Week and run by someone other than the ballclub.

People from all walks of life pay to wear a Phillies uniform for a week in Florida, mingling among many of their heroes. I was one of 100 that lived this dream in January of 1990.

Del Ennis, my childhood hero spotted me wearing #. “You’re my number one pick tomorrow. I’m going to teach you how to sit.” Minutes later, Larry Bowa spoke up, “I’m picking you, batting you fourth and if you don’t produce, I’ll bury you.” I wasn’t in shape and wished he hadn’t used that term, bury. Then, we took the field, all eager beavers. First stretching, then batting practice and a seven-inning game in which the managers made notes of our skills. There will be eight teams and we would begin playing “real” games tomorrow. Went to bed that night wondering if Del or Larry would draft me. ESPN didn’t carry the draft so had to wait until Tuesday morning.

When we got to the clubhouse at Carpenter Field I learned I had been drafted in the third round by Richie Hebner, manager of the Clippers. So much for Del’s and Larry’s promises.

I signed up to be a stationary first baseman. During infield practice, Hebner hit each of the infielders a pop up. From a distance, they looked a mile high. Now it was my turn. I camped under that sucker and was sure I was in the right place but it landed four feet behind me. In my game debut: strikeout, RBI single and a run scored.

Every morning $1.00 fines were dolled out. One of my teammates, Ralph Trout (Millville, NJ), was fined for coaching first…..for the other team!

Wednesday and Thursday were doubleheaders. Strike out and fielder’s choice in the first game. In the second game, two walks, one single and two RBI. Nearly got killed on defense. A vicious grounder came my way, thought I was perfectly stationed when it took a bad bounce. The blurry ball whizzed by and nipped my left ear.

Before Thursday’s game, Tony Taylor’s team, the Quakers, was fined. The previous game, all nine starting players made an error….in the first inning! I struck out in my first at-bat, prompting Tony to yell, “You swing the bat like Bobby Wine.” Hitless one other at-bat and then a strikeout and sacrifice fly RBI in the second game.

Friday, fly to center and hit by a pitch (back) in the first game. The second game was the Championship, Clippers vs. Bowa’s unbeaten Beavers. Kurt Francis, a right-hander, made his fifth start for us in three and one-half days. Francis was out of gas and didn’t survive the first inning, allowing nine runs. I had left the bases loaded with a run in and two out in the top of that inning.

Got hit in the back again in my other at-bat. Being a gamer, I didn’t seek treatment. Besides, the trainer’s room was filled way beyond capacity.

The week ended with a game at Jack Russell Stadium on Saturday against the Alumni, top four teams in the morning and bottom four teams in the afternoon. We were introduced as if it was opening day. Jack Russell Stadium’s capacity was 7,000. We fell short of that, way short…about 70 fans.

Rick Wise was pitching against my Clippers. “Now batting, number four, first baseman Larry Shenk from Wilmington, DE.” That introduction lasted longer than my at-bat. Wise blew two fast balls by me. The home plate umpire whispered to me, “I’ll call a ball on the next pitch.” I made the mistake of telling Rick, a fellow rookie in 1964, “throw that crap over the plate” after my borderline second strike. I swung and missed at a pitch I only heard. It was so fast I didn’t see it. Rick is in the record book for being the only pitcher to hit two home runs while pitching a no-hitter. He’s also the only big leaguer to strike me out.

This year, I’ll be there as a spectator. I survived a week without getting hurt, I’m a bit more ancient now and besides, why spoil Rick Wise’s great accomplishment.

Be back with another blog on January 28.

Who Would U Pick?

3B Mike Schmidt

Who would you pick to start a team? Did anyone pick Mike Schmidt? Who was his choice?

Check out Alumni views at http://www.phillies.com/alumni.

Clearwater Next
Eight rookies will wrap up four days of the Phillies annual Prospect Educational Program on Friday.

OF Aaron Altherr, LHP Jesse Biddle, RHP David Buchanan, OF Leandro Castro, OF
Kelly Dugan, 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Ken Giles and RHP Kevin Munson will all be in Clearwater in early February after spending this week at Citizens Bank Park.

Well, they weren’t at CBP on Wednesday as they toured the MLB Network studios in northern New Jersey. They returned in time to work out in the indoor batting cages, a daily routine, before attending the Sixers game.

Today was devoted to media training. Ben Porritt, a media relations expert, oversaw the training and was joined by Leslie Gudel, Ken Rosenthal, Jim Salisbury, Chris Wheeler and the communications staff. The last item on the agenda is an interview session with Philadelphia media.

Others who were part of the four-day program included Joe Jordan, Mike Ondo, Frank Coppenbarger, Rob Holiday, Michael Barkann, Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, Susan Ingersoll-Papaneri, Dave Buck, Ruben Amaro Jr., Scott Sheridan, Shawn Fcasni and Ryne Sandberg. I’m invited to speak Friday morning about the history of the Phillies and our Alumni Relations program.

The young prospects got a small taste of big league life. Once in Clearwater, they’ll continue their climb to the top and uniform and locker in the clubhouse. That’s their dream.

First Spring Workout Coming

Spring training officially begins on February 13 when pitchers and catchers take to the fields at Carpenter Field.

Already there are Kyle Kendrick, Domonic Brown, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Phillippee Aumont with Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Pettibone and Justin DeFratus expected this week. Others may also get an early start.

New pitching coach Bob McClure is checking in this week to get acclimated with some of the pitchers and the staff.

Tons of equipment will make the 1,100 mile trip from Citizens Bank Park to Clearwater starting on February 6. Look for a big media sendoff.

For the first time, Phillie Phanatic will be spending the entire spring performing at Grapefruit League games at Bright House Field. Hey, the Phanatic got chunky over the winter and is a little rusty.

Alumni Notes
Tim McCarver, who retired last fall after broadcasting 27 World Series on a national basis, is returning to local TV by working 30 games with the Cardinals . . . Jeff Manto is the new minor league hitting coordinator for the Orioles . . . Todd Pratt is the new president of the Sunbelt Summer League in Georgia after being a manager in the league for the past five seasons . . . Rob Ducey is back in the game as a coach for the Phillies’ Reading club. He had been a scout for the Blue Jays before being out of the game for a couple of years.

Alumni Birthdays
This week………..

13—INF Mike Buskey (65)
14—INF Derrell Thomas (63)
15—RHP Wayne Gomes (41)
17—C Tyler Houston (43), LHP Jeff Tabaka (50), 2B Denny Doyle (70)
18—C Mike Lieberthal (42), INF Billy Grabarkewitz (68), CH Chuck Cottier (78)

Number 18
This blog ranked 18th among the top 100 blogs in the MLB.com Pro Blog category for 2013. That’s the good news.

The not so good news, it dropped from 15th a year ago.

Being among the top 20 every year is neat but the credit goes to you for checking out the blog. Thanks.

Crazy Idea
There’s a debate as to whether players accused of being on performance enhancing drugs should be enshrined into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Well, let’s recognize them away from the HOF. How about a large syringe monument made out of brick and a steel needle. Those who quality for the HOF will have their names etched on the bricks. No ceremonies.

Found the right town for the monument: Truth Or Consequences in New Mexico. Yep, that’s the name of the town that is the county seat for Sierra County. Runners up are Disappointing, KY and Why, AZ.

Wheels Lived His Dream

Yesterday we learned another chapter in Phillies broadcasting history closed with the announcement that Chris Wheeler and Gary—Sarge—Matthews would not return on the team’s telecasts starting this season. The new 25-year agreement with Comcast SportsNet includes the right for the cable company to make a change in the booth.

“Wheels” has been on the air for the Phillies since 1977, a total of 37 seasons.

He’s right in the middle of two Phillies broadcasting legends, friends with whom he shared booth time, Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. Harry was on the air for 38+ seasons, Whitey, 34. By Saam broadcast baseball in Philadelphia for 38 seasons, but some of them were with the Philadelphia Athletics. Harry, Whitey and Wheels stand alone for lengthy careers with the Phillies. That’s pretty impressive.

As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark pointed out, the last time the Phillies had a game without Whitey, Harry or Wheels in the booth was 1962.

I figured—actually a calculator did the math—that Wheels was on the air for over 6,000 games, counting the postseason and spring training. That’s a lot of ballgames.

Throughout his career, Wheels has been blessed with good health. Aside from being off the air because of FOX or ESPN national telecasts, Wheels guesses he missed about 10 games in 37 seasons. Iron Man legend Cal Ripken Jr. missed more.

In case you aren’t aware, Wheels started his Phillies career on July 5, 1971, in the PR department. He and I were teammates. With his broadcasting background he was a perfect fit for dealing with radio and TV. With my print background, I was more a-tuned to newspapers. Since neither of us tweets, I don’t know where we stand in today’s social media.

How did he land the booth? Glad you asked.

September 26, 1976, the Phillies were in Montreal’s Jarry Parc on a cold, damp Sunday afternoon for a doubleheader. One win and we are the Eastern Division champions, finally erasing the bitter pill from 1964. Wheels was with the team as the traveling PR rep. We clinched with a first-game win. In the fifth inning of the second game, Wheels walked into the booth. Whitey left, saying “You always wanted to do this, so go ahead.” A new career was launched.

Wheels never played pro baseball but was a student of the game. On charter flights he’d sit with Bobby Wine, Larry Bowa and John Vukovich, coaches who knew the game inside-out. He was constantly picking their brain. He’d get to spring training early every year and not miss a workout, observing and learning. For years, he did a pre-game radio show with the manager. In other words, he was the benefactor of a lot of baseball professors.

Wheels is also a talented writer. But he had no feel for punctuation. When writing copy for radio or TV, there is no need for commas, hyphens or quotation marks. Or, capital and lower case letters.

He did author a terrific book recently, View From The Booth (Camino Books). Here’s a secret, someone else did the punctuation. Otherwise, it would have been a 219-page sentence. If you haven’t read it (the book, not the sentence), add it to your bucket list.

A kid from Marple-Newtown High School and Penn State wound up living his dream, broadcasting Phillies games.

Spring Training Tickets
Sale starts today. Easiest method is http://www.phillies.com/spring.

Once again, Wheels will be the PA announcer at Bright House Field, something he started years ago at Jack Russell Stadium. As Whitey once said, “Wheels, they keep moving you around until they find something you can do.”

Sarge will also be in Clearwater and both will be around in new roles with the Phillies.

Happy Birthday
This week, we can sing “Happy Birthday” to the following Phillies Alumni:

6—Marlon Anderson (40), Ruben Amaro Sr. (78), Jose DeJesus (49).

7—Jim Lefebvre (72), Ray Semproch (83), Al Dark (92).

8—Shane Turner (51), Randy Ready (54).

9—Ivan DeJesus (61).

10—Jim Lindeman (52).

11—Ben Rivera (46), Donn Pall (52).

And, a very special Happy Birthday to Lester John Shenk, my dad and “Gramps” to his six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Dad turned 98 on the 7th.

Single Game Leaders
Who holds the Phillies record for most triples in a game? The number is 3. The answer can be found on http://www.phillies.com/alumni. Wonder if Wheels knows the answer.

New Year, New Look


As the new year begins, there’s a new look to http://www.phillies.com/alumni.

The first vintage photo of this year is a mirror image of Veterans Stadium from a year ago. It is a classic.

The first new feature is a look at the anniversary moments, ranging from 10 years ago to as long go as 120 years. Check it out.

More new features will be coming this week.

This Month’s Calendar
Phillies are sending Cody Asche, Ethan Martin, Cameron Rupp and Maikel Franco to t he Major League Baseball Rookie Program which runs from January 9-12.

Attending the club’s Prospect Development program, January 14-17 at Citizens Bank Park, are Franco, Kelly Dugan, Aaron Altherr, David Buchanan, Jesse Biddle, Leandro Castro and Kenny Giles.

Ryne Sandberg will be in town for 10 days starting on the 17th. He’ll be participating in several PR functions.

Phillies personnel will be appearing at banquets in Williamsport (20), Reading (21), Lakewood (22) , Lehigh Valley (23) and Philadelphia Sportswriters Banquet (27). Mickey Morandini is appearing at the Kennett Square Old-Timers Banquet (18).

J-Roll is being honored at the BAT (Baseball Assistance Team) banquet in New York (21).

Hall Announcement
Tomorrow, we’ll find out who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 2014 ballot contains 36 players (19 new names and 17 returnees). Candidates who receive 75 percent of the votes are in.

Three former manageres have already been chosen for the HOF. Last year was a shutout at Cooperstown. This year could be a classic crop.

Hall of Fame voting used to be confidential. Now, writers are bragging on how they voted and why. Tweets are everywhere. Shouldn’t writers write the news and not create it? Do they reveal their votes for the President of the US? Perhaps I’m getting grumpy.

Strange But True Game


Happy New Year.
Before we close the book on 2013, congratulations to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark who authored an interesting and entertaining story, Strange But True feats from 2013. Jayson’s a master at these type of stories.
Here’s an excerpt from the story that was first posted on ESPN.com on the last day of last year. It relates to the Phillies. To totally appreciate Jayson’s work of art, you need to read the entire classic marathon story.
“In a season in which 12 games went 16 innings or longer, you’d have to look long and hard to find a nuttier baseball game than the 7-hour, 6-minute, 18-inning epic staged by the Diamondbacks and Phillies on Aug. 24 (the fourth-longest game, in time, in major league history). Among the Strangest But Truest developments:
“The well-traveled Casper Wells, capable of achieving what few people imagined was possible. He went 0-for-7 at the plate. And up gave five runs on the mound, in two-thirds of an inning. And even wound up as the losing “pitcher.”

“Strangest But Truest claims to fame? First, that he saw 42 pitches as a hitter — and threw 40 pitches as a pitcher. Second, as SI.com’s Joe Sheehan observed, he drove in one run all season — but gave up five in 10 minutes. And finally, as legendary ESPN Kernel collector Doug Kern reported, Wells became the first man to go 0-for-7 as a hitter and give up five runs as a pitcher in the same game since Chalmer (Lum) Harris did it on Sept. 14, 1942. Except Harris needed to twirl a 16-inning complete game to pull it off.
“Because Wells couldn’t even throw a complete inning, let alone a complete game, he also contributed to yet another historic event. The Phillies had to haul in infielder John McDonald to relieve him in the top of the 18th. So it made them the first team to pitch two position players in the same inning since David Martinez and Junior Noboa did it for the Expos on July 20, 1990.
“But that little plot twist didn’t work out so well for Diamondbacks catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, who was creative enough to make outs against both Wells and McDonald in the same inning. The last known human to do that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: Brian Milner, on June 26, 1978.
“Finally, here’s your Strange But True Fun With Numbers note of the day: The game started at 7:06 – and lasted for 7:06.”