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Had My Phil
2005-04-20 22:18
by Mike Carminati

So I went to my first game at Citizen's Bank Park in the post-inaugural era and I have to say that the highlight was the free Turkey Hill ice cream before the game—It was Tastykake Chocolate Cupcake, after all, a combination of things that will make any true Philadelphian have to change his undies about now.

As for the game…in the bottom of first my cousin-in-law, Yankee fan he, turned to me and dejectedly said something like, "This isn't a very good ballgame, is it?" And I sort of shrugged my assent in a "welcome to my world" kind of way.
After gulping down my free confection, while watching perhaps the most awe-inspiring collection of inferior veteran relievers (i.e., the Mets bullpen) warm up in the left field corner—Manny Ay-Yay-Aybar?!?—I met my wife's uncle and his two sons, all Yankee fans, at our seats and took them on a tour of the fairly new park. I took them to Ashburn Alley, which on game days resembles the background scenes in "Gangs of New York". I proudly directed them to the Phillie All-Stars organized by position in the park's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Unfortunately, the right-handed pitchers section, the first on the tour, was under the feet of a few patrons waiting in a be-baffled line at one of the many extremely overpriced restaurants.

Next on the tour was the Phils' multi-paneled wall of Philadelphia baseball history. After drinking in the team's jaded past, one of my cousins commented that it seemed that the Phils always lost every game in which one of their players accomplished some memorable feat. Again more shrugs on my part. Our favorite part of the Phils' history was one caption that immortalized the team setting a consecutive losses record—23 if I recall correctly—in July/August 1961. The caption above that one read that beer was introduced at Connie Mack Stadium. Guess what the date was…it was dead smack in middle of the losing streak. As Marie Antoinette once said, "Let them have beer."

The wall facing the Phillie history pastiche was a the team's Hall of Fame plaques, something that would not impress too greatly lifelong Yankee fans steeped in the mystique of the shrine of the immortals. Tug McGraw and Larry Bowa, aint Mickey and the Babe.

Anyway, we were then running out of time before gametime, and Schmitters were calling. After depositing $10.75 into the McNally's coffers for a Schmitter, a local sandwich fave, and a medium coke. We returned to our seats to masticate and met up with my father-in-law, who was delayed on business.

Then the game started.

Vicente Padilla, in his first start after beginning the season on the DL, was resplendently bad. He gave up eight runs on eight hits, five of which were homers. It was obvious that he didn't have it on the first batter, Jose Reyes. Padilla started him with two strikes, then missed twice, and grooved a pitch that went yard, as the kids are wont to say. But the masterpiece was the third. With the Mets leading, 3-2, and two outs, he gave up 1-0 homer to Mike Piazza, a first-pitch single to Cliff Floyd, a first-pitch homer to Doug Mientkiewicz, a 1-0 single to David Wright, and an 0-1 homer to rookie Victor Diaz, his second in as many innings. That's one strike that was not turned into a hit, eight pitches in total, five hits, three home runs, and five runs. It may have been the single worst series of pitches that I have ever witnessed. But Padilla was allowed to stay in the game in order to get the pitcher for the last out.

Next in was Gavin Floyd, nice touch. Floyd lost his spot in the rotation to Padilla when he came off the DL. Floyd seems well positioned to join the legions of failed Phils pitching prospects. He didn't disappoint. He tried his darnedest to top Padilla, a formidable task. He gave up two homers (a second to Reyes and a grand slam to Wright), to help the Mets tie a team record, and was left in to soak up the innings ERA be damned.

After the slam in the sixth with the score 16-4, I gave up any pretense of keeping score in this sh*tfest. Eventually, we decided that the Schmitter had gotten lonely for a cheesesteak and gave up on the game. The one problem I have with new stadiums is that they got rid of all the vendors. I remember being a kid at the Vet and sitting through the game while the hot dog guy, the soda guy, and the ice cream guy did all the leg work. Not today. Fans have traded in convenience for, apparently, neon signs. You're better off bringing your own or sending a minion to scout for food while you take in the game.

As we stretched our legs, we found that what was left of the Phillies fans were in Ashburn Alley. We also found that they consisted in skanky ho's and ridiculous inebriated red-necky men. That's my Philly. And apparently none of these individuals has ever used a men's room before. It's not that the Phils restrooms are immaculate to begin with—it seems like they saved construction costs by porting the old Vet restrooms en toto to the new park and have yet to clean them—but I saw a toilet in which someone tried to flush a hot dog, wrapper and all. I didn't want to think about why the hot dog was in the men's room in the first place.

Anyway, when we returned to our seats we found that the fans who remained were almost exclusively Met fans. Nothing makes a sports fan prouder than looking into the sea of his fellow fans at their home park and seeing the opponents team colors in full display, especially when they are the putrid Met orange, blue, and black. And then there are the Mets fans themselves, probably the dumbest in sports. It's not all their fault given that they play in that purgatory of a stadium—wasn't that the description that Dennis Hopper used for an opponent's gym in "Hooisers". When the PA announcer isn't drowned out by the constant roar of jet engines above, the fans are cheering enthusiastically for every shallow fly ball, which of course is taken for a home run by the Metsgoe-ians. As I said at the game, "Hope springs eternal for the Met fan." At the end of the game, the Mets fans effused. Again, I said that this was the Mets World Series, beating up on another crappy team. I was full of one-liners. To paraphrase Eddie Murphy, I kid the Mets fans cause they Met fans. Truthfully, a Phils fan commenting on a Mets fan is like that scene in "Schindler's List", in which a boy evades the Nazi troops by hiding in the repository under an outhouse. He looks up to see a group of boys, whose putative leader asserts, "Get out! This is our spot."

The game ended as all games do, except All-Star games in Milwaukee, and I fought the temptation to buy any merchandise. A team that loses 16-4 doesn't deserve my hard-earned dinero. When I returned home and slipped my half-finished scorecard and ticket stub into my program—I save everything from games—I fished out a coupon from the free ice cream I had to start the night. It came full cycle and I realized that it wasn't a total loss. Maybe next time, I'll just stock up on the ice cream and watch the game at home. Or better yet travel down to DC and support a team that at least is pointed in the right direction.

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