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Caps Off to J-Roll

11 Dec

This was originally written when Jimmy Rollins got his 2000th hit in 2012.  It seems appropriate to repost it tonight in tribute to the little guy who will leave a big shadow behind.  Make sure to check out the new material at the end of the post!

 

As a kid he excelled in both baseball and football.  In fact, if asked to choose between the two, the young athlete would have

 probably chosen the gridiron.  He loved the San Francisco 49ers and he dominated in Pop Warner football.

But when his height plateaued at 5’7”, Jimmy Rollins gave up dreams of a pro football career and opted for baseball instead.

And 2000 hits later, it seems the young Rollins made the right choice.

Many pro athletes will attribute their success to the many hours spent with their Dads in the batting cages and fielding ground balls in the back yard.

As for Jimmy?

His baseball inspiration was his Mom, Gigi, a top infielder in the fast-pitch softball leagues of Northern California.  Jimmy spent many an afternoon tagging along to his Mom’s practices, collecting balls in the outfield in exchange for a chance to take a couple of swings at the plate or field some grounders.  In fact, Gigi still claims that she was a better ballplayer than he is.

Hey, now we know where that Jimmy Rollins swagger comes from.

In high school Rollins stole 99 bases and hit .484, both school records.  Those numbers attracted the attention of some pro scouts who would normally have dismissed a 5’7” kid as just too small to make it in the majors.  He was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 1996 draft and Jimmy had found a home.

Jimmy’s parents had one rule for their children growing up:  You never quit.  And that rule would serve the 17-year old Rollins well as he worked his way up from the bottom.  He started his career playing for the Appalachian League’s Martinsville Phillies where he hit just .238.

A couple of years later he finally made the leap to Triple-A.   It was the first time he had played on artificial turf and the young Rollins, unused to the speed of the turf, struggled with his footing. On the first ball hit his way, a grounder up the middle, his feet got tangled up and Jimmy fell flat on his face.

But he took his parents ‘never quit’ rule to heart.  Just ten years later Jimmy Rollins would famously declare his Philadelphia Phillies “the team to beat in the NL East” then back it up,  leading his team to their first division title in 14 years.

As for Jimmy

He had some firsts of his own.  He became the first player in Major League history to collect 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 home runs, and 25 stolen bases in the same season. He also became the 4th player to have at least 20 home runs, 20 triples, 20 doubles, and 20 stolen bases with an RBI triple on the last day of the season winning him the 2007 NL MVP.

Not bad for a 5’7” kid who once had dreams of playing football.

But Jimmy wanted more than individual records.

“Records are meant to be broken and it’s good to have an opportunity to chase them. But I’m more focused on how we do as a team.”

And focused he was.   In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies gave a championship-starved city what they had long been waiting for.  The Phillies won the World Series, their first title in 28 years.

As for Jimmy

The little shortstop with the big words backed them up again.  He became the first player to lead off two clinching games with homers in the same postseason and joined his teammates in a ride down Broad Street this city will never forget.

Now with his 2000th hit Jimmy Rollins joins some rarefied Phillies company.  Only Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn and Ed Delahanty had that many. And only 30 switch-hitters in history have at least 2,000 hits.

Not bad for the little guy who fell flat on his face fielding his first ground ball in Triple-A.

Yes, there are those who will point to some of Rollins’ controversial statements or his occasional failures to run hard to first on a ground ball.  Yes, there are those who will say that he doesn’t get on base enough to be an effective leadoff hitter or that he’s not worth the money the Phillies are paying him.

But this is not the time to debate any of that.  This is the time to celebrate the little guy with the big arm.  The shortstop with the swagger.  The guy who talked the talk, telling the world that his team was the “team to beat,” and then walked the walk taking us all along with him for the glorious ride.  This is the time to congratulate the Phillies diminutive shortstop on his big achievement.

As for Jimmy?

He’s not done yet.

‘It was great, but 3,000 is better,’‘ said Rollins “[It’s] pretty cool, but I still have work to do.”

And that’s not bad for those of us who will get to watch him do it.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

We knew this day would come. We even knew that it should

But that doesn’t mean that it has to feel good.

After 15 seasons of sporting Phillies red

J-Roll’s trading coasts; he’ll wear Dodgers blue instead

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He loved to play the game;  he lived loved living life with style

JimmyJohariRollins

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And no night was complete without that Jimmy Rollins’ smile.

Jimmy Rollins

  Yes, he gave our team his swagger, some might call it attitude

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But he leaves with something, too, our undying gratitude.

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So our caps are off to J-Roll as he heads to La-La land

And when he’s at the Bank we’ll even give him a hand

But there’s one thing that we’re keeping, actually 5 to be complete

Words that live in Phillies history: “We’re the team to beat.”

Chicago Cubs v Philadelphia Phillies

 

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One To Savor

3 Oct

Well, this is it.  Today is game number 162, the last game of the Philadelphia Phillies 2012 baseball season.

 Yes, we thought there would be more games to cheer.

 Yes, we expected another “Red October.”

 Yes, we hoped for a long playoff run.

 And yes, we even dreamed of a parade down Broad Street.

 But, no, that was not meant to be.

All those hopes and dreams will just have to wait for next year.

We’ll have the whole long off-season to try to put this season into perspective.  To agonize over what went wrong and hope that Ruben can make things right.

But for now let me quote Bob Segar when I say,

“We still have tonight.”

And I don’t know about you but I plan to savor this last game.  After all, it has to hold us over for a long time.  I don’t mean I’m going to keep a scorecard or worry about who gets hits and who strikes out.  I’m not even going to worry about who wins.  (Well, I’m not sure about that one.  Cliff Lee deserves every win he can get!)

I’m just going to try to enjoy my favorite sport of baseball and appreciate all the enjoyment it has given me over the years. We’ll open a bottle of champagne (got that, my partner in life and baseball?) and drink a toast or two to the game we love.

Instead of just being bummed out and disappointed that the season’s over, let’s make this final game a celebration.  Let’s toast to the many joys this great game has given us and not just this season.  (That would barely give us a buzz.)  No, instead let’s raise our glasses to all of our priceless baseball memories.

We’ll drink to World Series victories and Playoff no-hitters.

We’ll toast perfect seasons and walk-off wins.

We’ll drink to moonshot home runs and nasty sliders.

 To a catcher we call Chooooooch and even our old friend Rauuuuuuul.

 And we’ll certainly throw in a toast to the magic doctor Chase found in Arizona and another one hoping that the Doc finds a doctor of his own.

But mostly we’ll just toast baseball, this game that creates bonds, friendships and even brings people closer together.

Wherever my family has traveled, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, from Las Vegas to New Orleans, baseball has always been our shared passion, our common bond.

So I hope that you too, all of my wonderful blog readers and fellow baseball fans, will share a bottle of bubbly today and join us as we drink a toast to America’s National Pastime.

 And you can be sure, that wherever you are, my final toast will be to all of you.

 Cheers!

 Take us home, Pete.

 We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?

We’ve got tonight, yeah,

So let’s watch them play.

 (Yes, I know it’s a 1:00 game, but what’s better than a little buzz in the afternoon!)

Leaving On a Jet Plane

1 Oct

Well, the Phillies had a pretty good weekend winning two of three from the MarlinsRoy Halladay, though far from dominant, was able to complete his disappointing season with a win and Cole Hamels, quite dominant, got his career high 17th victory.  The wins brought the Phils record to 80-79.  They enter their final three game series with the Nationals tonight.

Then, they’ll all be packing up and heading for home.  Makes me think of that old Peter, Paul and Mary classic.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

 All the bags are packed, all the balls and the bats

The playoffs belong to the Cards, Braves and Nats.

We never thought that it could end this way.

 ◊          ♦          ◊

But Ryan was hurtin’ and Chase had bad knees

That run at the end was just a tease.

And what the heck is wrong with Halladay?

      ♦          ◊          ♦         

But next year no Mayberry,

Next year we’ll score runs for Lee

Next year can’t come soon enough for me.

 ◊          ♦          ◊

‘Cause I’ll miss Chase, Chooch and J-Roll

What will I do without Kid Cole?

Oh man, I do hate the lull.

           ◊          ♦

I keep thinking of what might have been

But with Nix, Schierholtz and Wigginton

I’ll tell you now, that lineup was weak

 ◊          ♦          ◊

Every error seemed to cost a game

Every eighth inning would end the same

We even lost our record sellout streak.

 ♦         ◊          ♦

But next year no injuries

Next year it’s the World Series.

Next year we will be the team to beat

 ◊                    ◊

‘Cause we’ll be back, we’ll be back strong, 

With lots of Harry’s “High Hopes” song.

We’ll watch our Phils march down Broad Street.

           ◊          

Now the time has come for Girls Best Phriend

To bring my season to an end

So three more posts and I’ll be on my way.

 ◊                    ◊

But dream about the wins to come

When we won’t have to be so glum

About the time that I won’t have to say.

 ♦          ◊          

That we’re leaving, no more to cheer

That almost brings a tear

But just you wait untill next year.

◊          ♦          ◊ 

But it’s over,  finished too soon

I don’t know how to end this tune.

 ♦          ◊          

But it’s over, there is no doubt

So I’ll just end with this fade out.

         ♦ 

And Then It Was One

28 Sep

That’s what the Phillies tragic number is down to after their loss yesterday against the playoff bound Washington Nationals.  What a difference a couple of letters makes, huh?

One more loss (or one more Cardinals win) and the Phillies string of five consecutive playoff appearances, the longest active streak in the Major Leagues and tied for the third longest since division play began in 1969, will officially end.

Yes, I know all good things must come to an end but as this season nears its conclusion, I’m finding it hard to watch the games and even harder to write about them.

Yes, I think we’ve all known for a while, even with the welcome surge at the end, that it was unlikely that this year’s team would make it to the postseason.

Yes, we’ve known that for the first time in five years we would not be having a Red October but the reality of that truth is still hard to take for this baseball fan and I’m sure for many fans like me.

But I also know that the second that final out is recorded, we’ll all start counting down another magic number, the days till pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.  (I’d give you that number now but no official start date has yet been announced.)

At least it has been fun watching Darin Ruf for the last couple of days and thankfully the Nationals will have to have their clinching party in someone else’s park.

And maybe tonight the boys can score a run or two for Cliff Lee, who has been pitching lately like he’s making up for lost time or maybe a lost season.

As for me,  I promise to try to end my season on an upbeat note.  I promise to finish with some posts that will bring some perspective to what has been a difficult season; posts that will attempt to provide a little humor and maybe even some hope.

But today I’m just a little sad, waiting for the final shoe, or should I say cleat, to drop.

My Blog of Atonement

26 Sep

Last night at the Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service (the service that begins the high holy day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement) our rabbi said in his sermon that first you should forgive yourself for something, then forgive someone else, then think about what you will do better in the coming year.  By the way, Eagles coach Andy Reid seems to have that last part down.  Have you ever listened to one of his post game press conferences?   “I’ve gotta do a better job there.  That’s my responsibility.”  But I digress.

I thought I’d start my Day of Atonement by following my Rabbi’s advice.  Let’s see, first I will forgive myself for all the uncharacteristically negative and sarcastic things I have written in my normally upbeat Phillies blog this year.  Putting the team down (even if they did stink for much of the year, ooops) was not helpful and I will try to do better (if they promise to do the same!)

Next I will forgive Charlie Manuel for all the mistakes he has made this season.  I know he didn’t mean to leave all of his pitchers in one pitch too long, always letting them give up the game-winning home run before taking them out.  I know he thought he was doing the right thing bringing Jonathan Papelbon in to tie games only to see him blow them time and time again.  I know he meant to make those defensive changes late in the game that might have prevented those errors at third base or in the outfield that cost the Phillies even more victories.  (But I think I may be missing the spirit here.)  So let me just say, “Sorry, Charlie.”

As for what I will try to do better in the coming season (I mean year) I promise not to yell profanities at my television set or close my eyes when Papelbon comes in to close a game.  I promise to look for the bright side even when the Phils are 14 games under .500 at the All Star Break.  I promise to not let a bad loss ruin a perfectly good night (I’ll need a lot of help with that one) and I will try to just enjoy baseball for what it is, the sport I love that is supposed to be fun!

I’ll get a head start by commending the boys on a good win last.  Special kudos go to Darin Ruf for hitting his first major league home run.  And extra kudos go to his teammates for their execution of the silent treatment.  It’s an old baseball tradition to ignore a rookie after his first home run but this was a long one.  He stood alone in the dugout looking a bit bewildered for a good five to ten minutes.  Even the batboy ignored him.  It wasn’t until three more batters had taken their swings and the inning had ended, that Ruf’s teammates finally ended their prank and mobbed him to celebrate his first Major League hit — a home run.

You gotta love those old baseball traditions.  And on that note I’ve gotta get on with my Jewish tradition and head off to morning services.  I’ve got a lot of atoning to do, starting with this blog post!

I wish for all of my Jewish readers an easy fast.

Monday Morning Quarterback

24 Sep

It must make Lee sick

His offense so anemic

At least he’s not Vick!

Howard Does It; The ‘Doc’ Doesn’t

23 Sep

Ryan Howard hit his 300th home run last night.

It was a blast to deep center field in the fourth inning, estimated to have traveled 440 feet.  It was Howard’s 14th home run of the season after missing the first three months with his healing Achilles.  It was his fourth consecutive game with a home run following a streak of 0-67 without a single long ball.

Ryan Howard’s 276 homers and 850 RBIs since the start of the 2006 season are the most in the Major Leagues.  He becomes the second-fastest player in Major League history to reach 300.  It took him just six more games than legendary Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner to reach the 300 mark.

In Phillies history, Howard is second in homers to only Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, who hit 548. Howard joins Chuck Klein at No. 134 on the all-time list, with Rogers Hornsby next with 301 long balls.

I wish I could milk this milestone even longer because that, my friends, was the only good news from  the Phillies 8-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves giving their Playoff hopes a severe blow.

Roy Halladay was….well let’s just say the Doctor was clearly NOT in the house.  He gave up  seven runs on five hits as he couldn’t even make it through the second inning.  Yes, every pitcher struggles from time to time but somehow when it’s Halladay, it’s just hard to watch.

He wouldn’t blame his ineffectiveness on his injury or recent spasms he has had in the shoulder area but let’s hope a recuperative off-season will have the ‘Doc’ back to being, well, the ‘Doc.’

No, the Phillies are not mathematically eliminated yet and based on the dismal start to their season, that fact alone should be considered an accomplishment.

This late season surge making baseball exciting in September was an unexpected bonus.  At least that’s how I choose to view it as I sip my coffee,  the  morning after Ryan Howard hit his 300th home run.

(See how I managed to end things on a good note this Sunday morning???)

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