New Day Dawning

Those Philly boo birds: Oh where, oh where have they gone? — Ron Costello


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Philly Boo Birds Asleep? Good, Please Don’t Wake Them

I remember my first Phillies game.

Mom and  dad took me to Connie Mack Stadium in the early  fifties. I believe I was somewhere between 4 and 6 (hell, I could hit at 3). Everything was going as planned until Del Ennis came to bat.

Ennis — through folklore or fact, I think it was more folklore — was thought to be our cousin. Somewhere deep in my maternal grandmother’s side. So everybody in my household loved him. Naturally, I did too. I later learned he was a hardscrabble kid from the streets of Olney and was treated terribly by the fans of Philadelphia for reasons no one could figure out, except my mother.

Back at my first game, when Ennis came up, a strange and horrible noise filled the ballpark. It scared me. I stood up on my seat and grabbed my mother’s dress collar. I must’ve looked petrified. I never heard booing before. Nobody booed in our backyard games.

My mother laughed and said, “That’s all right, Ronnie, everybody expects Del to hit a homer and when he doesn’t, they boo him.”

Ennis played 11 seasons with the Phillies and had good numbers: a .288 lifetime batting average, 288 home runs and 1,284 RBIs.

In my teenage years, they booed my all time favorite Phillies’ player, Dick Allen — as badly as they booed Ennis. Maybe worse.

He was the first black superstar in Philadelphia (arguably Wilt Chamberlain was.) Let’s face it, Philly didn’t have a positive history with black athletes. I remember reading later that Allen was Dick from the day he was born — in Wampum, PA. By the time he got to Little Rock, the Phillies’ Triple A stop, the Philly papers changed his name to Ritchie.

Later, Allen changed his name back to Dick. It was at a time when Muhammud Ali and Malxom X changed names. I don’t think it sat well with the Philly fans, or maybe, like my mother said about Ennis, they just expected him to hit one over the Coca-Cola sign on the left field roof — every damn time up. Allen finished his career with a .292 lifetime batting average, 351 home runs, and 1,119 RBIs

Even Mike Schmidt, who spent his entire career with the Phillies and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame — possibly the best third baseman ever — got booed. Schmidt finished with .267 lifetime batting average, 548 home runs, and 1,159 RBIs. (Notice that Ennis had more lifetime RBIs than both Allen and Schmidt.)

Said Mrs. Del Ennis, at the time Schmidt was getting booed: “When there was a lot written about Mike Schmidt being booed, Del couldn’t believe it,” Liz Ennis said. “He’d say, ‘They think that’s booing? That’s nothing.’ He didn’t think that was anything compared to what he got, every game, every at-bat, every move he made.”

There were others who brought out the best of the Philly boo birds: Lance Parish, Scott Rolen, Rod Barajas, Adam Eaton, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Freddy Garcia, Danny Tartabull, and Jayson Werth, just to name a few. I’m sure if I spent some time I could triple the list.

The number one boo bird target ever in Philadlephia? No doubt about it: JD Drew. Even Stephen Drew, the current Yankees’ second baseman, got booed at Citizens Bank Park, and Stephen had nothing to do with the Phillies— except that he was JD’s brother.

When JD came into Philly with the Red Sox, the boo birds — and extra police and security — came out in force. Even before Drew came out to the on-deck circle, the deep rumble I remember hearing at my first Phillies game,  started.

But here’s the thing that surprises me today.

Where did the Philly boo birds go? If anybody deserved to get booed, it might be several of the current Phillies’ players: Ryan Howard. Domonic Brown. Kyle Kendrick. Jonathon Papelbon. Ruben Amaro, Jr., doesn’t take the field. Lucky for him.

Sure, sometimes there is a smattering of boos directed at all of the above, but surely, nothing like Ennis and Allen endured.

Smattering. I remember at Connie Mack Stadium, when Allen popped out of the dugout and stopped at the on-deck circle. That deep rumble — started slowly then picked up volume. It got louder as Allen tossed the donut and walked to the plate, carrying that stick of lumber he used.

He settled in, with his short, quick strokes, the stadium lights glaring off his helmet, holding that 40-ouncer close to his chest, staring out at the pitcher.

The booing continued as he first took a pitch, fouled one off, then grounded out to short.

As Allen trotted back to the dugout, the entire stadium exploded in boos, raining down on him like confetti at a New York parade, and it didn’t stop until he disappeared into the dugout.

At 16-17 years old, that wasn’t nice to see. I hope I never see it again!

Vote again for Caroline Costello


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You Want the Real Story? Rollins and the Phillies Respect Sandberg. Period

Two infielders cut from the same bolt of cloth.

Two infielders cut from the same bolt of cloth.

Jimmy’s got tenure.

If you’re  tenured faculty say, at Drexel, it means you’ve earned the right to free speech in the classroom without fear of dismissal. That’s why tenure was set up, to protect academic freedom.

Wanting to break Schmidt's Phillies record for most hits doesn't make Rollins a selfish player.

Wanting to break Schmidt’s franchise record for hits doesn’t make Rollins a selfish player.

Professor Rollins has tenure — albeit, not the same as an accounting professor, but nonetheless he’s got baseball freedom. So chuck the Jimmy-for-Who theories and think about something important like what happened to Flight 370.

Jimmy has a full no trade clause in his contract.

Why should he accept a trade? His best  chance of winning a division championship is here in Philly, not Detroit or some other bankrupt outpost.

But here’s the problem. Some people — a lot of people — after seeing and hearing the trash talk about Jimmy online, in the papers or on talk radio, believe it. Even if — in my opinion — much of it’s created by media outlets forced to cover spring training.

B-o-r-i-n-g.

You’ve got to write about something; who cares if the Phillies beat Pittsburgh, 3-1, in Bradenton?

Ah, but Jimmy provided Jayson Stark and Comcast SportsNet’s Jim Salisbury with something better. Trash talk. “Rollins doesn’t have the right mindset,” or, “he’s too focused on his own stats.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney said sources inside the Phillies say Rollins “should lead or leave, ” and he might get traded. I wonder who Olney spoke to, the kid who makes coffee? The secretary who thinks he’s cute? (Ron doesn’t think Buster’s cute) We don’t know, of course, he didn’t say.

Of course. So we just trust Buster, like you would a bank teller or a slip and fall lawyer.

There’s no question Rollins didn’t have a good season last year. But if you look closely at his stats, they fluxuate from year to year — like a see-saw. With the exception of year one — 2000, in 14 games — Rollins has never hit .300. His career averages — batting average and on base percentage — are good for a shortstop.

Rollins and the Phillies respect Sandberg. Which is a big reason why they will win the NL East.

Rollins and the Phillies respect Sandberg, which is a big reason why they will win the NL East.

He’s averaged 17 home runs and 69 RBIs through 13 seasons; again respectable. Very respectable. Defensively, he’s a four time Rawlings Gold Glove winner, the last in 2012.

Granted, Charlie had to speak to him last season, even had to sit him. Personally, I’ve never seen Jimmy Rollins dog-it. I think baseball players get through a 162 game season their own way.

I think it’s impossible to go 100 percent, every game. Guys like Rollins, who play 155 – 158 games a season — he played all 162 in 2007 — pace themselves. It must be brutal; I can’t imagine.

Now excuse me, I like Freddy Galvis, but is he going to step in and do the  job  Rollins will do offensively? Get real.

Could Jimmy be slipping because of age?

Absolutely. But you don’t question his commitment, frame of mind, and his value as a team player. Or question his value as a baseball man — lookit, they’re questioning his value as a man!

It’s all bullshit.

Under Sandberg, this club has a chance.

Sandberg might be quiet, but he’s quiet like iron.

I grew up in this city. I’ve seen how rumors snowball and inapt media and irresponsible reporting turn people against athletes,  i.e., Del Ennis and Richie Allen. I think that same negative focus is now on Jimmy Rollins.

Why? Who knows.

Chase Utley showed up at spring training hardly able to walk. Nobody questioned his commitment or value as a team player. Pat Burrell did his workouts after midnight, who accused him of lacking leadership skills? Why didn’t Comcast SportsNet stick microphones in his face?

Shane Victorino popped off. Was he a malcontent? A troublemaker? Was he a worthless leader? Didn’t see any of that.

Jimmy Rollins will lead with his bat and glove — and his legs, and I hope for him — and us —  they hold up.

I don’t know about you, but my legs aren’t what they were 13 years ago, and nobody accuses me of being lazy, selfish, or not in the right frame of mind.

Well, almost nobody.