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!

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The Dismantling and Destruction of the Philadelphia Phillies

If your mission was to run the team into the ground, you couldn’t have done it better than Junior.

But was it entirely his fault? Maybe not all? But most of it was. His personae says that he’s cooler than Dr. Suess and knows what’s up. But the results suggest otherwise.

The 2008 championship seems like a fantasy in an old man’s dream. From a star-studded parade  down Broad Street, to the near miss vs the Yankees in ’09  — to the ugly, painful, last at bat injury in the 2011 post season loss to the Cardinals.

After that, the club went to hell in a handbasket!

From the four aces, to a rotation that is so up and down it would make Belmont Hills look like a central Illinois soybean farm. They take turns getting hammered while appearing disgruntled, like the millions they are raking in isn’t enough.

From 2007 to 2011, the Phillies won the National League East Division — three of those under Junior, but let’s be fair, most of the players came from the Gillick Empire.

In my view, a few additions this season could have kept them in the hunt, but with a bulging payroll topping off at $180 million, they can hardly add a janitor to sweep out the dugout. Besides, Junior seems slow to move — except when he’s dealing out million dollar, long term contracts that boggles the mind.

After the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick retired. The Phillies then selected a blue-blue prodigy as GM: A born and raised Philadelphian — William Penn Charter High School student council leader and star athlete; bat boy for the 1980 Phillies’ World Championship team; former player; a biology major who led his Stanford University baseball team to the College World Series and  whose dad is a fixture in Phillies history. His grandfather, Santos Amaro, was the “Babe Ruth of the Mexican League.” Both Junior’s father and grandfather are in the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

A Phillies blue-blood native son. His semblance so intriguing it would silence the drunkenness’ boo bird in the deluxe box seats at Connie Mack Stadium.

But it’s been a fall from grace!

First, two outfielders — Pat Burrell and Jason Werth — walked.  What could poor Junior do? He didn’t have the money to keep them. It seemed the Phillies never replaced the power Burrell and Werth pumped into those winning teams — power that left the middle of the lineup as shallow and weak as an old head who won’t take his Viagra.

Then came the devastating injuries to Utley and Howard — both never got near their ’08 and ’09 numbers again. Their home run and RBI production dropped faster than a  North Korean missile over the Sea of Japan.  J-Roll and Chooch on and off the DL as the years  and the 162 game-annual-marathon-body-killer seasons took its toll. Add to that list Brad Lidge and Roy Halladay cashing out.

Saddled with a team budget surpassing the GNP of a dozen nations, two solid, fan favorite outfielders had to go: Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Plain as the nose on your face:  Junior just couldn’t afford them.

But he could afford players like Delmon Young, Michael Martinez, Laynce Nix, Michael Young, Mike Adams, John McDonald, Casper Wells, Ben Revere, John LannanI could go on and on.

Add to that an overpaid closer with a Vladimir Putin  attitude so bad Junior can’t give him away.

Meanwhile, flabbergasted and frustrated die-hard Phillies fans, loyal as the day is long — 257 straight-game-sellouts — watched the team go down the toilet.

Now Amaro — who can’t find a warm body to trade at the deadline — offered up the only significant piece left from the glory days, World Series MVP Cole Hamels. The problem was Junior wanted half a team’s Triple A can’t miss all-stars, lock, stock and barrel.

Ten minutes after the deadline, the team is left with an ace and a corral of aging has-beens that might not win again until Hillary is in her second term.

Doesn’t make sense.

Go ahead, look through Phillies history of the last five years. Then see if you could do a better job running the team into the ground.

I bet you can’t!

Everybody I talk to says it, so I might as well, too: The prodigy must go!

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South Philly Texas Style


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Some Observations at the Ballgame (sorry, no photos)

The Mrs. and I spent a pleasant night at the ballpark Saturday. Here are some observations.

Our investment, all told, was about $281, including two tickets from SubHub; two beers each — $30 (at Total Wine in Delaware you can almost get two cases of Coors Lite for that, without the view, of course.) Two cheesesteaks — $21; split an order of fries — $6; two subway tokens — $4 (I ride free;) and we brought our own peanuts and bottled water. We were seated 16 rows, on the aisle, behind the middle of the Phillies dugout.

Obscene? Don’t think so — try going to the orchestra or theater and eat and drink and see what that costs. Try a George Strait concert at the Fargo Center (in comparable seating, bought at StubHub, with food and drink? — easy $500-plus.) Theater in New York? Get a loan.

We walked to 5 o’clock church, walked home to give our cats their afternoon happy hour, walked 3 blocks to the subway, went three subway stops and were in our seats — with our first two beers —  at 6:50. The game got underway at 7:15 and unlike most country music concerts we’ve been to, it started exactly as advertised: 7:15.

The game ended after the 10th around 11:45 p.m. Compare that time span to concerts, theater, and the orchestra. I think Strait sang an hour-and-a half with an intermission that pushed it beyond two hours.

It was Phanatic beach towel give-away night for under age 14 — and no, we didn’t get one, but from the looks of them (the towels) I didn’t think it was a towel I’d seriously consider taking to the beach. It was kind of flimsy. But the kids hung on to those beach towels like it was their most prized possession, other than the cotton candy and the Phanatic hats, of course.

In our section and the sections on either side of us, sat the Dugout Kids, lots of kids between the ages of 8 and 14, most decked out in Phillies apparel — Utley shirt by far the favorite — with gloves, mostly boys, nearly all Caucasian, and affluent — see cost of Phillies apparel.

Every inning, with the Nationals at bat and two outs, the Dugout Kids began making their way toward the aisles.  On the third out, they dashed down  the aisles toward the Phillies dugout in mass — like it was the running of the bulls —  maybe 20-30 kids or more. As the Phillies came-off the field, one player  held the last-out ball. Twenty feet or so from the dugout, the Phillies’ ball holder tossed the ball underhand to the mass of kids, bunched together, like trout in a feeding frenzy, at the roof of the dugout.

The ball lifted slowing into the glare of lights, then descended down to 30 some gloves reaching for the heavens, like some kind of PAL athletic salute, and disappeared into either a Wilson A-2ooo Junior, or a Dick’s Sporting Good special bought at a late February sale.

Amazingly, the kids policed themselves. There was no shoving or pushing and once a kid gloved the tossed ball,the others — not trying to slap the ball away or steal it —immediately headed back up the aisles and returned to their seats, each one as gloomy as a kid without a date on the eve of the junior high prom — waiting for the bottom half of the next inning. Just  one kid returned to his seat with the treasure in glove, edged on by a proud mom or dad to hold the ball up like he was the Statue of Liberty.

One inning, Grady Sizemore made a running catch in the left field corner and then tossed the ball up into the crowd.

Uh, oh.

The team started its trot to the dugout with no ball carrier. Suddenly, before the Phillies got off the field,  I saw the top of a red hat peek out from the dugout and a hand that tossed a ball to the Dugout Kids.

Nice!

Speaking of Grady Sizemore, before the game, he signed autographs, mostly for kids,  up until Drexel’s Dan Baker — the best PA announcer in modern baseball — called for the National Anthem. It seemed that Sizemore — after missing two full seasons from several major surgeries — appreciated his return to the Show. Sizemore now has two more lifelong admirers.

Then late in the game, Jason Werth hit a towering high pop up that came down several rows behind us. I mean this ball stayed in the air a full minute, or so it seemed. Then I heard the sickening sound of ball hitting face. People around us, including me, turned to look. The ball came through outstretched hands and hit a man in the mouth. His wife had napkins which she gave him to stop the bleeding. Phillies personnel quickly  came to take him out of the row. I hope for his sake the ball was deflected, because it came down like a missile.

Speaking of Jason Werth, what’s up with people booing him? He played his heart out for the Phillies and helped lead them to a World Series Championship. Oh, he left the team for $127 million? Who in their right mind would turn down money like that? The people who boo Jason Werth, in my opinion, are jerks and losers. I’d say something else but this is a family blog.

Just sitting at the Show and seeing how many people the Phillies employ is amazing. From beer and food vendors to video photographers, ticket takers, ushers, people employed in the numerous food and drink concession stands inside the park, security personnel — all so great to see. The city is lucky in more than a few ways to have the Phillies in Philadelphia. Jerks and all.

Attractive young women, more than you can keep your eye on sitting next to the Mrs. (and men too, but for some reason I notice the women more, why do you think that is?)

Not that I’m complaining, mind you, cause the Mrs. I’m sitting next to is no slouch.

But it seemed to me more young people — between the ages of 18 and 35 — than old heads like me — decked out in Phillies apparel and lookingwell, never mind that.

Another good sign that baseball is on the rise, not in decline as some World Cup followers would have you believe.

Then the Phanatic did a skit on top of the Phillies dugout that was, well, typically Phanatical. Between the sixth, a pretty blond dancer jumped up on the dugout roof to dance with him. She immediately attracted any fan’s attention who had a pulse.

The Phanatic did one-are push ups to impress her. Then, a muscular beer vendor climbed up at the far end and she preferred to dance with him. If you’ve seen the Phanatic, you can imagine what gyrations he went through. Jealous, he pulled an old head guy up onto the dugout and, to the amusement of the crowd, slow danced with him. It was a delightful addition to the game, as it always is with the Phanatic.

Medical science today says that laughter is the best way to improve and strengthen one’s immune system. If that’s true, and I believe it is, then a hell of a lot of Phillies fans owe a debt of gratitude to the Philly Phanatic!

Finally, in between all of this, there was a game on the field. The Phillies lost because the middle hitters in the order — Utley, Howard, Rollins — didn’t hit much, especially with runners on base. Byrd and Revere each had two key hits, but it wasn’t enough. Revere  made a fine running catch on a ball hit over his head.

Starting pitcher Hamels was good, but he wasn’t himself. And once again, not a lot of run support.

In the first inning, Asche — like my good friend Pete frequently did playing third for legend-coach Skip Wilson at Temple — made a sensational play and gunned out the runner by a millisecond (Pete, that will cost you an extra glass of Cabernet on Wednesday.)

Dom Brown didn’t start because he had a boo-boo — he didn’t feel well. I like Dom and want to see him do well, but I like needling him, too. He’s got to get his act together. “Dom, you want that big money or not?”

The Phillies will most likely trade Marlon Byrd soon. Even though it might be the right move — he’ll be 37 next month — I hate to see it. Byrd is a good ball player who wanted to come here and he too plays his heart out. Don’t know the man, but my guess is that Bryd would be a good friend to have.

You can sense things like that sitting at the Show.

Could have had a lot of nice photos for this post — and I apologize to the Phillies for the main photo, which might have been much better if I waited to take it later in the evening. But when the game begins, my iPhone get’s turned off and buried deep in my pocket.

Then it’s just me, the Mrs., and the ball game, on a beautiful evening — with a couple of cold ones, cheesesteaks and fries, Dugout Kids, and the Phanatic, in and around a great game on the field.

At the Show, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Say, just where does this blog writer live? On the Mainline?

Didn’t think so, how else could he write a book about South Philly?

Comments to: Philly@Ron-Costello.com   (don’t forget the dash)

 


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Junior Is Listening Now

Sizemore was once the best centerfielder in the American League.

Sizemore was once the best centerfielder in the American League.

I’m happy!

It only took four months — give a take a day or two — but Junior finally took my advice and added a player.

Actually, I said a player or two, but I’ll take one for now.

Grady Sizemore will be coming down the Northeast Extension this afternoon and be in uniform tonight. He’ll play left, center, or right. He can still hit and might breathe life into the Phillies, who just swept Milwaukee, in case you haven’t been keeping up.

That’s okay, if you abandoned ship, no problem. I’m here to get you back in the boat.

Boat?

Sizemore will uplift the Phillies and it will be a different second half.

Sizemore will uplift the Phillies and it will be a different second half.

The playoffs boat, I’m taking tickets and driving. Junior added a player, Ruf is due back, Lee is starting to throw the heater, Utley found his stroke — hiding beneath the floor mats of his SUV.

The Piece went yard yesterday, his 15th of the season and 55th RBI, and Sizemore threw away his Ez Pass-sun visors-attachable-clip-on somewhere along the 476 — called the Blue Route by us old heads.

Hundred-miles-an-hour Giles and Papelbon and the bullpen young guns have arrived.

Baseball is back in town.

Whether Sizemore hits or not, here’s one thing he will do: Make Dom Brown nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Looking over his shoulder, maybe Dom won’t be so happy coming to the park and will become Dom—May 2013—Brown.

Here’s something else — Sizemore will lead off Friday against the Nationals. That might make Revere nervous as a Shih Tzu in a room full of  unaltered cats. Maybe Revere will start hitting and running and actually catching balls that Victorino and Rowand would eat for lunch.

Could be Revere might not see center again for a while.

I’m so excited.

Do you think they will give out those white towels again?

See where Ron lives.

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Papelbon Wants to Win

Grady Sizmore — will he be joining the Phillies soon?

Grady Sizmore — will he be joining the Phillies soon?

This morning’s Inquirer quoted Jonathon Papelbon and the paper came to the conclusion that he wants to leave and play for a contender — not a team ten games out.

I read the quotes several times and came to a different conclusion: Papelbon was giving Junior a message: The season isn’t over yet.

Okay, here’s what he said: “Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That’s mind-boggling to me. I think it’s a no brainer.

“You know, I came here for a reasonand I say that because I’m with a group of guys in the bullpen that can do very special things in the future. I’ve been waiting for that, you know what I mean?

“We are finally with our bullpen. So that aspect of it would kind of stink to leave. But at the same time, winning is the cure-all of cure-alls.”

I think he’s saying what I’ve been saying all season: The club needs one or two players to get back in this thing.

Is Dom Brown ready to lead?

Is Dom Brown ready to lead?

Ten games back — lots of  clubs come back from ten games back. It’s not impossible and this team has good players.

Like Papelbon and he’s tired of losing!

Grady Sizemore, hitting .289 at Lehigh Valley, is one. Darin Ruf , on his way back from the DL — could be two. Perhaps a trade here and there before the deadline could shore up this team for a second half run.

Can he have a great second half? Utley is finding his stroke.

Can he have a great second half? Utley is finding his stroke.

Then Dom Brown comes alive to be the Dom Brown he was last May. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Utley goes on a tear.

Howard finds his power stroke.

Lee returns healthy and strong.

Chooch comes back and has a strong second half.

Am I dreaming?

Ron, wake up, wake up!

Lookit, anything’s possible. You know, the mother of all cure-alls.

Note: Got lots of comments about my thoughts on firing Sandberg. Most said Amaro is the one who should be fired, not Sandberg.

Comments to: Philly@Ron-Costello.com

Mr. Terry has a new post and Dr. Seuss doesn’t  mind!

New blog: Mr. Ron’s Neighborhood.

See Ron’s first book.


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Can They Come Back From the Dead?

Would a change here help? He's pretty laid back. The team might respond to Bowa!

Would a change here help? He’s pretty laid back. The team might respond to Bowa!

They lost again to the Pirates on Saturday, 3-2.

They still have a pulse. Barely.

Some of the players still have life. Dom Brown will bust out in the second half. Utley will climb out of his slump, the Piece will have a better second half, Ruf will hit 25 second half home runs, Lee will return to form, Cole will continue lights out and the young guns of the bullpen will hold court after the sixth.

Sure, and South Philly will shut down the Mummers Parade.

It he busts loose, he can carry the team to October and beyond.

Does he need a major league kick in the butt?

Still, there is a lot of baseball left. The newspapers say that Junior will sell. If you believe that, you’re more gullible than me. Only a select few know what Junior will do and the newspapers aren’t in that circle.

He’s got to buy, and here’s why.

Two of the sellables have no trade clauses, and besides, neither  — Utley or Rollins — is hitting worth a damn.

And the rest? Maybe Papelbon would draw a prospect or two; Lee definitely would if he was healthy.  Byrd? Yea, maybe a low-mid  level prospect. Marlon will be 37 next month.

Denier was a spark for the '83 Phillies late in the season.

Bobby-D was a spark for the ’83 Phillies late in the season.

Revere? Maybe, if he had an arm and could judge line shots hit in the gaps or over his head.

Burnett? Okay, the Pirates might give up a stiff or two to get him back.

Howard, DH to the American League? Get real. The Phillies would have to cover at least half  of his $25 million annual salary, and they don’t do that.

Besides, if you don’t hit, you don’t hit — doesn’t matter if you’re  the DH or the first baseman.

Juan Samuel, "Sammy," was another younger player who led the Phillies in '83

Juan Samuel, “Sammy,” was another younger player who led the ’83 team.

Hamels?

Now, ask yourself. Why would they trade Hamels?

If  Junior sells, like the papers say he will, I say, sell what?

Short of Hamels, which wouldn’t make sense, he’s got nothing to sell — okay, maybe Papelbon and Byrd —  that will bring what this club needs: Young and hungry players.

No, Junior has got to stay the course. He’s left with an old and injury prone team. Over the next several weeks, discount players will be popping up like Yuppies at an Amish corn sale at the Reading Terminal.

If he’s smart — and you don’t get through Stanford in the biology program being stupid — he’ll add a little here and add a little there, cross his fingers, and start anew in the second half.

Bowa can intimate players with his demeanor.

Is Bowa what this team needs?

But sell? He waited too long; he won’t get cheap hamburger back.

He stayed  with yesterday’s stars, aged and injury prone,  now he’ll die with them.

Unless.

The ’83 club came back from the  dead by mixing things up and then got hot in September. They were old, too, and the team was patched together late in the season with trades and call-ups.

But in ’83 it wasn’t the Big Red Machine refugees — Rose, Morgan, Perez —  that pushed the Phillies over the top. No, sir. It was some of the late call-up young guys like Len Matuszek, Bob Dernier,  journeymen Joe Lefebvre, Greg Gross and a young second baseman they called Sammy.

And a change in manager early in the season — Pat Corrales, a good man axed early with the team in first place, replaced with Paul Owens.

In first place, mind you!

With the way this team is under performing, a change in dugout leadership could make a difference. Give Bowa the reins in the second half — he’ll breath some fire into the slackers. Call up some youth and make a few deadline trades. Put a team together for the second half run.

Because to sell, you’ve got to have something to sell.

Comments to: Philly@ron-costello.com

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There’s Life in the Team, After All

J-Roll has extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

J-Roll has extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

The newspapers and radio talk shows had him dead and buried.

After coming off two serious injuries, they said his bat — and his outrageous salary — was an anchor around the team’s neck, dragging it down to the depths of mediocrity, like a sunken ship that’s had too many years in the deep.

He was labeled “not tradable.” What team in the right frame of mind would take a 34 year old “has been” whose lost his home run stroke and get’s paid $25 million a year through 2016, with a $10 million buyout for 2017?

“I don’t think so, Ruben, but thanks for calling. Say, how are the kids doing?”

Maybe the good cop-bad cop routine got the Phillies winning.

Maybe the good cop-bad cop routine got the Phillies winning.

But suddenly, the Big Piece and his bat have awoken the Phillies. It  still being June, and as of Friday, Howard and the Phillies have been scratching and clawing out wins and are now just 4 behind Washington and three and a half behind Atlanta.

Holy South Philly cannolis! Who would have thunk it? Howard and the Phillies have shut the critics up faster than Hillary can say Benghazi.

It’s made Bowa so happy, he can’t spit out the sunflower seeds fast enough.

Speaking of Bowa, perhaps the good cop-bad cop routine is working. Not long ago, Bowa, in between expectorating the kernels, called out the Phillies on radio — said they are  coming to the park “too happy.” Said the veterans got to look in the mirror.

Since then the Phillies have won 8 out of 10 and look like a team that knows how to win. The Piece has 14 home runs and 50 RBIs.

On Thursday night against the Cardinals — the team’s fourth straight win — he had a home run, single, and three RBIs, in the Phillies 4-1 victory — in his hometown, St. Louis. Jimmy Rollins extended his hit streak to 13 games, and the rook David Bucannon went 7 and two-thirds and got the win.

Diekman and Papelbon shut down the eighth and ninth.

Don’t get the white towels out yet, but with the Piece back hammerin‘ the ball, anything is possible.

See Ron’s first book.

Read the first two chapters of his second.

Just who is Mr. Terry?