I am well aware of the fact you will probably never read this, but after over 12 years these two words had to be said: Thank You. It would be easy to write this and thank you for your 5,748 at bats, 1623 hits, 949 runs, and 916 RBI. That 35-game hit streak in 2006 wasn’t too shabby either. Don’t get me wrong, we do thank you for those. There are just so many things that the scorecard does not show and those are the things Philadelphia wants to thank you for.
Thank you for reviving baseball in Philadelphia. The 1993 Phillies are the reason my generation started following baseball in our youth. They were exciting, unpredictable, and embodied everything Philadelphia was. The magic didn’t last long and baseball in Philadelphia went into what some call “The Dark Ages”. In 2003 it started to turn around again. Philadelphia was getting a new ballpark, Jim Thome was just signed, and the Phillies were finally competitive. Something else very special happened that year. You did. April 24, 2003 was the day you won our heart. Bases loaded, two outs, your first career hit, and a grand slam later and this city’s love affair with you started and we never looked back.
Thank you for owning New York. You may not have been the one who declared us “The Team To Beat” against the Mets, but you sure showed New York who was the team to beat with your bat (and maybe some of your words too). Thank you for Chase’s Corner in Citi Field. Thank you for being Mr. November in 2009. That team may not have had the same magic as 2008, but it would not have even been a series if five of your six hits were not home runs. Your eight RBI that series didn’t hurt either. Thank you for returning from the Disabled List in September 2007 against the Mets. More importantly, thank you for that epic 3-2 count battle in the bottom of the ninth inning against Billy Wagner. If you don’t hit that walk-off single and we don’t win that game, Philadelphia doesn’t make their first postseason berth since 1993. Watching Wagner blow a save was just icing on the cake. Oh, and thank you for the 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. This thank you isn’t for your performance, but it’s for telling New Yorkers what we all wanted to say, “Boo? F*** you!”
Thank you for knowing the game better than any Phillie in recent memory. This is not a shot at all of the other great players we have had over the last decade, but you are in a league of your own. Thank you for being “The Man”. Who, while on second base, thinks about scoring on a groundball to THE PITCHER? Macay McBride and the Braves sure didn’t in 2006. But out of all of the hustle and smart base running decisions you made, the best play you ever made will never be shown in a scorecard, because it was a defensive play. Thank you for not throwing to first base in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. Had you thrown to first and Akinori Iwamura had been safe, Jason Bartlett scores. All the sudden the game would have been tied and who knows what could have happened. Your ‘deke to first, throw to home’ was an integral part of how the Phillies became what you deemed, “World F***ing Champions”.
Every generation has ‘a player’. Our grandparents had Richie Ashburn and our parents had Mike Schmidt. Who knows what player will define our children’s generation, but there is no question who defined mine. You did. And for that, I thank you.
Ali and the rest of Pattison Ave.