Thursday, January 16, 2014

May 21, 1995: Phillies vs. New York Mets

I would be willing to wager my entire collection of autographed baseballs that there is nothing cooler a 12-year-old kid could wear to a major league game than a Little League uniform.

You look just a little more important than the other kids in their normal threads. Other parents think it’s utterly adorable. It also brings a smile to the faces of the players on the field to see a child following – albeit distantly and unlikely – in their footsteps.

That cool kid was me on this sunny day in May. I got up bright and early to don my Orioles uniform (wonderful foreshadowing, as I would soon become a fan of the American League team 75 miles to the south) for the purpose of team photos. I loved my Little League team. I got along extremely well with my teammates, which was a refreshing change from the daily torment I received at school. I was also proud to be the third baseman, a position I picked as an homage to the best Phillies player of all time, Mike Schmidt.

To the relief of my dad and I, the photo session went much quicker than expected. That meant we didn’t have to cancel our plans to go to that afternoon’s Phillies game with his co-worker, Greg, who had two extra tickets. That’s always the best way to go to a ballgame. It’s typically unexpected and it’s like finding treasure. I also chose the game over attending the birthday party of my best friend at the time, Brian, but being just as big of a Phillies fan, he understood.

Unfortunately, the actual experience failed to live up to the promise. As is the case with any big city, traffic was atrocious, and the photo session robbed us of the extra time we needed to factor into our trip. We had to settle for cheering to the car radio as the Phillies scored four first-inning runs against the Mets. I was doing most of the cheering, while Greg and my dad lamented about our predicament. It’s much easier to see the silver lining in most situations when you’re a kid.

Parking was another issue since we obviously arrived at Veterans Stadium after all the other fans. By the time we finally got to our seats, the game was in the sixth inning.

The Phillies made our ordeal worth it by letting the Mets back into the contest. The 4-0 whittled to 4-3, and the bullpens on both sides were left to duke it out.

Darren Daulton started some two-out magic in the eighth with a double. Charlie Hayes followed with a catchable line drive to right, but the ball bounced off the webbing of Chris Jones’ glove, allowing Daulton to score. The Phillies won by that 5-3 score, and it came as no surprise to us.

Though the pitching staff had changed dramatically in two years, the Phillies still retained most of their starting lineup from 1993, and they returned to form over the first two months of 1995, jumping out to a 35-18 start. But injuries and a general lack of team chemistry eventually took their toll, and the Phils took a nose dive out of contention in July.

Sadly, those four innings in 1995 would be my last live look at Dutch, The Dude, Dave Hollins and Jim Eisenreich in a Phillies uniform. All things in professional sports seem to go full circle, and the basement from which Philadelphia furiously emerged would become their residence once again in 1996 and 1997.

My bandwagon allegiance to the superstar Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League around this time proved that I had yet to learn the value of loyalty, and so it’s no wonder I turned my attention away from the Phillies. My dad and I curtailed our viewing of them on television, and we stopped going to their games. In a way, I was saying goodbye to my childhood. This incarnation of the Phillies was at its end, and the Little League costume hung in the closet, never to be worn again.

It was the end of an era for sure, but my baseball tutelage was just getting started.

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