Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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A witty, funny look at the Phillies
Posted Apr 2, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Apr 6, 2013 at 02:54 PM
For 130 years, the National League franchise in Philadelphia has been known as the Phillies. There have been some attempts through the years to change the name, most notably during World War II, but the Phillies have endured.
So have the stories about this team, which has experienced incredible highs (six pennants and World Series victories in 1980 and 2008) and harrowing lows (a 23-game losing streak in 1961, and the great “Phold” of 1964).
Philadelphia baseball fans are a tough breed, smart and savvy about the game. To put together a book of great stories about the Phillies requires an author that knows his audience.
Author Robert Gordon fits the bill. He knows Philadelphia, having graduated from Father Judge High School in the city and earning a pair of degrees from nearby Lehigh University. He has written nine sports books, and four of them are about the Phillies, including “More Than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies.” He also is a former sports editor for Delaware Valley Magazine.
Gordon’s latest effort will please the old-time Phillies fan that tasted some success but plenty of frustration, and the recent fan that has seen such success over the past decade.
“Then Bowa Said to Schmidt … : The Greatest Phillies Stories Ever Told” (Triumph Books; paperback, $14.95, 206 pages) is a perfect mix of stories, interviews and memories. The book’s title comes from a quote attributed to Tug McGraw about an argument during the 1977 National League Championship Series. I won’t spoil it; read closely enough and you will get an idea of what Larry Bowa said to Mike Schmidt. It’s a great anecdote, and one of many that are in this book.
Gordon shares interviews he has had with Phillies past and present, rekindling memories of players who have passed away like Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Tug McGraw and Johnny Callison. There are also plenty of interviews with those former Phillies who are still with us.
The book opens with the first great Phillies team of the modern era, the 1950 “Whiz Kids.” Maje McDonnell, a coach during that time, spins several good yarns and gets in a few crackling lines. Here’s one about catcher Smoky Burgess: “Baseball people used to say you could wake Smokey (Burgess’ name is misspelled in the book) up at 3:00 a.m., throw him a fastball, and he’d hit a line drive. You couldn’t say the same about Granny Hamner. At 3:00 a.m., you’d have to find him first!”
Older Philly fans will enjoy stories about the infamous Dalton Gang and Dick Allen (the Philadelphia press insisted on calling him “Richie,” even though he had been called “Dick” all his life). Find out why Gus Triandos, a backup catcher for the Phils in the 1960s who died on March 28, called the 1964 pennant collapse “The Year of the Blue Snow.”
Learn why television director and producer Mike Tollin (“Smallville,” “Arli$$”) always names one of his characters “Dalrymple.” Or why pitcher Chris Short was nicknamed “Style.”
And why there is only one “Lefty.”
There’s even a chapter on the Phillie Phanatic, originally played by Dave Raymond when the character debuted on April 25, 1978.
Gordon gives plenty of attention to the 1980 team, which won the first World Series title in franchise history (Remember Marty Bystrom? Gordon will refresh your memory).
This is a fine memories book that gives the reader an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at baseball in Philadelphia.