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Phillies Phacelift

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In a mere eight months, the entire face of The Philadelphia Phillies franchise has changed. From winning their second World Series title, to the death of their beloved broadcaster. They have struggled as of late, but overall the Phillies have a new look. One that may take some time to get used to.

I'm not going to lie, there must have been close to a dozen times last summer when I would sit down with friends or family and talk about how Phillies Ringrealistic the Phillies chances were for making the fall classic in the autumn of 2008. Despite their failure to land left handed ace C.C. Sabathia, I tried to point out the positives in facing all of the possible playoff teams: If we (yes, Phillies fans refer to the team as "we") played Milwaukee, Ben Sheets would most likely wind up on the disabled list. And although we may drop a game to the "unhittable" Sabathia (cross reference Shane Victorino and grand slam- glad I was wrong on that one), the rest of the Brewer's rotation left much to be desired.

If we would happen to play the Cubs, we handled them pretty well in the regular season. Moreover, Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden had become recent question marks with their lingering arm injuries. The Diamondbacks usually play the Phils pretty tough, but they were fading.

And no, I didn't think Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers were good enough to beat the Phillies in a seven game series (I was right on that one!!)  As if the Phillies possibly getting to the big dance wasn't enough, somebody in the conversation would always drop in this sentiment at one point or another "How great would it be if the Phils won it all, and Harry would finally be able to make that call"........

Harry of course, is the late and beloved Harry Kalas. After almost 40 years behind the mic as the voice of the Phillies, he did indeed put the exclamation point on his Hall of Fame career when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske in Game Five: Part Deux. I've heard Kalas' patented "Swing and a miss, he struck him out" echoed over thousands of Phillies games since the early 1980's, but NONE of them gave me chills the way he did on October 29th, 2008. Truth be told, I am getting them right now just thinking about it.

With that one pitch, or so it seemed, the Phillies weren't "that team with over 10,000 losses" anymore. With that one pitch, they made our disastrous championship record 1-7 since 1983 instead of a possible 0-8. They were champions! Finally, a team in this city that I can tell my kids were champions for "Our" generation. The ONE team who finally took down that bully in the high school parking lot after years of having their lunches eaten by him.

Let the record show that I am a fan of any athlete or team in this town who was or is responsible for making this city a winner. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. In saying that, I was really getting sick and damn tired of watching highlights from 1980, and hearing everyone over 45 years of age talk about the Broad Street Bullies, Fo-Fo-Fo, or for that matter even the 1960 Eagles! I can understand it, but lets face it: to say we were overdue for a title in these parts is as obvious as the "Davey Lopes was out at first base!" argument that still holds water to this day with everyone in Philadelphia except the history books.

This was not your typical Phillies team. If it was, Ryan Zimmerman's ground ball goes under J Roll's glove and into centerfield. If it was, Shane Victorino doesn't catch Casey Blake's long drive against the fence in game two of the NLCS, and his home run in the eighth inning of game four sure as hell doesn't clear that right field wall. And then there's Matt Stairs: what is understood needn't be discussed.

If this was your typical Phillies team of yesteryear, Evan Longoria's long fly ball to left field lands in the seats instead of Pat Burrell's glove, Carl Crawford's blown call results in Tampa Bay winning the all important game three of the World Series, and umpire Tom Hallion joins Bruce Froemming in a not so favorable place in the history of Phillies pinstripes. And finally, game five of the World Series gets postponed for two days, Tampa Bay comes back to win the next three games to win the series, there is no parade on Halloween or a costume party at McFadden's later that night, and Philadelphia sheds another tear for their fallen heroes yet again..........

Now back to reality, and it's a good thing! As Mayor Nutter shouted triumphantly at the conclusion of the greatest parade in the history of the city: "Hey Philadelphia, WE WON!!!!!!!" Phillies World Series merchandise sales ranked among the highest of all time (take THAT Red Sawx Nation!) and we have the pleasure of watching (at this time) the second greatest era in the history of this long suffering franchise. People are once again proud to be Phillies fans, and we dominate nearly every visiting stadium this side of the east coast. So I repeat: we're not losers anymore. We don't suck!!!!!!!!

However, just as we experience the thrill of victory in Philadelphia, there is usually a bigger force looming on the horizon that totally knocks the wind out of our sails. In this case, it made us appreciate what we had, and what we almost took for granted.Harry Kalas

Harry Kalas did get to make that call, but never truly was able to experience the thrill of victory that he so richly deserved from the Phillies World Series win. From hot summer nights down at the shore, to high school graduations, to friends weddings, and even deaths in your family- Harry Kalas was always there. I must admit, even just months after his passing, I find myself going to the radio or television, wondering and foolishly waiting to hear how Harry would have called that Ryan Howard moon shot, or the way he announced Philadelphia's new hero Raul Ibanez, just like I did on that unforgettable night last October.

As my friends and I entered my car, the first thing we all waited to hear as we turned on the radio was to hear the playback of that call amidst the hundreds of honking car horns outside of Citizens Bank Park. If I were to sit here and tell you that listening to Phillies games was the same right now, I would be blatantly lying and so would the entire Delaware Valley. For the first time that I can remember (I was two in 1980,and lets face it, there was a lot of bad baseball in between), the only man who could make such castoffs as Bill Dawley, Danny Clay, Brad Brink, and Shane Turner sound like borderline Hall of Famers is gone. Tom McCarthy (considering the circumstances) has done an admirable job in the wake of Kalas' passing, but let's face it: there's only one Harry Kalas. And no matter what the "national polls" say (With all due respect to Joe Buck), there will NEVER be another Harry.

So if you feel like this is "not your father's Phillies team", or are riddled with mixed emotions right now, you are not alone. It will take some time to get used to these changes. One era of Phillies baseball has now ended, and its voice went with it. The beginning of a new era has our team as champions.

Harry wouldn't want it any other way.