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Ryan Howard: Philly2Philly's Favorite Moments

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It’s now a foregone conclusion to all that Ryan Howard will be moving on from the Philadelphia Phillies organization after the 2016 baseball season ends.

 

In a career that has had its share of peaks and valleys, Howard’s legacy with the team should be remembered positively.

 

The time has now come to look back on some of the most memorable moments that the last remaining member of the 2008 world champions exprienced in a Phillies uniform. Philly2Philly’s Joe Vallee and Matt Goldberg recently shared some of their thoughts on The Big Piece:Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies

 

Matt Goldberg

 

Ryan Howard was a huge, mellow, quite pleasant guy who made it look quite easy to put up huge numbers. Too easy. In some ways, and among some fans, that was to his detriment. What, exactly, can you do to for an encore when, in your very first full season, you hit .316 with a mind-boggling 58 bombs and 149 RBI? Exactly.

 

He could never repeat those silly stats, and yes, he struck out quite often and was never the flawless all-around first baseman that the prime Albert Pujols was, BUT The Big Piece topped the 30 homers/100 RBI bar six years in a row, sometimes cruising far past those benchmarks. It wasn't coincidental that he did this during the Phillies' best-ever stretch of ball...in any of our lifetimes.

 

In the end, we remember all of it: the injuries and the decline as well as the "Just get me to the plate, boys" clutch moments and the moonshots that seemed to glide off his bat. Perhaps, it's not just a Philly thing, but we tend to pit players against one another, as if we can't have room in our sports hearts for each member of that great cast of Phillies players who gave the city such joy (especially) from 2007-2011. The three mainstays among the regulars -- Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard -- all got it done in different ways, yet each was indispensable to the team's success. It's non-productive to debate who was the most indispensable, yet it's not ludicrous to suggest that Howard was.

 

And this man in the middle, the Mellow Monster who made the Phillies' offense a terrifying force for opponents, Ryan Howard was (for a six-year period of time) a Hall of Fame-level run producer, a great teammate and simply put, a good man. Not a bad sports legacy to leave with us.

 

Joe Vallee

 

I’m just going to get this out of the way right off the bat: There is NO way possible the Phillies win five consecutive NL East titles and the 2008 World Series without Ryan Howard at first base. Anybody who says otherwise clearly wasn't watching those Phillies teams day in and day out.

 

As I said in my book A Snowball’s Chance, I always admired Jimmy Rollins’ swagger and the way Chase Utley played the game, but I always stopped whatever I was doing to watch Ryan Howard hit.

 

Nobody in baseball history put up the power numbers Howard during his initial seasons in the majors. Moreover, he was arguably the team’s most durable player during this time until his ankle injury in 2010. How many players not named Greg Dobbs do you remember manning first base besides him in those years? Exactly.

 

Howard practically carried the Phillies every September as they geared up for those playoff runs. When he started hitting the ball to left field, you knew a hot streak was coming. He never got cheated on a home run, as his blasts were absolutely majestic. I remember what was probably the first big home run he ever hit, which took place in the summer of 2005. The Dodgers had the lead in an extra inning game and the Phillies were down to their last out. Pat Burrell tripled (yes, Pat Burrell tripled), and Howard followed it with a walk-off two-run blast. It's pretty safe to say that a scenario like the one just mentioned only happened once!

 

Then there was his MVP season the very next year, when he hit those three home runs off Tim Hudson. Remember when he was out of the lineup during weekend game in Cincinnati after battling food poisoning, but came off the bench to hit a game-winning home run in extra innings? How about the ball he hit off Mike Mussina? You know, the one that would probably still be heading somewhere if Citizens Bank Park didn’t have an upper deck? You can’t forget his walk-off home run against the Mets during that now-legendary four game series in August 2007. There was the mid-September game-winner against the Braves at Turner Field in September 2008, which put the Phillies up by a half game over the Mets in the NL East. Then there was that game in July 2010 against the Reds, when Howard hit a two-run walkoff in the bottom of the 10th inning after the Phillies came back from a 7-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning. And of course, there was his "Get me to the plate, boys" moment in the 2009 NLDS against the Rockies.

 

We could go on and on about Howard’s heroics, but I do have a singular moment that I picked for several reasons.

 

Although Howard got off to a slow start in the 2008 playoffs, his three home runs were essential in two Phillies victories in the World Series. His last home run in that series is my all-time favorite—a laser beam launched into right field off Rays’ reliever Trever Miller in the eighth inning of Game 4. The terms “Phillies fan” and “cocky” aren’t usually synonymous (at least not in a good way), but at that moment, my dad and I couldn’t help but look at each other with great pride, because we were absolutely wiping the floor with Tampa Bay. Even though the Phillies were way ahead in the game at that particular time, it was the final nail in the coffin for the Rays and exclamation point on the only true blowout the Phillies had during that playoff run. And barring some kind of crazy rain-delayed game that would take three days to finish (note the sarcasm), everybody knew that the Phillies were going to be champions very soon.

 


Regardless of how his career turned out over the last half decade with his injuries/subpar playoff performances, Ryan Howard will always be one of the franchise’s all-time greats. In the long run, fans will remember him more for his memorable contributions to the Phillies, as opposed to his last five seasons with the team. During this time, Howard's character never wavered, and he dealt with the adversity surrounding his struggles with dignity and class. Although Philly2Philly has been critical of Howard’s performance at times, the franchise was and always will be better off having him in pinstripes than not. His success in the city of Philadelphia and the joy he brought Phillies fans will never be forgotten.

 

Thank you Ryan Howard!

 


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Article photo: Joe Vallee Sr.

 

Thumbnail: LehighValleyLive.com