By Greg Pinto (Featured Columnist)
Baseball can be a strange game.
Not the kind of strange that forces the casual fan to turn their head away from the action, but the kind of strange that forces the avid fan to lean back, raise an eyebrow and say, “That is something I may never see again in my lifetime.”
Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies are well aware of the meaning of “strange baseball.” Their team has helped to give those simple words a definition over the course of its history. From position players taking the mound, to waiting for an opponent to answer nature’s call, to watching their beloved mascot and a rival’s beloved manager resort to fisticuffs.
In the City of Brotherly Love, you could say that normal situations are strange, and that strange situations, are the norm.
20. The Ryan Madson Saga
Free agency is an odd thing in and of itself.
With the market built to stay open right through the holiday season, nothing illustrates the spirit of giving better than throwing millions of dollars at baseball players to better your team, or in some cases, just keep good players away from your rivals.
Because of the nature of the market, it isn’t unusual to see player linked to a certain team for weeks at a time only to later find out that not only was a deal never close to being completed, but it was never even talked about. With the world of social media growing at a rapid pace, it can lead to a lot of rumors and a lot of hurt feelings.
Regardless of all of that, whatever was going on between the Philadelphia Phillies and Ryan Madson during the 2012 off-season was strange.
After emerging as the club’s closer in 2011, the Phillies looked as though they were ready to make Madson their closer for the foreseeable future, offering him a four-year, $44 million contract, which the right hander was ready to accept.
Or did they?
In spite of several respectable sources reporting that the deal was finished, the Phillies denied having any deal in place with Madson. A new rumor surfaced that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. needed the approval of team owner David Montgomery, another falsehood.
In the long run, the Phillies never did sign Madson. Instead, they inked Jonathan Papelbon to an even bigger deal, only to leave Madson in a dwindling market for closers and give him the opportunity to accept arbitration and return to the team anyway.
19. The Completely Unnecessary Hunter Pence Slide
It didn’t take long for fans to realize what an interesting character Hunter Pence is after he was acquired by the Phillies from the Houston Astros. Not only did he provide some right handed thump in the middle of the batting order, but he’s a great defensive outfielder and a lively guy.
Well, he may be a little too lively for his own good.
In a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011, Pence stood on second base with John Mayberry Jr. at the plate. Mayberry proceeded to hit a sharp single back up the middle, but Pence thought it was going to be flagged down. It wasn’t, but Pence slid into third anyway, as third base coach Juan Samuel waved him around like a mad man.
Pence popped up, scored the run, and the laughter ensued.
The Phillie Phanatic has never refused to taunt someone in the opposing dugout. Simply put, no player, manager, coach, or umpire is off limits to the Phanatic, and the Los Angeles Dodgers found that out the hard way. During a nationally televised game in 1988, the Phanatic took a life-sized dummy, wearing Lasorda’s Dodgers uniform, and beat the stuffing out of him.
Lasorda, never one to back down from a challenge in his own right, did not take kindly to this. He emerged from the visitor’s dugout and chased the Phanatic down, beating the stuffing out of the famous mascot.
After he retired, Lasorda would simply say, “I hate the Phillie Phanatic.”
17. Beer League
Playing baseball isn’t so easy when you’re covered in a full cup of adult beverage.
Shane Victorino found that out first hand in a game against the Chicago Cubs, when the center fielder roamed back towards the ivy to catch a fly ball and instead, caught a full cup of beer right in the face. The Cubs would then proceed to throw the wrong guy out of the ballpark, only to catch the actual beer-throwing-bandit a few days later.
16. Doh! (Nut)
At some point, you have to wonder whether or not Hunter Pence has a few screws loose in that noggin of his his, but then again, don’t we all? Just three months into his Phillies’ tenure, Pence has created two of the most strangest moments in the organization’s history.
This moment came in a game against the Colorado Rockies, where Pence went to bat with his weighted, warm-up doughnut still on the barrel of his bat. After wondering why his bat was so heavy, he struggled to get the doughnut off, smashing the bat against the ground, before going back to being a strange player in general.
Photo Credit: The Fightins
15. Man Down!
Being the fabled Phillie Phanatic is not a simple gig, and apparently, he is safer when he is working at Citizens Bank Park than on his days off.
As the Phillies took to the road during the season, the Phanatic found himself working the crowd for the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. While standing on his usual perch atop the home team’s dugout, a foul ball was lined into the stands, but never made contact with a fan.
That’s because it hit the Phanatic right in the neck!
Though he toppled down for a moment, the Phanatic was treated and released on the same night, ready to go back to work the next day. The man (creature-thing) is a trooper.
Photo Credit: www.egotvonline.com
14. The Flying Tarp: A Showcase of Sportsmanship
Playing baseball on the road isn’t easy. Players have to deal with rowdy fans and conditions that are less than ideal for winning a ball game. Playing baseball on the road, in Colorado, against the Colorado Rockies, during a severe thunderstorm while trying to help the Coors’ Field grounds crew pull a flying tarp onto the infield is even more difficult.
The Phillies managed to just that though in this strange moment, when they emerged from the dugout to aid the struggling grounds crew in pulling the tarp onto the field.
For some reason, however, it is Jimmy Rollins’ socks that stick out like a sore thumb to me in the video.
13. Johnny Callison Puts on Offensive Clinic, but Phillies Lose
Sometimes, when things are going bad, they’re going terrible. That was the case for the Phillies at the back end of the 1964 season. Trying desperately to help break his team out of a losing streak, Johnny Callison thought he was on to something in a game against the Milwaukee Braves. The Phillies’ outfielder hit three home runs in a single game—and off feat in and of itself.
However, even with three home runs from Callison alone, the Phillies’ pitching staff could not hold a lead! They would give up 14 runs of their own en route to a 14-8 loss in the strangest of fashions.
12. Angel Pagan Takes a Bathroom Break…Before an At-Bat
When you gotta go, you gotta go.
It just so happens that in a game against the Phillies, New York Mets‘ outfielder Angel Pagan had to go right before an at-bat. After running in from the outfield, Pagan disappeared into the clubhouse, leaving Phillies’ starter Cliff Lee waiting on the mound as the inning progressed for Pagan to appear.
Finally, as the umpires and Lee began to get a bit impatient, Pagan emerged from the clubhouse, into the dugout, and finally, into the batter’s box, feeling much better than he had when he began his sprint towards the restroom.
11. Falling Short, Literally
The Phillies were supposed to win it all in 2011, but ultimately, fell short of their goal—quite literally. For the second season in a row, they assembled an elite pitching staff that kept them within striking distance of a win in each postseason game they pitched in, but the bats couldn’t get them a sustainable lead. Fast-forward to an out away from playing golf, and Ryan Howard is at the plate once again, down by one.
After bouncing a simple ground ball, Howard crumpled to the ground to watch the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate around him—but he crumpled for good reason. On the final play of the season, Howard had tore his Achilles tendon!
10. Pedro Martinez to the Rescue
Pedro Martinez never really seemed like the Phillies’ cup of tea.
Ever since becoming a contending franchise, the Phillies have prided themselves on employing “character guys”—players that are as effective in the clubhouse as they are on the field. Martinez had always been an interesting character, and his playing for a heated rival—the Mets—certainly didn’t improve his standing in the eyes of the fans.
So when Martinez, coming off of a couple of injury riddled seasons, decided that he wouldn’t sign with a team until mid-season, a lot of people scratched the Phillies off of their list of possible destinations right away.
Enter the mystery team!
The Phillies swooped in, signed Martinez, sent him to the Minor Leagues, and called him up to make nine starts during the regular season, all before putting him on the mound in a must-win Game 6 in the World Series against the New York Yankees amidst chants of “Who’s Your Daddy?”
It was a strange signing from day one.
9. Ed Delahanty’s Four Home Run Game…Goes for Naught
Ed Delahanty was one of the greatest hitters of all time, but he never really hit for power. So when a guy like Delahanty hits four home runs in a single game for your club, a rare and strange feat in and of itself, there is a pretty good chance you’re going to win the ball game, right?
Delahanty managed to hit four home runs against the Chicago Colts as a member of the Phillies, propelling the offense to score eight runs. The pitching staff gave up nine, and the Phillies fell to the Colts 9-8, wasting Delahanty’s four home run effort.
8. Phillies’ Security Team Defuses…Hot Dog Bomb
Once upon a time, the Phillies weren’t able to fill Citizens Bank Park to the brim each night, and often times, the Phillie Phanatic’s hot dog cannon shot hog dogs into the stands that bounced around without ever reaching a target.
One night, after the Phanatic launched a hot dog into the crowd, it bounced around and found its way under a seat, where the clean-up crew missed it and left it there overnight.
The next day, when the employees arrived to open the ballpark up, someone found a “suspicious looking package,” and security was called in, followed by the bomb squad, who cautiously defused…a hot dog.
Just goes to show you, those hot dog cannons can be dangers. You’ll shoot your eye out kid!
7. Wilson Valdez—Really, Really Late Innings Closer
There is something extraordinarily odd about looking at Wilson Valdez standing on the pitcher’s mound.
The utility man secured his place in Phillies’ lore in 2011 when the Phillies took on the Cincinnati Reds in a showdown for the ages. Well, that may be a bit over-dramatic, but it was a great game. In the simplest of terms, it was a game started by ace Roy Halladay and finished by utility closer Wilson Valdez.
In a 19-inning affair, the Phillies had stretched Danys Baez for as far as he could go before asking Valdez to ditch his infield position and take the mound. Valdez set down each of the three batters he faced, including Joey Votto, and picked up the win in the bottom half of the inning.
Photo Credit: Yahoo! Sports
6. Ed Delahanty’s Mysterious Death
There is no disputing the fact that Ed Delahanty was one of the greatest Phillies of all-time. He put up some numbers that cause chronic double-checking when his statistics are mentioned. However, the oddest part about Delahanty’s life was the way in which he passed away.
Not long after his Phillies’ career had ended and while he was still playing baseball, Delahanty was kicked off of a train by its conductor, who cited Delahanty for public drunkenness, claiming that he had stooped so far as to harassing female passengers.
The drunken Delahanty tried to cross back into the United States by himself, returning from Canada, but was swept over Niagara Falls and found days later. To this day, people question his death, wondering if it was an accident, if he committed suicide, or if Delahanty was murdered.
Honorable Mention: While researching Delahanty’s death, I came across another odd story, this one claiming that he was responsible for one of the most shameful home runs of all-time. Delahanty, an outfielder by trade, was tracking down a fly ball that would hit off of a pole and fall into an area of the mechanical scoreboard known as the “dog-house,” used to store the numbers.
The ball was ruled in play, and Delahanty had to struggle to get the ball out of the well. When he was unable to reach over, he decided to try and crawl through a small opening, but he got stuck! The runner scored and the play became known as the “inside the dog-house home run.”
5. Phillies Play the Blue Jays on the Road…at Home
Finding a decent picture of the Phillies playing the Toronto Blue Jays on the road, at home in Citizens Bank Park was as difficult a task to find as it was to describe in this sentence, so hang with me here.
Due to the G4 Summit that was to be held in Toronto in June of 2010, the Blue Jays were forced to move their three game home series against the Phillies to Citizens Bank Park. Though the Jays would be the home team, the Phillies would actually be the home team.
It was a strange situation. Watching the Phillies bat first and wear their grey uniforms at home was an odd sight, and one you may never see again.
4. The Phold
“The Phold” was a series of odd moments.
The 1964 Phillies were positioned to make the postseason, and once there, had the tools to win the World Series. The only problem was that manager Gene Mauch severely overworked his starting rotation leading into the stretch run, and though the Phils held a 6.5 game lead with 12 games left to play, all of that was about to change.
The Phillies were a dreadful, exhausted team entering those 12 games, and they would lose 10 of them, effectively knocking themselves out of the postseason picture. To this date, even with the current collapses of the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox fresh in our memories, “The Phold” is known as the most catastrophic baseball collapse of all-time.
3. Rain, Rain…Delays the World Series
Leading the series three games to one against the Tampa Bay rays, the Phillies were on the verge of winning the second World Series title in franchise history. However, Mother Nature would have none of it. After the Rays managed to tie Game 5 up and everything was equal, the skies opened and commissioner Bug Selig was forced to suspend the game.
It was the first time in the history of the World Series that a game had been suspended, and because rain continued to fall in the city of Philadelphia, the teams would have to wait until Wednesday to finish a game that began on Monday.
The odd suspension of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series led to a rule change in the off-season, but in hindsight, it was well worth the wait for the Phillies, who would capture that championship.
2. Phillies Win 1980 World Series
Viewing this as an odd moment may take a bit of creativity, but think about this for a moment.
For a long time, it seemed as though the Phillies were never going to win the World Series. After all, though they had come close in 1915 and 1950, neither of those clubs could finish the job, and they were led by Pete Alexander and Robin Roberts, respectively. After the collapse of 1964, it really looked like the Phillies just weren’t meant to be champions.
However, it was just like Tug McGraw said, “You gotta believe.”
The Phillies made believers out of the baseball world in 1980, when on the strength of guys like McGraw, Steve Carlton, and Mike Schmidt, the Phillies became World Champions. It was strange, seeing the Phils on top, especially after coming up short for so long.
1. “Mitchie Poo” Walks It Off
As strange as it was to see Wilson Valdez pitching, it was even more of an oddity to watch Mitch Williams hit, and the baseball events of the day were even more of a spectacle.
The Phillies were set to host a double header, and the San Diego Padres took Game 1, which included a very long rain delay. The Phillies believed that they were done for the night. They were wrong. With 1am having come and gone, the Phillies and Padres took the field for Game 2—an extra-innings affair.
In a tie game, Williams pitched two scoreless innings—the ninth and tenth—and was due up fourth at the plate in the bottom half of the inning. Manager Jim Fregosi had no intention of pitching Williams should the game continue, but he was out of options on the bench.
With two men on, Darren Daulton stepped to the plate, and the Phils hoped that he could end it before Williams had to bat. That wasn’t the case, as Trevor Hoffman had other plans, striking the catcher out. Now, Williams stepped to plate, and at 4:41am, the oddest Phillies’ moment of all times ensued, as Williams; “Wild Thing;” the closer, singled over the shortstop’s head to end the game.
That walk-off hit spawned one of the most memorable Harry Kalas calls of all-time, who said excitedly, “This game is over on an RBI hit by “Mitchie Poo!”