The Coolest Old School Philadelphia Phillies
Scores of Philadelphia Phillies' fans rightfully consider Chase Utley to be a hardcore baseball player. The “Phaithful” know that Number 26 would have likely made the starting lineup for any Phillies' team during any point in franchise history.
Utley might be Philadelphia's version of Sandy Koufax, if Koufax played second base. The brief five-year burst that this 10-year veteran generated (2005-2009) was one of the great half-decade periods in team history. If he could have sustained that effort over ten years, he would be moving toward a Hall of Fame induction.
Thankfully, his rocket ride passed through the 2008 season.
Some baseball boys are pure products of their own age. Other men are timeless, transcending any season, or era. The connection that an exclusive group of players make with the fans is instantaneous and lasting.
I never saw Ed Delahanty, Nap Lajoie, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Chuck Klein, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, or most of the other pre-1970s' Phillies play. My guess is that they were swell (and even older school term for sure) guys, but who can really say? Certainly not anyone who's viewing this digital page.
Utley, like the Hall of Fame names that have just been referenced, would have fit in with these next five icons.
The term “old school” is relative and can be associated with the time when someone was young, or wasn't even alive. With that in mind, here are five of the coolest Phillies from my own bygone days. A list of this type is obviously deeply subjective, with many fine retorts clearly in the making.
1979 Pete Rose Autograph
The acquisition of free agent Pete Rose electrified the sports' world in the fall of 1978 and set the Philadelphia Phillies on the course to win their first World Series two autumn's later.
What number 14 accomplished from 1963 through 1986 is worthy of first ballot Hall of Fame induction. He got 826 of 4,256 while he was wearing red pinstripes. (Ask any hardcore baseball fan what unit should be applied to those two numbers if you must.)
On the field, “Charlie Hustle” was who every baseball player should always strive to be. He showed me how to take the proper batting stance and signed my baseball when I met him off the field, inside the Phillies' clubhouse, during a pregame rain delay before a minor league exhibition game in Reading, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1979.
1979 Tug McGraw autograph
Tug McGraw also autographed my ball, underneath Greg Luzinski's name, during that memorable day in 1979. How could any of us in that small, stuffy room know what would transpire just one season later?
No one will ever equal those eternally brief moments when Frank Edwin McGraw threw a baseball past Willie Wilson on October 21, 1980. It is the greatest flashpoint in Philadelphia Phillies' history. McGraw was a good-hearted guy, who got hot at precisely the right time. For that “Tugger”, you are immortal.
Steve Carlton with Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts and Mike Schmidt
How much detail needs to be provided about a left-handed starting pitcher who earned the nickname “Lefty”? Steve Carlton is the best pitcher who ever wore a Philadelphia Phillies' uniform. He was always in control of himself on the mound. Plus, he told the media where to get off. Wait, I'm part of the “new” media. Oh well, I still like the guy and choose to believe that he would have spoken into my cassette recorder back in the day.
Carlton appears (with three other famous Phillies' Hall of Fame alumni) on a photograph, which is located on the club level at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
I wore Mike Schmidt's number 20 on my back in Little League and really believe that it helped me to get those two (career) hits. I also began trying to grow his mustache when I was 11.
“Schmitty” was, is and may always be the greatest all-around Philadelphia Phillies' player. But, there is only one other person who tops him on this list because of his lengthier legendary status.
Outside the Rich "Whitey" Ashburn broadcast booth in Philadelphia.
"Whitey" was the essence of red pinstriped royalty. This solid hitter, who glided across center field like a Western Meadowlark in the Nebraskan sky, was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies' second-ever World Series' squad in 1950.
Number 1 was joined by Harry Kalas during the second part of his baseball career that took place in the broadcast booth. Echoes of their game day conversations can still be heard among many generations of fans.
In my humble opinion, Ashburn is the coolest Phillie who ever lived.