On the fifth anniversary of the passing of the most popular Philadelphia Phillies icon of his generation, the current most popular team icon Chase Utley hit a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a tie and win a game.
Somewhere up there, the former icon Harry Kalas might have been looking down and saying, “Chase Utley, you are the man.” That phrase was a popular call by the Phillies’ greatest broadcaster whenever Utley got a big hit on made a big play, which was many times during the last few years of Harry’s life. The second baseman obviously was a favorite of Kalas, and the reason that attracted broadcaster to second baseman and fans to second baseman are the same.
Kalas loved guys who hustle like Utley does, as do the fans. The Phillies faithful have little use for some of Utley’s current teammates, who do not possess those qualities. If all of the Phillies starters cared about winning as much as Utley does, the Phillies would be in contention every year. Instead, a first baseman whose errors directly led to three losses says the team was “playing well” after a 3-6 start and a shortstop who hits .233 says a “3-3 week is not a bad week.”
Utley said none of those things and settles for nothing more than winning. He was considered mild-mannered and soft-spoken until he stood up before 45,000 fans at the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park 2008 World Series Celebration and said: “World-[expletive]-Champions” without the benefit of a seven-second delay.
Utley has a 10-game hitting streak and is hitting .500 for the Phillies. Like always, he is by far the most popular player on the team. But his average and hot start are not what make him the most popular player. He runs out pop-ups to the pitcher like it was a ground ball to deep shortstop, knowing that there is a miniscule chance that the pitcher could drop the ball and he could be on second.
Somewhere up there, Kalas is as proud of the way that Utley continues to be the Man as the Phillies fans are.