Baseball, it is said, is a sport that combines athleticism with strategy. It’s the perfect game, yet a simple game. Throwing and catching a ball. Batting a ball. Running to a base where you are safe. It all works.
Bus Saidt, the late, great columnist for the Trenton Times, writes about his profession in the book Baseball Lives, by Mike Bryan.
“I see 180 baseball games a year,” writes Saidt, a member of the writers’ wing in Cooperstown’s Hall, “and every time I write about it, I want it to be special … Finding the angle, is what separates the men from the boys, whether you’re a good columnist or just a columnist working at a job. Something always happens. It’s always there. You just have to call on your vast reservoir of experience.”
Saidt always talked about “understanding the game.” That combination of athleticism and strategy demanded study, appreciation and a love of the unexpected. How many times have you heard a baseball broadcaster—often an ex-baseball player—say, “I’ve never see that before.” This from a game that has been played since the National League was founded in 1876.
Now the Phillies have been playing their brand of baseball since 1883. For most of that time wins were hard to come by. They have lost over 10,000 games … and won more than 9,000.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, the Phillies gave their fans their biggest highlight (1980 World Champions) and their lowest lowlight (1964, when they finished a game behind the Cardinals for the National League pennant, losing 10 straight games after holding a 6 1/2-game lead with only 12 to play).
The Phillies today? They are among baseball’s top franchises. At the All-Star Break they had 57 wins, on the way to 100 wins and another round of playoffs. They have won the NL East four straight seasons; in 2008 they won their second World Series title, beating the Tampa Bay Rays.
The current Phillies were media darlings this spring with their Four Aces pitching staff, plus Joe Blanton. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt were touted as one of the best pitching staffs ever. The New York Times Magazine even featured the foursome. Oswalt has been hurt, but Halladay, Lee and Hamels have not disappointed. The Phillies, with a little help from the offense, should pull away in the second half, where, for the past few seasons, they have played their best baseball.
Expect the unexpected, Bus Saidt would say. Jim Bunning and Chris Short couldn’t push Gene Mauch’s crew across the finish line in 1964. But Saidt, as much an historian as he was a journalist, would look at the 2011 Phillies and see the talent and commitment that make a team a champion.
Get Broad Street ready for another parade— a pinstriped Phillies parade celebrating a timeless game that keeps us young.