Series of Dreams

The New York Times

November 1, 2008

by Doug Glanville


For Game 5 (Part 1) of the Philadelphia-Tampa Bay World Series, I had the pleasure of bringing out the ball for the first pitch, to be thrown by former Phillies great and current United States Senator Jim Bunning. The world did not know what I knew at that moment: The Phillies were now ordained to win this game, no matter how many days it took. Because in my world, that moment was the convergence of all the magic in my life.

When I came out on the field, I had the trifecta of my childhood dream. I was at a World Series; the Phillies were primed to win; and John Oates was singing the national anthem.

I knew no one could lose with all that power.

The closest I would ever come to a World Series as a player, as it turned out, was when the last out was recorded in Game 7 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. It would also be my only playoff experience.

Most players never get that far. My friend and former Phillies teammate Mike Lieberthal spent a dozen years as a major leaguer and never enjoyed a playoff experience, even though he was a Gold-Glove winner and an All-Star. It is not easy.

For me to attain that playoff bullet point on my resume, it took a middle-of-the-night trade from the Texas Rangers, who were in last place, to the Chicago Cubs, who were contenders. (Even though I began my career as a Cub, that playoff year I was essentially on loan from the Rangers. I was not an original Cubs family member from day one.)

I played five years with the Phillies, but then fought and scrapped my way out of town as a free agent. I was like a defiant teenager who had the world figured out at 18 and, much to the dismay of my Phillies “parents,” escaped to sign with the Rangers and be their starting center fielder. The Phillies were trying to hold on tight to one of their sons, but I needed to explore the limits of my abilities (even though, like “The Alchemist,” I searched and explored only to find out that the lessons of my journey would bring me back home — with new eyes).

Well, I did end up back home. In 2005, I signed a one-day “exploding contract” just so I could retire as a Philadelphia Phillie (as did Mike Lieberthal in 2007, after spending his last year as a Dodger). My World Series appearance this past week, although not as a player, was the giant cherry on top.

The Phillies are a family and it doesn’t matter if you are a popcorn vendor or a fixture like Vince, who handled dugout security, or Jimmy Rollins, the reigning M.V.P. — you all might as well be wearing the uniform.

I suppose this was something that I was drawn to as a young fan of those Phillies teams in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Year after year I saw the same players wearing the uniform. Maddox, Schmidt, Carlton and others played in the organization until body parts fell off, and I could count on cheering on my favorite players year in and year out.

And when I joined the Phillies family, I found out that this was also true for everyone from parking lot attendants to announcers. When you are in, you are in. You are a Phillie for life whether you like it or not, and that family loyalty is a tone set by the group of families that owns the organization. And the owner and leader I understand and know the best is David Montgomery, president and C.E.O.

A little insight into the man (with whom I share an alma mater, Penn) tells you a lot about the organization’s philosophy: it is a “through thick and thin, in sickness and in health” theme. In the ‘70s and ‘80s glory years it was hailed as genius, though when times were tough (many of those years when I was there), it took some criticism because the organization “stuck with people too long.” But they have been consistent.

When my father passed away at the end of the 2002 season, there were 10 Phillies’ representatives at his service. David Montgomery led the way. When I got married, three years later, once again David and his wife made the trip to Asheville, N.C., alongside of their community relations director, Gene Dias, and a slew of former teammates. They have been supportive and dependable through every phase of my life.

So, one morning not long ago, I received a text message from Mike Lieberthal: “Are you going to the World Series? I am going to all the games!” I wrote back saying that I hadn’t planned on it, but if the team had a ticket for me, I would see if I could get out there last-minute.

Within hours, I had a long e-mail from the Phillies’ former P.R. director Larry Shenk. He invited me (and my family) to town and said the Phillies wanted to give me the honor of bringing out the first pitch for Game 5. Of course, it turned out that first pitch was the beginning of the game that brought the first World Series title since 1980 to Philadelphia.

Once I arrived at the stadium, the red carpet never stopped rolling out. I met with former teammates, chatted with U.S. senators, reunited with my favorite security guards, kicked back with Mom and, naturally, spent time John Oates. And that was all before I got on the field to bring out that first pitch.

At 8:25 p.m., it was time. Time to walk out that first ball in front of frenzied, towel-waving Philadelphia fans. It all came together: a passion, a pastime, a love, the music, my family, my friends and in some respects, my life’s commitment...all on one canvas. A true homecoming of the greatest kind from a tough city that still has big love in its heart.

As Brad Lidge kneeled in celebration after tossing that final strike to clinch Game 5, the Phillies family kneeled with him. A prayer of thanks, a prayer for the city.

Republished from The NY Times


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