Dr. Strangeglove: On Getting Everything You Want

Posted by Michael Baumann, Fri, September 30, 2011 07:00 AM | Comments: 24
Dr. Strangeglove, Opinion, Posts

We all have expectations as sports fans, and as Phillies fans, I think our expectations were, by and large, rather similar going into 2011: don’t give up many runs, win the division, and go into the playoffs positioned to win another title.

As I said the other day, I don’t think we could have expected much more from La Furia Roja this season. And that leaves me in a curious emotional place going into the playoffs. For the first time I can remember, I’m nervous about the upcoming postseason.

I grew up in a time, as I’m sure many of you did, when the Phillies were awful. Really, unless you lived out ages 8-18 between 1975 and 1984, or between 2002 and 2011, the Phillies were most likely awful when you were growing up too. The idea that they’d win five straight division titles, or reel off 10 winning seasons and an 80-81 season in 11 years, or become the de facto Yankees of the National League–to say nothing of a certain World Series title–was up there with the ability to teleport on the list of things I’d love to see but had written off as impossible.


In a way, I loved the Phillies because they were miserable. It set me apart, I thought, from the kids for whom football season started in August and not the morning after the last game of the World Series, as it did for me. Baseball was this mythical thing to me, an arcane, pastoral, boring, game that I loved so much that I’d rather watch the team I loved play it badly rather than submit to the all-glowing, modern, and otherwise cool rule of the Eagles. I had fallen in love with the depth of the statistics and the magic (because there’s no more accurate word) of the mythology, history, and narrative of the game so much that I loved its biggest moments, even when they involved the Indians and Marlins.

Being a voracious reader and an avid baseball fan at age ten is like living in a C.S. Lewis novel. There’s always more to explore, more to learn. More history, more strategy, more mythology. And when that history–so often dominated by a handful of teams–intersected with the Phillies, I felt a special sense of pride. Ken Burns’ iconic Baseball documentary ran during the strike when I was seven years old, and my dad taped it and saved it. I could not tell you how many times I watched those tapes, and I can still recite certain lines from memory, but I always looked forward to the moment when they mentioned, for all of 15 seconds, that Pete Rose signed as a free agent with the Phillies and helped them to their only World Series title. It was the only time in the entire 18 1/2 hours that the Phillies were mentioned, by name, in a positive light. When the Phillies got on national TV, or were mentioned in the national media, I cherished the moment similarly. I still remember a Baseball Weekly cover in 2001, when the Phillies got hot out of the gate, that featured Travis Lee and Omar Daal.

Well, since 2005 or so, those rare moments have become commonplace. National media outlets discuss the Phillies repeatedly, and in glowing terms. My Lenny Dykstra shirsey isn’t the only piece of Phillies apparel you can see on the street anymore. There’s a new, expensive stadium, populated by cheering fans and some of the best ballplayers money can buy. And most importantly, I don’t have to pick a team, more or less at random, to root for in the postseason, the way I did once. My surrogate Orioles/Red Sox fandom is over. We are a part of baseball history every day, Ken Burns-style, and if you had told a certain thirteen-year-old boy who had watched his team lose 97 games and fire Terry Francona that all of this would come to pass, he would scarcely have believed you. From a baseball perspective, I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted.


Before 2008, there was either no postseason or no optimism for the post season. It had been so long, in our institutional memory, since the last title, that we had neither a reason to expect one nor any conception of what it feel like if it happened. There are people drinking legally at tailgates outside Citizens Bank Park who were born after MOVE, who don’t know who Frank Rizzo was, or Rich Kotite, who were too young to see any of the first five Rocky movies in the theater. They can’t remember ever seeing a Flyers game at the Spectrum, even on television, and local politics started with the first election of Mayor John Street.

This is our institutional memory, and given those constraints, it’s understandable that postseason baseball should still feel a little weird to us. Over five seasons, I’ve come to expect it, almost as if it were a birthright, and yet something about a Phillies hat with a playoff patch on it just seems strange to me. This is what getting what you want feels like. It’s a feeling of the dog that caught the car.


This is Braves Kid. Those of you watching Craig Kimbrel walk the world on Wednesday night might remember seeing this screen shot live. I talked to my dad about the madness that took place Wednesday night the next morning, and the first thing he mentioned was Braves Kid.

What a wonderful picture this is–it’s the “Migrant Mother” of the 2011 baseball season. It touches you on so many levels. It’s the agony of defeat, captured on the face of an innocent child too young to remember any of the 14 consecutive division titles. It’s a reminder that, even though we drew great pleasure from the misery of the Atlanta Braves and their legion of war-chanting, sweet-tea-drinking, game-not-attending fans, schadenfreude takes its toll on someone. I want to buy that kid an ice cream cone and tell him it’s just a game, and it doesn’t matter. And not tell him that, when the Phillies were eliminated from the 2007 NLDS, I (at age 20) threw the television remote across the room, shouted “That’s what I get for believing!” and wept like a child for nearly half an hour.

I remember vividly watching Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. I was six years old, and I remember Henderson and Molitor being on base when Joe Carter hit it out. I remember the running joke that I had with my mom well into the next season, that whenever I said “Mitch Williams,” she’d scream. (In hindsight, I probably abused this joke to the point where my poor mother was ready to tear my arms off whenever I said “Mitch Williams.” We ran that gag what must have been a thousand times, and it never occurred to me that I might find it funnier than she did. Because I was six. And six-year-olds are self-centered and love repetition.) I remember thinking how bizarre it seemed to me that the Blue Jays set off fireworks in the Sky Dome when it was all over. Who sets off fireworks indoors?

But most of all, I remember thinking “We’ll get ‘em next year.” I had no concept of history, that the Phillies had won the pennant only once more in my parents’ lifetime than in my own, and only twice more in my grandparents’ lifetime, and only three times more in my great grandparents’ lifetime. I had no idea that I was witnessing what was literally a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and that it had passed us by.

That’s not what my father remembers. When Joe Carter hit that home run, he says, I was inconsolable. Watching Braves kid reminded him of me.


So what about 2009 and 2010? Well, in 2009, I think we were so bowled over by the excitement of the first title that there was nothing but eager anticipation for a second. Nothing could have been more exciting than that first title, the jumping and screaming. It was the most exciting, most cathartic ninety seconds of my life, from when Lidge struck out Hinske to when I finally sat back down. But 2009 was a rare moment of rationality for this fan base. Not in the “Crucify Cole Hamels” movement, a product of groupthink that still gets me into a shouting match with a stranger at a bar about once every two or three months, but in the approach to the postseason. The pitching staff was set up weirdly, Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee had just sort of appeared out of nowhere, and who in the Sam Hill is J.A. Happ anyway? But more than anything else, 2009′s trip to the World Series felt like a bonus. Don’t get me wrong, the defeat hurt–there were few more demoralizing moments in my life as a sports fan than Damon’s Steal, but it didn’t haunt us because the shine on the Commissioner’s Trophy hadn’t worn out.

2010? Not racked by worry, but fueled by anger. It all unraveled so quickly that it was over before there was time to be nervous. There wasn’t fear, but disbelief and the search for someone to blame that, as it turns out, came up with no suspects. Sure, there was that whole “Ryan Howard should have swung” nonsense, but even that seemed halfhearted–the Phillies made a grand total of 108 outs in their four NLCS losses, in which they were outscored by all of six runs, and out of 108 outs, it seemed churlish to focus only on the last one, even for a fan base as choleric and hive-minded as Philadelphia’s. No reason to worry. No time to worry.


The reason I’m nervous about this postseason is that there’s a feeling of having something to lose.

It would be foolhardy to expect a championship in any season. I know in my head that the Phillies, while having a better chance than any other team to stage a parade, are not likely, even now, with home-field advantage and the best team, to do so. What I can’t reconcile is that I believe in my heart, that this team, with the season they’ve had, with all that we’ve been through, deserves a title.

If it happens, and a second World Series title falls into our laps, everything will have to go right. The umpires, the players, the weather, the coaches, the tiny subtleties of the fabric of space-time itself; they all have to work out just so in order for that parade to happen. And as much as I try to be rational about it, the possibility–hell, the likelihood–that they won’t terrifies me. I’ve been worried about this playoff series since Ryan Howard struck out to end last year’s NLCS.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t have everything I want as a baseball fan. That 2008 title was celebrated more or less alone. I watched the last couple outs with my buddy Paul on speakerphone, but most of Game Five Part Two was spent explaining to my roommate, who wouldn’t know a baseball from a spoon, why I was so excited. I ran around my apartment alone. I dragged my roommates out of bed to drink celebratory champagne because none of them gave a crap about baseball, or the Phillies, and the extent of their interest in sports that night was that we were playing Tennessee at home on Saturday.

I watched news clips and heard firsthand stories of the pandemonium that ensued after Lidge struck out Hinske, and so great was my joy about the title that I didn’t feel envy about having to celebrate the title alone until some years later. Now, that’s what I want more than anything else: a Phillies World Series title that I can enjoy in community with others, because isn’t that what fandom is all about?

I don’t know if any of what I just wrote is true. Isn’t that lame, as if I was somehow victimized by my team winning the World Series alone and therefore deserve to celebrate another title in Philadelphia?

That’s the thing about getting everything you ever wanted: it only makes you want more.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 7 mick

    Avatar of mick

    I love my Phillies….Great pitching rotation….great line up….102 Wins for the season….Charley Manuel is the greatest as manager of our team….Its gonna be a great playoffs….Lets go PHILLIES!!!!

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Isnt this a repeat article ?

  • Posts: 0 SavannahPhilliesPhan

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read on what it means to be a Phillies Phan. It puts into perspective, I’m sure what many fans have been through. My mom was a great Phillies Phan, but my sisters and I never went to a baseball game as a children…..no money for that. We were oblivious, even though we were exposed to it as kids. My grandparents were fresh off the boat from Sicily and struggled to make ends meet. In fact, my grandmother never learned to speak English. So I don’t have your rich history as a fan growing up in Philly and experiencing what you did. I didn’t see my first live baseball game until I was in my thirties. This article was a great insight into what it was to grow up a Phillies Phan and want to thank you for sharing it with me.

  • Posts: 0 DcMikey

    Good article! Go Phillies!

  • Posts: 0 800811

    Nicely written, as always, Michael. Thanks for sharing.

  • Posts: 100 buffy08210

    Avatar of buffy08210

    To All: As I write this Beta Sigs tix are still in play (see yesterday’s blog) as I cannot use them (my wife stabbed me in the heart with some lame excuse).

  • Posts: 0 Brian Zino

    Michael – hands down, one of the best baseball articles I’ve ever read. Because basically, you’re me. Well, I’m a bit older than you – the 1977 Philllies were my first team and I was 11 in 1983 when the first “glory years” ended. So I *did* have that (increasingly vague) memory of how a post-season felt. But as someone who was “a voracious reader and an avid baseball fan at age ten” (and still at age 39!), who finds magic in the history and the stats, who tries to appreciate what this team does give me even while I’m hoping for more, I just want to thank you for so articulately giving voice here to so many of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had as a Phillies fan over the last 35 seasons. As the agita begins tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be right there with ya in spirit.

  • Posts: 0 ladygreen0356

    “If it happens, and a second World Series title falls into our laps”

    Are you forgetting 1980? This would be our third WS title if we win…

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    AMAZING article…. possibly the most well written thing i’ve ever read on this site (no offense to anyone else.. including myself, whom I think highly of) …

    so many parts of this are EXACTLY my thoughts…. the 2008 win was so great that the 2009 loss didn’t really sting that much – who the hell cares, we just won last year …

    In fact, Everything about Philadelphia sports…and my anger/passion/craziness changed when Brad Lidge completed the perfect season … the Eagles loss in the NFC Championship the following January – eh who cares, we just won the World Series ! ….. Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to Chicago – eh who cares, we just won the World Series … etc..

    Something changed when the Phillies won… no victory will ever be sweeter, and NOTHING that any of those players do will ever make me forget what they did in 2008. I’ve been a firm believer in supporting all the guys on the roster at all times, and can’t for one second understand people that say things like “yea, but that was in 2008” …and then go on to bash Rollins, Howard, Lidge, Hamels, Utley, etc . . . .

    This team gave my in 2008 something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see, and World Championship from a Philadelphia team, and not just any team, but my favorite one of the four, the Phillies… Born in 1983, I was too young to remember anything exciting in Philly sports until the ’93 Phillies – who lost… the ’97 Flyers – who lost… the oh-so-close Eagles teams – that all lost … .This Phillies team was and is different, and a 2nd World Series would put them forever over the top. They have a chance to rule this town once again, this time, however, its expected – and as Michael said, “there’s a feeling of having something to lose.” And “the Phillies, while having a better chance than any other team to stage a parade, are not likely, even now, with home-field advantage and the best team, to do so.”

    I was talking with Pat Gallen this morning on almost this exact same topic… the fact that its just so hard to win a championship, and how having the “best odds” doesn’t guarantee anything ……. Michael covered this PERFECTLY and then some. Great Job!!

  • Posts: 0 taxman

    I remember as a young kid sitting with a transistor radio praying for the Phils to win one more game. Never happened until it was too late. 1964!

  • Posts: 0 Brooker

    Greetings Phillies fans! I’m so hype about our squad this year me along with my group “The Bushwackerz” decided to record a song in the spirit of victory! Hope you enjoy.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H

    absolutely phenomenal piece here! better than anything written in Philly newspapers by guys not named Bill Conlin. This actually brought tears to my eyes and I felt like we’ve lied parallel lives. so beautifully done!

  • Posts: 0 Sherry W


    My husband is darling but not a baseball fan. Please don’t watch the games alone, at least find a local pub with strangers to high five or commiserate with.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H

    the baseball playoffs are so stressful to me that I probably shouldn’t even watch. I may literally have a heart attack one of these times. My blood pressure is definitely off the charts. even right now Its elevated just in anticipation of tomorrow. It ain’t healthy. haha

  • Posts: 14 Lyndanne

    Avatar of Lyndanne

    Great Article!!
    I remember as a child parking at the smoke stacks on packard ave walking what felt like 3miles to the stadium with our gloves to go sit in the 700 level.. LOL Remember my folks screaming at the TV, every curse word I learned was from my father watching the Phillies.. Win or loose they are my team!! Now I get to pass along to my children every curse word in the book but for the past 6yrs I haven’t been able to get all that mad. My son (9) has been to numerous Phillies games he has watched me cry every time god bless america is song. He comes to the Flyers games with me also (ealges are a tv sport for me LOL)… I want my son to know how incredibly lucky he is to be living this period of philadelphia sports… :)

  • Posts: 5434 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    That was really good Michael, thanks.

  • Posts: 1147 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    I have to agree that this was one of the best pieces ever written on here, Being a six year old going to Vet Stadium in the early 70, not realizing until a few years ago that I was actually at games at the Vet in it’s inagural(sp) first year is was built. I suffered through the “the great Teams” that just could not get over the hill to the WS, to the the 80 WS championship. At the time thinking ok this is the start of something great, this is going to happen every year, and i do not have to pay attention to my AL team the A’s in the playoffs just the Phillies. Well I learned that soon enough that they do not win every year, and even though in 83 a junior in HS remembering have to leave the room so as not to cry in front of people when they lost. 94 in College amounst 40 drinking party goers sitting in the room pretty much alone with some passers through, was more anger how could they do this to me again. And ever year since telling people during the first month of the season this is going to be the year of the A’s Phillies WS. So my roller coaster had a few more ups. But seeing that kid in Atlanta brought it all back to where the only thing that matter was a Phillies win.

    I get it that expectations can be a bad thing because this year they are suppose to win. But that is the feeling that makes it baseball, best of five games is all that matter now. GO PHILLLIES

  • Posts: 2005 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    The article was truely compelling Michael, good reading.
    I moved to Baltimore in 1960 and was a fan of the Orioles since the days of Diamond Jim Gentile (1961) until my love affair with the Phils started in the late 80′s.
    During a 26 year reign, the Orioles had 16 years with over 90 wins, 5 seasons with more than 100 wins. They played in 6 WS (3-3) and were champions of the AL 8 times.
    Check this, in those 26 seasons (until 1985) the Orioles were in first place 8 times, second 8 times and 3rd 4 times.
    My point without boring most of you is that you grow to expect the dicipline of excellence but not just of the players, they are a product of the managements descions. It is the management and farm system that were able to get players like Frank Robinson or develop talent like Eddie Murray & Cal Ripken in the minors and bring them up. The management who tuned pitchers like Jim Palmer, the late Mike Flanagan and the like.
    Remember, the players are a product of the management.

  • Posts: 0 loupossehl

    I’m a bit older than the talented but young whippersnapper who wrote this article, so I thought I’d add my own 2 cents here.

    There was a boy in Utica, New York who discovered, in 1947, that baseball was more than a game he played with his neighbors in a nearby empty lot. At the time, the Phillies had a Class A farm club in Utica, and in 1947 it was loaded to the gills with talent. Putsy Caballero, Bill Glynn, Granny Hamner, Stan Lopata. These were all guys who would make it to the Bigs in just a couple of years … along with a couple of other guys – Lou Possehl and Richie Ashburn, and manager Eddie Sawyer, they formed the backbone of the 1950 Whiz Kids. The Utica Blue Sox ripped through the Eastern League that year – I remember, at one point, cutting out and pasting the League standings on the wall, showing the Blue Sox on top with a 27-14 record. As a culmination to that particular season, the Blue Sox faced off against the vaunted Albany Senators, and won a tough 7-game series. The final score of Game 7 was 6-2 in favor of the Good Guys; the winning pitcher was Lou Possehl.

    From that point forward I’ve been a Phillies fan. It didn’t matter that Utica was a hotbed of support for the Yankees – Utica having a heavy Italian population, and the Yankees with Dimag, Rizzuto, Berra, etc. When the Phillies squared off against the Yankees in 1950 it became an issue of conflicted allegiance for lots of Uticans – but for me, there was never any question as to whom I was rooting for. When the Phillies went down in four straight (they actually comported themselves well enough, losing by 3-2, 2-1, 1-0 and 5-2 to the likes of Reynolds, Raschi, Lopat and a young kid by the name of Whitey Ford), I remember the disappointment. But so be it – the future was bright for the Phillies, and there was always next year.

    And the year after that, and then another in a seemingly-endless stream of disappointments and resignation to the mediocrity that was the Phillies. In time, the Mets would come into existence, capturing the allegiance of those Upstate New Yorkers who – like me – might have had a visceral dislike for the Yankees. But not me. Others would move away from the area and adopt the team of the metropolitan area in which they found themselves living. But not me – I carried around my Phillies allegiance like a worn-out old suitcase that one can never quite discard – too many memories; the device now anthromorphic.

    And so it went, over the years and I don’t have to drag you guys through the 23-game losing streak (ask Ruben Amaro Jr.’s dad about that one), the 1964 of it all, great clubs like those of 1970s that aren’t quite good or lucky enough.

    With 1980, something changed. It didn’t matter that this particular club probably wasn’t quite as good as, say, the 1976 or 1978 teams … they won it all, and with that breakthrough, the psychology changed. The gods, as it turned out, were not in conspiracy against my Phillies – Philadelphia might well (and of course they did) incur lousy seasons going forward, but we all now knew that the deed could be done and the Phillies could be contenders. More than that – they could win it all and, of course, they’ve done it again.

    When a franchise achieves prominence, players and fans alike view things differently. You don’t hope for victory – you face it with teeth-clenching, steely-eyed determination. That for me is the difference between 2008 and 2011. In 2008, I hoped that the Phillies could do it again. In 2011, I don’t hope for a damn thing: the Phillies are going to take down anything that’s in their path; nothing else is acceptable. I sense that the Phillies themselves felt that way about this season – after falling short to a lesser club in last year’s post-season, they have been utterly determined since Day 1 in April that this would be a Phillies year – that the regular season was only a long prelude to achieving the deserved mantle of the best in baseball, and a club to be contemplated in discussions of baseball’s greatest.

    I write all of this from the L.A. area, a continent away. It’s Dodgerland, but the blood coursing through my veins is and always will be blue and red. My wife and I celebrate our “golden years” by raising our 7-year-old grandchild. He and endless summers keep me young. You know the saying – you can take the boy out of Utica, but you can’t take the Philadelphia Phillies out of the boy.

    • Posts: 0 loupossehl

      In re-reading, I confide in having one regret – that “anthropomorpic” typo!

  • Posts: 0 NYCphan

    I agree this is one of the best articles on Phillies fandom I’ve read in awhile. I was a kid when the Phils lost the WS in ’83. I remember my two brothers and I BAWLING after the last game. My parents (immigrants from a non-baseball culture) were really concerned to see us crying, but then just laughed (although not unkindly) when they found out why. “Crying over a baseball game!!!” That was a buried memory until I read this article! It makes me nostalgic, happy and sad all at once (my parents are both now gone.) Gotta love the power of baseball.

    I may have cried in 1993 too though at that point I was in grad school… :)

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    Great article! Reflections on baseball and fandom and their meaning in your life always resonate. Thanks for sharing!

  • Posts: 0 Kris

    You hit it right on the head. Great article.

  • Posts: 0 NICK


Leave a Comment

>> Create a new Phillies Nation account.
>> Already registered with Phillies Nation? Log in here.
>> Comment without logging in:

Please ensure your comments comply with our Comment Policy.