In the City of Brotherly Love, they now call it, “the most devastating play in Philadelphia sports history.”
The St. Louis Cardinals won a best-of-five, first-round playoff series behind a complete game 1-0 shutout by Chris Carpenter. The 102-win Phillies, the best team in baseball in 2011, were eliminated and the Cardinals went on to win the World Series.
It’s the last out of that series that was beginning of the end for St. Louis native Ryan Howard and the championship run of the Phillies. Howard snapped his Achilles and laid helpless on the ground as the Cardinals celebrated.
He came back a season later and he was not the same. Neither were the Phillies.
Yet, Howard remains an icon in Philadelphia. The Ryan Howard Training Center, a 7,500 megaplex for youth softball and baseball is going strong and he remains active in the community that adopted him.
Last Sunday, Howard was honored before a sold-out stadium and received numerous standing ovations.
There is always that lasting question: “What if?”
“Man let me tell you this,” Howard said in a press conference before the game. “If it was going to blow, it was going to blow. Game 5. Game 1 of the NLCS, my Achilles was probably going to blow regardless.
“Yeah you want to look at a crystal ball and try to do best-case scenario, yeah. If my ankle doesn’t go out, maybe instead of David Freese hitting (a clutch World Series double), maybe it’s me.”
The guy who grew up watching the Cardinals, became a Major League Prospect at Lafayette High School and played at Missouri State University before being drafted by the Phillies had a stellar career.
During his 13-year career, he hit 382 home runs and collected 1,194 RBIs. He was the 2005 Rookie of the Year, MVP in 2006 and helped the Phillies win their first World Series in 28 years in 2008. The Phillies returned to the World Series in 2009, but lost to the surging New York Yankees.
He is the fastest player in baseball history to reach 1,000 RBIs, 100 home runs, and 200 home runs. With Howard batting cleanup, the Phillies won five consecutive NL East titles.
During the ceremony, several retired and current stars shared congratulations with Howard – including Mike Trout.
Via the video screen, the native of South New Jersey said, "It was a thrill growing up and watching you play.”
Unlike the Cardinals, Howard played for a team where the fans have no problem showering players with boos. When Howard returned after his injury and struggled, the hero was on the receiving end of jeers from the home crowd.
It didn’t alter his love for the city or the franchise. He closed his remarks by reminding fans to support the current team and to remember the glory days.
“Y'all support these guys the same way you supported us,” Howard said.
“It's not going to be good all the time, but damn it, when it's good, we know what it feels like. Let these men know what it feels like. Because, they come out here every single day and put it on the line win, lose, or draw.
The good, the bad, the ugly. But damn it, they're trying. As long as they give you the hustle and play the game the way it's supposed to be played, don't ever boo these men."
One more, “what if?” What if Howard had been drafted by the Cardinals? Actually, he probably would have been traded because some guy named Albert Pujols would eventually become the Cardinals everyday first baseman.
Do right by Dave Parker
Eric Davis, Fred McGriff, Dave Parker and Dave Stewart were honored as the 2019 inductees to the Negro League Baseball Museum “Hall of Game.”
All are deserving of the honor and all can make a case to be in the Hall of Fame. But I want to concentrate on Parker. He deserves to be in the hall of Fame immediately – especially since the ridiculous induction of Harold Baines on Sunday, July 21.
Parker played 11 of his 19 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was the NL MVP in 1978. He led the NL in batting average in 1977 and 1978 and during his career he was at the summit of the league, respectively, in hits, doubles, RBI, slugging, OPS and total bases.
His Pirates won the 1979 World Series and 10 years later won again in Oakland under Tony La Russa. He was never tainted by the scandal like several of his A’s teammates.
La Russa was instrumental in a very-average DH Baines earning enough votes from the Today’s Game Era Committee to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. La Russa has not shown similar love for Parker.
Parker, who is battling Parkinson’s disease, was cocky and brash. He rocked to Parliament/Funkadelic and other funk artists. He played hard and had a similar lifestyle.
Some voters say it’s a debate as to whether he should be in the Hall of Fame. If he had been a mild-mannered soul, the debate would be over. He would be in.
“There was no one in his era that was more revered and more feared than Dave Parker year in and year out,” fellow Hall of Game member Davis said. “All of the accolades an individual could have won, he did. He was not only a difference-maker on the field, but in the clubhouse, especially to a generation of young black players. That was Dave Parker.”
MLB, once again, wants to find more black layers and fans. Then it allows the travesty of Parker not being in the Hall of Fame go unchecked. It’s said.
The Reid Roundup
Distressing news that St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is battling pancreatic cancer. If anyone can beat it – even at the age of 83 – it’s Gibson. I must admit, it does sound ominous … I’d hire Willie McGee to manage my team in a heartbeat … Mike Florio of website ProFootballTalk reported Monday that “a league source” says Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has told friends and family he will not attend training camp without a new contract … I was wrong (what else is new) in predicting that Elliott would receive a one-game suspension for his Las Vegas hijinks in late May. Commissioner Roger Goodell let him off with a reprimand … Tiger Woods begins pursuit of his 16th major PGA title today in Northern Ireland in The Open. (We call it The British Open). His odds are 18-1 … Serena Williams missed another chance to win her record 24th women’s Grand Slam tennis tournament when she fell 6-2, 6-2 to Simona Halep at Wimbledon last weekend. She would have tied Margaret Court for most Grand Slam titles … Proctor and Gamble, through its product Secret deodorant, donated almost $600,000 to the USWNT for its World Cup victory. It’s a darn shame a private company had to step up and do the right thing for the women, while U.S Soccer fights them in court over remuneration … The local ownership group attempting to land an MLS expansion team made its official pitch in New York last week. I wonder what additional demands (legal extortion) they will now face…
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.