Alumni Weekend Memories
Having been around ballplayers for six decades, I shouldn’t be surprised at the memories they have from their playing careers. More on that later but first a re-cap of Alumni Weekend.
Thursday’s sold-out alumni luncheon for seniors was a grand slam. Covered that in Friday’s post.
Krukker delivered a tremendous acceptance speech during Friday night’s Wall of Fame induction ceremonies. He left no doubt he has a love affair for Philadelphia and the fans returned that with their passionate cheering. It was goose-bump city.
Thought we could make him cry by having his young son and daughter present his miniature copy of the WOF plaque. Instead, his eyes were filled with pride and joy. We always end the ceremonies with a victory lap and that is really cool, seeing the sections of fans arise as the vehicle approaches their area.
Saturday was Alumni Night, a chance for some 45 ex-Phillies to be introduced on the field. Rain somewhat curtailed the ceremonies but it still went well. Alphabetically, from Amaro to Wine, a real connection with the 1964 team. Three no-hit pitchers and three Hall of Famers. Not many clubs can match that.
Sunday, heavy rain washed out everything. The Kalas statue ceremonies will now take place at 6:40 p.m. on Tuesday night before the game with Arizona. Some of the Alumni and most of the Kalas family won’t be there, but Kane Kalas and his step-sister and step-brother will be there.
The statue was installed following Saturday night’s game. We had a tent ordered Friday in case of rain and had it installed Sunday morning, in case there was a break in the weather. There was no break. So, we invited the Kalas family (brother Jim and his wife, Mary; sons Todd and Brad, all of whom will not be there on Tuesday) to the park to see the statue. Sculptor Larry Nowlan explained his thinking and then unveiled the bronze statue. The smiles on Harry’s family faces said enough. Numerous family photos were taken with the 7.5-foot statue. It was cool.
Sunday was also a day in which we had planned numerous Alumni surprises for the fans. So, we’ll store that idea until next year. Sorry, a surprise is a secret.
Memories, oh, yes.
As Alumni mingled each of the three days, they reminisced about their careers. It is an amazing how ballplayers can remember a pitch from 10-20 years ago. Bunning can give a game-by-game run down of the fateful 10-game losing streak that robbed fans of a pennant in 1964. Bunning remembered a hanging slider that Willie Stargell hit into the upper deck exit runway at Veterans Stadium. “I think it finally landed in New Jersey,” he laughed.
Tony Taylor and Rick Wise were teammates and laughed about the time Gene Mauch upset all the food tables after a rookie, Joe Morgan, beat the Phillies in extra innings inHouston. “I was a rookie and I was hungry,” recalled Wise. “All of a sudden, here comes Gene and he’s hot, ‘Joe bleeping Morgan.’ He looked at me and said, ‘get out of here’ and then flipped the tables.” Tony couldn’t stop laughing.
Mitch talked about the pitch he threw to Joe Carter that ended the 1993 World Series. “As soon as I let it go, I knew the consequences,” admitted Mitch. Kruk jumped in, “Then why did you throw it?” Everybody broke up.
Alumni from different eras clustered together. After all they had bonded during their years in a Phillies uniform. They lived together for 6-7 months and went to war each game. It creates a bond that lasts a lifetime.
Luzinski, Schmidt, Boone, Bystrom and their manager, Dallas, were at one table. The wives are still letting Dallas know their unhappiness at not being allowed to travel with the team to Houston during the 1980 playoffs. Yes, they were there, at their own expense.
Next night, Green, Wine and Amaro Sr. were re-living old times. Dallas and Bobby played for Buffalo in the minors in 1959 and they were trying to recall the starting lineup. There was a tall outfielder, big bonus guy, from Texas in right field. They knew everything about the mystery right fielder but his name. They looked my way, “Baron, who was the guy?” Well in 1959 I was 21 years old and in college. Yes somehow, the name came to me, Mickey Harrington.
Then, there was Freddy Schmidt, not a household Schmidt name for Phillies fans. A right-handed pitcher, he was 5-8 with the Phillies in 1947 and at age 95, is our third oldest Alumni. He needs a cane and wheelchair to get around but his mind is as sharp as a tack. To make it easy for him to get to the field, we brought him on the field in a golf cart and gave him a victory lap. More goose-bumps.
Freddy talked about his days with the Cardinals (he proudly wears his 1944 World Series ring when he was a rookie in St. Louis) and May 3, 1947, trade to the Phillies. The Phillies also received CF Harry Walker in the deal for OF Ron Northey. Walker hit .363 and became the Phillies first batting champion since Chuck Klein in 1933.
Freddy saw Jackie Robinson break into the big leagues and heard the racist abuse directed at him. “Ben Chapman, a southern gent, was our manager and he was nasty, not only to Jackie, but he was just plain nasty.”
Freddy lives in Wind Gap, PA, and is a huge fan of the current team. “I don’t miss a game on TV,” he boasted. “But those west coast games are a challenge.
“What I don’t understand is why they have a pitching coach. With that pitching staff, why do you need a coach?” he laughed.
When introduced to Ruben Amaro, Jr., Freddy said, “Getting Pence is your best move. He’s perfect for this team.”
Alumni Weekend is a long-time Phillies tradition. Fans love the weekend.. The Alumni really love getting together, no matter if it is Mike Schmidt or Freddy Schmidt.