Do you remember reading Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," the beloved tale of a man who, after getting a bump on the head, inexplicably wakes up in an unfamiliar place surrounded by people ridiculing him for his funny appearance and speech?
Well, my story today may not be quite that strange, but in many ways it reflects my journey to the Phillies' Home Opener on April 12, 2010.
I received a generous invitation from my former PSU ice hockey teammate Bill Mayer, president of Wells Fargo Bank Retail Finance and a native Philadelphian, to join in the opening game festivities with him and his family and to see Bill throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Bill was given this honor through his good friend Mitch Modell of Modell's Sporting Goods. Modell's annually sponsors the Phillies Home Opener and gave away replica 2009 National League Pennants to all in attendance. I invited along Smeal Business colleague Craig Eozzo and Penn State alumnus Earl Epstein, an avid Phillies fan, to share in the fun.
It turned out to be an incredible and fun-filled experience! We were given authentic Phillies hats and warm-up tops and were escorted onto the field for the annual player parade and welcome. We high-fived all the players and coaches and even the Philly Phanatic as they entered the stadium from the outfield and ran into the infield! We were on the field as the 2009 National League pennant was raised in front of a raucous, standing-room-only crowd that was fired up for the start of the season.
We watched the U.S. Navy Skydiving team execute perfect landings as they delivered the baseball that Bill would throw out to get the season started. Bill confided in our group that he had been practicing but was still a little nervous. He didn't have to be, as he threw a perfect strike! Bill was given a hero's welcome as he entered the suite provided by the Phillies for his family and friends for the game. We had Campo's cheesesteaks and drank soda and beer and cheered the Phillies on to a come-from-behind victory against the Washington Nationals! We went to the Museum of Modern Art and even got a picture of the "Rocky" statue!
It was the perfect day for any baseball fan, especially a Phillies fan!
Therein lies the problem: I'm a Pix-burgh Pirates guy!
They let a " 'Burgh guy" dress up in a Phillies outfit!
They let a "Yinzer" down on the field for their opening day ceremonies!
They let a "Pirate" walk away with a souvenir pennant!
They let a lifelong "bucco's fan" who says "dahntahn" and drinks pop and Iron City Beer and eats Primanti's Brother's "sammiches" sit in one of their suites wearing a Phillies hat and shirt as a disguise!
Yo Rock, how'd that happen? Yinz guys ahh priddy silly n'at!
As Myron Cope, the famous "Stillers" announcer from days gone by would say: "Yoy, yoy, and double yoy!"
Or from legendary Pirates Broadcaster Bob "the Gunner" Prince would say, "How sweet it is!"
So now that I have confessed, I ask you all to contemplate how cool would it be to see:
...the Pirates play the Phillies on Medlar Field at Lubrano Park?
...the "Stillers" play the "Iggles" on Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium? (Whoops, did I say Paterno Field? Well it should be named that while he's still around to enjoy it!)
...the Flyers play the Penguins in the NHL's Winter Classic on Paterno Field at...ah, you get it!
.....The 76ers play Pitt at the BJC? Come on, Pitt's the only pro basketball team in Pittsburgh after all.
I am still waiting on the "Soda vs. Pop" Olympics in Happy Valley to once and for all settle the argument in the old "Cola War" between the East and the West (of PA that is!).
Truth is I have come to admire my friends from the City of Brotherly Love. We share a passion for great food, great beverages, great football, baseball, hockey and basket...whoops, we still don't have basketball in Da'Burgh.
And not too many things got my juices flowing like hearing Kate Smith sing "God Bless America" before a Flyers game. They had a secret weapon in that wonderful lady and her voice!
Well, enough said for this week. As Phillies Hall of Fame Broadcaster Harry Kalas would say, this column is "Outta Here!"