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Other Players of Note


Aug 19


Citizens Bank Park




Kip Wells

Robinson Tejada


Kip Wells

Brad Eldred


Jason Bay

Kenny Lofton

Chase Utley

Bobby Abreu

Highlights:  In this first of a three-game intrastate matchup, the visiting Pirates picked on Phillies hurler Robinson Tejada early, knocking him out of the game in the 4th inning after he yielded 8 hits and 6 earned runs.  Visiting pitcher Kip Wells blasted a 2-run homer off Tejada in the 2nd inning to help out his own cause, while elongated Pirate rookie Brad Eldred followed with a 2-run homer off middle reliever Geoff Geary in the 6th inning.  Kip Wells threw a beauty to win his seventh game of the season, a 7-inning, 3-hit, 1-run, 7-strikeout bravura performance. 



Aug. 20


Citizens Bank Park




Brett Myers

Dave Williams




Brett Myers

Jimmy Rollins

Pat Burrell

Highlights:  Phillies starter Brett Myers was the hero of the night as he pitched a complete game shutout, yielding only 6 hits, three of which were infield singles, to allow the Phillies to even the score with the Pirates.  Chase Utley was the offensive star for the Phillies, blasting a 2-run triple off the wall in right in the bottom of the 4th to give the Phillies the lead for good.  Utley was also walked three times and scored twice, ending up with the unusual line score of 1 2 1 2 3.  Third sacker David Bell added a double in the 6th to knock in two more runs. 



Aug. 21


Citizens Bank Park




Ryan Madson

Rick White

Billy Wagner

Brad Eldred

Pat Burrell


Ugueth Urbina

Billy Wagner

Highlights:  In this sweltering Sunday afternoon finale of the three-game set between these National League rivals, the Phillies used a tie-breaking double by Bobby Abreu in the bottom of the 7th off Pirate reliever Rick White to forge a 4-3 lead, and then watched Uggie Urbina pitch a scoreless 8th and Billy Wagner work around two Pirate hits in the 9th to earn his 30th save.  Brad Eldred hit his second home run of the series off Phillies starter Brito in the 2nd, while Phillies strongman Pat Burrell jacked his 24th tater of the season in the 4th inning off Pirate starter Mike Redman with one man aboard. 



The Trip


The 2005 HSL Trip to Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park was, in a word, terrific. Muchas gracias to the three amigos who accompanied me on our annual sojourn to one of baseball’s green cathedrals. I am very appreciative that Big Guy, Stretch and Shamu were willing and able to work around business obligations and family lives for three days of baseball, history, culture, and most of all, camaraderie, helping to keep alive the long and storied tradition of Hot Stove League trips. My hat’s off to you, boys.


The Games


This year the Trip contingency witnessed three games between the hometown Phillies and their cross-state rival Pittsburgh Pirates. The first game, on Friday night, August 19, resulted in an 11-2 spanking of the hometown Phillies by their ungracious visitors. Highlights for the Pirates included a 2-run jack by starting and winning pitcher Kip Wells off Phillies pitcher Robinson Tejada, and a monster blast by the Buccos’ new supersized first baseman, Brad Eldred, a mountain of a man who resembles Frank Howard in stature. In spite of the rainy weather and Sir Charles’ alcohol-induced haze, this young stud’s potential was not lost on Senor Shamu, as he drafted “El Dred” in Sunday night's free agent draft. Nice add. The Kipster pitched seven innings of 3-hit ball to take the win, while Tejada lasted only 3-2/3 before getting yanked after giving up 8 hits and 6 earned runs.


Our seats for the Friday night game were excellent (Section 134, Row 28, field box seats along the third base line), which was somewhat surprising to all of us considering Big Guy was able to get them all on line just a couple of weeks earlier. With this beautiful new ballpark just in its second season, one would have assumed that all of the good seats, if not all of the seats period, would be sold out far in advance. Our seats for the Saturday night game were not nearly as good (Section 325, in the upper “terrace”), although they were nearly as expensive. As we watched this Saturday night game in the swelter of an August Philadelphia night, we were ready to send out a lynch mob for the architect who failed to design any sort of opening for air to get into our seating area, as we labored through the second game of this Phillies-Pirates series. It’s not all fun and games, is it?


The Phillies won Saturday’s contest by the score of 6 to 1 over the Pirates, with ace pitcher Bret Myers throwing a gem of a 6-hit, 2-walk complete game. Myers gave up only one extra-base hit -- a doubloon to Jason “Goonie” Bay -- and five paltry singles, including three by the aforementioned El Dred. David Williams took the loss for Pittsburgh (5-1/3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 5 BB), while Chase “Mister” Utley did the heavy lifting for the Phils with a triple to the deepest recesses of the outfield, 2 runs and 2 ribbies.


I had to forego Sunday’s rubber game of the Keystone State series because of a need to get home early to prepare for my Monday jury trial (who’s running my damn calendar, anyway?) and to allow for the regeneration of gray matter. In my absence, the three gay caballeros (not literally, but questions have been raised ever since our first Detroit trip) valiantly attended Sunday afternoon’s game on one of the most humid and hot days of all time. Big Guy reported that Shamu may have established a new HSL Trip record for perspiration volume on this sultry Sunday visit to the park, as the Phillies bested the Pirates by a score of 4 to 3 on the strength of Bobby Abreu’s double to right field in the 7th. Senator middle reliever Ryan Madsen captured the victory in relief of Phillie starter Eude Brito, while Pirate reliever Rick White took the loss after taking over for starter Mike Redman. My other middle reliever on the Phillies, Uggie Urbina, got the hold for my bench squad, while Billy Wagner, my stopper from last year during his worst year ever, got the save. Pat Burrell went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs for the Phillies, and Chase Utley contributed a double and a run scored for the cause. The great El Dred capped off a killer of a weekend with a home run off Mr. Brito in the 2nd inning, his 6th of the season.


The Culture


In addition to the baseball festivities, this year’s Trip participants made it a point to drink up some of Philadelphia’s rich history and beautifully-preserved architecture on our Saturday tour of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Christ Church, and the gravesite of Ben Franklin. Big Guy and Shamu were disappointed that the Liberty Bell wasn’t the size of the QE2 (this was the 1700s, boys, what were you expecting?), while Stretch seemed a bit put off that the park rangers who led the history tours had more tattoos than Dennis Rodman and spoke with a South Philly accent. I have to admit that having a guy with a Moe haircut rap his canned spiel about our founding fathers made it a bit hard to get my mind’s eye back to 18th century Philadelphia, but I still learned something new and am all the richer for it.


In terms of nightlife, we enjoyed a cocktail or two at Penn’s Landing on Friday night, and then on Saturday took to the mean streets of downtown Philadelphia (well, sort of) to satisfy Stretch’s urge to party down with the natives. Unfortunately, the angry rap music emanating from every one of the countless bars and coffee houses and the vivid reality of urban Philly nightlife was a bit unnerving for some of us (you need to get out of West Des Moines more often, Shamu), and because McBlunder did not have his gin-and-tonic-swilling drinking companion on this trip (need I name names?), after a few hours of watching thugs play pool to the beat of the worst rap music ever, the boys from the Hot Stove League called it a night. Gone are the days of dragging ourselves home from the bars at 4 a.m. Thank goodness.


The Park


Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect back on our visit to Citizens Bank Park, allow me to share with you my thoughts on this new baseball venue. First of all, while I wish it was smack dab downtown or at least situated along the Delaware River, its location next to the Spectrum and Lincoln Financial Stadium probably makes a lot of sense, and it is a quick ten-minute drive from downtown. I won’t subtract any points for this ballpark not being at the City Center or on the river, even though I continue to hold these same sins against Kauffman Stadium. CB Park is a beautiful edifice on the outside and inside, with a very open feel to it much like PNC Park. It has lots of red brick and a nice architectural look to it on the outside, and it is one of the most colorful ballparks on the inside that you will see, with pretty posies and brightly colored seats and signs everywhere.


CB Park has lots of little nooks and crannies along the outfield fence, not unlike Fenway, which is a winning feature. The scoreboard is quite impressive and large, and the large electronic Liberty Bell in center field, which rings incessantly after a win, is actually a nice touch. The double-decker outfield bullpens are something I have never seen before, and kind of a cool concept. There is plenty of good food to eat pretty much everywhere on the lower level, including Bull’s (Greg Luzinski) Barbecue and “Schmitters,” which serves large Dagwood-style sandwiches. And of course there are Philly cheesesteaks available everywhere -- just don’t admit to a Philadelphia native that you ate one at the ballpark because you wanted to see what a real Philly cheesesteak tasted like, which is a tourist mistake that Shamu made at the first game. Not only was Shamu ridiculed by this wisecracking Philadelphian, this brash youngster then shared with all of us a ten minute discourse on where to go to get an authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak, and how and how not to order one (“wit’ the wiz” or “widdout wiz”). Got it. Shamu was also surprised to learn that the famous Philadelphia crab fries actually are not composed of crab meat, but rather are real French fries dipped in the same type of sauce that natives dip their crab in. Another tourist faux pas.


While our league curmudgeon, McBlunder, was generally favorably impressed with CB Park, he was understandably disgruntled with the madcap antics of the Philly Phanatic (yet pleased that there was only one such mascot on the field, instead of the passel of lovable animal mascots that he had to endure last year in San Diego), and he was mildly furious at the on-screen wedding proposal which was shown on the giant scoreboard. Nevertheless, as irascible as this ticking time bomb can be, he was of great value to all of us in dealing with the sharp practices by the taxi drivers in the City of Brotherly Love, pretty much all of whom attempted to rip us off with their fares. After the second hack tried to screw us out of a few extra bucks, McBlunder laid into this Ukranian transplant with a steely resolve, barking out that we wouldn’t pay anything of the kind, before tossing a few crumpled bills into the front seat to take care of the fare. He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.


As for me, I really like CB Park, and am actually quite amazed that this city full of government, inaction, union workers, graft and corruption actually got this one right. Of the thirty current stadiums, I am ranking it No. 9, just ahead of Dodger Stadium, which slides down from 9th to 10th. Please see my updated ballpark rankings here.


The Numbers


For the record, this was the 20th official, sanctioned Hot Stove League summer trip (excluding Coors Field in 1998 for the All-Star game, which was optional and unsanctioned), and by hook or crook, Stretch, Shamu and I have made it to all of them. Unbelievable. Collectively, we have now visited a total of 20 major league cities (Philly was a first), have seen 24 different major league ballparks (19 current, 5 retired), and have been to 52 major league baseball games. Impressive, to say the least.


Personally, this was my 46th major league ballpark (Shamu debates whether seeing a preseason game at RFK in 1991 should count), including 29 of the 30 current parks and 17 retired stadia. It’s been all good, all good. I hope to make it to Comerica Park in Motor City and/or the new ballpark in St. Louis in 2006, the other one in 2007, the new ballparks in D.C. and Florida in 2008, and the two new cathedrals in the Big Apple in the ensuing years. About that time I’ll have multiple kids in college and will either be bankrupt or working three jobs and unable to afford any more of these trips.