Connect The Dots...The Magic & Mystery of Momentum

For those with scientific inclinations I propose a way to riches and fame...all it will take is bottling up something that has been discussed, disputed and dissected for as long as Abner Doubleday has been playing this wonderful game of baseball...momentum. Talk to any player, manager or fan and they will give you a good definition of momentum....ask them if they know how to acheive it, when it occurs or how you know you have it...and you will get a smile, a wink....and a shrug of the shoulders.

The word momentum has lately been on the lips of many Phillie fans as we seek to acheive it, be it a dramatic Jim Thome home run or an electric Vicente Padilla shutout against the Braves. just doesn't work quite that way. To wit, the day after Thome's exciting two homer night, the Braves took us to task in a 6-2 defeat. Those same pesky Braves spoiled the Big Mo of Pailla's dazzler with a follow up 8-1 triumph merely 15 hours later.....not even time enough to spell the word momentum. So, can we look back to look forward? Is there any evidence in past Phillie archives that would give us a hint that our beloved 2003 edition is momentum bound? Glad you asked! Lets examine 4 of our most beloved Phillie teams, the 64, 77, 80 and 93 groups and see if we can pinpoint when momentum was acheived with those teams. A quick glance of the 64 and 93 teams, though distanced by nearly 30 years reveals a similar theme.....a quick start that led to a season long stay at or near the top. Both teams jumped out of the gate quickly, our 64 team starting 10-2 and the 93 team winning 8 of its first 9. In fact, momentum stayed with both teams nearly the entire season, the pall of the 10 game losing streak of Mauch's Men in 64 and Joe Carter's wild dance around the bases after homering to end the magical run of 93 ending the momentum. The 77 and 80 teams can cast with similar views an extra inning game with wild 3 run rallies at the Vet as their moments of truth. The 77 team, led by Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, merely treaded water until a crucial 4 game series against the rival Pittsburgh Pirates in mid June. After a brilliant Steve Carlton 8-1 triumph in game 1 of the series came the moment of truth...a Friday night game that seemed about to end in defeat. Pittsburgh had scored 2 runs in the top of the 11th to take a 6-4 lead, and merely had to get 3 outs to win the game. Our not yet fabulous Phillies got off the deck with a wild 3 run rally, highlighted by a Richie Hebner double to win an improbable 7-6 game. The Phils rode this wild win to a 4 game sweep of the Pirates.....and a finishing kick of 66-29. The 80 team, still our only World Series winners, were at the end of their rope, as the clock nearly struck midnight, both literally and figueratively, on the night that momentum stuck its lovely head on the team. It was a Monday night, the last week of a seemingly forgetable season of turmoil, when the Phils appeared ready to call it a year. The Expos were in 1st place, and the Phils could not afford another defeat....but defeat seemed in the cards as the lowly Cubs broke a 3-3 tie with 2 runs in the top of the 15th inning. It was almost the witching hour when the Phils still trailed 5-4 and were down to their last out when, almost on cue, momentum decided to smile on the Phillies. Singles by Garry Maddox, Keith Moreland and Manny Trillo turned defeat into a 6-5 victory and the Phils did not lose another meaningful game until the second game of the playoffs, 9 days later! So, as we begin to close the books on April and continue the long road to October, listen for the talk of momentum, and watch for its signs....a Millwood masterpiece, a Burrell blast, a Lieberthal long ball. Any one of them may just be fools gold......or it may just be that magical, mysterious lightning in a bottle called momentum.

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