CD's Connect the Dots... The Dog Days of August

Did you know that the famous writer and poet Rudyard Kipling was a baseball fan? Neither did I until - today! But there it is, the inescapable proof in his beautiful poem "If". And, if ever a poet described the baseball Dog Days of August candidly, it was he.

Oh, they are not quite here yet, but the signs are all around us. The temperature is rising and so will the tempers of players, fans and umpires. School is almost back in session and yet daddy is going on a two-week road trip when he used to go on a summer vacation with the family. And the All-Star game is history. Those that made it will have to prove they deserved it, and those that didn't, well, won't. A look back at the schedule already shows too many games played, yet a look forward also shows too many games still to be played.

The Dog Days. If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. For Larry Bowa and his merry men, our beloved Philadelphia Phillies, this August promises a new experience.... a pennant race. Consequently, keeping their heads will not only be quite important, but very necessary, with almost a month stretch on the road looming ahead.

The Dog Days. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting, too. Lets face it, who can blame the Phillie faithful if they doubt just a little bit, after all, the Dog Days of August have come up to bite us before.

History tells that August has been a month of false hopes and broken promises. It was in the Dog Days of 1964 that Mauch's men played their finest ball with a 19-10 record and expanding a slim lead to one that reached 7 1/2 games.... and we all know how that season ended. And our battering ram of a 1977 crew parlayed a 22-7 month of August into a runaway NL East crown.... and we all know how that season ended. Even our 1991 team excited the masses with a scintillating 20-9 record in August.... and still finished below .500.

The Dog Days. If you can wait and not be tired of waiting. If you can dream--and not make dreams your master. A Phillie fan knows all about waiting… it took over 100 years for a World Series parade to go through the streets of Brotherly Love. And dreaming...who does not dream a bit about Kevin Millwood striking out Alphonso Soriano to open the 2003 World Series in the Yankee Stadium?

The Dog Days. If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same - certainly Kipling was preparing us for some exciting.... and disappointing times ahead. With a schedule that includes Milwaukee, Colorado and the Mets, Phillie fans should have some impressive triumphs in August. But with equally difficult games against the Cardinals, Expos and Giants, a disaster or two may await us all.... and we must heed Kipling's warning!

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone... Remember those four straight loses in Pittsburgh in 1980? That was the Dog Days of August. Remember the 23 game losing streaks in 1961? That was the Dog Days of August. Remember that excruciating period in 1976 when a seemingly insurmountable lead shrunk to three games... that was the Dog Days of August.

Kipling reminds us to "Hold on"; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; if all men count with you, but none too much; Certainly Kipling was thinking about the slings and arrows that come a teams way during the Dog Days of August. And not just from opponents.

Richie Allen angered many of his teammates in 1976, during the Dog Days of August. Manager Dallas Green made few friends in his clubhouse in 1980 with his lashing out of his team after that four game sweep at the hands of the Pirates. That was the Dog Days of August.

And Kipling must have also known that a win against Aaron Heilman of the Mets counts just as much as a win against Matt Morris of the Cardinals. That a former friend in Scott Rolen is now a foe with the Cards and would do all he could on the playing fields to beat his former teammates.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute with nine innings (apologies to Rudyard!) worth of distance run---there is no finer description of the seemingly unending run of games during the Dog Days of August. They are endless, gruesome and exhausting. They are the far turn of the marathon race, the period when champs are made, and imposters are found wanting.

And this month can turn on a dime.... a Pat Burrell blast, or a Kevin Millwood masterpiece. An Abreu at bat, or a Marlon Byrd fantasy flight to stardom...of these are the Dog Days of August made for Kipling.

Finally, no writer but Kipling could have drawn a more lucid portrait of what survival of this month means.... especially for a young club like our Phillies. He must have been thinking of the Brandon Duckworths and the Randy Wolfs, the Brett Myers and the Jimmy Rollins, the Marlon Byrds and the Carlos Silvas when he finished his poem with.... "and---which is more--you'll be a Man, my son".

Also in August, titans are created. So as our heroes get ready to turn the page on July, and enter valiantly the most difficult of months, think of them well prepared for the long stretch – ready to win the battle; and, of course, think of Rudyard Kipling and how he described so very long ago, in such rhythmically beautiful prose… the Dog Days of August.

Columnist's Note: Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome. Please send them to connectthedots@earthlink.net, and I will respond! CD


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