CD's Connect The Dots... September Song

The Phillies current inspiring run for a National League playoff berth has been absolute music to the ears of long suffering phans. With this success has come a clamoring for a team song, something to rally the club and provide identification. Rather, it seems more appropriate that this unique team should write their own song, their...September Song.

Successful sports teams have long sought music to rally the forces and unite the group. Who can ever forget the Sister Sledge version of "We are Family" theme to the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates or the "Don't Stop Believin'" song sung by Journey, inspiring the 2005 Chicago White Sox to triumph.

In fact, it may be no coincidence that centerfielder Aaron Rowand, a star performer on the '05 White Sox crew has begun talking about musical themes and their connection to this season's Phillie Nine. Music has always been a great part of American life and if sport imitates life as many feel, it would seem logical for a team as united as this Phillie team to find one they relate with.

Still, upon further review, this team has displayed an almost unique quality to its performance and it would seem rather appropriate if they waited another month to perhaps write their own song instead of relying on some time honored words that have been sung a thousand times before.

Truth be told, this team and the way they have played has slowly taken a grip on a whole city and have refused to let go of it, regardless of the misfortune and adversity that has dogged it almost since opening day. For once, the Phillies really matter in September, and they matter in a way that is quite different from past Phillie clubs.

No longer will we hear "Hello darkness, my old friend" from Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence." That song has been replaced by REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight this Feeling Anymore". Yes, the feeling is real and the team now matters.

They matter because they play with the passion missing from past Philadelphia teams and they matter because phans have a sense that this team, this season, this moment are different from all the rest. Oh, September could still see a freefall that eliminates any hope of October playoff fun, but this year there is a sense that if persistence, if resilience, if hard work ever matter, then this club will find a way to get the job done. And they have done it in Frank Sinatra's own words, "My Way."

Which song could possibly mimic those attributes? Could Don Quixote's rendition of "To Dream the Impossible Dream" fit the moment? Probably not since few could rightfully say that a Phillie World Series victory would border on impossible. How about the Monkee's "I'm a Believer?" Again, the natural skepticism of the too often disappointed Phillie phan precludes such seeming confidence in such a song.

Instead, the phans watch with a certain fascination, almost like viewing an action packed movie where the hero seemingly continues to survive one harrowing experience after the next. Injuries to starting pitchers Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber? No problem, just quickly play Foreigner's instant cry for assistance "Urgent" and then insert untested rookies Kyle Kendrick and J.D. Durbin into the mix.

Ace closer Tom Gordon has to shut down with arm miseries? No time for the BeeGees' song "Tragedy", there are games to be played and victories to be saved. Instead quickly install erstwhile opening day starter and ace Brett Myers into the closer role. Of course, the blueprint never called for Myers to be a closer, much less suffer his own disabling arm injury which put him on the sidelines for almost two months.

The Phillies' walking wounded list has so resembled a Who's Who List of Philadelphia's finest that when veteran reliever Kane Davis entered the fray against Florida on August 31, he became the team record setting twenty eighth pitcher to be used so far this campaign. And since September is a time to expand the rosters, watch for the Phils to possibly push that number to 30 as possible call-ups like Julio Mateo and Scott Mathieson take their place on the best selling record list.

At various times the team has seen such everyday players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Rod Barajas and Aaron Rowand suffer injury or mishap and still manage to keep their eyes on the prize. When Victorino and Bourne BOTH went down on the same evening in Chicago, it would have been no surprise had the team decided to adopt the song "Running on Empty" by Jackson Browne as that would have seemed an appropriate title for their blight.

The injury to Utley, possibly the Most Valuable Player in the National League, was thought to have been the blow that would end all Phillie hopes. One could almost imagine Phil Collins blaring in the Phillie clubhouse with "Throwing it All Away" but instead of folding up the tent and heading for home, the club brought in sparkplug second baseman Tadahito Uguchi from Chicago and continued to win at a consistent pace.

Now much of the cavalry have returned and even with the announcement that ace lefty Cole Hamels may be incapacitated a bit longer, there is growing sense that someone will take up the arms and come to the forefront and save the day. How about a Bonnie Tyler rendition of "Holding out for a Hero" blaring out over the loudspeaker? Perhaps.

Better yet, recognition that the true heroes are already here. Names like Greg Dobbs and Chris Coste and Clay Condrey. Former teammates like Chris Roberson and John Ennis. Former castoffs such as Jayson Werth, Kane Davis and Abraham Nunez. Even graybeards like Jose Mesa and Antonio Alfonseca have answered the call to the Grassroots tune of "Where were you when I needed you?" They answered the Phillie call for help in ways that might not seem completely apparent until the final verses has been written on the 2007 song.

Sport often takes a phan on its own Beatle's version of a "Magical Mystery Tour", and this year has been nothing if not that for the Phightins' from Philadelphia. Yet, when did it begin? At what point did this team and this season cross over that realm that usually so filters the images of a club and its personality that one season seemingly mirrors another to a team's phanbase?

No further proof is needed than to examine recent Phillie history. Quick now, name something unique and memorable about the 1988 club? Or 1990? Or 1996, '97 or '98? Those teams have mostly gone the way of all the other clubs in Philadelphia baseball history, under the singular file of losing and largely uninteresting teams.

Yet, ask any phan to recall 1993 and a flush of emotion and energy immediately surfaces. Images of Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Darren Daulton and Dave Hollins are as fresh today as they were 14 years ago. Who can forget Curt Schilling's white towel draped over his head or the Wild Thing, Mitch Williams, leaping and pumping his fist after a series ending strikeout against the vaunted Atlanta Braves? That was for Phillie phans there very own "Camelot" and who crooned it more appropriately than Richard Harris in the movie by the same name?

Still, much like the ancient and historical wonderland of King Arthur and his round table, baseball in PhillieLand soon entered a period of contention and dispute and the teams very own Sir Lancelots, Schilling, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu all left for various and sundry reasons.

For almost 14 years Philadelphia has longed to recapture that magical feeling, the sense that something special was going on with the team that quite recently "celebrated" its 10,000 loss, a number unmatched in any sport. And herein lies the irony. This 2007 team, although unlike any recent memory, was the recipient of that defeat. The very team that suffered such an inglorious record with that loss will not be remembered for the loss but for the wins. Yes, that is the story of this team and why the September song has yet to be written.

Many people believe the beginning of this teams coming together as a cohesive and caring unit began ironically enough when they were struggling and trying to avoid that 10,000th defeat. It occurred in Colorado on July 8, on the last game before the All-Star break with the club having lost seven of the previous nine and looking for all the world as if it would enter the break with a losing record.

The team stood 43-44 at the time but was improbably leading the Rockies 5-4 in the top of the seventh inning behind an unsteady Adam Eaton. Suddenly, almost as if of biblical proportions, a huge rain and windstorm struck the area and the field was being drenched by rain. The Rockies were so sure the game would be called that they left for the clubhouse while the Phillies remained on their bench.

The Rockies groundcrew dutifully made way for the field with the goal of covering the diamond with tarp and making it playable again should the storm cease. However the winds began to pick up with gale like forces and Rockies groundskeeper Keros Johnson became trapped in the middle of a suddenly out of control tarp.

With little or no regard for their own safely the Phillies ran out in mass to save Johnson and in effect the playing field. Keep in mind that this was a team mired in a deep slump and badly in need of a victory. The Rockies, on the other hand, were playing well and believed that should the game continue they would undoubtedly find a way to win the contest.

Still, it was the Phillie team, led by Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Abraham Nunez and even pitcher Adam Eaton who came to the rescue. Not only did they get the groundskeepers to safety, but helped place the tarp over the field, allowing the game to continue soon thereafter.

At that moment, if only for a fleeting period of time, the Philadelphia Phillies became America's Team and their story was told throughout the nation. Almost as an afterthought considering the dire circumstances for the groundskeepers, the game continued, Victorino hit a home run immediately at that point and the Phils had themselves a well deserved 8-4 triumph.

Perhaps even more important, that was the day this group of 25 individuals came together as a team, and that togetherness has allowed them to "weather" the storms that have followed that storm in the Rockies back on July 8. It has allowed them to overcome the injuries to Garcia, Lieber and Barajas. It has allowed them to carry on despite the loss of Utley, Victorino and Bourne within a weeks time.

Now it will allow them to overcome the elbow ailments that might keep Cole Hamels and Scott Mathieson indisposed for an undetermined period during the tense and taunt days of September when every game is amplified and every defeat magnified.

No one will ever accuse this Phillie group of ever having Roy Orbison's "Running Scared" as their theme song, nor will they think to take the cue from Van Halen and "Jump" at the next sign of crisis. Make no mistake, there will be crisis this month, and no baseball champion has ever been crowned without overcoming it.

Road games in Atlanta, New York and St. Louis are certain to guarantee frustration, anger and possibly defeat. Home games with the Braves, Rockies and Marlins could be fraught with dread, danger and possible disillusionment. No need to fear, expect and prepare for this with the anticipation that this season is different than the rest because this team is unlike all the rest.

And herein lies the stand that you can hang your hat on. This Phillie team should never be burdened with the failures of long since Phillie teams past. The ghosts of '64, '77 and '93 are long since gone from the premises. Gene Mauch has nothing to do with Charlie Manuel and Pat Burrell will not take the field in the ninth inning of a playoff game with victory in our grasp as Greg Luzinski once did.

Brett Myers is fresh for the Fall, unlike a tired and weary Mitch Williams. Fire and flames have replaced ice and embers as the Phillie trump card since the days that Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand and Jimmy Rollins took over the clubhouse from Mike Lieberthal, Bobby Abreu and Kenny Lofton. Not to say that those weren't great ballplayers or talented leaders, for yes indeed they were.

But they were leaders of a different kind, and those were leaders of a different day. The music was soft and melancholy then, replaced by loud and passionate now. There is a growing sense that now is the time and this is their year. The team now controls its own destiny and should they continue to win, nothing can stop them from participating in an Octoberfest to remember.

However, regardless of how the month of September eventually plays itself out, there is little doubt that this is a team that will be recalled with more than just a bit of affection. Phillie phans young and old will undoubtedly place this team at the top of its Most Favored Phillie Nine lists and time and passing will find it difficult to dislodge.

Philadelphia will long recall the exploits of Utley, Rollins, Rowand and Hamels. They will quietly smile when replaying images of a Howard homer, a Burrell blast or a Myers masterpiece inside the recesses of the mind. Better yet, they will reflect on a team, flawed as it was, that gave of no quarter and expected none.

There are few compliments in sport greater than to have been recognized for giving all that you have and at least for 2007, thy name is Philadelphia Phillies. While it would serve the victory starved appetites well should Queen sing "We are the Champions" at the end of the '07 baseball campaign in the City of Brotherly Love, common sense and reflection dictate that the song be as yet unsung.

The famous writer of children's stories, Hans Christian Anderson once said that "Where words fail, music speaks." Speak on, oh suddenly loveable Phillies, though your words be silent until it is sung your...September song.

Columnist's Note: Please email all questions and comments to allenariza@earthlink.net and I will respond. Thank you! CD from the Left Coast


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