If you’ve ever walked into the Barnes and Noble in Rittenhouse Square, passed the guy singing show tunes on the sidewalk, you’ve probably seen that table full of Phillies-centric reading material that pops up whenever the team does something noticeable, like win the World Series, or begin a season since 2006. There’s a ton of Phillies literature out there, and each week, we’ll be analyzing, reviewing, and over scrutinizing the work of writers and photographers who’ve probably been fans far longer than we have.
Ron Green, Jr.
“2008 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS” the small emblem reminds you, but there’s so much impassioned bro-grabbing happening on the cover, you won’t even notice.
I like that #1 is the 10,000 losses. It’s like killing off the protagonist in the first scene. “We are the team who has had the most negative outcomes in all of professional history. Let the rest of this hit you with that little factoid still fresh in your mind.”
The introduction features a story about some guy I don’t know and his passionate Phillies fandom over the years, followed by his death. I get what Green’s trying to grab at; that this is a different kind of cheering section, the kind that slowly and willfully poisoned themselves for years by staying loyal, and many died before any true success could wash away the decades of tarnished, cantankerous heartbreak.
But this isn’t a yearbook or a democratic memorandum. It’s a history lesson.
Its a history lesson that you don’t even realize you’re digesting, like a snake swallowing an ostrich egg in its sleep. You start with black and white era terms like the Baker Bowl and Nap Lajoie, and casually drift into more recognizable eras… suddenly, you look down and there’s somewhat modernized Phillies logos on the players’ uniforms.
Without this book, I would have never known that a guy used to play for the Phillies named “Cannonball Titcomb,” or that Charlie Ferguson was on pace to pen the legends of Phillies baseball lore all by himself if he hadn’t been killed by typhoid, or that former owner Horace Fogel tried to change their name to the “Live Wires” and accused the Giants of espionage before being banned from the game forever.
There have been a ton of spectacular players on the Phillies, especially back when medical science wasn’t advanced enough to tell you that pitching 26 straight innings could have negative affects on your arm somewhere down the line.
Most of the “reasons” are in fact, people. But this isn’t a tacky list of purposeless nostalgia. Green slowly weaves you through the team’s history, including just enough of an anecdote for each reason to pique your interest in the next one, and if a name is used that you can’t recognize, chances are its on the next page to clear things up.
Remember that series called “Great Illustrated Classics,” that took famous pieces of literature and gave each page a picture and a simplified version of the original? This book is like one of those for “Phillies History.”
Are there 101 reasons to love the Phillies? Probably. But Ron Green, Jr. did not find them all; and in their place, we have bizarre grasps at straws other Phillies fans may never even think about. You get the sense that maybe the number of reasons was chosen before the reasons themselves… almost like… there’s an entire series of doppelgangers out there, giving you reasons to love other teams and sports…
For instance, you can’t tell me that “Sparky Anderson” (#38) is a reason to love the Phillies. Some of these “reasons” grab a pinch of truth and stretch it to the other side of the room (Sparky played his one year of subpar professional baseball with the Phillies).
You couldn’t hand this book to a Mets fan, force them to read it at gun point, and then have them come out of it ready to reserve a table at Chickie and Pete’s. It isn’t going to convince antagonists to come join our side; its more to remind we true believers why we’ve put ourselves through all this sheer madness.