by Paul Kurtz
The Phillies recently ruined their bid for 162 straight wins, forcing me to hand over the now very clearly insane amount of money I wagered that they would complete such a feat while feeling particularly confident after an unlikely win at darts.
“Not only will they all be wins, but they’ll all be shut outs!” I exclaimed, accidentally knocking a pitcher of beer off of a table, and ignoring it in hopes that no one would notice that it had happened.
The Phillies season of my wildest fantasies, and even the predicted 120-win season of the furiously overzealous pundits is just a tad out of reach, and that’s something you can feel safe saying less than ten games into the season. Fortunately, we have guys like Philly radio personality Paul Kurtz to reach back into history and yank out a handful of stoic Phillies victories, one for each day of the season, to remind us that while 162 of our proudest moments may not have occurred in succession, they definitely did happen.
And with its gimmick, “162-0,” while similar in several elements to Todd Zolecki’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (Both aren’t so much Phillies books as they are the Phillies edition in a series of pre-selected concepts), manages to give itself an edge that improves upon past attempts. It is hard for books taking on the quirkiness, heartbreak, and successes of Phillies history to avoid sounding repetitive, but this one has the easy job of highlighting only the positive notes.
You’re going to put it down and be in a good mood, because you know the ending of each story and they’re all happy. However, that’s not very fair. It wouldn’t take a necessarily talented author to get a Phillies fan to call a book about the Phillies winning for 264 pages ” fucking awesome.” Its like removing the second act from a screenplay and assuming the happy ending will still register without any conflict to precede it.
But we’re not talking about an epic saga here. Its not like you need to know that Gavvy Cravath used sheer rage to bomb a game-winning home run over the wall after a hideous call from the home plate umpire on May 5, 1959 to understand that Kevin Gross got ejected from a game on August 10, 1987 for gluing sandpaper to his glove. These are 1-2 page accounts of events that can be digested a bunch at a time without the reader even realizing it, but unlike with a case of beer, you won’t wander into a bar afterward and start making ridiculous bets.
The genuine impressiveness of the collection comes from the time and precision with which it must have been assembled. I mean, shit; there are a ton of classic Phils wins in here, and the fact that they all matched up with all the days of a season is not only cool, but pretty lucky for Kurtz. I’m sure there are some glaring omissions but it feels as though most of the past elbowed its way into the book.
There is clearly no coherent narrative in a book like “162-0,” which will see enough editions to populate the interest of MLB’s most followed franchises. It’s a series of post-it notes you can breeze through that say “Remember when–” and fills in the rest with some glorious Phillies baseball story. And Kurtz gets across what happened, but you can tell he’s more jazzed about some stories than others. A few of these tales are ripped from eras that didn’t have a whole lot else going from them. I can’t recall doing much more in front of a TV in 1998 than demanding explanations from Phillies players who could not hear me.
I would say “162-0″ is both intended to be and works best as a bathroom book, or a travel book, or something to sift through during chunks of down time during your average week. The Phillies aren’t ever going to be perfect in real life. So join Paul Kurtz as he arranges the past into an order that allows us to dream they were.