Part of being a Phillie is creating your own lore. Sometimes it’s a fairly visible one, like Chase Utley, who can point to any one of a number of heroic deeds and tell his grandchildren, “I was the fucking shit,” while his adult children look on, shaking their heads as the increasing dementia of their elderly father embodies itself in his conversation with a mailbox.
Other times, the legend is less visible. No one is lining up to get a signed copy of The Kevin Sefcik Story.
But soon, a whole crop of Phillies heroes will be able to walk down Walnut Street, point up at a 3750 square foot mural, and shout “THAT IS ME! THAT IS MY STORY, AND IT IS MYTHIC AND IT IS JOYOUS!”
There is room for only one more red pinstriped knight up on that wall, and now those six know, via fan polling, who they are:
- Carlos Ruiz
- John Kruk
- Johnny Callison
- Greg Luzinski
- Jim Thome
- Del Ennis
I feel fairly certain that when it comes to putting people on a big wall, this is going to come down to Chooch or Kruk. Not because they’re better or more legendary or whatever. The people voting to put players on the mural are people who are alive now, today–people who may not have seen guys like Ennis and Callison play. They can read or hear about their stories, sure, but nothing is the same as watching your favorite player do his thing in person, right in front of you.
The recorded anecdotes about Del Ennis opening a bowling alley collected for some beat writer’s book is not the same thing as watching Chooch hit a walkoff double to complete an eight-run comeback victory, or fall off your chair laughing at Kruk in the ’93 All-Star Game. Some guys cemented themselves and don’t need Wikipedia entries for people to recall what they’ve done (Schmid, Ashburn, etc.) Which isn’t to say Callison and Ennis aren’t deserving, they just aren’t as recent.
Thome, buddy, you did a great thing here, serving as the bridge to a Greater Time You Would Not See. He was our Gandalf, pounding the ground, screaming “YOU SHALL NOT PASS,” and then disappearing . The weird part is how accurate their comparison is, as he’s returned to us now, at the turn of the tide. But Thome was the only name on the shirseys in the gift shop during a time when nobody wanted to talk about the Phillies, and for that we love him, but his role was to provide what we wound up with–he is a hero destined to have his work overshadowed by the greatness that followed him.
And Bull. Well. Bull works in Citizens Bank Park. If you really want to see him, just go to a few games and you’ll probably catch him wandering through the main concourse.