I was born in 1976. Obviously, I was not fully conscious during the Phillies’ previous era of brilliance.
That year was our nation’s bi-centennial, the year the Phils made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. I was still jaundiced with a slightly yellow hue to me when that October rolled around and the Big Red Machine ran through the Phils.
In ’77 and ’78, I was still working on standing upright and learning how all of my motor functions worked. I was not aware of the professional baseball.
In the spring of 1979, I was just two and a half years old. The Phillies were as foreign to me as an un-urinated-in pair of underpants. Even though they had just come off their third straight division title (and third straight disappointing NLCS exit) and had just signed Pete Rose as a free agent, I still had no clue what was going on in Clearwater.
I was an ignorant, ungrateful punk. I freely admit that.
Thankfully, there were wonderful adults present in 1979 to help a young booger-picker like me out.
Only through the magical eye of Sports Illustrated could the above picture have been taken. I mean, look at those three. Is this really what older people looked like back then?
Wasn’t there a military man in any of their families? Were the scissors broken in their houses?
I mean, the ridiculous hair, the unbelievable sideburns, the baseball caps that look like they were smashed under their children’s’ beds for six months, it’s all a put-on, right?
I’m assuming that when they actually took the field to play real games, Pete Rose lost the Moe ‘do.
I’m assuming Larry Bowa did away with the geri curl.
And Schmidtty… well… he’s Schmidtty. He could do whatever he darn well pleased.
Little did that collection of rapscallions know they were in for one of the more disappointing seasons in team history. Those ’79 Phillies could hit, but anytime a guy named Nino Espinoza is your #3 pitcher, a World Series contender you ain’t.
Now in the year 2012, I am a 35-year-old man. I can look back on this era with great fondness and, more accurately, wonderment. It warms the cockles of one’s heart to see the hope in their eyes, the anticipation, the knowledge that their whole lives still lie in front of them.
The world was their oyster. And in a year and a half’s time, they would be world champions.
So, thanks Sports Illustrated. Your cameras have captured a moment in time that should be cherished by all.
Even if these guys all look like they took a nosedive off the ugly tree.