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July 27, 2015

Cole Hamels has been everything to this city … so where’s the love in return?

In the past 32 years, one special person has done the most to bring our only championship to Philadelphia. This same player has been among the elite in his sport, has raised millions for charity and has shown a deep respect for the fans.

So, where’s the love for Cole Hamels?

On Saturday in Chicago, Hamels most likely ended his decade as a Phillie with another unforgettable performance, the 13th no-hitter in team history. At 31, he reached 96 on the radar gun, had his best curve of the season and, of course, befuddled most of the Cubs with his devastating change-up.

The fact that this masterpiece came in the midst of a lost season in no way diminishes its brilliance. Right to the end – if indeed it is the end – he was true to his image as Hollywood Hamels.

And therein may rest the real story behind his shocking lack of popularity in a city he has embraced. He may be too refined, too cool, too Hollywood for a blue-collar city like Philadelphia. And that’s a shame.

Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in Chicago was more than a Hollywood ending to a great career in our city. It was one last appeal for justice, one last bid for the love he deserves.

In my 25-plus years doing sports radio here, I can say with absolute certainty that no player has done more and received less adulation than Hamels. Even in these years since winning the MVP of the 2008 World Series, the response has been tepid. The fans like him, make no mistake. But they have never loved him.

What makes this situation especially puzzling is that Philadelphia is a bottom-line city when it comes to sports. The Flyers of the mid-1970s still are heroes here. Bernie Parent, Bobby Clarke, Freddy Shero. Just mention the name, and a declaration of love is sure to follow. We worship winners.

The biggest winner on the Phillies during the most successful era in franchise history is Hamels, and yet he doesn’t even rank in the top five on the championship team. Ahead of him in fan popularity are (in order) Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Charlie Manuel, Ryan Howard and Brad Lidge.

What do those five great Phillies have in common? None of them produced the way Hamels did in the 2008 post-season, when he went 4-0 and delivered big pitch after big pitch. He was clutch in a city that demands grace under pressure. For his efforts, he was voted most valuable not just in the World Series, but also in the NLCS.

However, even now, seven years later, his tenure as a Phillie is more about his quirks than his success. He demanded that a chiropractor travel with him on the road early in his career, he mugged for the cameras at Dancing With The Stars too soon after the parade, he publicly begged for an end to the 2009 season.

To some, his honesty has detracted from his performance. To me, it has enhanced it. Hamels has never hidden his loyalty to Philadelphia, even though he is a West Coaster by geography and by manner. He signed a new contract three years ago and gave the Phils a hometown discount. He rarely dodged a question, never ran from the truth.

It is also worth noting that Hamels and his wife, Heidi, have created one of the most respected athlete-connected charities in America, the Hamels Foundation. In the past six years, it has raised over $3 million for education initiatives around the world. The man gives back.

In these final days (hours?) of his time here, fans need to appreciate what Hamels did, and how he did it. He may not have the dirt on his uniform of a Chase Utley, or the Everyman quality of a Charlie Manuel, but Hamels has earned his own place of honor in the annals of heroic Philadelphia athletes.

Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in Chicago was more than a Hollywood ending to a great career in our city. It was one last appeal for justice, one last bid for the love he deserves.


During his 26-month reign of secrecy and paranoia, Sam Hinkie has rarely offered any insight into how he thinks, but he did make a surprising revelation recently. He said: “Never let your guard down. Never.” Someone needs to inform the Sixers GM that he is not the director of the CIA. 

Hinkie was back in the news last week – in absentia, of course – when reports began circulating that young center Joel Embiid had re-broken his right foot. In a carefully worded statement last month, the GM said only that there had been “less healing than anticipated at this point.”

Now, I’m no doctor, but if you re-break a bone, it is extremely unlikely that healing will continue at the anticipated rate. In other words, Hinkie has been caught in another lie, or at least another episode of blatant deception, for no apparent good reason.

Even if you subscribe to the notion that secrecy is essential to preserve a competitive advantage, there is no justification for hiding the truth about the most important player Hinkie has brought to the Sixers. Everyone acknowledges that Embiid will miss next season. The GM is being dishonest with the fans only because of his own insecurity.

Hinkie has polarized Philadelphia more than any sports figure since former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan. He has an alarming number of supporters who not only admire his unusual rebuilding plan, but somehow embrace his secrecy – even though they are also victims of their hero’s evasiveness.

Let’s agree to disagree about Hinkie’s rebuilding program. Can we at least band together in demanding that a GM tell us the truth about our team? Or does the power entrusted in Sam Hinkie by his cult allow him to lie, too?

And one more thing: It has been two weeks now since the Sixers acknowledged the need for a second surgery, and yet all we know – courtesy of – is that Embiid had dinner last week at Mr. Chow in Los Angeles. Is it asking too much to be told when he will have the operation?

Never let your guard down. Never.

Is this really the way we want Sam Hinkie to run our basketball team?


Sports Illustrated named Philadelphia the most hated fan base in the NFL last week. Thank you very much.

Now, the explanation that accompanied this (dis)honor referenced many tired old incidents from the heyday of our misbehavior, the 1980s and 90s at Veterans Stadium, but fans of today still seem pleased by the designation. In fact, 77 percent responded to an Internet poll by saying they are not embarrassed by their reputation. Nor should they be.

As Hollis Thomas – a 14-year NFL veteran and co-host on my WIP radio show – put it, home-field advantage should be just that, an advantage. If our hostility makes the opponent uncomfortable, gives our team a better chance to win, shouldn’t we endorse the negative image? Call us Neanderthals if you must. As long as we’re helping our team.

Also last week, Rocco Baldelli said he had never encountered hatred like the rage our fans directed at his Tampa Bay Rays during the 2008 World Series. He recalled that the route to Citizens Bank Park was lined with fans giving the Tampa bus the finger – and worse – before every game. The Rays didn’t know how to react; they have very few fans.

Baldelli even offered a psychological analysis of why we are this way. He said we have handed down from generation to generation the tradition of storing up our anger and then venting it at sports events. It is cheaper than a shrink, and a lot more fun.

For the slightly more gentle Philadelphia fans of 2015, enjoying stadiums far more accommodating than a hellhole like the Vet, I offer this piece of unsolicited advice: Accept these new expressions of distaste with appreciation. The more that visiting teams fear us, the better.

I’m actually hoping that this SI most-hated fanbase award will inspire a new wave of loud indignation in the stands. Embrace this moment, Philadelphia. Make your fathers proud. Do what you do better than any city in America. Scare the hell out of our rivals.

And finally ...

     • Aaron Nola is the answer to a prayer for Phillies fans suffering through a gruesome season. His talent and poise are either a sign of better times ahead, or just a brief respite from the tedium of a losing team. Either way, we’ll take it. Nola is proving the Phillies don’t have to wait until 2018 to be good again.

     • Odubel Herrera had quite a week for the Phillies, didn’t he? First, he got blasted for not running out a double-play grounder, then he got a walk-off hit, and finally he made those two frightening catches in center field late in Cole Hamels’ no-hitter. The kid is exciting. You’ve got to give him that.

     • So now we know Chip Kelly was once married for seven years. What exactly are we supposed to do with this information? Hey, I believe in full disclosure by sports figures, but not their personal lives. I’d love to know how the Eagles coach really feels about LeSean McCoy. Whether Kelly was ever married is his business.

      • Speaking of McCoy, that sure was a clever way to recruit hot local women for his private party last night, wasn’t it? An Internet invitation requiring photos and confidentiality agreements? What an incurable romantic he is. And what a strange man. He is perfect for Buffalo.

• I was given an opportunity to throw out the first ball at a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (AAA) game last week in Allentown, and I choked. The ball bounced 20 feet in front of the plate before skipping past the catcher. I am pathetic. In this column, everybody who deserves criticism, gets it. Including me.