January 31, 2017
The Phillies will pay tribute to the only two World Championship teams in franchise history as well as the 1983, ’93, and 2009 pennant winners, too, in the collection of guest instructors due in Clearwater, Fla., this spring.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, a regular in camp for years and also a member of the broadcast team, leads the uniformed instructors.
The other five: Charlie Manuel, the all-time winningest manager in Phillies history; radio broadcaster (and former reliever) Larry Andersen; Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin, two members of the 2008 bullpen; and former third baseman Wes Helms.
And now my attempt to find the best Phillies moment for each of those six alumni.
Listen. It’s my list. I know he had an awful lot of big hits earlier in his career, especially in the 1980 postseason. But I was three-years-old. In 1987, when Schmidt hit this iconic home run at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and did that little jig when he knew it was gone, with Harry Kalas on the call, I was 10-years-old and it was maybe the coolest thing I’d ever seen on a baseball field.
Yep, I could have used Schmidt leaping onto the pile in ’80, but I didn’t want two World Series celebration shots here. And there’s no other moment that captures Brad Lidge’s ’08 brilliance better than this one.
Again, we’re not going to go overkill on the World Series celebration moments, although you can certainly make the case for Charlie Manuel raising his fist and proclaiming “this is for Philadelphia!” as his top Phillies moment. But through all of the division and pennant clinchers, Manuel often put himself in his office, letting the players celebrate and avoiding the spotlight. He couldn’t do that on the night he was deservedly honored with the highest achievement bestowed on anyone in the Phillies family.
The man known as “L.A.” to a younger generation of fans who recognize Andersen as the voice of the people, particularly for his criticism of umpires or no-nonsense take on the game in general, Larry Andersen is best known in baseball history for being the guy traded straight-up for Jeff Bagwell, who was just elected into the Hall of Fame. But Andersen was a pretty good reliever (with a deadly slider) for 17 seasons, including with two different Phillies pennant winners. His personality fit right in with the ’93 team, so for top moment, let’s go with him celebrating with good friend Harry Kalas in ’93.
Like Andersen, Durbin was a reliever who wasn’t a closer, so trying to peg individual highlights isn’t easy. Middle relievers are probably the most under-appreciated players in the game (look at All-Star rosters each year). Durbin was a quiet cog in the strong ’08 pen, leading that group in innings pitched. He got his share of important outs during that memorable season, but let’s go with three big ones in the postseason. After the Phillies jumped out to an 8-2 lead in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers only to see L.A. storm back with a Manny Ramirez home run, Durbin was the first reliever out of the ‘pen and set the tone by throwing a shutout frame in the sixth, including silencing Ramirez (fast forward to the 3:20 mark of the video).
OK, look. This isn’t really easy as Helms played one mostly forgettable season with the Phillies (in 2007). But the team did end a 13-year playoff drought that season by overcoming a seven-game deficit in the NL East with 17 games to play. Since every win after the All-Star game mattered, we’ll tip the hat to Mr. Helms for a two-out, two-run double in the 11th inning at Miller Park on Aug. 5, a game when the Phillies overcame a 6-0 deficit to claim an 8-6 win. There is no video highlight of this historic event. Sorry, Wes. Notable: Jose Mesa got the save, of course. Never forget.
Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on Feb. 14. The guest instructors will work intermittently with the Phillies regular major and minor league coaching staff throughout camp.