I love baseball. I especially love Phillies baseball (so much so, I wrote a book). Anyone who knows me knows how much I love sports, but Phillies baseball is far and away my favorite, even more than my beloved Nittany Lions football.
The Phils are a tough team to follow. They break your heart (if it is still beating after all that down to the wire stuff) some years. Other years, they are so bad, they just pull your heart out and stomp on it and kick it around a little bit and have lesser fans pining for football season in May, hockey season by All-Star break. But I stuck by this team since 1974, when I first started watching baseball and decided to pick this team over my parents' favorite Yankees.
Since 1974, the Phils went to the playoffs in 76, 77, 78, and 81, won the World Series in 1980 -- their only WS win ever -- and lost WS in 1983 and 1993. (They were in the WS in 1915 and 1950, as well, in their only other playoff appearances. And yes, I really did know that off the top of my head . . . scary the weird things I remember.) All that for a team founded in 1883, has been in one city with one name since 1883 (no other professional team can say that), and was the first team to lose 10,000 games in its history. October baseball doesn't come our way very often.
The past few years have been especially tough, as the team lost out on the wild card on the last weekend of the season. Or mid-season meltdowns lost them first place. I sometimes don't know what is harder -- a bad season where you know it is over in June or one that takes you right to the brink.
But yesterday, thanks to the Mets doing their best Philadelphia choke imitation (obviously learned by Mr. September Choke himself, Billy Wagner, who pulled that stick in a Phillies uniform a few times), and thanks to a team that played like little kids who love the game and refuse to quit, the Phils are going to play another game. In October.
Game 2 of the World Series is on my birthday. This team, with no pitching and its 48 comeback wins, has a shot to be playing baseball on my birthday. But the real gift wouldn't just be playing on that day. It's that on October 1, I can still dream about it.