A day after the Phillies' Rally Trolley rolled through Center City as the centerpiece of a team-orchestrated pep rally, fans arriving early for Saturday's Game 1 of the National League division series flooded the Majestic Clubhouse store or roamed the Phillies Pregame Tent Party outside Citizens Bank Park.
With each October, it seems, marketers get a stronger grip on baseball fans. The once-innocent art of rooting has become increasingly institutionalized.
Teams are savvy. They've learned to squeeze into that intimate space between a fan and his favorite team. They've learned to pander to them, to play on their emotions. From there, it's easy to convince them they're an integral part of the ball club.
"And since you're really our 10th man," these teams say, "you really ought to dress like us, take part in our events, buy our sponsors' products."
An unscientific pregame survey turned up virtually no one without at least one item of officially licensed Phillies gear.
There were hats; T-shirts; sweatshirts; thin jackets; thick jackets; and the ubiquitous team jerseys in white, gold, green, black, and blue.
How quickly savvy spectators can surrender their individuality. How thoroughly this city's once-proudly cynical sports fans have turned into St. Louisans.
On KYW-AM (1060), a Phillies fan interviewed at Friday's rally said he hoped his team won the World Series because "they're overdue."
Excuse me? It hasn't even been three years. Jayson Werth has oh-fers longer than that.
In 1980 they were overdue. In 2008 they were overdue. In 2011 they're underdue. Way underdue.
Anyway, just in case he and others forgot, I went back and looked at how, in 10-year intervals, the Phils were doing on previous Oct. 1s.
Oct. 1, 1961 – Phils were shut out, 2-0, before a crowd of 2,496 at home by the Cards' Bob Gibson, finishing the season in last place, 60 games under .500 (47-107).
Oct. 1, 1971 – Their last-place, 67-95 season, their first at the Vet, had ended a day earlier with a 4-3 loss to the Pirates.
Oct. 1, 1981 – The disappointing season that followed their first world championship was nearing its end, with a 3-2, 10-inning loss to St. Louis at home.
Oct. 1, 1991 – The third-place Phils beat the Cubs at home in 13 innings to raise their record to 76-82.
Oct. 1, 2001 – A day off between visits to Florida and Atlanta. The second-place Phils would lose two of three in Atlanta and fall out of the race.
Game 1 limerick
The hopes of Phils fans are so starry.
Don't wish it, but hope they're not sorry.
'Cause if the Phils fail,
You'll hear a great wail
As they all commit mass hari-kari.
Fifty years ago Saturday, Oct. 1, 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's record with his 61st home run.
Curiously, on this significant anniversary, the man who 37 years later broke Maris' mark went about his business in virtual anonymity Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire, his reputation and approachability destroyed by steroid allegations, seemed shrouded in a sad solitude.
5 THINGS OVERHEARD BEFORE GAME 1
1Man explaining Gene Mauch to his wife as they stood at Ashburn Alley exhibit on Phils history: "He also blew an eight-game lead with seven to play in '64."
2 "I can't do dogs. If I'm gonna eat competitively, it's gotta be burgers, cheesesteaks, or bone-in steak."
3Man and teenaged boy at urinals: "Coach K told me . . ."
"You know Coach K?"
"Yeah, he's the cross-country coach at my high school."
4Two men discussing Cards manager Tony La Russa: "Strange, isn't it? He's an old guy but he wears sunglasses."
5"Can you imagine getting chased by a friggin' drone? It's like you're an animal peeking out of a hole in the ground and a hawk's waiting for you."
5 THINGS NOT OVERHEARD BEFORE GAME 1
1"I tried to get tickets for Temple-Toledo, but I had to settle for these."
2"Shoot, it's clearing up. I was hoping for rain."
3"I miss Cody Ross."
4"Dad, can we try to get Ross Gload's autograph?"
5"Can I get a little mango chutney on that cheesesteak?"