Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

McGrath's 'real life lesson' from Steve Carlton

ONE OF MIKE McGrath's favorite memories has nothing to do with gardening.

Instead, it dates back to his time with the old Phillies Report, a weekly publication for which he handled distribution and promotion as well as writing and editing (It was he who, with the team's blessing, "outed" Dave Raymond as the original Phillie Phanatic.)

Through this gig, McGrath got friendly with Raymond, who in turn was close to several players including Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox.

During the 1977 season, the Phillies dedicated a night to Phillies Report. McGrath, naturally, was on hand to report on the festivities. Prior to the ceremony, Raymond found McGrath in the tunnel underneath Veterans Stadium and invited him on a dugout tour.

"He takes me into the Phillies dugout," recalled McGrath. "It had the most beautiful polished hard woods - teak, mahogany - the most beautiful brass work you've ever seen, stained filthy with tobacco juice and God knows what else. Just this incredible combination of beauty and despair.

"And there's Lefty [Phillies Hall of Fame lefthander Steve Carlton] by the dugout, and he's warming up.

"Back then," McGrath recalled, "starting pitchers warmed up in front of the dugout. I'm in the dugout taking pictures and [Raymond] foolishly wanders off and leaves me alone.

"So I step out of the dugout onto the field, and Steve Carlton . . . turns and looks at me, and the next thing I know, there is a ball sailing past my head, bouncing off the concrete, and I hear laughter behind me.

"I'm flailing around in this filth on the bottom. Picking me up are Schmidt and Maddox. Schmidt is laughing so hard, he keeps dropping me. And in between trying to catch his breath, Maddox says to me, 'Hey man, it's OK. If he had wanted to hit you, he would have.'

"I learned you don't step onto the field when Steve Carlton is warming up. It was a real-life lesson."

- Chuck Darrow

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