I Put a Curse on the Phillies
I Put a Curse on the Phillies By Justin McManus At the start of the season the Phillies were the team to beat. They had won the National League East three years in a row. They had gone to the World Series the last two seasons and were looking for the hat-trick. If they were to repeat and return to the World Series they would become the first National League team to go to the World Series three years in a row since the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals. During the offseason the Phillies bolstered their staff by acquiring pitcher Roy Halladay and third-basemen Placido Polanco. Many believed with these acquisitions the team would actually be better than they were the previous two seasons. It was said they would easily win the division and rival any team that dare take away their NL Crown. After Monday nights game, just a few games past the midway point of the season, the Phillies find themselves only four games above .500 with a 48-44 record and six games back in the division. The fans, players and coaches are all left scratching their heads and asking "Why?" The likely culprit...injuries. Over the past three seasons the Phillies have stayed relatively health. This season they have been plagued by injuries. Players get injured, for many, this is just part of the game. But what if there was something else contributing to the Phillies woes. What if there was an explanation for all of the injuries and underperformance. One man explained to me that he knows what is truly behind the Phillies floundering. He says, "The team is CURSED!" Up until 2004 the Red Sox anguished under the curse of the Bambino. The White Sox who were embroiled in the Black Sox scandal of 1919 didn't win another World Series until 2005. The Cubs are cursed by a goat and haven't won the Series since 1908 and haven't appeared in the Fall Classic since the war weary 1945 season. But the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and went again in 2009. So what is this, "The team is cursed?" I asked the man (who would like to be referred to only as JR) and he told me a story that at first I dismissed but as the season progresses I must admit, I have had to stop and reflect upon. As JR tells it, "I have been a life long Phillies fan. I have Phillies shirts, hats, pennants, pictures, key chain, replica helmets, and of course baseball cards." JR showed me some of his collection and he keeps all of his baseball cards of the Phillies Players in a separate binder. The cards date all the way back to the magical 1980 Phillies team. He says his prized cards are those of Schmidt, Rose, Carlton and McGraw. "I started collecting in 1980 when I was five years old. I really didn't know much about the players or the team. I just knew they were the local team and that's who I wanted to root for. I don't remember much from that season but I remember my parents let me stay up late to watch game six and remember when Tug got the final out." From our conversation I could tell JR was a true Phillies fan. He continued to talk about past and present players and quiz me on my knowledge of the team. After a short while I redirected the conversation. "You told me earlier that the Phillies are loosing because they are cursed. What makes you believe that the team is cursed?" JR replied, "I know they're cursed because I put a curse on them." Just to be clear I asked again, "You put a curse on them?" JR repeated, "Yes, I put a curse on the Phillies." My first thought was, "Why would a man who is a lifelong Phillies fan put a curse on the team he loves?" He told me the following story. "Every year I get to go to only about one or two games. The rest of the time I watch every game on TV. This year I purchased tickets to a game for early in the season. Unfortunately my wife was sick so we couldn't make it. I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I called and was told I could exchange the tickets for another game but would have to go to the stadium in person to do so. A few weeks past and I went to the stadium. When I tried to exchange the tickets they told me I couldn't. They said they're policy is they will only exchange tickets for a game up to 48 hours after the scheduled game. The person I talked to on the phone didn't mention this. I told them I didn't want a refund just credit towards other tickets. They told me they couldn't do it. So I was out my hard earned money. When I got home my wife asked me if I got the tickets and I told her the story. I was so mad I swore that I would never go to another game, I would never watch another game on TV or listen to a game on the radio while I'm at work. I will never buy any more Phillies merchandise and have begun selling off parts of my collection. About a day later I remembered a trip I had taken a few years back to New Orleans. While there I visited one of those 'witch doctors.' For a souvenir I bought this card and on one side it has a sort or prayer to recite if you want to put a curse on someone and directions on how to do it and on the reverse is another prayer and what to do to remove the curse. Almost as a joke I recited the prayer. The directions then said to say what you want so I said, 'I don't want the Phillies to ever win another pennant.' It says that it may take a while for the curse to take effect. This was sometime in April but I started to read in the paper (because I was no longer watching the games) that players were getting hurt and the losses we piling up. First, I heard that Polanco got hit in the elbow and that was causing some problems. He then missed a few games and not to long ago was put on the disabled list. Second was J.A. Happ. Happ hurt his forearm and was placed on the 15 day DL retroactively. Then a few weeks went by and he still wasn't better. Finally, he began his rehab assignments and got lit up like a Christmas tree and probably won't be back for a while. Next came Ryan Madson. After blowing another save he kicked a chair, or something, and broke his toe and was placed on the DL. At the time I didn't think this was the curse but the injuries and losses kept coming. Jimmy Rollins first got injured before I ever put the curse on the team. He came off of the DL in May but didn't last long before the curse got him too. " It was also in May when the losses really started to add up and the Phillies began their slide out of first place and into third. During the last week and a half of May the first days of June, the Phillies were probably at their worst in years. During that stretch they only had two wins and nine losses. Of those nine losses, five were shutouts and at one point they were shutout three games in a row. I asked JR how he felt about all of this. "I couldn't be happier. I was glad to see them loose. When I was rooting for them I didn't want to admit that they seemed cocky and arrogant. But once I was rooting against them I saw their arrogance and was glad to see them taken down a peg. I just hope they were reminded that they're not as good as they think they are." During this skid not only were the Phillies loosing, but they seemed like they couldn't even play fundamental baseball. They would get players on base and not move them over. They would get a man on third with one or no outs and leave him stranded, strikeout with bases loaded, fail to put down a sac bunt, errors, blown saves. It seemed like with each game the Phillies were finding new ways to loose. When things seemed like they couldn't get any worse more injuries to key players took their toll. On June 22, Carlos Ruiz was placed on the DL with concussion like symptoms after being hit in the head with a bat. Two days later Chad Durbin went down. Then four days later came the biggest blow, Chase Utley tore a ligament in his thumb sliding into second base trying to stretch a single into a double. To add insult to injury, the next day Polanco was finally put on the DL after still suffering from pain in his elbow after being hit by a pitch back in April. I asked JR if he felt responsible for all of the injuries. "A little. I put a curse on the team but I didn't ask for injuries. I just asked that they never win another pennant. If it takes injuries to keep them from winning so be it, but injuries haven't been the only factor. Some players who were key to the Phillies success are under performing. Look at Jayson Werth. He got off to a hot start but has since cooled off. His numbers are nowhere near the numbers he had last year. And look at Raul Ibanez. Their best bet would be to platoon him in left field. Only let him play when they are facing a right-handed pitcher and start someone else when it's a righty. Their pitching has also been inconsistent. Sure, Halladay pitched a perfect game but he has also struggled at times. His career high in losses is eleven and this year he already has eight, and I don't need to say anything about the rest of the rotation." JR was right. It wasn't just the injuries that were plaguing the Phillies. It is a combination of injuries and underperforming. But is a curse responsible for these things? Could one guy really put a curse on a team? Is there even any such thing as a curse? Cubs fans would say yes, but I'm not entirely convinced. Before our conversation was over I asked JR "What would it take for you to reverse the curse you put on the Phillies?" He replied, "I don't know?" I said, "It all started when you got mad that they wouldn't exchange your tickets. What if they gave you new tickets?" He replied, "It would be too little too late. I feel like I was swindled out of my hard earned money and now they will get what they deserve." In one last ditch effort I asked to see the card that had the "prayers" on them for cursing and removing the curse. I thought maybe I could "Take one for the team" and try to walk off with it. JR told me, "I have told a few of my friends about the curse and they all asked to see the card that has the curse and antidote on it. I will tell you what I told them, I hid it somewhere where no one will ever find it that way no one can try and reverse the curse until I decide to reverse it...which will probably be never." So is there a curse? I guess only time will tell, and while we wait, and watch anxiously to see if the Phillies can right their ship this season I know at least one person who is enjoying every minute of the Phillies woes.