DAN BAKER was announcing the Phillies' starting lineup and the Marlins had five runs. When the ballclub's longtime PA voice got to "Greg Dobbs, third base," in the jammed Money Pit, Mets manager Willie Randolph was taking the ball from the left hand of Tom Glavine, who made the second first-inning exit of his Hall of Fame career. The first was 18 years ago.
Is it really 14 years since the young Braves lefthander beat Jim Fregosi's Throwbacks in Game 3 of a League Championship Series that was our most recent cause for baseball celebration?
Before Baker began his stentorian journey through Charlie Manuel's Game 162 lineup, he introduced a number of Phillies employees being honored for their fine work. Many of those fine folks had to be mystified by several thunderous ovations that accompanied Dan's perfect enunciation of their names - and by the blizzard of rally-towel waving that accompanied them.
Coincidentally, another run, or two, or three was being posted on the field level, out-of-town scoreboard in rightfield.
Jamie Moyer, 3 years, 4 months and 7 days older than the 41-year-old Glavine, had finished his warmups and was walking in from the bullpen. The Mets trailed by a five-spot. It was 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 in the Year of Our Manuel 2007. Moyer claims he was unaware when he prepared to throw his first pitch to Nationals leadoff hitter Felipe Lopez that the Mets had dug themselves into a hole deeper than the excavation for their new stadium.
So it was that the first home clinching of a regular-season title in Phillies history, a 6-1 kiss on the lips, defied the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over until it's over."
How about no worse than "Half over?"
A day that dripped with tension when the sun rose into a cobalt blue sky had lost its menace before MVP-in-waiting Jimmy Rollins greeted righthander Jason Bergmann with a leadoff single, stole bases No. 40 and 41, then skated home on Chase Utley's sacrifice fly. Half the loaf had already been baked. Unless the comatose Mets could knock Lazarus out of the record book with an epic comeback, the worst thing that could happen was a playoff game here this afternoon against a team they had left manacled and supplicant after eight straight floggings.
The Phillies' Day of Jubilo had turned into a champagne brunch for 44,865 crazies who probably screamed themselves to sleep last night.
Just as Moyer retired Lopez for the first out of his wonderfully efficient 5 1/3 innings of one-run, no-walk, five-strikeout work, the crowd erupted in another out-of-sync, roaring, towel wave. Reliever Jorge Sosa had just tacked the final two runs on Glavine's horrific line. Marlins 7, Mets 0. And even though a puzzle named Dontrelle Willis tried hard to let the '64 Retro-Mets out of the Hall of Shame they now occupy, five Marlins relievers were airtight after his five-walk effort. The Mets' collapse will be remembered for some of the worst baseball ever played by a so-called contender. At least the '64 Phillies died trying.
There was, of course, the small formality of the Phillies' winning for the 89th time in a season that began on the banana peel of a 4-11 start.
Fortunately, a brisk north wind had blown away most of the fog of defeat that rolled to the mound with Adam Eaton on Saturday. It says here the guy has been pitching with a seriously sore arm. If he's healthy, draw your own conclusion.
There is no other way to explain his sagging body language, lack of major league stuff and the visible sag of his teammates during an outing everybody feared would turn out badly. Eaton high-wired into the third inning while GM Pat Gillick did an excellent Larry Bowa imitation in his box. Manuel doesn't move with great speed, but the manager set a season dugout-to-mound record after Eaton lost the Nationals' first hitter in the third inning. Adam said afterward he didn't know he was "on such a short leash."
As they say at the Westminster Kennel Club: "Heel!"
I would love to rate this Joy spring with the Phillies' other eight clinchings, but I can't - even though I have been present for seven of the previous eight. Sorry, but I missed 1915, when the Phils clinched toward the end of a 20-game road trip. I was in the centerfield bleachers in 1950, the only other time the Phils clinched on the final day. I called Rich Ashburn "a dirty little [bleep]" after he threw out Brooklyn's Cal Abrams at the plate to save the game for the Whiz Kids.
They clinched in Montreal in 1976. It was the first game of a doubleheader and Bill Giles hurried to catch a flight home to get ready for the playoffs. Willie was startled when Dick Allen joined him in first class, shrugging that Danny Ozark probably wouldn't need him in St. Louis.
It was Chicago in 1977. Stan Hochman made the spraying champagne, Chateau Deer Path, a household brand with a column that contained the line, "Warning: Chateau Deer Path Ahead."
Pittsburgh in 1978, when the Phils won three of four from the chasing Bucs.
Montreal again in 1980, in a game for the ages blown open by Mike Schmidt's three-run homer off Stan Bahnsen, who pitched to No. 20 with a base open and rookie catcher Don McCormack on deck, Dallas Green's last available hitter.
Chicago once more in 1983, then Pittsburgh in 1993. Mitch Williams and several other celebrants spent the night in Three Rivers Stadium.
Just one thought to the New York Mets:
Thanks. You'll never know how much we needed this. *
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