After taking two of three games from the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium, the Phillies spent their off day Thursday in Kansas City awaiting the start of a three-game interleague series against the Royals. Interleague play has been around since 1997, but this is only the second time the Phillies have played the Royals in Kansas City since the teams met in the 1980 World Series. The last time the Phillies played in Kauffman Stadium was June 2007. The Royals took two of three games in that series and two of three again when the teams opened the 2013 season at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies took two of three games when the teams met in 2004 at CBP and two of three again in 2016 at CBP. The rebuilding Royals, just four years removed from winning their second World Series, are in last place with a 13-25 record. They are already 11 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central.
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I ran out of newsprint room to tell all the wonderful stories I heard about Phillies chairman David Montgomery, who died Wednesday morning at 72. This space affords me the opportunity to share a few more.
The first comes from former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who now works in the New York Mets’ front office. It’s not breaking news that Amaro’s ascent from player to Phillies general manager was endorsed by Montgomery, but the connection between the two started long before that.
“When Dad was working in the Phillies’ front office, he couldn’t decide where we should go to high school,” Amaro said. “David told my dad that we needed to go to Penn Charter. My brother David went to Duke and went on to have the career he has had in marketing, and I went to Stanford and have had the chance to have the career I have. I’m not sure that happens if we don’t go to Penn Charter. When I think about it, David’s impact on my personal life has been extraordinary.”
Recently retired clubhouse manager and traveling secretary Frank Coppenbarger shared a great story about Michael Bourn being called up to the big leagues and flying to Chicago for a game at Wrigley Field in August 2006. While waiting outside the ballpark for Bourn to arrive via cab, Coppenbarger received a phone call from general manager Pat Gillick telling him the Phillies had added Jose Hernandez to the roster instead, so Bourn would not be coming to the big leagues after all.
“So now I know this kid’s heart is going to be broken as soon as he gets here,” Coppenbarger said. "I couldn’t tell him. I told him to go up to Charlie Manuel’s office. After Charlie told him what was going on, Bourn came to me for his airline ticket. We were just at the start of a long road trip, so I gave him his plane ticket and then I said, ‘Here’s your meal money for the trip that I gave you before I knew you were sent down.’ He perked up. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do it, but I did.
“When we got back home, David peeked his head into my office to see how things were going. I told him what I had done with Bourn. David said, ‘I’m so glad you did that. That’s exactly what I would have wanted you to do.’ From then on, whenever I had a decision to make, I always thought, ‘What would David want me to do?’ I’m not sure I always made the right decision, but I knew why I was making it.”
You won’t find a cooler story than the one our Matt Breen tells about Phillies pitching prospect Luke Leftwich, who was promoted from double-A Reading to triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday. Leftwich has a chance to become a third-generation big-league pitcher, joining his father, Phil Leftwich, and his grandfather Tom Timmerman. Read the story to find out the fascinating twist.
Pitcher Jake Arrieta criticized outfielder Bryce Harper for getting ejected early in a game at Citi Field last month, and J.T. Realmuto questioned pitcher Vince Velasquez’s lack of trust in the catcher’s game-calling abilities earlier this week in St. Louis. It’s called holding teammates accountable, and our Scott Lauber wrote about it during the Phillies’ off day.
When so much is written in one day, it’s easy to miss a few stories. Two of my favorites from our coverage of David Montgomery’s passing were turned in by Mike Jensen and Mike Sielski. Jensen wrote about Montgomery’s passion as a Penn and Big 5 basketball fan, and Sielski captured the dignity with which the honorable man fought his final battle against cancer.
Tonight: Jake Arrieta pitches series opener in Kansas City against Homer Bailey, 8:15 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin faces Brad Keller, 7:15 p.m.
Sunday: Vince Velasquez tries to bounce back vs. Jakob Junis, 2:15 p.m.
Monday: Aaron Nola opens homestand against Milwaukee, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Jerad Eickhoff faces Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
On this date in 1967, future Hall of Famer Hank Aaron hit a two-run home run off future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning in the first game of a doubleheader at Connie Mack Stadium. That alone, of course, would not be worth remembering.
It was, however, the first and only inside-the-park home run of Aaron’s career, which is pretty amazing when you consider he hit 755 homers, a major-league record that still stands in many minds. For the record, Phil Niekro, another future Hall of Famer, took the loss in that game.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: I just wanted to comment on the loss of David Montgomery. I never met the man. I only saw him on TV and now reading all the great things about him. What I do know a good organization always starts at the top. And you can tell that when you get a ticket and come to the ball park. It is all about the relationship with the fans that is important to the Phillies.
You call the ticket office to get a ticket and you can tell over the phone that you are special to them. I remember a ticket agent over the phone say, “call us for a ticket ... we can get you a better seat than going on line” ... all about the relationship. You come to the ball park and are greeted at the aisle to get to your seats and the ushers make sure you can find them ... all about the relationship.
You go to Harry the K’s for a meal and they make sure you are satisfied with your meal ... all about the relationship. And I could go on and on about the feeling you have going to the ballpark to watch a Phillies games, in good and lean years it has been the same, the relationship of the Phillies to its fans has been special and it starts at the top, the top being David Montgomery and now the legacy he leaves behind.
So Phillies organization, never forget someone like David Montgomery. It does not sound like you will.
— Bernie H., via email