When the schedule first came out the date was rated G for general audiences, but as game day approached the ratings changed almost daily. First PG, then R, finally even an X in some quarters.
Extra security was laid on. National pundits dusted off their booing Santa stories and other lurid tales from the Philly vault. One local columnist advised parents to leave their children home. Seriously.
And in the end, as is almost always the case, the event itself was an anticlimax, at least that part of it that had caused all the ruckus in the first place.
Barry Bonds did play left field and bat cleanup last night for the Giants. He was a non-factor as far as the outcome of the game was concerned, popping up, walking, grounding into a double play and striking out to the assembled masses' delight.
From my perch in the left field bleachers I had an excellent view of Bonds ample back. He rarely turned toward the fans throughout the evening and when he did so he stared blankly through them.
For their part, many of the bleacher fans came loaded for Barry with signs and full voice. Few of the signs were clever except for the fellows who held up small ones with a simple asterisk on them. Most of the people carrying the signs mugged for the cameras, which were in there in force from as far away as San Francisco. Seated in front of the huge scoreboard, bleacher fans were forever turning in their seats to see replays, stats and grab shots from throughout the stadium. Those carrying signs turned to see if they had made it to the big screen. During the course of the evening the wedding march suddenly came over the loud speakers and, sure enough, the screen featured a young bride-to-be in Phillies regalia, and her soon husband-to-be proposing on his knee in front of 37,000 plus of their new-found friends. Naturally, some of the bleacher bums yelled “Just say “NO”!”
Fellow blogger Tom Durso of Shallow Center and I never heard a single curse word throughout the evening. Once in a while we heard a clever barb. On the whole, we enjoyed ourselves immensely as did everyone around us. The crowds came to say what was on their minds, see the greatest hitter of his generation, and, of yeah, watch their local favorites put together a sixth straight win. Anyone who tells you how tough this crowd behaved was not there.
In the other dugout the Phillies’ youth movement again carried the day. Tom and I speculated that in Chase Utley’s case we were watching a player who would be an All-Star fixture for years to come. His first home run in the bottom half of the opening frame got the Phils even after Gavin Floyd served up a homer to Omar Vizquel, who began the night with 69 dingers in seventeen years.
Utley threw in another homer later in the game and for good measure topped off his evening with a neat backhand stab of a hot shot in the ninth inning. Everyone knew Utley was a great hitter and an intense, throw-back type of player. What has sneaked up on all of us is his fielding, once considered his weakness and now definitely a great asset. He may not be the slickest second baseman to come along, but he is quick, fearless and determined to make himself a great fielder.
Ryan Howard, the other half of the Phillies’ vaunted youth corps, also stroked two home runs in the game and capped off his evening with a neat underhand toss to Geoff Geary to end the game. In two successive nights Howard has handled the glove and the bat well.
There were a lot of players to cheer about, all of them wearing Phillies uniforms.