My memory is vivid. Okay, it’s only been seven years. But if I close my eyes I can see us sitting there at the bar: Upstairs at Jose Pistola’s, the place that inspired the Dallas Sucks beer, cheering on the Phillies in the first game of the 2010 playoffs.
I can still smell the beer sloshing around as we celebrated a run in the first inning, the Jack and Coke I spilled on myself when Roy Halladay drove in Carlos Ruiz in the second. The whole bar seemed to shake as Halladay got closer and closer to the no-hitter. The place went wild when Ruiz threw out Brandon Phillips to end the game. I can easily rattle off the friends I watched with: Erica, Art, Mary Ann, Johnny Goodtimes. Wouldn’t be a party in Philadelphia without Johnny Goodtimes.
I used to hang out with Johnny to watch the Phillies a lot, actually. Leaving the stadium on the last day of the season in 2007, we both bought bootleg NL East championship t-shirts that were (1) still wet and (2) had been wrapped around some guy’s leg until right before we bought them. Then we celebrated in the middle of Broad Street. It had been so long since the Phillies had been in the playoffs.
Roy Halladay wasn’t a part of that team. But he was a part of that Phillies run. They won five division titles between 2007 and 2011. Even though the apex of the Phillies’ run, the World Series title, came in the beginning of the run, things seemed to get more fun as they went on. Everyone I knew, even the people who weren’t into baseball, suddenly liked going to Phillies games. All of the games sold out. In 2011, when they won 102 games, the Phillies were a TV show that was on almost every night and was almost always good. It was a great time to be a Phillies fan.
And why not? Everything happened over those five years! They won five division titles, two pennants and a World Series. Ryan Howard drove in hundreds of runs. Chase Utley got hit by more than 100 pitches. Jimmy Rollins had literally the biggest hit in franchise history; the Phillies, who never had the best record in baseball before, did it in back-to-back years. Eric Bruntlett turned an unassisted triple play!
Similar runs of success have happened before. But for once it was happening to the Phillies. The Phillies! The whole city had Phillies fever, if only for a few years. Maybe you went to all the games and cheered in person. Maybe you hung out at a bar with your friends. Maybe you invited people over your house to scream at the TV. Or maybe you sat on Twitter, joking about it with strangers who somehow became your friends. Maybe it inspired you to become a baseball writer.
Roy Halladay was a big part of that for a few seasons. It helped that he was exactly what a lot of people want their athletes to be: Laser-focused, hard-working, and a hell of a guy. He was a star on and off the field. There’s a reason everyone in baseball was effusive in their praise after his death.
The Phillies’ history is littered with losses. There have only been limited moments of success. The Phillies, as such, trot out their past legends all the time. They drag out anyone who had any amount of success who was associated with the the team at one time. Greg Luzinski runs a BBQ stand at the stadium. John Kruk and Mike Schmidt are only the latest in a long line of ex-Phillies who have been color commentators.
This could be kind of embarrassing, and I once thought it was. But I’ve changed my mind. It allows fans who didn’t get to experience past success to share in it. I feel like I watched Tug McGraw pitch; he left the Phillies years before I was born. I never saw Steve Carlton. I only remember seeing Mike Schmidt’s crappy final season. But through the Phillies’ constant need to remind everyone of their successful years in the late 70s and early 80s—and my parents, who did things like get me Dick Allen’s number for my tee ball team—I know these guys.
It’s going to be the same way with the Phillies’ run from 2007 to 2011. Next year will be a decade since the World Series win. Then it will be time for the anniversaries of other big events, like Halladay’s perfect game. The players will come back and be honored. Maybe the team will build statues. The Phillies fever of the recent past is gone now. But Phillies fans will be able to experience it again, just for a little bit, through these anniversaries. And people who were too young to live through it will get a taste.
It’s unfathomable that Halladay won’t be back for these events. He was only 40, with a wife and two kids, just at the start of the rest of his life. He should’ve been coming back, year after year, taking photos and signing autographs and just waving to the fans he entertained so much during his short time in Philly.
But he won’t. This will hurt the fans like me, the ones who lived through his glorious run in Philly, but it will be worse for the ones who never got to see him play. They’ll grow to love Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, just as I’ve grown to love Dick Allen and Mike Schmidt and Robin Roberts, but they won’t have the chance to do so with Halladay. It’s a shame, because he would have been their favorite.