Once upon a time, I played in the local gay softball league (over 20 years ago), but dropped out after two years for reasons I won't go into now. This year, in part because I lost some weight, I decided to play again. When I was assigned to my team, they asked me what number I'd like to wear.
When I played in the league back in the mid-1980s (yes, I'm that old), I chose number 14 because of Pete Rose. Most of his career was spent with the Cincinnati Reds, but he became a free agent after the 1978 season. The Phillies wanted to sign him but weren't sure they could spend the necessary money to get him. Bill Giles, then part of the front office (eventually he became a part-owner and ran the team...ran the team into the ground, but that's another story) persuaded TV station WPHL, which then had the rights to local Phillies telecasts, to pony up some extra money. That money was used to sign Rose, and he turned out to be a huge factor in the team's 1980 World Series victory. I had a partial season-ticket plan that year, and was lucky enough to have a ticket to game 6 of the 1980 World Series. You know how they say "there's electricity in the air"? Well, that night, before the game, I felt that electricity, and the Phillies won the World Series for the first time in their history. It was an incredible night.
But I was only 18 at the time. The Phillies haven't won a World Series since. They got back to the Series in 1983 with a group of aging veterans, including two more former Reds, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, who were dubbed the "Wheeze Kids." (For non-Philadelphians, this is a play on the 1950 team of youngsters that got to the Series and were known as the Whiz Kids.) But that team lost the World Series to the Orioles. In a major surprise, the 1993 Phils won the NL pennant (one of many Atlanta Braves playoff flops) but were done in by Joe Carter's Series-winning blast off Mitch Williams.
By now you must be wondering, "What is the point of all this? And what in the world does this have to do with the gay softball league?"
Well, this year I chose number 50 for softball. Why? It's the number worn by Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer. He's 45 years old. He's the oldest player currently in the major leagues. He's younger than I am. For the first time in my life, EVERY major league player is younger than I am! This fact makes me feel so old. Yet Moyer has persevered, and this year he's won more games than any other 45-year-old in baseball history, with the exception of knuckleballers. Not that Moyer throws any harder than knuckleball pitchers, but he's gotten the job done.
And he pitched six strong innings today at Citizens Bank Park, staking the Phillies to a lead over the Washington Nationals that lasted into the 9th inning. With Brad Lidge, 40-for-40 in save opportunities coming into the game, the 4-2 lead seemed secure. However, the Nats got a run and loaded the bases with one out and Ryan Zimmerman, probably the Nats' best player, at bat.
Zimmerman hit a hard ground ball up the middle. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a diving stop and flipped it to second baseman Chase Utley, who fired to first. Double play. Game over. The Phillies clinched the National League East title for the second year in a row. And I was at the game, which made it all the sweeter. It wasn't as exciting as being at the clinching game of the 1980 Series, but it was wonderful nonetheless.
Full disclosure: last year, after the Phils clinched the NL East on the final day of the season, I wrote this blog post after drinking a bottle of champagne -- or sparkling wine, to be precise. Alas, tonight I didn't have a bottle of "champagne," but I sort of felt the need to recreate last year. Fortunately, I had some Southern Comfort and Diet Pepsi, and I'm feeling a very nice buzz right now. I'm beginning to think that I do my best writing with a nice alcoholic buzz!