A Pitcher Named Hitt? Real Fans Won't Put Up With The Unphillies.

Posted: February 17, 1995

As spring training opens with a bunch of bums in baseball uniforms, I'm in a bind.

For nearly 10 years, my buddy and I have been buying 13-game Sunday ticket packages to see the Phillies. We've worked our way down to where we have two very decent seats not far from the Phillies dugout.

The location guarantees great atmosphere even when the games don't go our way. Foul balls fall around us like mortar shells in Chechnya. The Phanatic always comes by after the seventh-inning stretch. When lefties are at bat, the TV cameras sometimes pick us up in the background. Fans covet our vantage point, and sneak down from the 700 level to try and sit in them. We love 'em.

But now we're expected to pay good money by the end of the month to preserve our prime seats. And with no guarantee of seeing real ballplayers like Daulton and Dykstra.

Instead, we might end up paying to watch some pitcher named "Hitt." No, I'm not kidding - he's on the Phils' replacement roster.

So I say to my buddy: I've got no interest in going to the games this season if these unPhillies are out there on the diamond.

A few days ago we - and presumably 20,000 other regulars - got a "Dear Season Ticket Holder" letter from the guy who assembled all these stars, Phillies President Bill Giles. His position is way out in left field.

For the first quarter of the season, says Bill, he's cutting $3 off our reserved ticket prices "regardless of the product on the field."

Can you believe it? He refers to those ballplayers as the product on the field. "In addition, if at any time during that period you are not satisfied with your Phillies experience, you can return the remainder of your season tickets for a refund."

What this boils down to, of course, is a monetary bribe to look the other way and pretend that this sport that we hold dear has not degenerated into this mess.

I gotta tell you, Bill, your offer reminds me of the sound of that first aluminum bat years ago - hollow, empty, artificial. It ignores a truth as tightly wound as the core of that precious baseball: No true fan of pro baseball is going to settle for something less.

You might as well ask bird watchers to be satisfied with watching fruit bats.

Bill says he's our friend. "Our bond with you, our season ticket holder, is strong and treasured. . . . As we enter the Silver Season at Veterans Stadium, that bond is still our most important asset."

If that's so, Bill, you're about to send your most important assets into exile.

You may have problems with your players and their salaries, but don't ask me to take part in a charade. I'm not on your negotiating team, Bill, and I won't let you hold me hostage.

I hope the teams and their players work out something soon.

But if not, it looks like you'll also be finding some new "product" for those two spots near the dugout. You can always find someone.

And for the rest of our lives we'll rue the season that professional baseball took away our great seats.

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