Phils Spend Day Off Taking Swing At Als The 10th Annual Charity Event Drew Thousands To The Vet Yesterday For Auctions And Autographs.

Posted: June 30, 1998

Reesa Ostroff once dreamed of being the first woman to play for the Phillies. Ask her about the direction of the team and she looks at her husband and smiles. A fan for two decades, she says the Phillies are building toward a big bang.

Thousands of fans went to Veterans Stadium yesterday as the Phillies held their 10th annual auction and autograph party to benefit Phillies Charities and the ALS Association. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurological disorder that killed Gehrig, baseball's Iron Horse, and plagues thousands of Americans today.

The team said a record $483,080 was raised, surpassing 1993's total of $449,082. The highest bid on a single item was $21,000, which bought Mark McGwire's autographed home Cardinals jersey.

The festivities included a chance to get autographs from former Phillie Mike Schmidt and current stars such as Doug Glanville and Curt Schilling; interactive games; and music from a band dressed in old Phillies uniforms.

Between stops, a few fans were interested in talking baseball.

``They're better than they were last year - that's for sure,'' said John Soss, 43, who has been a Phillies fan for 40 years. ``They're more exciting.''

The Phillies are 40-39 with six games remaining until the all-star break. It's an improvement, considering that last season they didn't reach the 40-win mark until August.

The plan by general manager Ed Wade and the organization is to rebuild with youth, develop the minor-league talent and win with their own players. It probably means that the Phillies, who are six games behind in the race for the National League's wild-card spot, won't make any deals to position themselves for a surge to make the playoffs.

``I think they should start with the young fellows,'' said Mary Walsh, 82, whose love affair with the Phillies spans seven decades. ``The older ones, they're really good, but they need replacements.''

Craig Ostroff, Reesa's husband, remembers partying at age 7 when the Phillies won the World Series 18 years ago. He doesn't mind being patient if a World Series is the payoff.

``With all the stuff we've gone through recently, another mediocre or just-above-average year is OK,'' Ostroff said. ``With any luck, we could be winning big in a couple of years.''

Phillies fans conceded that leftfielder Gregg Jefferies may not be back next season, but as long as they keep Glanville, Desi Relaford and Scott Rolen, letting players go is fine.

And they'll keep Schilling, too.

``He's a really good pitcher,'' said John Soss Jr., 11. ``He throws the ball so fast.''

John Soss Sr. said the Phillies can set the tone in his household.

``If the Phillies win, it's a good day in the house,'' Soss said. ``If they lose, it's a bad day.''

John Jr. knows that household policy well. He smiled as he looked at his dad and said, ``Maybe they should work on improving their pitching.''

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