Bill Conlin | The biggest L0,000SERS

It's time for Phillies' brass to own up to their legacy

Posted: July 12, 2007

OK, CLAIRE BETZ, why don't you and your cute, little dog sit close to the door in case of a sandbox emergency. I don't recognize any of you male partners, but if you raise your hands when your name is called, we can get started.

Let's start with you Tri-Play Associates guys. Alexander K. Buck . . . J. Mahlon Buck Jr. . . . William C. Buck. All present and accounted for.

Now, the Old Money guy . . . Since Bill Giles couldn't be with us today to represent Giles Limited Partnership, you must be John S. Middleton, of Double Play Inc.

I'm sorry if the T-shirt offends you, John. But "I'm Not the World's Biggest Loser . . . I Only Own Them" takes The Phillies Limited Partnership off the hook, if not off the griddle. In case you missed it, Claire, your investment has lost 9,999 games and shortly will become the first team in the history of any sport to lose 10,000 times. No, Claire, Dave Montgomery will not throw a party for the partners. Dave Montgomery is too busy trying to get the Phillies into the NBA, so they can make the postseason every year. That's a joke, Al, a sick one.

First, thanks for coming. You all go back to the original partnership put together by Bill Giles in 1981 in one way or another, and in 26 years, it's the first time I've ever seen you all in one place - or, for some of you, any place. You folks have made yourselves so invisible, a lot of fans think you're some kind of Siegfried & Roy trick. Claire, I saw you and your doggie in Clearwater a few times when the owners were down there being wined and dined. My restaurant buddy, Luigi Gallace, told me you all dined at Villa Gallace with Monty a couple of Marches ago. He said you loved the veal parm.

And I actually sat at the same table in the media lunch room at Jack Russell Stadium one spring with one of you Bucks; can't remember which. Mr. Middleton, I couldn't pick you out of a police lineup. You've aged a little since your Amherst senior picture.

Let me congratulate you all on the new valuation in Forbes magazine. The Phillies' sale price in 1981 was $30 million. Forbes just bumped the ballclub value to $457 million. You Bucks are venture capital investors. Ever imagine in your wildest dreams an investment that would return you 1,400 percent? Harry Truman used to have a sign on his desk that said, "The Buck Stops Here.'' You guys should have one that says, "The Bucks Start Here.''

Now, on a more serious note, you folks realize, of course, you are one loss away from being a national laughingstock. Your "Cheers'' days are about to end because you are the biggest losers and everybody is going to know your names. Everybody but Forbes, that is. In the piece in which they raise the club value to $457 million, they also supplied this bit of crack research: "The Philadelphia Phillies are owned by Bill Giles, who bought them in 1981 for $30 mil.'' I wonder if these financial wizards have heard the news that Nixon resigned.

You obviously went into this in 1981 with eyes wide shut. It seemed like a really neat way to shelter some money and own a piece of the ultimate rich person's toy: a big-league baseball team. In addition to the tax advantages of limited partnership, you got your VIP parking spaces, your seats in the owners' box, that annual spring-training junket where you got to be blown off by Steve Carlton, iced by Mike Schmidt and high-fived by Tug McGraw. And wasn't it great when you went to the World Series in 1983 in only your second full season as owners? Of course, that was the team built by the great baseball men who worked for the Carpenters - that foul-mouthed Paul Owens and loud-mouthed Dallas Green. What a hard-living bunch of lunatics they were.

Then things kind of went to hell. You are riding a postseason 1-for-23 since 1983. Maybe you even noticed, Claire, after your husband passed away and were left with the biggest slice, an estimated paper value of about $180 million. Now you are all about to become the punch line of the sports joke of the year.

And don't throw up your hands and say, "What do we have to do with events that began in 1883?'' Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that history is the lengthened shadow of a man. Well, the shadow of 10,000 losses and all those baad ballplayers has fallen on your watch. The shadow bypassed Al Reach and Gerry Nugent and William Cox and the rest of the lousy owners before the Carpenters. Early on, the Carpenters believed in all the Amendments to the Constitution but the 14th. They thought Dred Scott was a utility infielder. But when Bob and Ruly finally got it right, they built themselves a helluva ballclub.

Paper profits are nice to look at each month, but they can't buy you a top free-agent pitcher who doesn't mind a 4.50 ERA in a dollhouse of a ballpark where the hitter is Ken and the ballgirl is Barbie. Dave Montgomery and his baseball people have spent money like drunken sailors in a liberty port cathouse. And, like those sailors, all they have to show for it is a series of hangovers. Claire, get Dave to tell you about Freddy Garcia, Pat Burrell, Gavin Floyd and your Sahara minor league system.

So, everybody slip on your T-shirts and get ready to face the music.

Like it or not, Teflonics, you really are the biggest losers, and everybody knows your names.

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Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/conlin.

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