Incites | A week to remember

Posted: September 02, 2007

It was a glorious week for baseball in the waning days of August, all the more so because sensational hardball this deep into a season has been so rare in these parts.

But on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies did something most observers would have thought impossible. They made the Eagles - the gold standard of the NFL - irrelevant.

Even better, the Phillies' incredible silencing of the second-most-annoying fan base in all sports (Mets fans) was embellished by the Yankees' simultaneous silencing of the most annoying group - needless to say, Dead Sox fans.

The Phillies did all this in a manner that was as encouraging as it was shocking: with their two best starting pitchers never taking the mound.

New ace Kyle Kendrick was not slotted against the Mets, and future Cy Young winner Cole Hamels was on the team's well-stocked disabled list.

Before the improbable Thursday escape, the Phillies had won three straight by having J.D. Durbin, Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer go six innings into the game and hand off a lead to the bullpen.

The Red Sea will part again before that repeats.

The euphoria might evaporate in Florida, so enjoy it while it lasts, because it was one hell of a week.

PhilaTrivia. Since the save became an official statistic in 1969, only four pitchers have compiled both 1,500 career strikeouts and 150 career saves. Can you name them?

Home improvements. If the Phillies do the right thing and bring back Charlie Manuel next season, they should find a better perch for him. Uncle Charlie has spent three seasons hanging from the chicken wire at the end of the dugout at Citizens Bank Park, peering through the spaces like a kindly old owl.

But how about a nice piece of Plexiglas with the team logo on it instead of the wire? Put some nice padding along the top for Charlie to lean on. He's earned it. Moreover, the chicken wire is probably the only part of the new ballpark that isn't first-rate.

Tee it up. The NCAA has moved the kickoff spot from the 35-yard line back to the 30, a move that should trigger serious improvement in what is already one of the great games in the world.

With fewer kickoffs reaching the end zone for touchbacks, we will see more exciting returns and, probably, more points, since teams could be 10 to 15 yards farther upfield than before.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema told reporters he had his staff go back and study kickoffs from the Badgers' games last year.

"Basically, we found that almost 67 percent of the touchbacks that we had a year ago would have been returns based on where the ball landed," he said.

History lesson. A publisher has rereleased the autobiography of the late Bear Bryant, and some of the anecdotes are priceless.

While he was coaching at Kentucky, the Bear watched his team grind out a late touchdown to gain a 6-6 tie.

Apparently, the Bear had not noticed that Louisiana State had missed its conversion try, and he recalls how he "chewed the team out good for losing."

If you're familiar with the Bear's postgame tirades, you know he wasn't soothing anybody's bruised feelings.

Just then the radio announcer mentioned "the tie" in a postgame interview.

"I jumped about four feet," Bryant wrote. "I called Gaynell Tinsley [the LSU coach] and asked him what the score was.

"He said, 'You drunk this quick?' "

Trivia answer. The four pitchers who have both started and relieved long enough and well enough to compile 1,500 K's and 150 saves are Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz and current Phillies reliever Tom Gordon.


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