Morning Bytes: Phillies: Bank on them in bad times

Posted: October 04, 2008

I've finally got it figured out.

All that's required for baseball success in Philadelphia is for the economy to tank.

Think about it.

Who was baseball's best team when the Great Depression got rolling in 1929, 1930 and 1931?

The Philadelphia Athletics.

Connie Mack's clubs won the World Series in 1929 and 1930, then lost to St. Louis in the '31 Series.

Then came the late 1970s, when inflation ran rampant, when there were gas shortages and long lines at gas stations, when interest rates rose like CC Sabathia's postseason ERA.

Well, the Phillies took division titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978, winning a franchise-best 101 games in each of those first two seasons.

In 1980, the prime interest rate hit 20 percent for the first time, and the Phils won the World Series for the first time.

And depending on where you look for confirmation, the United States was either at the tail end of recessions or just pulling out in the four other years the Phils reached the World Series: 1915, 1950, 1983 and 1993.

Now comes 2008.

These Phillies look as if they will at least make it to the National League Championship Series. And the economy is as scary as Charlie Manuel's syntax.

So why does Philadelphia baseball run with the bears and not the bulls?

Why do the Phillies soar when economic indicators are heading in the other direction?

Let's face it, for most of their existence, the Phillies have been a pretty gross domestic product. Their trade balance always has been negative. Interest was low until the 1970s. And "stuck in the past" more accurately would describe the team's philosophy over most of its 125 years than "currency."

Or maybe it's because depression is a word that, in another sense, has long been associated with the Phillies. In fact, over the years, they've probably driven more Philadelphians to the pharmacy than SEPTA has.

Whatever the link, enjoy its happy outcome.

But remember, every time they get a hit, your portfolio's taking one.

NASCAR note of the week. Pit crews are buzzing about BernzOmatic's new Fat Boy fuel cylinder. The torch company is marketing Fat Boy with ads that move beyond the border of good taste but stop well short of hilarity.

"Fat Boys have more gas!" is one. "Fat Boys sweat more!" another.

You can find more on the Web site http://laughyourgasoff.com.

"Duh!" headline of the week. "Minaya Pondering Changes for Mets."

Will one of them be ending the season in August?

"Duh!" quote of the week. Asked whether Brian Westbrook would play Sunday against Washington, the always-illuminating Andy Reid had this to say:

"We'll see."

"Eww!" headline of the week. "Armstrong in Urine Dispute."

Keep me out of it, please.

A senior moment. Chris Chelios, the Detroit Red Wings' 46-year-old defenseman, will miss at least three weeks after a training-camp injury.

Apparently, he was trying to extract a walker from his Dodge Dart when his sacroiliac joint gave out.

Lidge letting on? I'm convinced that Phillies closer Brad Lidge is tipping his pitches.

How else can you explain why so few hitters are flailing at his slider these days?

That's why so many are walking and why he's had to throw so many pitches.

And even though Lidge had a 1-2-3 ninth in Game 2 on Thursday, all three Milwaukee hitters had great swings at him.

Senility in a sweat suit? Does Raiders owner Al Davis remind anyone else of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons?

"Fetch me a coach, Smithers. Now, I say!"

Buddy, can you spare a shoe? It's always tough to read golf magazines, with their implicit presumption that everyone travels to Scotland, pays more for clubs than cars, and belongs to a country club, but it's especially hard when the economy is lousy.

Case in point: Golf Digest has a story this month on golf shoes. The pair it featured sell for between $1,195 and $3,250 and come in six leathers: caiman, eel, gator, lizard, ostrich and snake.

You can also - true! - get a matching money clip.

All this for shoes that, for most buyers, will spend their useful existence walking in sand, fertilizer and poison ivy.


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.

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