No Phils cap for William Penn this time

Posted: October 17, 2008

Relax, Phillies fans.

Mayor Nutter knows better than to tempt fate by adorning Billy Penn with a Phillies jersey and cap. The statue atop City Hall will not be touched.

Hizzoner, it seems, puts some store in the so-called Curse of William Penn, which holds that Philadelphia's beleaguered professional teams have fallen short for so long because Willard Rouse had the temerity in 1987 to build a skyscraper - Liberty Place - that rose above City Hall.

Of course, it is possible that the championship drought has more to do with guys like former Phillies closer Jose Mesa and ex-Eagles quarterback Rodney Peete than Billy Penn.

But the mayor figures: Why chance it?

"A lot of folks believe it's a jinx," Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said, adding, "Anyway, the mayor gave them all the luck they needed when he pitched that strike on opening day."

Fans wrote the mayor, Oliver said, firmly urging him to leave the statue alone. The Phillies felt the same way, Oliver said.

Some past administrations (we're looking at you, Ed Rendell) tried to beat the curse by getting Billy involved. He was fitted with a giant cap when the Phils last won the National League pennant in 1993, and wrapped in a gigantic jersey when the Flyers made the Stanley Cup finals in 1997.

Neither worked.

So when the Sixers made the NBA Finals in 2001 and the Birds were in the Super Bowl in 2005, Penn was left alone.

Of course, that didn't work out so well, either.

In any event, Nutter does hope to hold a City Hall rally for the Phillies on Wednesday. The team and the city should know by today whether the Phillies' schedule will accommodate one.

"The issue is everyone wants to have some kind of celebration. There's no question about it," Nutter said early yesterday before he decided not to put a jersey on Penn. "But the hard cold reality is they have to get ready for the World Series."

"Look at their effort, their spirit, their commitment, the sense of fight," the mayor said outside his office. "They keep coming back, and coming back, and even if they find themselves in a hole or in a deficit position, you can't count them out. And they've shown that time and time again, and that's a bit of the spirit of this city."


Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2827 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Jeff Shields contributed to this article.

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