Ed Barkowitz: Phillies' 10,000 losses a distant memory

Posted: October 28, 2008

IT WAS a milestone that brought attention the Phillies could have done without. Everybody had a chuckle when they lost their 10,000th game, even if it was understood the futility had very little to do with the current roster.

Maybe they just had to get it out of the way.

When asked about it, Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro did his best imitation of a 30-year-old bachelor. He deflected everything and engaged nothing. What else could he say?

"We didn't focus on 10,000 losses at all," Amaro said. "We let other people focus on that kind of stuff."

As the crowd settled in on a rainy, windy night to watch the Phillies try to clinch their second World Series, the notion of 10,000 losses actually was on the mind of season-ticketholder Joe Oaster, of Folcroft. He remembers the final out of that game against the Cardinals in July 2007. He also thought of the sweet irony yesterday morning in anticipation of attending last night's game with his 8-year-old son, J.J.

"We went to the 10,000th-loss game last year," the elder Oaster said from his seats in Section 329. "Ryan Howard struck out - right down there! I kind of feel like I've seen two milestones.

Including postseason games and heading into last night, the Phillies are 41 games above .500 since that loss. They're 145-104 (.582), have won two division titles, one National League Championship and were a win away from the second title in franchise history.

The atmosphere since the team moved to Citizens Bank Park in 2004 is the most palpable difference between the current Phillies and all those 90-loss clubs that wandered around Connie Mack and Veterans stadiums, among others.

Oaster began preparing his son for last night by watching DVDs of the Phillies' 1980 run. He said he easily could have gotten $2,000 for his seats, but there was no way he was selling. He brought J.J., spiked, red Mohawk and all, to witness history – much different history from what the Phillies made 15 months ago.

"I told him on the way down here," Oaster said, "this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Sense a trend?

OK, this has to be more than a coincidence.

When the Phillies won their first world championship in 1980, Mike Schmidt led the league with 48 home runs. That same year, Charlie Manuel was playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, where he set a record with 48 home runs. This season, Ryan Howard led the majors with, of course, 48 home runs.

Oh, and if you add up the regular season and playoffs, Brad Lidge entered last night's clincher perfect on all 47 of his save opportunities. Obviously, one more and he'll have 48.

Billy Ball

Though he was one win away from his first World Series, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was downright avuncular in his pregame news conference.

He told a story about confusing scouts when he took batting practice in 1983 as a 39-year-old manager of the Wisconsin Rapids.

"You have to watch that guy," one scout recalled. "He looks really old, but he can hit. I forget his name, but this guy can really hit."

Manuel recalled an appearance he made as a pinch-runner for Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew in 1969. Billy Martin, a man remembered as much for his volatile temper as his baseball acumen, was the manager. Sure enough, Manuel got picked off.

"When I got [back to the dugout], he was standing there screaming, but there was nothing coming out of his voice, but you see the veins," Manuel said, gesturing. "Nothing was coming out. I went over and sat down. He came over - and I never will forget this - and he looked at me and said, 'Don't worry about it. It's my fault for putting you in the game.' "

Looking familiar

If you are old enough to remember 1980, then you are old enough to remember how brutal Royals leadoff hitter Willie Wilson was during that series.

Wilson, who hit .326 during the season, was 4-for-26 (.154) with 12 strikeouts during the six-game series.

Kind of puts some perspective on Evan Longoria's 0-for-16 (nine strikeouts), Carlos Pena's 0-for-13 (six strikeouts) and Pat Burrell's 0-for-12 (five strikeouts) in this series' first four games. *

Send e-mail to barkowe@phillynews.com.

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