2B, Dave Cash
If you think President Obama holds the patent on "Yes We Can," think again. That was the Action Dog's mantra when he came to the moribund Phillies from the lordly Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the slogan that propelled the young Phillies to respectability in 1975 and to the NL East title in 1976.
Besides being an incandescent clubhouse and lineup presence, Cash picked greyhounds during spring training the way Lenny Dykstra picks stock options. Traveling-party members who played Dave's Derby Lane selections would be greeted the next morning by Dave chirping, "Did you?" Frequent response: "Yes we did!"
SS, Jimmy Rollins
Even when the best all-around shortstop in franchise history becomes a back-page tabloid headline in New York and Public Enemy No. 1 on the Mets' bulletin board, he's got a smile on his impish mug. Always the smile and the wink.
He is an athlete of the moment determined to enjoy all the great moments behind him and those still to come. He's as slick on his feet as in the field. And when Charlie Manuel was forced to rap J-Roll's knuckles twice last season for some atypical lapses of judgement, it was more like a father taking his son's car keys away for a week than a manager administering impersonal discipline.
3B, Don Money
A country boy who lived 50 miles from City Hall on the farms of Vineland, N.J. I saw Don at the Bridgeton Invitational Semi-Pro Baseball Tournament a few years ago and he was still as unimpressed with himself as he was when the Phils acquired the top Pirates infield prospect for Jim Bunning.
Money should be remembered as one of the best left-side infielders in franchise history but he ran smack into the emergence of the Phillies' once-woeful minor league system. Don came here as a shortstop, but some kid named Bowa forced his move to third. You probably know what happened next. To make room for some guy named Schmidt, Money was sent to Milwaukee at the top of a package for righthander Jim Lonborg and lefthander Ken Brett. He made four All-Star teams there and was one of the most versatile players in baseball, splitting time at all four infield positions and DH.
Quick Fact: Don became the first Phillies player to hire an agent and hold out, shortening general manager John Quinn's life by at least 5 years.
C, Tim McCarver
"Catcher," as Deron Johnson called him, was not nearly as omniscient as he has become during a long broadcasting career that began here at the feet of Rich Ashburn and Harry Kalas. Timmy was a fun guy, super intelligent, witty as a standup comic, a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll.
But he hated conformity and one of his pet peeves was the conventioneers who often filled the lobbies of the Phillies road hotels, all wearing the lapel badges that so infuriated him: "Hi, I'm Jim Smith from Kokomo, Ind." I have seen Timmy refuse to get on an elevator if there were name-taggers on it. He was also repulsed by the obvious, and on the first day of spring training would wordlessly distribute cards that said: "Ann and I had a good winter. The girls are doing great. We're staying in a condo on the beach. My weight is good. I think the club will be improved."
In his second tour with the Phils, Tim had special status as Steve Carlton's designated catcher, prompting the line, "When Lefty and I die, we want to be buried 60 feet, 6 inches apart."
LF, Gary Matthews
"I Write About Sarge" was an actual T-shirt Pete Rose presented to me on the road one day. He had one made up for himself that said, "I Named Sarge," and gave one to Matthews that said, "I'm Sarge."
From the minute he took the field, Gary was looking for something or somebody to run through - a shortstop turning a doubleplay, a wall, a hanging curve. Sarge was irrepressible, a gamer's gamer and a delightful man to be around. Ted Turner wanted Matthews so much, his tampering with the Giants cost him a year's suspension. Sarge was part of a bittersweet changing of the position guard, replacing Greg Luzinski in left. It was no accident that each played in a World Series 3 years apart.
CF, Rich Ashburn
Whitey captains this team. Everybody I know who knew Ashburn - we're talking thousands here - has his own favorite remembrance. I'll pick one from a time when we didn't know each other all that well. I was doing morning sports on WCAU 1210-AM and I took my wife to the station's annual Christmas party. This was around 1966, my first year on the Phillies beat. There was a snow-and-ice storm in progress and by the end of the party, the Expressway was a skating rink with potholes.
"I want you and Irma to come stay with Herbie and I," Rich said. "We live close by and we don't want you driving to Jersey on these roads."
Small kindnesses like that were the story of Whitey's life. As JoePa's predecessor at Penn State, Rip Engle, once said: "The bigger a man is, the more he has to give away." I have been assured that Ashburn was as popular as a player as he was in his second career as a broadcaster.
RF, Jay Johnstone
Like Rocky Mountain Oysters and Amy Winehouse, Crazy Jay is an acquired taste. Not every radio picks up his frequency. Then again, his wife, Mary Jane, was a few pelts shy of a full length mink, as well. MJ insisted on making all road trips with Jay. "Don't think I don't know what married ballplayers do on the road. I was a stewardess," she would say.
One night another writer and I went to dinner in LA with Jay, who lived in nearby Glendale. Hitting dominated the conversation. Jay was still making a technical point when we got to the parking lot, so he popped the trunk of his auto, grabbed a bucket of tennis balls, a bat and a batting tee. "Let me demonstrate what I'm talking about." Jay set up the tee in the middle of 6th Street and drove a dozen balls right down the yellow line, showing perfect balance, quick hands and a firm right side.
RHP, Robin Roberts
Robby has been as consistent a good guy in the winter of his wonderful life as he was during the prime of his Whiz Kids years. The Hall of Fame righthander has been the face of the franchise for 62 years.
LHP, Jim Kaat
Kitty has fooled Hall of Fame voters nearly as badly as he fooled hitters with his gatling-gun delivery during a career where nobody ever enjoyed being a major leaguer more. Articulate, engaging, eternally optimistic, the Flinging Dutchman seamlessly flowed from the mound into a long career as a Yankees broadcaster and carrier of the affability gene.
Reliever, Tug McGraw
I knew the Tugger was special when he arranged a reconciliation meeting one night in the Jack Tar Hotel bar in San Francisco between his estranged mom and dad. Brother Hank was there as well. It didn't work, but Tug gave his parents a presentation worthy of Dr. Phil, and everybody left laughing.
Manager, Frank Lucchesi
Promoted from Triple A for one reason: Win back the hearts and minds of fans who abandoned the Phillies in droves after the Dick Allen troubles and a brutally bad team. Skipper Lucchesi called the beat writers "My Press Media." He did a pregame radio show called "Why I Did It."
He was a small man in stature who once charged hulking Padres outfielder Cito Gaston. Another time he was carried from the field bodily by St. Louis police while still seated on second base after an ejection. And at his firing, Luke told his press media, "We were in the doodlums."
After a lengthy first meeting with the troops in Clearwater on the first day of spring training, Deron Johnson observed, "The little skipper likes to say the 'I' word a lot." *
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