Touch Right off the bat, the curse is lifted

Despite the morning snow and cold that prevailed, warm introductions preceded the Phillies' 2011 opener at Citizens Bank Park.
Despite the morning snow and cold that prevailed, warm introductions preceded the Phillies' 2011 opener at Citizens Bank Park.
Posted: April 02, 2011

I knew it must be time for the Phillies' home opener when I awoke Friday to find that my backyard was covered with more white stuff than El Wingador after a WIP-sponsored Funnel Cake Bowl.

The poor Phillies and their cursed home openers. Through much of their recent history, they would have been better off setting aside the boys' choirs and the men's jets, the warm introductions and the cold conditions and just staging a regular old baseball game.

On Friday, when, with the morning snow, the gray skies, the overconfidence that hung in the air like a David Herndon slider and the Phils' dreadful debut history, an Astros victory seemed assured until the ninth inning.

Maybe that single-saturated rally will start a new trend, one in which their home openers don't close with injuries, icy fans and irritation.

Remember all those night-game debuts at the Vet, when the weather invariably was as cold and ugly as the stadium's concourses, and the baseball was worse? All those dreary games tended to be marked by John Russell errors, anemic offenses, very little run support for Steve Carlton, and lots of boos.

Last season, of course, Jimmy Rollins got hurt and ruined not just his season opener but his season while stretching in the outfield, an activity typically no more threatening than the Eagles' current linebackers.

There was another killer injury in the 1992 opener at the Vet. On a day when the Phils unveiled their new uniforms before the game, the Cubs' Greg Maddux undressed them. Worse, their very first batter - and best player - Lenny Dykstra broke his hand when he got plunked by a Maddux pitch.

Then there was the legend of Kiteman.

In the early days at the Vet, Bill Giles hired the poor schlub a couple of times to ski down a steep, 140-foot ramp in center field with the first ball. Just sitting that high in center field at the Vet - whether or not you were wearing wings and a helmet - was a little like gazing down from Billy Penn's hat. It was a daunting view - and one Kiteman undoubtedly believed was going to be his last when he got blown off the wooden slope in mid-descent and careened around the empty seats like a pinball.

And even when the Phils' home openers didn't result in injuries, there generally was plenty of misery to go around.

In a nationally televised opener in 2009, the Braves' Derek Lowe held them to four hits in a snoozy, 4-1 Atlanta win that may have been the dullest thing on Sunday night since Masterpiece Theater's Popeye.

A year earlier, the Phils lost to the Nationals - no, no that's not the bad part - when, with the home team on top, 6-5, Tom Gordon allowed five ninth-inning runs in a flash.

It was another bullpen blowup in 2007 as Ryan Madson permitted the Braves two 10th-inning runs in a 5-3 loss.

Want more?

In the 2006 home-opener, St. Louis scored eight runs off Jon "My Truck's Bigger Than Yours" Lieber in the fourth inning en route to a 13-5 beatdown of the Phils.

The 2004 opener - the first game ever at Citizens Bank Park - was a desultory 4-1 loss to Cincinnati on a day that was as nasty as Larry Bowa's postgame mood.

All you need to know about the year before, the final season starter at the Vet - is that the Phils' starting pitcher was Joe Roa. Hardly the Four Aces of 2011, that rotation's nickname was the Deuces are Wild.

New board news

It sure is good the Phillies spent millions to replace the old video board in left field with a new 97-foot-by-76-foot high-definition version. Without it, we wouldn't have known that . . .

A fan featured on Cavitybusters.Com Smile Cam had fried onions stuck in his teeth.

Raul Ibanez needs a new sponsor for the photo that appears when he comes to bat. Thursday's was for the Philadelphia Zoo's X-Tinc-Shun exhibit, which could well feature Ibanez by season's end.

We can get a far clearer view of the knuckleheads shouting "WHOOO!" and hamming it up for the camera.

Scariest news of the day

Phillies fans can now purchase team products from Victoria's Secret. If the sexy-lingerie company broadens the campaign to include Eagles fans, I'm getting a lobotomy.

Opening-day thoughts

It's nice that there's going to be a statue of Harry Kalas at the ballpark now. It's just a shame that it looks more like John Boehner.

Until the ninth, these Phillies, minus Jayson Werth, didn't look like they're going to watch many pitches this season.


things overheard before the game

1. Guy eating a pretzel as long as Ryan Howard's bat: "They need to get a microwave down here and heat these things up."

2. "It's not a bad place, but we need to get out, maybe move to Cherry Hill for some culture."

3. "My wife loves it that I take care of my body. My daughter thinks it makes me feminine."

4. "I'm serious. My Facebook page just said Roy Halladay's not going to pitch. He's got tightness in his shoulder. That [stinks]."

5. Guy to a friend after looking at the pregame gauntlet of fans through which the Phils would enter the field: "How come they didn't pick me?"

Friend: "Because you're simple-minded."

things not overheard before the game

1. "Beautiful day for a ball game, huh?"

2. "Can't wait for the NBA playoffs."

3. "Now that there's a statue of Harry Kalas, think it will be long before there's one of Ricky Bottalico?"

4. "Has Brett Myers lost weight?"

5. "When I come to the ballpark, there's nothing I like better than watching commercials on a

hi-def scoreboard."

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068



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