All hail Charlie and the Coasters

Posted: August 12, 2011

Observations, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished opinions . . .

TWENTY GAMES in 20 days, the final 10 in the hostile venues of Colorado, San Francisco and Los Angeles . . . Historically, that is "go home 5-5 with a big smile on your face" territory.

There ain't a smile big enough this side of Dave Montgomery to reflect the swagger (and a little amazement, I'll wager) the Phillies brought home after turning the road trip into a 9-1 tour de force.

Only the best road trip of that length in the cockeyed, 128-year history of the franchise. And it ended with the Phillies extracting themselves from a 6-0 hole in Chavez Ravine and pulling off a Houdini escape in a getaway, 9-8 victory climaxed by Ryan Howard's extremely sliced oppo-boppo.

Just as Howard's gamer was settling into the eighth row, some deep thinker sent me an email that began, "Howard needs to be sat down for 2-3 days . . . " Great call.

During a beat man's run of 21 years, I never missed a Coast trip. I finally checked out after the 1986 season, having covered 413 games in San Francisco, LA and San Diego - actually 420, counting seven games of pinch-hit duty in 1965 that ended with the Watts riots. Tack on another 7 weeks for winter meetings in LA, SF and SD, plus open dates, LCS and World Series duty, that's about 66 weeks of my life spent on U.S. 101, the 405 and the Pacific Coast Highway, checking in and out of the Ambassador in LA, where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, then the Wilshire Hyatt, where Paul Owens set a major league general manager record of two fistfights in 1 night with Phils farm director Jim Baumer. First the ubiquitous Jack Tar hotel in San Francisco, then the Union Square Hyatt, where Harry Kalas met second wife Eileen. It was the sprawling Town and Country in San Diego's Mission Valley where Phils TV producer Steve Silverman met his second wife, thanks to Randy Jones and Jim Kaat. Jones shut out the Phillies in a Saturday-night game that began at 7:05 sunset and ended in 8:32 twilight.

The swift-working lefthanders unleashed a lot of baseball folk on Mission Valley hours earlier than usual . . . with life-altering results in some cases.

Hey, it was tough work, but somebody had to do it.

The Phillies swept the Rockies in three, went 3-1 in AT & T Park, then took three from the Dodgers. But the 6-1 in LA and SF was not the Phils' best-ever Coast trip.

In their first 1984 trip to the Land of Bilk and Money, the Phils ran the table - 9-0. Over the 413 Coast games on my watch, the Phils went 184-229. The pennant-winning 1983 Wheeze Kids went a gasping 4-14 on the Coast, then took out the Dodgers in the NLCS. Go figure.

Vivid Coast memories: Owens firing everybody in the traveling party on Labor Day in an airport hotel in San Francisco the day after no-sunglasses Garry Maddox lost a fly ball in the sun in San Diego to cost a 1980 game . . .

Surfing at Capistrano Beach with the U.S. Olympic ski team in 1968 on the day of Martin Luther King's funeral. All MLB games were postponed . . .

Irish Mike Ryan and me offering to buy a Southern Comfort straight up for totally smashed Janis Joplin in San Francisco's Tommy's Joynt. And Bobby McGee's main squeeze telling me, "Bleep off, greaser, you and I don't even exist in the same universe . . . " And Irish laughing hysterically for 5 minutes . . .

The bullfights at the Bullring by the Sea in Playa Tijuana on an open date, four of us being "forced" to drink a liter of tequila before entering or face its confiscation . . .

Steve Carlton's 1972 coming-out, 14-strikeout one-hitter in Candlestick Park . . .

Sitting in Tommy Lasorda's office while the skipper and Don Rickles busted on each other . . . Cary Grant and his daughter always in a private box next to the Dodger Stadium press box . . .

The heavy smell of cannabis in the wind-buffeted Candlestick press box as the hometown scribes battled deadline in high spirits.

Wanted: Used Sherman Tank

It happened again to Division I's oldest coach and tackling dummy. Joe Paterno suffered multiple fractures when he was run over by a wideout during a Penn State preseason practice. Fortunately, he'll live to limp into harm's way another day. The Lions, who are at the bottom of most preseason Top 25s, need help in many areas, but none with more urgency than getting Paterno the hell off the field. There's a National Guard armory in the State College area. Rent Joe a tank or at least a Humvee to sit in on Saturdays.

Or dress him in a crash-testdummy jumpsuit.

Gose to show you

At last count, 4,877 of you had gleefully informed me that Blue Jays' Double A centerfielder Anthony Gose first was traded to the Houston Astros along with J.A. Happ and shortstop Jonathan Vilar. Ed Wade then passed him on to the Blue Jays for first baseman Brett Wallace. Actually, I have heard from just five of you . . . Lakewood's starting outfield in Greensboro Wednesday night represented nearly a $2.5 million investment by the Phillies. Rightfielder Anthony Hewitt signed for a $1.4 million bonus; centerfielder Zach Collier signed for $1.05 million; leftfielder Bill Rice signed for a $75 discount plane ticket to Tampa.

1 giant leap for Crash

Only one of you nailed the "significant" baseball event on July 20, 1969, the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Dick Allen showed up at Connie Mack Stadium, ending his 26-day walkabout after being suspended for missing a doubleheader in Shea Stadium.

This week: Name the two player-managers, both shortstops, who blocked Pee Wee Reese in the Red Sox and Dodgers (briefly) organizations.

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