Broad Street Billy: Spirited fans at home here

Posted: October 06, 2011

BROAD STREET Billy hung out with South Philly die-hards last night at McCusker's Tavern on 17th near Shunk, watching the Phillies lose to the Cardinals, forcing a Game 5 here tomorrow to decide the National League Division Series.

"This is a neighborhood bar - no a - - - - - - s and no junkies," said McCusker's regular Al Wall, welcoming Billy. "So many guys I know, older than me, who drink here with their grown kids. It's a friendly family bar."

As the Phillies flailed away, Wall pointed to a large red "P" tattoo on his left arm. "Phillies fan all my life," he said. "They're in my skin."

That was true of everyone in the bar, with or without tattoos. Most of them live within a couple of blocks, and all are lifelong diehards - including Mayfair-raised Bruce Kramer, who was enjoying a cold Pabst at McCusker's during the 2008 World Series when Game 5 was stopped due to monsoons or whatever.

"I was halfway through my beer when the game stopped," Kramer said. "I said, 'Please put this in the fridge. I'll come back when the game continues.' Couple days later, I came back, and my cold beer was waiting for me. What other bar does that?"

Wearing an Eisenreich Phillies jersey ("Only two people have this jersey - me and Jim Eisenreich"), Kramer recalled showing up for the unveiling of the Harry Kalas statue at Citizens Bank Park with friends Rob Owens and Dave Sanislo, all wearing powder-blue jackets over T-shirts on which they'd spray-painted "HK."

John McCusker, who has owned the bar for 43 years, added a row of three blue Veterans Stadium bleacher seats in front of a 100-inch TV screen just in time for the playoffs.

Lifelong neighborhood friends Dave Rizzo, Paul Frost, Rick Lees, John Gannone and Chris DeSanto took turns sitting in them.

Rizzo said he'd shown up at the bar late in Game 3, when the Phillies' fate was hanging by a thread.

"Soon as I sat down, the Cardinals started coming back, so I said, 'Man, I should've stayed at home.' One of these guys said, 'Yeah, you should've.' I stood outside the bar for the rest of the game until the Phils won, 3-2."

Shifting from seat 5 to seat 6 as the Phils attempted a late rally, Gannone said: "This is the only exercise I get. My palms are sweating. My heart rate's hit 100 for 20 minutes. I'm a mess."

The rally failed. Gannone's heart rate returned to normal. Wall offered his Game 5 tickets for $300. No takers as the nerve-racking night came to an end.

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