A gut affinity for the Phillies


As a fat guy, I'm sure I speak for fat guys everywhere when I say of this World Series: "Go Phillies."

Oh, you go ahead and root for the trim, clear-eyed Blue Jays. Me, I'm pulling for Philly. The Phillies look like a Friday night B League team at the Bowl-o-rama, a lot of beefy guys with unkempt beards and gold chains and a bottle of Bud in one hand. All they're missing are yellow polyester shirts with "Floyd's Sunoco" stitched on the back.

I'm rooting for the Phillies because . . . well, because baseball is an easy game when you're in shape like the Blue Jays.

But try getting around on a fastball with a huge gut flapping over your belt. Try going from first to third with your lungs screaming from a two-pack-a-day habit. Try tracking a fly ball in the sun with a brutal hangover.

This is what the Phillies do. And it's not easy. Believe me, I've been there.

Look, you think Toronto's John Olerud sits down at a greasy spoon and inhales four cheese-steak sandwiches slathered with onions and a six of Schmidt's?

Hell, that's a light breakfast for some of the Phillies.

So I'm pulling for the Phillies. I'm pulling for Lenny Dykstra and Pete Incaviglia and John Kruk and all the rest.

Kruk . . . my God, what can you say? Kruk reminds you of the guy who stumbles out of a bay at Jiffy Lube to explain their 14-point service check.

This guy looks like a ballplayer only if you think Charles Durning belongs in Philly pinstripes.

In Game 6 of the National League playoffs against Atlanta, the camera zoomed in for a lovely shot of Kruk's rear end.

What we saw was . . . well, I'm not exactly sure what we saw.

The man's uniform pants were covered with dirt and grease. And there was a gaping rip near the right pocket. The guy looked as if he just changed the transmission fluid in his car.

And Incaviglia. How can any beer league player not root for this man? Inky goes back on a ball with all the grace of a sailor stumbling home after a weekend liberty.

Then there's the heart and soul of this team, Lenny Dykstra. Dykstra reminds me of the guy in my 10th-grade metal shop, Varelli, who spent all his time welding things into the shape of various sex organs.

As I recall, our end-of-semester project was to construct a candleholder out of brass. So, naturally, Varelli turned in this thing that looked like a huge . . . well, it wasn't a candleholder, that's for sure.

Not surprisingly, Varelli quickly earned himself an F, which he told me about between puffs on a Marlboro in the second-floor boys room after class. Don't ask where he is now. Sing-Sing is a good guess.

The point -- if there is a point to all this -- is that Dykstra would do something like that welding-a-sex-organ business. You can see it in his eyes. Especially if he thought it would fire up his teammates.

Here's another reason I like the Phillies: The team does not seem stocked with a lot of guys who are, um, overly bright.

You get the feeling the Phillies don't sit around their clubhouse after the game discussing Joyce Carol Oates. Or their stock portfolios, either.

In this age of ballplayers in $1,500 Armani suits who carry attache cases and cellular phones and the Wall Street Journal wherever they go, the Phillies seem like a comfortably low-brow sweater-and-jeans crew.

(To take this a step further -- and I'm not trying to be mean here -- listening in on a conversation between Dykstra and Incaviglia must be like eavesdropping on Beavis and Butt-Head. Although to be fair, in sound bites, Dykstra makes Incaviglia sound like George F. Will.)

But that's the Phillies, a team of both character and characters.

There's closer Mitch Williams, the Wild Thing, with his flowing hair and the twin slits for eyes that stamp him as the next thing to a certifiable psychotic.

Speaking of eyes, there's the deer-in-the-headlights look of Kim Batiste, the defensive replacement from hell who seems to play every ground ball as if he's wearing hockey gloves.

Even the manager seems like a throwback to an earlier era. My favorite snapshot of Fregosi thus far? We go back to Game 6 of the NL playoffs. In the late innings, the TV camera picks up Fregosi standing in the runway behind the Phillies dugout, a chaw of tobacco the size of a peach nestled in one cheek as he -- you'll love this one -- lights up a cigarette!

Gee, getting enough nicotine there, Jim? I kept waiting for the top of the man's head to blow off. What do you tell your kids when they see Mr. Fregosi chewing and smoking and doing everything but sticking a needle in his arm?

Aw, who cares? Go Phillies.

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