Friday, April 28, 2006
When Ken Burns Baseball premiered on PBS in ’94 a relative of mine asked me if they had talked much about the Phillies. No, I replied, though the team was mentioned in passing as being one of the teams that harassed Jackie Robinson in 1947 and that Curt Flood sued to prevent a trade to the Phils in '69. No mention of the ’80 team or the memorable ’93 squad, no Wiz Kids, no ’64 meltdown … Baseball was fixated on a few teams: the Dodgers, the Giants, the Yankees, the Red Sox and, to a lesser extent, the Mets. Other MLB teams outside of New York and Boston barely rated a mention. (It is the major fault I have with Burns otherwise outstanding documentary.)
The Phillies don’t exactly have the most rousing history. The team’s most memorable moment was probably the ’64 team’s collapse on its way to a sure pennant. When I picked up Tales From the Phillies Dugout I liked how the book described the team: “It was often last, but seldom dull.” There has been a lot of disappointment and sorrow in the Phils history, but Philly isn’t the home to baseball-loving intellectuals like New York or Boston, a factor that accounts for why the Phils aren’t celebrated more in the annals of baseball history. But this team has a fun history, and Tales does a great job giving us the whole story.
Phillies fans curious about their franchise’s long and tortured history will enjoy this book because it will open their eyes to the Phillies fun (or should I say “phun”?) history. There are a lot of great stories in the book, from tales of Gene Mauch’s temper to Bunning’s perfect game to the general highjicks that permiated the team locker room. I enjoyed all of the stories, and I like how the authors made each one a little snippet: you can read a few stories in a minute or two. My only fault with Tales is that stories of the ’93 Phillies, arguably the most colorful team since the Cardinals Gashouse Gang of the 1930s, were in short supply, I found. Perhaps the authors wanted to not skew towards too many '93 stories.
There are a lot of great stories included and I thought that Tales From the Phillies Dugout was a really fun book to relax with and read.