Wednesday, May 03, 2006
I sat down to read More Than Beards, Bellies and Biceps with high expectations. I was just sixteen years old when the Phillies made their miraculous run to the World Series and I remember just how exciting it all was. I was six when the Sixers won the NBA title in ’83, and I was three when the Phillies won it all in ’80, so those experiences meant little to me at the time. The idea that the Phillies, the team I had been going to go see get pounded at the Vet year-in and year-out, would be contending for the World Series blew my mind. I had never seen such electricity in the air, such a buzz.
The ’93 team caught the city’s imagination like no other. The unglamorous lot played well together and made an amazing run: I knew that the Phils had gotten into the mind of the public when I watched Saturday Night Live’s Opening sketch to their show on the night of Game Six, which featured Chris Farley and others dressed up like John Kruk and the Phillies spitting tobacco juice so vigorously during the national anthem that it came out of their mouths in a stream of brown liquid.
Sadly, the team got injured in 1994 and fall apart thereafter. Their spirit lives on.
I loved reading More Than Beards, Bellies and Biceps because it captures the spirit and substance of the season exceptionally well. The book is organized well, each chapter dealing with the progression of the season with little sidebars (most called “Phanatic Philes”) sprinkled throughout. I particularly like how the authors use narratives from the players themselves to talk about the team. Stephen Ambrose wrote in Citizen Soldiers that you should always quote your sources because they were the ones who lived the experience and knew what happened the best. The players knew what happened better than anyone else, so it is really their story and it is best told by them.
If one story sums up the ’93 team, then read the sidebar “One Mormon and 24 Morons” on pages 48-49, dealing with how well devout Mormon Dale Murphy fit in with the loud and vulgar Dykstra and Kruk: Dykstra and Kruk would swear, then apologize to Murphy, then swear and apologize two minutes later. Murphy would simply smile. That was a harmonious clubhouse.
Bottom-line: this is a fun, fun book and one of the best I've read in quite a long time. I absolutely recommend More Than Beards, Bellies and Biceps, espcially with the summer reading season fast approaching. You won't want to put it down!
I'm about 3/4s of the way through the book and have definitely enjoyed it so far. It's not really for the casual Phillies fan, though there is plenty of humor in it because of the phanatic and especially stories from LA. Plus, any opportunity to publish a bunch of Kruk quotes generally equals a good time.
It's a nice, light look at the '93 Phillies from the inside. If you loved that team like I did (and still do), it's definitely worth your time.
But it's interesting how multiple seasons get conflated in people's memories. Good stories have a way of sticking around, even if it means the details change.
The 1993 was a really fun team, so I'm sure this book must be fun. When I first moved out here, I worked with a guy who had not only been in the Blue Jays' farm system in the early 90's, but who had also been Kevin Stocker's roomate when they were both on the UW baseball team. He had quite a different viewpoint on 1993 than I did :)