Phils having fun with 'organic' celebrations, traditions

October 13th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies’ season started with a thumbs up.

A player got a hit, he gave a thumbs up to teammates in the dugout. They responded in kind. Months later, nobody will say why they did it. It was important enough, though, that somebody in April procured a sculpture of a golden hand giving a thumbs up. Bryce Harper, who was on the injured list at the time, tucked the hand into the right sleeve of his Phillies hoodie. He flashed the golden thumb for the first time on April 16, following J.T. Realmuto’s home run in Cincinnati.

It was silly. It was fun.

But then the thumbs ups stopped.

“We kind of got over that, mainly because we were playing like [garbage],” catcher Garrett Stubbs said, a few days before Philadelphia clinched a second consecutive trip to the NL Championship Series with Thursday night’s victory over Atlanta in Game 4 of the NL Division Series.

The Phillies will play the D-backs in Game 1 of the NLCS on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

“We wanted to do something else,” Kyle Schwarber said.

Stubbs, Schwarber, Realmuto and Trea Turner were golfing in early July when they talked about a new base-hit celebration.

Why discuss such nonsense between putts? Because if you know the Phils, you know they believe in good times and good vibes. They have a song and “Phils Win” playlist. They have home run traditions. They have base-hit celebrations.

So they came up with an idea. It was not an original one. Far from it. But every time a player got a hit, he would look toward Philadelphia's dugout and pretend to cradle something. It does not take a genius to figure out what.

“It was just funny,” Stubbs said. “We really weren’t trying to say anything. It was really just like, ‘Yeah, we think it’d be funny if we did this after hits.’”

It might have been that night, maybe the next, but a Phillies player got a hit against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The player gestured toward the dugout. Phils left-hander Cristopher Sánchez was crying laughing; he thought it was so funny. Cristian Pache loved the bit so much that he promised to do it the next time he homered. He smashed a go-ahead two-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning in a 4-3 victory in Miami on July 7. He did it.

“It caught on nicely,” Stubbs said.

This is how these things work with the Phillies. Somebody comes up with an idea. It goes around the clubhouse. If everybody buys in, they do it. If they don’t, they won’t.

“When you get that reaction, you realize it’s going to be pretty funny,” Stubbs said.

The base-hit celebration was inspired by the 1994 movie “Major League II,” which had a running bit between the characters Pedro Cerrano (played by Dennis Haysbert) and Isuro Tanaka (played by Takaaki Ishibashi).

Tanaka questioned Cerrano’s toughness throughout the film.

“It didn’t come directly from a movie,” Stubbs insisted. “Or, who’s the NBA player?”

That would be Sam Cassell, who once told The Athletic that “Major League II” directly inspired his own on-court celebration.

“I actually had to rewatch [‘Major League II’] to explain it to my wife,” Turner said. “She didn’t understand it. I actually had to show her a YouTube clip of like five minutes of the movie.”

The film’s writers appreciate the love.

“It’s gratifying to know that this many years after that movie was released, the fans and the team are still honoring it and inspired by it in some way,” emailed Jim Jennewein, who along with his writing partner Tom S. Parker got a shared story credit on “Major League II.” “Long live Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn and the whole crew. We had a lot of fun playing around with those characters.”

The characters in the Phillies’ clubhouse have been having fun since they started winning this summer. They clinched the No. 1 NL Wild Card on Sept. 26 with Johan Rojas’ walk-off hit against Pittsburgh. They won the NL Wild Card Series on Oct. 4 against Miami with a grand slam from Bryson Stott and seven scoreless innings from Aaron Nola. They clinched the NL Division Series on Thursday against Atlanta with two homers from Nick Castellanos and a four-hit effort from Turner.

Fans have been celebrating every hit along the way.

“It’s awesome,” Schwarber said. “It’s great, you know what I mean? They’re with us.”

They hope the celebrations don’t stop until they’re cleaning up after a parade down Broad Street.

“It’s friendship stuff,” Turner said. “It’s a long season. There’s ups and downs. You have moments that stick out or are funny. That’s how you bond and come together. Sometimes it’s stupid to people on the outside. Sometimes it’s funny. It’s like an inside joke. If you’re there at the time, it’s funny to you. But it’s how you come together. It’s funny how far it goes. I think that’s what’s cool about it and what’s organic about it. When fans feel like they’re a part of it, too, it’s a good thing.”