Alumni weekend has become a Phillies tradition loved by the fans.
This year's was no different.The sold-out Alumni Luncheon for Seniors on Friday was a dandy. Charlie Manuel, this year's Wall of Fame inductee, was the subject of the luncheon, sort of "This Is Your Life, Charlie Manuel."
Behind a curtain, guests spoke briefly about Charlie, who was to guess the guest. He was right on but couldn't recognize Pat Gillick's voice. Other "surprise guests" included Milt Thompson, Rich Dubee, Mike Schmidt, Roy Halladay, Chris Wheeler, Tom McCarthy, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
Needless to say, fans who bought the tickets were treated to a spectacular show. Charlie laughed so much his stomach had to hurt.
Doc thanked the Phils' fans that night and threw out the first ball. Not surprising, it was a strike to Chooch. The pitching motion and No. 34 on the jersey was obvious that the person throwing the first pitch was Doc. Ironically, A.J., who wears No. 34 now, was the starting pitcher on Doc's night.
Jim Thome and Gary (Sarge) Matthews spent time Friday evening talking hitting in one of the suites that housed the Alumni.
Common theme: "You hit off fastballs". Both admitted today's players don't do that enough. "I never wanted a fastball to reach the catcher's mitt," said Thome. "Today, there's video, scouting, sabermetrics and hitters aren't focused enough on the fastball. Later when my bat got slower, I learned to hit breaking balls better. But when you get an at-bat, the most kind of pitches who'll see is fastballs."
"When I was with Toronto, I remember you hit a 3-0 change for a home run," recalled Sarge. "Do you remember that?" "Yes" replied Thome quickly. "I was able to get the bat head on it because the change was up. If it was down, I was in trouble."
When the conversation shifted to stances and plate coverage, Thome got off a tall stool, grabbed a Phillies Magazine from the coffee table and laid it on the carpet as a home plate. He then went through a dissertation about pros and cons of where to stand. Sarge wasn't all ears all the time. He chimed in with his theories.
Combined, Sarge and Jim have 4,339 hits, including 846 home runs. Guess they know something about hitting.
At a high-top table, Jim Bunning and Halladay were locked in a conversation about pitching. From the motions of their right arms, it was pretty apparent they were talking about throwing the slider.
Pretty impressive to see the two who have thrown the only perfect games in the 131-year history of the franchise.
Wall of Fame
Charlie made his grand entrance down the stairs in left field as he had done every Opening Day as manager. The moment he began his descent, the fans stood and cheered. They never sat down during the 30-minute ceremony.
The current team met Charlie at the bottom of the steps. Everyone in the enemy dugout was applauding and continued as each of 14 Wall of Famers was introduced.
It was impressive seeing the Wall of Famers. Biggest introduction cheer was for Darren Daulton.
It was only fitting that Jim Thome unveiled Charlie's plaque. When asked if he was nervous, Jim replied, "Generally, I don't get nervous. But I was anxious and excited."
During dinner that night, Charlie was seated with his family. Bob Boone, Schmidt and Greg Luzinski and their wives were at a long table with Darren and his wife. A round table behind them featured Bunning and Dallas Green and wives. Once roommates on the road, Tony Taylor and Dick Allen were at another round table with family.
During a pinstripes taping with Scott Palmer, Halladay met Steve Carlton for the first time. They were the two most-focused pitchers I've ever seen.
Over 40 Alumni were there Sunday for introductions on the field, including 87-year-old Don Hasenmayer, an infielder in 1945-46 and a veteran of World War II.
In the suites during the game, Alumni renewed stories from the past. Some preferred to socialize while others were focused on the game on the field. Dubee, now a Minor League pitching coordinator for Atlanta, and Gene Garber were chatting. Gene spends a couple of weeks in the Braves' Spring Training camp every year teaching the changeup.
Aaron Rowand make his first return to Citizens Bank Park since he's retired. He was there on Sunday and again on Monday when he threw out the first ball. It isn't too often that a player is best remembered for a defensive play but fans will always remember Aaron's catch in which he broke his nose.
Chase Utley got to catch Charlie Manuel's first pitch on Sunday and the same from Aaron on Monday. Someday, Chase will be the man being honored.
To top off the weekend, a horse named Charlie Manuel won its debut at PARX Casino and Racetrack north of Philadelphia on Saturday, the same day Charlie Manuel, the baseball manager, was inducted into the Wall of Fame. What were those odds?