"When this man came to our club, he gave us a lot of dignity. One of the best righthanded hitters I've ever seen. Roy Sievers. Roy, I've never told you this, but I know you had a lot to do with polishing the kids on the team. Thank you."
"We had a saying all through the '60s in the late innings: 'Just six ground balls to Amaro.' He made a lot of great plays, but I'll never forget watching him dive for a ball at third base, and as he dove, I saw him push the glove to the tips of his fingers. Ruben Amaro."
"There have been many gifted ballplayers for the Phillies over the years, including Mike Schmidt. But of all those players, I'll take my guy. He was the finest athlete I've ever seen on the field. He had 13 triples that year, and I think the triple is the most beautiful thing in baseball. He was just a joy to behold. Dick Allen."
"The thing that bothered me most in '64 about not winning it—and I just want to say that that's the reason I'm alive today because I would have given 15 years off my life to have won it—is that we deprived Johnny of the MVP award. Johnny, I'm just sorry we couldn't have done more for you after all you did for us. Johnny Callison."
When the banquet broke up, many of the players repaired to the hospitality suite to reminisce. Julie Shenk, Larry's wife, finally closed the place at 2 a.m. Among the last to leave were Dalrymple, Baldschun, Bennett, Callison and Mauch. Baldschun said of the late-night session, "We saw a side of Gene we had never seen before."
As Frank Sinatra once sang, "There used to be a ballpark right here." We're at 21st and Lehigh, once the site of Connie Mack Stadium and now just one corner of an empty North Philly block choked with weeds and refuse from McDonald's. The stadium came into being as Shibe Park in 1909, and its French Renaissance style made it the most beautiful ballpark of its day. Residents along 20th Street could watch games from their rooftops, until Athletics owner Connie Mack raised the wall in right field to obstruct their view. The Phillies, who had played for many years at Baker Bowl, moved in during the '38 season, and it was here that the '50 Whiz Kids recovered from a late-season collapse to win the pennant on the last day.
In 1953 the name was changed to Connie Mack Stadium, and the name stayed even after the A's moved to Kansas City in '55. The Phillies spent most of the late '50s in the second division, and in '60 manager Eddie Sawyer quit one game into the season, saying, "I'm 49 and I want to be 50." His replacement was the 34-year-old Mauch, who watched in agony as his young club lost 23 games in a row in 1961. But out of those ashes rose the '64 Phillies. "The losing streak made them think of themselves as Phillies, not ex-Dodgers or ex-White Sox," said Mauch when it was over.
In 1964, 1,425,891 people went through the turnstiles of Connie Mack, but by '69, attendance had dwindled to 519,414 and a new ball-park, Veterans Stadium, was in the works. On Oct. 1, 1970, the last game was played at Connie Mack: The Phillies beat the Montreal Expos, managed by Mauch, 2-1 in 10 innings. A year later, a fire destroyed much of the structure, and in '76 the demolition was completed. Over the years there has been talk about putting a hospital or an industrial park on the lot, but nothing has come of it.
"This a bad day to die," says the aged cabbie as he drives through the rain. "Connie Mack Stadium, huh? I sold newspapers there when I was a kid. I can still taste the 10-cent hot dogs."
In the backseat of the cab, I listen and look. I've never been to Connie Mack, although I know its every detail from pictures. So I'm making this pilgrimage to see something I never did or ever will see. Dalrymple, courteous and curious, is kind enough to come along. He walks over to where home plate used to be and points out landmarks. "The opposite corner is straightaway center, and Richie hit one once that went over the wall in center and across the street," he says. As Dalrymple tromps around, his eyes suddenly glow with a memory: