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The Year of the Blue Snow
Steve Wulf
September 25, 1989
That was 1964, when the Phillies blew the pennant and broke the author's heart. Now, 25 years later, he relives the loss with his heroes
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September 25, 1989

The Year Of The Blue Snow

That was 1964, when the Phillies blew the pennant and broke the author's heart. Now, 25 years later, he relives the loss with his heroes

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The players take the field for the scheduled three-inning game. In the top of the first, Mahaffey gives up two fly balls, to Brooks Robinson and Aaron, and then gives way to Baldschun, who retires Orlando Cepeda on one of his patented screwballs. In the bottom of the inning, with one out, Tony Gonzalez hits one of his trademark opposite-field doubles off Gibson. He moves up on a groundout by Callison, bringing Allen to the plate with two outs. But Allen pops up in front of the plate, and he hugs catcher John Roseboro to prevent him from catching the pop-up. Gonzalez scores, but the run is disallowed because of interference. Allen is booed. Just like old times.

Nothing much happens in the second, but in the top of the third, a pop-up drops in front of Amaro at third, and some blowhard yells, "Choke, choke!" Ha-ha. With the bases loaded, Wise relieves Bobby Shantz, and from the pop of the ball in Dalrymple's mitt, the fans can tell that Wise is not too far from major league velocity. "Heck, he throws harder than Rick Reuschel," says current Phillie pitcher Marvin Freeman, watching from the runway.

But Joe Christopher, a Met in 1964, takes Wise the other way for a sacrifice fly to give the All-Stars a 1-0 lead. The Phillies go down meekly in their half of the third, and the game is over. Or is it? Suddenly the P.A. announcer says, "How about one more inning?" Ah, if only commissioner Ford Frick had granted the Phillies a similar reprieve 25 years ago....

Sure enough, the Phils rally in the bottom of the fourth. Briggs doubles to right center with one out. Allen fouls out to third. ("Boooooo!!") With Rojas at the plate, All-Star manager Alvin Dark sends Gibson back in to pitch—Cardinal versus Phillie. This time around, Rojas singles off Gibson to score Briggs, and the game ends in a tie. A tie? This former Phillies fan can only wonder, What if the season had ended in a tie 25 years ago...?

As the players file into the locker room after the game, Mauch barks out, "O.K., everybody back onto the field for pop-up drills!" Some of the players, momentarily transported back to 1964, turn around as if they believe him. Mauch smiles, and they smile back in relief.

"You know, I've talked to them more in the last two days than I did in any two years as manager," Mauch says. "I have a deep, deep feeling about this team. I did then, too, but I was hard on them because I felt that was the way to go. This weekend has given me a chance to tell them exactly how I feel, and to thank them. It felt great being a part of the '64 Phillies again."

That it did. I need no more alibis, I forgive them for breaking my heart, and I bless them for a summer of memories. 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So I look around the roomful of strangers, at men I knew intimately 25 years ago, and silently thank them too.

Twenty-five years after Gene Mauch and I spun those dials, we found the right station.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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