- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The man whose nickname was an obscenity hissed in exasperation might bring a city to chorus that obscenity every time he cracked another momentous base hit: Chooooooooooch.
The only everyday Phillie who'd never been an All-Star might wind up hitting .353 in 11 World Series games and be anointed with a second nickname each autumn: Señor Octubre.
The man who'd toiled eight years in the farm system learning a foreign position might even become the field general for one of the most renowned starting staffs in the history of the game.
The most silent and timid Phillie might even become—by consensus of teammates and in the words of closer Brad Lidge—"the heart and soul of this team." The player who was the runaway winner in a team poll asking Phillies whom—if they were Batman—they'd choose as their Robin, proving that his effect extends far beyond his superhero pitching staff. The player who circulated in the clubhouse asking them how their families were doing, and how their hearts and minds and bodies felt. The man who went to each player in the dugout as each game was about to start to exchange a new touch: knuckles yesterday, low-fives today, fist pounds to their hearts tomorrow, so hard that they'd yearn for his chest protector. The one who tore into them when they were lax and verbalized what team leaders Chase Utley and Halladay kept tight under wraps. The one taking charge as if he has been here forever and yet still asking questions as if he has just been called up. The most endearing player to the sold-out crowds at Citizens Bank Park every night, even when his average dips to .255, as it has this season, crossing a cultural moat that Hispanic players often can't—the Phillie whom bartender Tubby Kushner impersonates every game he attends, from uniform down to the shin guards, chest protector, mask and, yes, even cup—because fans feel like he's their little secret, their little golden nugget.
And the home of the brave ...
The bullpen gate opens. The catcher remains six feet to the left of this pitcher and one step behind for the walk back, in deference to the master's tunnel ... but don't be fooled. That's just how Doc Chooch Halladay rolls.
When their season ended in ashes last October and all the Phillies were scattering after their failure against the Giants in the National League Championship Series, Chooch went looking in their clubhouse for the hardest man to find. There was something he had to tell Doc before they parted. He found him in the trainer's room, made small talk for a moment and finally gathered his courage. "Next year I want to give you a gift," he said. "I want to give you a World Series ring."
Then he embraced Doc and walked away, carrying the weight of the second-biggest promise of his life.
SI on Twitter
Follow @SI_MLB for breaking news, coverage and commentary from SI writers.