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October 03, 2011
For Phillies Nation, every game has felt like October since Cliff Lee's return. Now an ever-growing fan base wonders: Is it still O.K. to boo?
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October 03, 2011

'we're In Baseball Heaven'

For Phillies Nation, every game has felt like October since Cliff Lee's return. Now an ever-growing fan base wonders: Is it still O.K. to boo?

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Ant's the purist, the jurist, the arbiter of the city's confusing sports code: "That's a violation!" he'll cry on the air. Sure, he gets the Philly Boo, knows that it was the only way for a man who was paying to be serially violated to salvage one slim scrap of his integrity, to demonstrate that he was at least aware of what was being done to him. But c'mon, boys, you're the Haves now.

Jimmy (Head) Hetherington, a Cliff Guy, snorts. He was a nine-year-old murmuring the Rosary every day during the '64 Collapse, learning, he says, that Jim Morrison's right: You canNOT petition the Lord with pray-ah! Who but Head in 2006 thought to tally up all the Phillies' won-lost records, to discover that they were closing fast on 10,000 losses and get the word out to the media in time for it to become a civic landmark? And, nope, sorry, the 2011 Phillies have not sucked the poison from his wounds. "I'm not fulfilled," he says. "It's not heaven till we beat the Yankees or the Red Sox and get a second championship. We went 100 sports seasons without one and now we're up to 12, and my happiness is vanishing like sand through an hourglass."

Which appalls Tastykake Dom Rosa, an Oswalt Guy. "It's a violation to boo anyone on this team," he protests. "I've never in my life felt this way about a team. Look at Oswalt, bad back, pitching on pure balls. Six years ago, this was a green town even in June—all you'd see was Eagles hats and jerseys. Now, look, it's September and I saw 80 million Cliff Lees today. Ninety-five percent of us realize we're in baseball heaven. There's just certain guys... ."

"No booing?" yelps Boo Rodden. "That's like saying put your brain on hold. You boo 'em like you boo your relative—you still love 'em, but c'mon, it's embarrassing: The Yankees have 27 World Series and we've got two in 100-some years? And the last one was against Tampa—that's not even a big-boy championship! We've got to win one more World Series, we've got to beat New York or Boston—or it isn't heaven. It's just purgatory."

"You gotta be kiddin' me!" cries Ace Borgesi, an Absolutely-Torn-Between-Being-a-Cliff-or-Doc Guy. "These players work their balls off—you'd think Hunter Pence was born and raised in South Philly! This is 100 percent heaven, cuz! This is the best team any of us have ever seen! What kind of bubonics you smokin', Head?"

The boys scatter. Boo back to lawyering, Ace back to inspecting the cables 495 feet up on the Walt Whitman Bridge, Dom back to his Tastykake truck and Head—sand leaking through his hourglass—off to knock on doors and serve mortgage foreclosure papers. Wearing his Phillies gear so the deadbeats won't slug him.

Almost there. Cliff zips beneath the overpass that leads to the Walt Whitman, the bridge no one needs to jump off anymore, and turns left onto Packer. Finally the forest of row houses sighs and surrenders to a vast clearing: the parking lot where the Vet used to be. Ahh, the memories... .

"It was San Quentin," says Head.

"It was a circular concrete slab of crap," says Boo.

"It was a green dying turd," says Dan Tarng, a first-generation Taiwanese-American fan who needs to meet Head and Boo.

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