As a lifelong Phillies fan I was anxious to relive the glories of my team. Yes, weâ€™ve lost more than any club in baseballâ€™s long history, but we did win the World Series last year. Certainly this is the perfect time to devote a DVD to the teamâ€™s exploits, and Major League Productions has filled the bill with a fact-packed documentary that every fan of the team should own.
My knowledge of the teamâ€™s history had come the old-fashioned way, through mingling with older Phillies fans who are always vocal about their beloved club â€“ its successes and, particularly, its failures. Usually their recollections include a long chapter on the shortcomings of our teams past and present. This DVD, produced with the panache weâ€™ve come to expect from MLP, starts with a well-told history lesson on the Philsâ€™ long years of frustration, with excellent footage of the early days.
I never knew, for example, that the Phillies had shared the city with Connie Mackâ€™s powerhouse Aâ€™s; in those years the Phillies found it impossible to keep their best players, because theyâ€™d be lured away with higher-paying contracts from the Aâ€™s. This set in motion a sentiment still felt today by Phillies fans: â€œWeâ€™re really used to disappointment.â€
The DVD moves through those early days with nice pacing and just the right amount of attention paid to those players who deserve it, including interviews with historians and archivists who clearly love the team and its history. None offers up simplistic, â€œthis guy was great!â€ dialogue; instead, they speak with clarity and affection for each moment, each player, placing these highlights in their historical context.
When Phillies Memories moves to the â€™50s and â€™60s it begins reviewing the players and games I grew up hearing about. The footage of Richie Ashburn and Dick Allen offers fans a chance to connect these playersâ€™ reputations with actual footage, and understand why these guys had the impact they did. Allen shows up to talk about his career, punctuating the footage and focusing on his teams rather than flattering himself.
All my boyhood heroes, in their horrible prom-tux-blue and red uniforms, show up when the DVD reviews the bright spots of the â€™70s. This scrappy bunch of guys â€“ Steve â€œLeftyâ€ Carlton, Greg â€œthe Bullâ€ Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox, and the rest — rose from the ashes of one near miss after another, and always played their guts out. All of those almosts led to the glory year of 1980, when finally the Phils could call themselves the best team in the land.
Another fallow period followed the teamâ€™s second World Series appearance (a loss) in 1983, before another team of blue-collar grinders made Philly proud again â€“ particularly in 1993. Curt Schilling, John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra â€¦ Mitch Williams â€¦ they played with reckless abandon and toughness, and had their chances in the â€™93 Series. (I still maintain that if Jim Fregosi had left Roger Mason in to close out Game 6, we would have won that game and the series.)
Phillies Memories might have been more satisfying had it gone deeper into the intricacies of big games like that one, and the players of those games. But with so much to cover and only 145 minutes to do it, this well-timed DVD offers a near-complete overview of a team that has been in the National League since the very beginning, has employed its share of players who changed the game, and has played a huge role in the life of a city that relies on the Phillies for a big part of its identity.
Markus Flanagan is an actor and the author of One Less Bitter Actor: The Actor’s Survival Guide.