Baseball: The Phillies & Knocking Wood

by Suzie Raven

I’ve been knocking on wood for the last week.

I couldn’t leave anything up to chance — or worse, mere talent — with the Philadelphia Phillies fighting for a spot in the World Series (which begins next week). This meant mini-freak outs whenever anyone accidentally jinxed my team.

Example: When Matt Stair’s deep home run in the top of the 8th in Game 4 gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead, my friend who was watching the game with me made the mistake of saying, “That’s game.”

A two run lead never means "Game Over." Ask anyone who watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox blew a two-run lead in the 10th inning, thanks to three hits, a wild pitch, and an easy grounder rolling between Bill Buckner’s legs. Instead of winning the World Series that day, they lost it in Game 7.

My friend knocked on wood (I insisted), and the Phillies bullpen held the Los Angeles Dodgers scoreless for the rest of the game.

My superstition may or may not make a difference for the Phillies, but I’ll never know. I surely won’t test it during the Phillies' first trip to the World Series since 1993!

I owe Tampa Bay a huge apology: breaking my superstition cost them the game could have sent them to the Series. When the Rays extended their lead to 7-0 in the 7th inning of Thursday’s Game 5, I thought they clinched a spot in the World Series. In the 8th, the Red Sox tied the score at 7 and then won in the bottom of the ninth.

If the Phillies were in the same spot, I would never have thought the game was over. Luckily, I haven’t let myself think about how the Phillies will do in the World Series, whoever they face. Only one thought: I am out-of-my-mind excited that they made it this far.

Yes, Brad Lidge hasn’t blown a save in 2008. Yes, Cole Hamels only gave up four runs in 22 postseason innings to earn the National League Championship Series MVP award. Yes, Jimmy Rollins hit lead off home runs in two games this post season (Game 4 of the National League Division Series and Game 5 of the NLCS), both times setting the tone for the Phillies' offense.

That doesn’t make Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka’s 2.90 regular season ERA less formidable. It doesn’t mean that David Ortiz and Jason Varitek won’t shake their American League Championship Series hitting slumps during the World Series.

Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña and Carl Crawford of the Rays can counter the bats of Rollins, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino. Like the Phillies, Tampa Bay has a phenomenal bullpen. Anything can happen — as we saw in last night’s Red Sox win.

While the Phightin’ Phils prepare for the World Series, I’ll buy band-aids to help my knuckles through two more weeks of knocking on wood.

(To see Suzie Raven's early prediction about the success of the Phillies, please see: "Baseball: The Phillies' Secret Weapon, the Bullpen." Please also see: "Baseball: The Phillies Corner the Brewers & Sabathia," and "Baseball: The Phillies Head to the NLCS.")

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doug said...

I am SO with you on this one. As a lifetime member of the Phillies Phan Club, I realize that we tend to be a little bit uhhhh hmmm cynical? Pessimistic? I mean, how many heartbreaks can we really have? I'll be knocking on wood, wearing by pj's backwards, crossing my fingers and toes, and whatever else I can think of to keep our luck!

As an aside, I posted about this yesterday too if you are interested: http://toblogor.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/damnit-to-all-heckerr-i-mean-yay/

Turk said...

Totally hear ya on the superstition sentiment. Last year when my Tribe was getting their hearts broken by the Red Sawx I had a shrine set up on my TV -- every cap, jersey and piece of Indians memorobilia had its place on the TV stand and could not be moved under any circumstance. I wore the appropriate cap/jersey combo for home and road games. I listened to "Cleveland Rocks" first thing every morning and at least 10 times throughout the course of each day we were in the playoffs. So yeah, I get a bit crazy/OCD about playoff baseball, you could say.

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