Major Leagues: Sad Sack Series
By Dan Gelston
PHILADELPHIA ó Welcome to World Series, 2008. Let’s meet our contestants.
From Philadelphia, the losingest team in pro sports history. From Tampa Bay, a club that on opening day could have made a strong case for worst expansion franchise ever.
Call it the Sad Sack Series, when one of these teams finally has to shed its tradition of futility and become the big winner.
Game 1 is Wednesday.
The Rays started with 10 straight losing seasons.
But that’s a blip compared to the 16 straight years of losing endured by the Phillies from 1933 to 1948. In fact, the Phillies have done worse than that twice. They were also under .500 for each season from 1918-31. From 1918-1948, a span of 31 seasons, the Phillies had one winning record ó a 78-76 season in 1932.
At least the Phillies boast Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts as all-time greats. Heck, they had four Cy Young Award winners in the 1980s, and home run champ Ryan Howard (2006) and All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins (2007) have won the last two NL MVP awards.
Yet for all that talent, thrilling September pennant chases and a recent string of winning seasons, the Phillies have but one World Series title, and that was back in 1980.
Tampa Bay tried to rely on other team’s fading stars to build a fan base..
Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff and Vinny Castilla were “Past-Their-Prime-Time Players” and all busts with Tampa Bay. Manager Lou Piniella dyed his hair blond after a three-game win streak in 2003, but couldn’t win much else in a failed return to his hometown. Even the original “Devil” in the nickname was a flop, and got pitchforked out.
Tampa Bay’s highlight reel before this season consisted of Wade Boggs’ 3,000th hit in 1999 and Sammy Sosa’s corked bat exploding against Devil Rays pitcher Geremi Gonzalez in 2003.
Ahh, but at least Tampa Bay knows the thrill of kicking Philly down in other sports.
Again, the men from the Sunshine State are standing in the way of a Philadelphia championship.
The blood of Eagles fans still curdles like the cheese on their steaks at the thought of the 2003 NFC championship game. Philadelphia was favored to send since-demolished Veterans Stadium out with a championship but the Buccaneers stunned the Eagles 27-10. The Bucs would go on to beat Oakland and win the Super Bowl.
Fifteen months later, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Flyers 2-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Tampa Bay then won a seven-game series against the Calgary Flames to celebrate with the Stanley Cup.
CHARLOTTE ó You can grumble all you want about John Fox’s pedestrian offense but because of Fox’s defense, it was... read more