Monday, July 16, 2007

10,000 losses and one Steve Jeltz

Yesterday the Philadelphia Phillies became the first sport franchise in the recorded history of the universe to lose 10,000 games. It's a feat of longevity, more than anything else. Although there are a handful of other baseball teams that have been around for as long or longer than the Phillies, so ineptitude can't be ruled out completely.

As a Phillies' fan who has borne witness to a good chunk of this longevity and ineptitude, I can honestly say I feel fine. The Phillies have brought me many good memories. OK, they have brought me some good memories. OK, I actually do remember when the Phillies won their only World Series in 1980. Granted I was quite young, and I didn't appreciate it the way I would have had it happened a couple years later.

But really, when I reflect back upon 15 years of waking up early so I could check the morning box score before school and, after that, walking out in the middle of many a conversations because I just got the sudden urge to go check the Internet to see how the Phillies were doing, it doesn't come back as an endless parade of losses and disappointment.

Instead I remember all the interesting people my Phillies' fandom has exposed me to. Like Steve Jeltz. Jeltz was relatively slick-fielding, absolutely no-hitting shortstop who started for the Phillies between 1985-1989, and who, along with Juan Samuel, made up the jheri curliest* middle infield of the National League.

For reasons never properly explained, Steve Jeltz was born in Paris, France. While Jeltz's last name was typically pronounced how it spelled, I preferred to refer to him as Steve yeltz. I did so either as a nod to his almost-Iberian place of birth, or because anyone so light hitting needed to be denied the hard J. I can't remember which. Maybe it was both.

Now I do remember the time Steve Jeltz, who hit exactly five home runs in his eight year major league career, managed to smack two homers in one game . . . after entering as a pinch hitter. . . hitting one from each side of the plate . . . leading the Phillies to victory in a game they had fallen behind 10-0 in the first inning!

That was exciting. There is good memory.

Losses come and go, and by the time they accumulate to 10,000 the very concept of being defeated loses its meaning. But Steve Jeltz's shockingly big day . . . that sticks around forever.

*The double play tandem's matching locks were so overwhelmingly distracting that Samuel's picture appears on Jeltz's 1988 Donruss trading card.

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