Since I used to live near Philadelphia but never remotely embraced the Phillies because of my Shea Stadium heritage, it is with some stifled glee that I read about a public relations snafu the Eastern Division Champions have wrestled with for the last three months.
Apparently, it took a threatened lawsuit from a Flordia attorney to get the Phillies to return the ball that Ryan Howard socked for HR No. 200, which would have been notable enough, but it also marked the fastest trek to that milestone in major league history.
According to the story in the Miami Herald, Phillies officials approached the 12-year-old girl who caught the ball, brought her into the clubhouse and offered her a trade of another baseball (signed by Howard) in exchange for the historic homer. There was no suggestion of any hot lights being applied and certainly no allegations of waterboarding, despite the inherently suspicious proximity to Guantanamo Bay, but the youngster ended up surrendering her treasure.
After the little girl got home, her parents realized what had happened and consulted an attorney, who ultimately started contacting the Phillies to get the ball back.
Here’s where I think it gets fascinating. After more than two months, the lawyer quite astutely sent one of those threatening letters right at the end of the regular season, and by Tuesday the little girl had her ball back.
According to the Herald, the Phillies did not return a phone call Tuesday, with the reporter noting that the club officials have other things on their minds with the start of the Playoffs today.
What I find so intriguing is that the Phillies presumably caved because they didn’t want TV announcers jabbering during Game One against the Rockies about how the club got into an unseemly tussle with a 12-year-old girl. I guess I would be surprised if the story doesn’t still manage to pop up in some fashion.
But just to show you that I am hardly holier than thou or even the Phillies, I have an admission to make after 50 years. In 1959 in Muskegon, Mich., I hosed my best friend by engineering a grotesquely lopsided trade with his younger brother that left me with Rodney’s entire first series of 1959 Topps, this coming at a time when 9-year-old Rodney was at the dentist.
I feel great shame.