Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Learn to Dance the Jonathan Papelbon Way!

Best thing about the 2007 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox?

The Papelbon Riverdance.


This one doesn't have any dancing, but it's a great distillation of how it feels to be a Red Sox fan right now. And I clearly need to get that Dropkick Murphys song.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bully for You, Patriots

Every NFL fan has teams he or she hates.

Of course, there are the obvious arch-rivals; Raiders-Chiefs, Packers-Bears, Steelers-Browns. I myself have a shirt that reads “MY TWO FAVORITE TEAMS ARE THE REDSKINS AND WHOEVER’S PLAYING THE COWBOYS.” And of course we root against division rivals, but I have to admit that I don’t feel the same level of white-hot hatred for the Giants and Eagles as I do for Dallas.

But occasionally personal experience brings a personal hatred. About twelve years ago, a quirk of scheduling had my Redskins playing two games in one season against Tampa Bay, home and away. It was like they were honorary NFC East for a season. This was, I believe, the last year they wore orange-and-orange; 1994 or 1995. The ‘Skins lost both games in ugly fashion; not by blowouts but by simple inability to execute. The Bucs were a bad team, but the ‘Skins made them look good, and that’s the worst kind of loss. I have despised the Buccaneers ever since. I’m commissioner of my fandom, and the commish holds a grudge.

It is with that experience in mind that I congratulate Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots for their 52-7 victory over Washington on Sunday. Well done, Coach. You have earned my enmity, taken a team I rooted for in every postseason of the 2000s and placed them just one layer of Hell higher than the Cowboys for me.

It’s not that they beat my team badly; that I can take. Hell, since 1992 I’m pretty used to an annual savage beat-down. With the Redskins' offensive line on crutches and stretchers and quarterback Jason Campbell suddenly reverting to doe-eyed-rookie play quality the last two weeks, a bad loss was inevitable. It’s the completely classless manner in which New England scored the last, oh about 30 points, that has earned my hatred, as well as the scorn of NFL commentators across the nation. Before this week, the Patriots looked like a team of destiny. Now they just look like bullies.

I have to acknowledge that I didn’t watch the whole game. I had a performance of Richard II at 2:30, and the game started at 4:15. I got to my car after the show and turned on the radio with the Redskins down 17-0 and driving down the field. Campbell turned the ball over and the Pats had just over two minutes remaining before the half. They threw a couple of passes, which the ‘Skins secondary just clearly couldn’t defend. Suddenly I noticed that they weren’t calling any running plays. The clock and game management was excellent; it was precise and well-executed, and they scored another touchdown with just a few seconds left to lead 24-0 at the half.

I muttered out loud in my car, “Running up the score a little, don’t you think?”

I hadn’t seen anything yet.

My viewing of the second half was marred by the fact that I had to figure out how to turn on the heat in my house before the sun set. In between reading the wrong manual and trips in and out of the back yard, I saw the Patriots execute pass after pass, a fake spike, a linebacker catching passes, passing on fourth down, and not a sniff of Redskins offense.

I’m sure some random Patriots fan ( Scott Wichmann ) will be posting any second now to explain how this wasn’t running up the score, but he’ll be wrong. In the first-ever regular-season meeting of coaches who have won three Super Bowls, Bill Belichick demonstrated to football America what the difference between old school and new school is. Old school kicks your ass, then promptly gets back to work on the next game plan; new school kicks your ass, wants everyone to see them kick your ass, wants them to see how they kicked you ass, wants them to see just how badly they kicked your ass, and wants them to see just how they’re going to kick the next guy’s ass.

But mostly, new school wants to punish the NFL for finding out they cheated.

Here’s what you do in the NFL if you have any class or respect whatsoever. Once you get a four-touchdown or so lead, you hand the ball to the running back. You call plays that don’t cause injuries to your team or the other team, you kill the clock, you take your double-digit victory and you go home happy. If the opposing defense is so inept that they can’t stop your run-after-run and you score, the fault is theirs. You can beat them without intentionally humiliating them. A bad team humiliates itself.

Joe Gibbs would never have called those ridiculous pass and gadget plays with an opponent down 24-0, 31-0, 38-0. Vince Lombardi wouldn’t have. Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, and even Bill Parcells, whom I loathe with all my soul, wouldn’t have. But Bill Belichick would.

Thanks again, Coach, for showing us who you are so clearly. I could look past the cheating and the snubbing of opposing coaches enough to still root for Tom Brady. But humiliating Joe Jackson Gibbs like you did on Sunday is so far across the line that I can’t anticipate ever coming back.

And it’s not just Washington fans who are going to see this. Don’t think NFL players and coaches are just going to take being disrespected. This is coming back to bite the Patriots, and soon. Some linebacker, his team down 35-7, is going to take Brady down with a late hit; some free safety is going to spear Moss across the middle, someone is going to take Vrabel down low. His team will take the 15-yard penalty, the offender will be kicked out of the game, he’ll be fined six figures, and he’ll get thank you cards from players on 31 teams. I’m not recommending this, nor am I approving it; I’m just the messenger. Starting week 10 (because the Colts’ Tony Dungy is too classy to allow it in week 9) we’re going to see increasingly dirty play against these Patriots.

Congratulations, Coach Bullychick, on your 52-7 victory over the Redskins. Your Patriots are my new Cowboys. I guess you finally understand the full power of the dark side of the Force.


Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hell Is Having No Internet Access

Our Verizon DSL is not working for some reason. It may have something to do with the fact that various Verizon help line people gave us four separate dates for when we could expect to have it working, but it's still not up. So pardon me if this blog is updated infrequently and my emails go unread for a day or two.

Here's the last couple weeks in blog material, condensed for time.

Go Red Sox! I knew they would pull it out, and in fact would have predicted it here had I access.

Boston's three days off equal rest. Colorado's nine days off equal rust. Sox over Rox in six. There's a prediction for you.

Skins-Pats is going to be tighter than anyone is predicting.

Jennifer Massey's acting class is amazing.

Dave T's blog has become very interesting over the last week. All internet communication should have your real name attached.

That's all for today.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Times-Dispatch Review of "Richard II"

I have known for a while that the Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's production of Richard II (of which I'm proud to be a small part of the cast) was going to be something special. The Richmond Time-Dispatch's Susan Haubenstock evidently agrees.

An excerpt:

'Richard II' a true thrill to behold
Shakespeare troupe serves history play on a silver platter

Sunday, Oct 14, 2007 - 12:08 AM Updated: 06:37 AM


I've left plays at intermission only twice in my life. Twenty-five years ago I walked out of an off-Broadway performance of "Richard II" starring no less a figure than William Hurt as Richard. It was crashingly, stultifyingly dull.

Richmond Shakespeare has redeemed "Richard" for me.

In a thrilling production of Shakespeare's history play -- prequel to the company's "Henry IV, Part 1" from their summer season at Agecroft Hall -- director James Ricks shows how successful the company's signature approach can be.

Focusing on language, with pared-down cast, simple lighting effects and virtually no set, Ricks conducts an exciting cast of actors who illuminate the captivating drama. Aided mightily by Rebecca Cairns' rich costumes, and with a minimal but effective sound design of his own making, Ricks manages the beautiful verse of the playwright and the unparalleled energy of the actors with aplomb.

I can see William Hurt being a bore as King Richard II. It's a very talky role, and it takes a special actor to make him anything other than pitiable and annoying.

Fortunately, our Mike Newman is a very, very special actor, who doesn't speak the words so much as attack them. I'm amazed every night at Richard's strength and dignity, the real nobility of his spirit growing as his worldly nobility is stripped away.

As anyone who has talked with me recently knows, Richard II is my favorite play in the entire Shakespearean canon. I love the themes, the language is arguably Shakespeare's best, and it interests me far more as a psychological study than even Hamlet. Richard is a great role, but it's Henry Bolingbroke who really intrigues me. Jeff Schmidt has wrapped himself around the future King Henry IV in a performance that matches or exceeds his superb Antony last year.

But the actor I'm really excited about is Stephen Ryan, and I'm so pleased that Ms. Haubenstock picked him out as well. Stephen is an unusual actor type (I know the feeling) and it's got to be somewhat rare for him to find a role that fits his natural strengths as well as the Duke of York does. York is strong and passionate in some instances, but weak and indecisive in others, and his decision to remain neutral in the civil conflict renders all King Richard's military might completely impotent. Stephen's performance is one of my favorites in the show because you can always see the strength of York in his weakness, and his weakness in his strength. It's just great.

The whole cast is excellent, if I do say so myself, on a very similar level to those of Henry IV, Part I or The Taming of the Shrew. I love the whole cast. Elise Boyd's dignified Bishop of Carlisle, Jude Fageas' unforgettable rehearsal humor and Lord Jamal, Jennie Meharg's wounded yet towering Queen Isabel, Julie Phillips' seven disparate characters, Stephen Seals playing both Jeff's father and mine with total commitment, and John Witkiewicz's marvelously smarmy Aumerle combine for a marvelous ensemble. James Ricks was one of my favorite directors ever; we never seemed to be working very hard yet so much got done so quickly. Stage Manager Heather Johnson, tiny little thing that she is, brilliantly manages to keep all ten of us pointed in the right direction. And Rebecca and Annie knock the costumes out of the park once again.

I hope you'll all come out to see it.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Moving In Blues

...or maybe the Oranges. Isn't orange opposite blue on the color wheel? So when you're happy you should have a case of the Oranges.

So we're all in the new house, and all out of the old one. Saturday's Big Move took over six hours when all was said and done, and really killed my knee and my hips. As a sort of post-move "screw you," I now have a red, itchy rash on my left leg where my knee brace was. But all our stuff is in our new home, albeit largely in boxes or the wrong room.

Some highlights:

While cleaning all the ancient junk out of the detached shed, I was sweeping leaves to uncover some white shapes. "Please let them not be ribs," I said out loud. They were. A complete opossum skeleton was lying in the very back of the shed. After scooping it carefully into a garbage bag, I turned around to find another opossum skeleton a few feet away from it, curled up and untouched. That was too much for me in the half-light of the shed. We're donating the skeleton to the education room at Maymont. With any luck, it will have a little plaque reading "Gift of Andrew and Karen Hamm."

DSL is the last utility to be attached. Phone came a half-hour later than the 8:00-12:00 window they scheduled, so when Cable called Monday morning, there was no answer, so they didn't come when they were scheduled. They came back Tuesday morning, and we bought 10o0 gallons of propane Wednesday morning. Now I just need to figure out how to turn the furnace on. DSL takes at least 72 hours after the phone line has started up to work. I'm checking emails at Crossroads about once every two days. It's like swimming through spam.

There's more room than we thought in the house. Seriously, once the kitchen is all set up, the dining room is going to look like a rehearsal room with one small table and two chairs in the middle. And I think we're going to be able to get my mother's chair fixed and set up in the living room.

The movers made one big gouge in the downstairs hallway--where we had just painted. I'm calling the fact that there's only one gouge a huge success.

The cable guy very kindly removed the yards and yards of excess cable that seemed to be in every room, even though it wasn't his job.

The house doesn't appear to be haunted, which is seriously one of my big fears.

It's been cold enough to have to use a space heater and electric blanket, what with no heat propane.

I feel like quite the handyman after installing lock latches and connecting the washer and drier.

The master closet is the size of a small room.

More later. Once some more boxes are emptied, I'll take pictures and post them. Phil and Joehammy are coming for a few hours to play this weekend, so I need to focus on studio readiness by Saturday morning.

Friday, October 12, 2007

VCU's Eric Maynor in the Washington Post

Not much time to write, but Phil sent me this link to a great Post piece on Eric Maynor, who led VCU to their monumental win over Duke last March. It's good reading.

Jesse Pellot-Rosa did not make the Jets roster. He's back in Richmond, working for a law firm for which he's worked since he was a teen. He has played some roundball out of the country and plans to continue to do so. And my former student B.A. Walker signed recently with a professional basketball team in Iceland. I guess that's the sports equivalent to regional theatre...

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 08, 2007

Deep Thoughts About Actor Training

I got a random email from an Averett University student this morning. Taking a theatre class, the students had the assignment of asking a theatre artist the following question: What skills training do actors need? I'm very passionate about this particular subject, and am even writing a book about it. After I had written my answer, I thought I should probably post it here, since that's kind of what here is for.

So here's what I wrote:

Artists in general, and actors in particular, need to rely less on their talent and more on their commitment. Talent can only take you so far; you will reach a plateau at a certain point and then be unable to advance any further. Artists need training that shows them what they don't know how to do and then shows them how to do it. They need training that takes their native talent and stretches and builds it like muscle.

Actors need to train as more than actors. Too many actor training programs become little communities focused only on theatre, where everyone inside eats, breathes, and sleeps nothing but theatre. That's useless. The bottom line is, theatre artists hold the mirror up to human experience (to paraphrase Shakespeare), and so theatre artists must become students of life at least as much as they are students of theatre. Actors need to train in acting, history, literature, music, and dance. They need to train as lighting technicians, stage hands, scene designers, playwrights, directors, and musicians.

Modern actors should train in some variation of the Stanislavski System because Stanislavski is like ballet; if you can learn the foundations, you can learn the rest more easily. But they also need to learn that "Method Acting" is far from the be-all and end-all of technique; they need to learn Elizabethan, Restoration, clowning, and absurdist styles as well. They should learn what other styles and theories there are. Biomechanics, Poor Theatre, Dada, etc.

Most importantly, actors need to learn how to learn. They need to know that the same old stuff that they've done as an actor for their entire lives is just the beginning of their capabilities. The craft of acting is closely tied in with who you are as a person; developing and growing as an artist must also develop and grow you as a person, and the reverse is even more true. Get out of the rehearsal hall, get off the stage and get out in the world. Go to a baseball game and keep score. Read a science fiction novel in a coffee shop. Write bad poetry. Have a conversation with someone who wants to talk about something other than Ibsen. And be passionate about more than just acting. Be passionate about living.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Who's Cursed Now?

Well, the ALDS series are going exactly as I'd hoped, the NLDS the exact opposite. Also, my prediction that all four series would go the full five games seems a tad unlikely since all four series currently stand at 2-0. Colorado continues to roll against Philadelphia, Arizona is making the Cubs look like the Cubs, and Boston has been too clutch for the Angels to handle.

But it's the Yankees-Indians that I want to talk about.

Let's look at some numbers. Since taking a 3-0 lead over the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees have a combined postseason record of 3-12. This streak, of course, began with the franchise-crippling collapse as Boston took the last four games of that series. Yes, the Yankees have made the postseason every year for over a decade, but since 2000 it's been only to lose. Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' everything-but-champion thoroughbred, who had a gaudy 6 homers and 13 RBIs in New York's six-game season sweep of Cleveland, is 0-for-6 in the first two games of the Division Series, and the Yankees are hitting .121 as a team.

I've got news for you, Yankee fans. Your team is the new Red Sox. They're a regular-season powerhouse, good enough to get you there, but there's something broken or missing in their spirit, the something that wins championships. Now you're starting to learn how it feels to root for a team that's cursed, or that has lost 10,000 games in its history: desperation disguised as hope and every confidence marred by crossed fingers. It may be time for Joe Torre to ride off into the sunset, not because he's not a brilliant Hall-of-Fame manager, but just because after seven years the magic and chemistry of the Yankees' late-90s run is simply, demonstrably, just not there any more.

For more evidence that the very elements are conspiring against the Yankees, look at poor Joba "Don't Call Me the Hutt" Chamberlain, whose eighth inning appearance was one of the strangest things I've ever seen in sports. A swarm of insects descended on the Yankees in the field, concentrating around Chamberlain on the mound, circling his head and sticking to his sweaty skin. A time out had to be called for Off spray to be applied; it did nothing. Holding a tenuous 1-0 lead, Chamberlain walked Grady Sizemore on four pitches, then threw a wild pitch which allowed him to advance to second. After a sac bunt moved Sizemore to third, the pitcher bounced another wild one past catcher Jorge Posada, allowing the Indians to tie the game.

Seriously, I'm moving my Bible study back to Exodus to look for evidence that Moses was a Sox fan. Who let the bugs out! Bzz! Bzz bzz! Bzz bzz! I half-expect frogs to descend on Yankee Stadium for game three.

It's sure looking like Cleveland-Boston Arizona-Colorado LCSes. Can the Yankees (or the Cubs, the Angels, or my beloved Phillies) come back from the brink of elimination? Sure they can. For inspiration, all they have to do is look to the example of the 2004 Red Sox to see what a legendary comeback looks like.

Or they can look at the 2004 Yankees for an example of legendary collapse, a disintegration which seems to continue three years later.


Monday, October 01, 2007

First Decorating at the New House!

I thought you'd like to see the excellent use I've made of the decorative rectangle thing. Photos by Grant Mudge.

Also, Grant and I ripped up the red carpet. The hardwood is in good shape, aside from having paint drips and drabs on it. I'm not sure I can justify refinishing the floor at this point; maybe next year. Painting the walls is a much bigger bang for the buck improvement at this point.

EDIT: All lies! I'm halfway through cleaning the floor with a scraper and Goof-Off and it looks fabulous! I'm hoping to finish it tomorrow morning. It will need a new coat of wax or something, but it's going to look okay.

Jayson Stark on the Phillies

With packing, moving, and other such bedlam, I don't have time to expound on the glory of my beloved Red Sox and Phillies winning their respective divisions this year. I will say that the Phillies' comeback the last two weeks is one of my favorite sports stories ever. And there's something very satisfying about the Yankees being the Wild Card for a change. I can only hope or dread that the Sox and Phightins meet in the Fall Classic.

For now, I present Jayson Stark, who wrote a beautiful piece about the Phillies over at

Phillies somehow make the impossible happen
By Jayson Stark
Updated: September 30, 2007

PHILADELPHIA -- Every once in a while in sports, stuff happens that just can't happen. Can't. Shouldn't. Doesn't feel like it happened even after it happened.

We think we've just witnessed another insane, improbable example of that phenomenon -- the tale of the 2007 Phillies.

We know they won the NL East on Sunday. We know they beat those cooperative Washington Nationals, 6-1. We saw it happen. Saw the man who threw the final pitch, Brett Myers, fire his glove into the sky. Saw the fireworks erupt above him. Felt the stadium gyrate. Saw the champagne spray.

But even after seeing all that, we found ourselves asking: What just happened?

Didn't the Mets just lead this team by seven games, not even three weeks ago?

Wasn't this a team with a 4.73 staff ERA, a team that gave up 821 runs this year, a team everybody in the entire United States of America knew didn't have enough pitching to win?

Wasn't this a team that -- considering it just finished a season in which it put five starting pitchers, two closers, the incumbent MVP and the guy who seemed destined to become this year's MVP on the disabled list -- needed a trainer's room the size of Fairmount Park?

Wasn't this a team managed by Charlie Manuel, a fellow whose city concluded, about 12 seconds after he came to town, that he couldn't manage a car wash, let alone a division champion?

Wasn't this a team that played in a football town, a town that long ago decided the local baseball team wasn't ever going to win anything in the next 10 or 12 centuries?

So how do we explain what just happened here? How do we explain the most improbable September comeback of all time, happening to this team? How do we explain these miracles of sports, when this stuff that can't happen somehow does?

"I don't know how to explain it," said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the man who clearly saw this coming months before anyone else, the man who said back in January that this was The Team To Beat. "I don't know why you feel certain things or why things happen. But I just felt that way. Something came over me. The question was asked. And I just said yes, I feel we're the team to beat. ... And in the end, that's how things happened."

Those things couldn't have happened without a whole lot of self-destruction from those star-crossed front-runners, the Mets, of course. Those things couldn't have happened if the Mets hadn't become the first team in history to make a seven-game lead vaporize in the final 17 games of a season.

But if you go through the great collapses in sports, you'll find one thing in common:

There has always been more than one actor in every one of those shows.

You can't collapse unless there's someone there to catch you. You can't finish second unless someone else roars out of your rearview mirror to finish first.

So while much of the hemisphere will choose to remember what transpired here as a monumental el foldo by the Mets, there will always be another side to this story.

There will always be this Phillies team, a team that went 13-4 down the stretch as those Mets were going 5-12. A team that glued itself closer together as those Mets fell apart. A team that couldn't possibly win -- not logically, not even mathematically -- but did.

Remember, this team led in the standings for precisely one day all season until the moment it started shooting that champagne around the room. The only other National League team in history to do that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the 1951 Bobby Thomson Giants -- another team that had people asking: What just happened?

Well, when stuff like this does happen -- this stuff that defies all sense of what's probable, or even possible -- there is always more to it than the names on the scorecard, or the numbers on the stat sheet.

"You know what?" said Manuel on Sunday. "We love to play. If you watch us play, our players really love to play. I've been around a lot of teams. And this team here, as far as chemistry goes, is definitely the best [of any] team I've ever been around. "And I think who we have and how they play, our chemistry, our atmosphere which comes from the guys on this team, is what definitely made the difference in pulling this off. I think some of the teams I've had before were divided at times. But this team right here is a team that stayed together."

That was never how it used to be, you realize. For years, this was a team whose reputation was the mirror image of the 2007 version. All those teams heard, for years, was that they "didn't know how to win." Or didn't know how to win when they most needed to win. Or something like that.

The GM who put this team together, Pat Gillick, made his share of moves that didn't work. No doubt about that. But he's gotten no credit for the best thing he did -- consciously remaking this club's chemistry, deliberately building around energizers like Rollins, Chase Utley and Aaron Rowand.

"This is a big-game club now," said Myers. "I think we relish these situations, of being in big games when they count. I think we play better when we're relaxed. And I think we felt like we had nothing to lose coming into these last two weeks.

"I don't think anybody in here was pressing, especially compared with the past couple of years when I've been here and we've been so close and came up short. I think there are a lot of guys here who have been through that. And we're just like, we've seen how that is and how that feels, and it's not fun. And we've seen how tense we get -- like, we've gotta win, we've gotta win, we've gotta win. ... And it's just different now."

We'll never be able to measure how much of that difference is a product of the never-ending positive energy that flows out of the local shortstop. But let's just say they're related developments.

On Sunday, Rollins was one of the last Phillies to arrive at the ballpark -- to the point where Manuel gently kidded him beforehand: "Hey, you gonna play today?"

Rollins flashed that smile that almost never leaves his face. Was he going to play? Yeah, right. His team had teed it up for 161 games before this one. The shortstop had started all 161. So "yeah," he laughed. "I'm gonna play."

By the time he reached home plate in the bottom of the first inning, the framework for this outrageous plot was already in place -- right there on the out-of-town scoreboard in front of him, a board that read: "FLA 7, NYM 0."

"That was the first standing O for an out-of-town scoreboard that I've ever heard," said third baseman Greg Dobbs.

But the Phillies still needed to do something about their own end of the scoreboard. And that's all Rollins could think about as he rocked in the batter's box.

"I was trying to figure out, how was I going to get it started," Rollins would say later. "I was thinking about it all last night, and I really couldn't come up with any answers. You know, yesterday, we just kind of came out dry. You know, there was no pressure: If we lose, we still have tomorrow. If we win, we've still got to play tomorrow. But we didn't have that option today. And I was just trying to get things done."

He knew he was only 2-for-14 lifetime against Washington starter
Jason Bergmann. So it wasn't as if there was some "Get It Started" button he could push. But he decided to search for one anyhow.

"I came in there and ate like two bites of an omelette," Rollins said. "I didn't have much of an appetite. I just sat there and watched how he pitched, how he pitched, how he works and how he works. And when I got on base, I was going to do whatever it took to score a run."

He got on base with a line-drive single to center, six pitches into the game. Three pitches after that, he was on second with his 40th stolen base of the year. Eight pitches after that, he was on third with steal No. 41. Two pitches after that, he was crossing home plate on a sacrifice fly by Utley.

"And I think that allowed everybody to relax just a little bit," Rollins said, "and just play baseball the rest of the game."

That wasn't the end of Rollins' MVP highlight reel, though. There was a walk and another run scored (No. 139) in the third inning. And there was the dramatic pinnacle of his day -- an RBI triple in his 716th and final at-bat of the season, a triple that propelled him into the fabled 20-double, 20-triple, 20-homer, 20-steal club, alongside Willie Mays, Curtis Granderson and good old Wildfire Schulte.

It looked and felt like one of those "This Is What MVPs Do" video clips. But Rollins plans to leave the MVP arguments to someone else.

"I don't vote," he said the other day. "I just play. And I play to win."

But what he has always needed most, what all the thumpers in his lineup have always needed most to make that winning possible, wasn't more runs on the scoreboard. It was finding a few pitchers who could keep the other guys' runs off that scoreboard. And as you may have heard, that's been kind of a problem.

The Phillies' 4.73 team ERA is the highest of any NL playoff team in history that didn't play in scenic, altitudinous Denver, Colo. Those 821 runs they allowed are the most by any NL playoff team ever.

But the 820 they gave up over the first 161 games didn't matter a whole lot Sunday. All that mattered was that the guy they handed the ball to in Game 162 was just as determined not to let them lose.

That was 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, a man whose trip to that mound Sunday was poetically perfect for all kinds of reasons. For one thing, Moyer was the only player in uniform who could actually remember the last (and only time) the Phillies won a World Series. He was a 17-year-old kid from nearby Souderton, Pa., back in 1980 -- and blew off school to watch the parade.

"You know, we had a team meeting last year when we were going down the stretch, and I got to speak and share some things," Moyer said. "And I told these guys the last time I was involved with a parade, I was in high school and I skipped school to go watch it. And I said I'd like to go down Broad Street for a parade again some day -- except this time I'd like to be riding in one of those floats."

But Moyer's presence on that mound was fitting for reasons beyond his familiarity with parade floats. He was also the only Phillies starter to make it from start to finish this season without a visit to the disabled list, despite the slight technicality that he was the oldest starting pitcher in the league.

Oh. And one more thing: Even though Jamie Moyer was 550 starts into his career, he'd never, ever pitched a game quite like this one.

"I've pitched the last games of a season before," he said, after spinning off 5 1/3 innings of one-run baseball. "But I've never pitched a game at the end of a season that meant more than this."

Then again, just about no one else has, either. If you exclude seasons where both teams involved in a race this close were going to make the playoffs, this was only the second time in the last 25 seasons that two teams came to the park on the final day of a season in a flat tie for first place.

The only other time: 1993, when the Braves and Giants found themselves in that spot, 103 wins apiece into an epic season. Coincidentally, the man who pitched for the Braves that day was Tom Glavine. Which could have made for a special story. But it turned out that the old-timer with the best story on this day was Jamie Moyer.

He pitched the Phillies into the sixth, on the way to becoming the oldest pitcher in history to win a clinching game. Then he handed it over to the three men who have salvaged the Phillies' bullpen in a remarkable September -- Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero and Myers.

And then it was 4:34 p.m. local time. And Myers was spinning the third strike past Wily Mo Pena that finished off this unimaginable saga -- and unleashed a window-rattling roar that announced to the world that Philadelphia was, officially, a baseball town again.

You wouldn't have thought these people would know how to celebrate after all these years. Heck, since the last time the Phillies played a postseason game (1993), 23 other teams have played at least one playoff series. The Yankees alone have been to the playoffs 13 times in all those years when the Phillies didn't tour October once.

But the tears, the hugs and the 44,000 spinning rally towels told you these folks seemed to remember how this worked. And on the field below them, Myers was hurling his glove toward the clouds above -- and the team that made this possible had a pretty good celebration going itself.

"You know what," Myers would say an hour and a half later. "I don't even know where my glove is now. And you know what else? I don't think I care."

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Labels: ,