Wilmington Evening Journal - October 27, 1980

I tell you true – I love the Phillies


By Ralph S. Moyed


FIRST OFF, I THINK Tug McGraw's performance on the field this fall was the greatest thing to happen to Philadelphia since Frank Rizzo flunked his lie-detector test.


The Phillies have a championship trophy to prove they can hit, throw and catch baseballs better than any group of men in the world. I love each and every one of them. Even the Phillie Phanatic.


I am not given to such public affirmations of affection, but it became necessary after I finally found my office mailbox. The cubicle had disappeared for several days, but since my desk was still in place I didn't worry too much.


Later, I discovered that a clerk, believing that Adams and Beach had been on top too long, re-arranged the mailboxes in reverse alphabetical order.


By the time I located my cubicle, the mail had piled up. Much of it concerned my journalistic venture into baseball in which I quoted gems from the mouths of a few star Phillies. The letters were not complimentary.


I thought I was performing a public service. All summer and into the fall, Americans had read and heard so much about the squabbles that were wracking the Phils' dressing room. Players couldn't get along with each other, their fans and especially their manager – to say nothing of the sportswriters.


Folks who don't dote on baseball were puzzled by all the griping from young men who play a game and, for doing so, get paid more than the average crooked congressman steals.


Why should the players complain? I thought the answer was simple.


The Phillies are great baseball players, charming individuals, good family men, great Americans – but some are dumber than is the right of a professional athlete.


Little did it matter to the letter writers that my favorite Phillie, Tug McGraw, lent credence to my argument when he rose at the World Series victory celebration and said New York could take the championship – the one it doesn't have – and "stick it."


One irate correspondent took time from his labors for the Du Pont Co. to write that my report on the Phillies was "consummate garbage… a putdown without a point."


Another made me feel downright un-American. Have I forgotten what baseball stars have done for the children and adolescents of this country? (I remember what baseball stars had done for me. In an era when they played the game in the daylight, the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Ferris Fain inspired me to cut school on several occasions.)


I would have thought that a woman who views baseball players as "shallow figures" would have been kind to me.


But no. When I attempted to explain in the column why the Phillies behaved so strangely, I became "part of the problem," she wrote. By suggesting that Larry Bowa isn't too bright, I became one more cog "in the machinery of this meaningless inflation of SPORTS perpetrated by the press," said this writer, who listed an address in Newark.


It is more than harmless fakery. "Incessant media hype, the woman wrote, may be held responsible not only for sports scandals but "academic, financial and ethical-moral" problems and the decline in our national character.


After reading that, I was glad I never became a sportswriter.


MY CONTRIBUTIONS to the moral degeneration of the I nation were duly noted in another letter I found in my I lost mailbox. This had nothing to do with my report on the national pastime. It was in reaction to what I have written about politicians in the pulpit.


A writer from Wilmington took issue with a column in which I commented on Jerry Falwell and other right-wing television Bible-thumpers who were offering salvation through Ronald Reagan.


The writer noted that anyone, even "a reporter or a man of God," has the right in this country to voice feelings on issues and candidates.


Getting to the core of the issue, my correspondent said, "Brother Falwell voices the name of God." He was sorry I couldn't hear it.


He also seemed sorry I wrote that Falwell's followers bullied their way into control of the Alaska delegation to the Republican National Convention. "Perhaps more people should bully their way into control – by voting also," the man declared. In Alaska, unfortunately, Moral Majority did not seize control of the GOP delegation by votes but by threatening to expose their opponents as heathens and nonbelievers.


I had mentioned something about matters degenerating, which is all the reader needed. "Personally, I feel that your column degenerated rather rapidly, and as a Christian and American, I despise degenerating things and will stand against them."


EVEN DEGENERATES need love. So I was delighted to find a letter congratulating me on a column marking William Li P. Frank's diamond jubilee. "It was beautiful," said the writer. She had to add that Bill Frank was her favorite columnist "along with Mike Royko, Ellen Goodman and Russell Baker.


"And you are slowly joining that list.”


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Ralph S. Moyed's column appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Evening Journal, and in the Sunday News Journal.