Alumni Weekend began at a sold-out luncheon for seniors on Thursday afternoon in the Diamond Club, and it ended with the first appearance of the Alumni Glee Club on Sunday afternoon.
Alumni Glee Club, you ask? Yep, led by the Phillie Phanatic wearing a tux, Gary Matthews, Larry Andersen, Tommy Greene, Ozzie Virgil, Von Hayes, Wayne Gomes, Ricky Bottalico and Ricky Jordan sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" in the bottom of the seventh inning. "American Idol" next? No chance.
Mike Lieberthal became the third catcher in the Toyota Wall of Fame on Friday night, surrounded by 12 previous inductees. Missing was Jim Bunning, who was attending the wedding of one of his 35 grandchildren.
Forty-five alumni, from eight decades, were introduced on the field Saturday night. First was the oldest living Phillie, 96-year-old Freddy Schmidt, who pitched for the Phils in 1947. Five All-Star catchers followed Freddy and began the parade: Bob Boone, Virgil, Lance Parrish, Darren Daulton and Lieberthal.
The first-pitch ceremony was a reversal of a longtime successful battery of Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver, who was honored in Cooperstown last month with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. Between the Cardinals and Phillies, McCarver caught Lefty 251 times, over 1,680 innings. McCarver's first pro game was in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1959 and the home-plate umpire was a young man named Brent Musburger. We brought him in from Montana to ump. McCarver lobbed a toss that Lefty backhanded way off the plate.
"Strike," bellowed Musburger.
McCarver was as excited as a child at Christmas when asked to throw the ball to Carlton. When it was over, McCarver said it was "one of the greatest moments of my life. I haven't seen Lefty that happy in a long time." MLB.com's Marty Noble wrote a great story on phillies.com.
Throughout the weekend, alumni interacted with fans unannounced. Some signed autographs, others were gate greeters and others served beverages in the Hall of Fame Club and Diamond Club. John Kruk announced the lineups after picking up some fans in the Citizens Bank golf cart. Daulton and Mitch Williams surprised a young fan celebrating her birthday on Sunday by singing Happy Birthday. "Hollywood is next," laughed Daulton.
Dick Allen (first), Tony Taylor (second) and Kevin Stocker (third) changed the bases on Sunday. "First base is a long way away," proclaimed Allen as he exited the field by the third-base dugout. When the Phanatic came on the field with the hot dog shooter on Sunday, a man in a dark cap and gray shirt was doing the shooting. That person who was smiling all the time was Mike Schmidt. "Book me for next year," he said.
For the three days, suites on the Hall of Fame Club level served as the hospitality headquarters. Dinner was provided in the Executive Dining Room. Saturday, the guys from the 1980 club occupied the largest table in the room. Instead of chicken, crab cakes or filet mignon, Greg Luzinski treated the table to Bull's BBQ ribs.
While they enjoyed the hospitality, each watched the games as much as possible. On Sunday, Schmidt, Parrish and Hayes were glued to the action on the field for four innings.
It didn't matter if you were a teammate or not, you were a Phillie. That was a strong and common bond. Taylor introduced himself to Larry Milbourne, who said, "I remember seeing you play." Both got a big laugh.
Hayes' college roommate for three years was George Descalso, whose son Daniel is an infielder with the Cardinals. Hayes made sure to check in with Daniel.
"I remember him when he was a baby," said Hayes.
Pat Burrell, who last played a year ago, was attending his first reunion. He bonded with everyone from Howie Bedell to Freddy Wenz, alumni he had never met. Burrell said he had a ball and is looking forward to next year. In 2015, he's eligible for the Wall of Fame and should be a first-ballot winner.
Other first-timers were Larry Bowa, Todd Pratt, Parrish, Hayes and McCarver. Normally, McCarver is broadcasting a FOX game on Saturdays. Because of the Olympics, FOX didn't televise August 3 and 10. "Do I have to wait four more years to be invited back?" McCarver laughed.
Soon we'll have the 2013 schedule, which means we can begin planning next year's Alumni Weekend.
Larry Shenk is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.