I didn't know the greatness of the Phillies team that won the franchise's first-ever World Series the week of my first birthday. Before 2008, the closest I saw the Fightins come to being the best in the bigs was in 1993, and that success left the team about as soon as Joe Carter's home run left the park.
That 1993 Blue Jays team was put together by Pat Gillick, and as painful as it can still be for those of us who witnessed it, the antidote is a few lines further down on his resume. By this I course mean Gillick was also the man perhaps most responsible for the greatest ride of our baseball lives, the 2008 Phillies Championship season.
Gillick wasn't the only one who got the Phillies on the winning track they've yet to veer from, but to me, he'll always be the mile marker at which the Phillies turned from punchline to powerhouse. He brilliantly combined gentlemanly savvy with a softness that endeared him to his players and peers. I'll never forget the tears in his eyes as he handed championship rings to his players. A brilliant heart and mind for the game and the flesh and blood that comprise it.
Tomorrow, Gillick will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While Bill Conlin's induction will draw praise from his fans and derision from his detractors—true to the spirit of his columns, I doubt there will be any dissenting voices when Gillick's plaque is raised.
Cheers on a great career, Mr. Gillick, and thanks for 2005 'til question marks.
John Finger is in Cooperstown this weekend, sure to send home some prose befitting Gillick's induction. As a preview, I recommend this piece from yesterday.
Photo: Howard Smith-US Presswire