Defining "Success" at the End of a Season - Ask the '64 Phillies

Would you say the 2006 Bears had a successful season when they were beaten by the Colts in the Super Bowl?   Not since the best defense that the NFL had seen, from the ’85 Bears, did we have that chance again.  But some Bears’ coach(es) decided to let Grossman pass, instead of rushing Thomas Jones, on February 4, 2007.  And the rest became history.

Yeah – we were all quite upset, angry, shocked, & disappointed, period.

How about the 2003 Cubs, a la Bartman, when Gonzalez couldn’t turn the double-play, Prior threw a wild pitch, and Sosa missed the cut-off man in game 6 of the NLCS in 2003 vs. the Marlins?  They made it that far, right?  Successful season?

Or when the Bulls took the Pistons to 7 games in 1990 for the Eastern Conference Finals. Who can forget.  We all groaned over that one.  Success?  Well, not when I was throwing my socks and kitchen towels at the TV: something that is encoded in my sons’ memories.

Webster’s official definition of success is:  “to turn out well” or “to attain a desired object or end.”

And there you have it – different interpretations, as the Chicago Tribune Live (CTL) guests on Kaplan’s show debated regarding the White Sox 2012 season.  If you agree with Kap, no team is successful unless it “wins it all.”  Which means, unless the Sox or Cubs win the World Series, the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup (if they even play), the Bulls win the NBA Championship (without Derek), or the Bears win the Super Bowl, their seasons are failures.

High expectations?  Or reasonable ones?  Only you can judge for yourself.

So from what I heard, it’s “all or nothing”  according to Kap.  For 118 U.S. professional sports teams in baseball, football, hockey, or basketball, their seasons will end in failure, with only 4 ending in success. Does this include no personal success stories, such as:  comeback player of the year, (Rios), rookie of the year,  Cy Young, or MVP?

At least Eric, Phil, and Bob, the Chicago guest sportswriters, brought some sanity and thought to the discussion. It just depends how one defines “success,” period.

Was I upset when the Sox went 3-11 in their last 14 games, and blew a 3 game lead with 2 weeks to play, and given an 83% chance to make the playoffs after their 5-4 victory over the Tigers on September 10?

You betcha!  Watching this collapse was unbearable.  I binged - eating.  I didn’t talk much to my family.  I stayed away from friends.  I isolated.  I slept restlessly.  I didn’t work in my garden and let the weeds grow over the tomatoes and peppers (and in my brain).

I became a couch potato and watched my Law and Order shows with Lenny, or Special Victims, Criminal Intent, or Without a Trace, and ultimately fell asleep to  Star Trek’s Next Generation every night.

So now you get it.  The outcome of Chicago sports’ teams can rule my emotional flavor, period.

I have my escape all planned out, just as we did in the late 50’s at Warren Grammar School on 91st and Jeffrey, during the Cold War era “drills,” when we heard the “sirens” go off, and we had to run to the coat closet and remain in a crouching position till all sounds died down.

My only solace was having my husband, David, remind me of his 1964 Phillies.  He grew up in Bethlehem, PA, near Allentown, where everyone was a Phillies fan.  As a 14 yr. old kid, he watched Dick Allen, a rookie phenom; the star veteran pitcher, Jim Bunning, who threw a perfect game that season, Chris Short, and Johnny Callison. They were on their way to win the NL pennant.

His Phillies led the Cardinals and Reds by 6.5 games with 12 to go in September. But they went on a 10 game skid.  Sadly, history shows they had a total offensive meltdown, much like our White Sox.

And similarly, they had far exceeded expectations from day 1 of the season, having their fair share of rookies (a la Sox) playing for the first time in the pressure of a pennant race.  Finally, the Phillies TWO opponents, the Reds and Cardinals, who got hot at the end, much like the Tigers did these last 2 weeks, did show up.  A 3 way tie at the end of the season was a possibility, and Manager Gene Mauch knew he needed just one win to clinch.

But as author John P. Rossi writes so eloquently regarding this collapse, history shows that  Mauch panicked. He pitched his star pitchers, Bunning and Short, with just 2 days rest, TWICE during this 10 game stretch. And they lost all 4 games.  And ended the season 1 game behind the Cardinals in 2nd place.

Success?  It’s all relative Kap, so stop being so harsh.  The White Sox gave us some thrills.  Paulie said it best at the beginning of the season, with his quote about this Sox team, which could be considered “successful, “even if they don’t make the playoffs.

I’ll take the word of a veteran 400+HR hitter any day, who has been part of his fair share of the ups and downs of MLB team play, a 2005 World Series winner, along with a few perfect games and a no-hitter ,as part of his career.

Because the  White Sox gave me a good ride, just like the roller coaster at Riverview Park did as a little girl, with all the ups and downs, screaming and yelling before the cotton candy made it’s way into my stomach.

That’s much better than the team with 101 losses and no World Series in 104 years. Maybe that’s why the North-siders decided to get rid of the Kraft yellow noodle out front on Clark and Addison Streets.  The Billy Goat was probably eating away at its edges with its simulated bacon odor.  Now that’s success for you.




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