2020 will be the 17th season that Citizens Bank Park is the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly was joined by Scott Franzke, Tom McCarthy, Chris Wheeler and Scott Graham as the quartet remembered calling some of the most iconic moments of the first 16 seasons at CBP.
No. 10: Pat Burrell?! Pat Burrell!
Date: May 2, 2008
Ryan Howard got off to a painfully slow start for the defending National League East Champion Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. Howard, who had won the National League MVP two seasons prior, hit just .168 with 37 strikeouts in April of 2008. Though Howard would ultimately hit 48 home runs in 2008, the Phillies needed another source of power to tide them over until Howard warmed up.
Enter, Pat Burrell.
Burrell, who had many trials and tribulations during his nine seasons in Philadelphia, got off to a scorching-hot start in April of 2008. In the first full month of what turned out to be his final season with the Phillies, “Pat the Bat” hit .326 with eight home runs, 24 RBIs and 21 walks. That early-season success carried over to May, when Burrell delivered one of the biggest hits of his career.
On May 2, the Phillies entered the bottom of the 10th inning down 5-4 against the San Francisco Giants. Brian Wilson, who would make the first of three All-Star teams in 2008, was on to close for the Giants. Instead, Burrell hit a no-doubt-about-it walk-off home run, eliciting an iconic home run call from Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas.
“There’s something that comes into play, that maybe people can hear it or see it or get a feel for it,” Chris Wheeler, Kalas’ long-time broadcast partner, said of the call. “We all have our favorite guys. We all have guys that you like more than others. [There’s guys that] you want them to do well when they are in your uniform, but they’re not always the sweetest, nicest, most fun people to be around. Harry absolutely loved Pat Burrell. Harry and Pat had a very good relationship, and I think anytime Burrell did something or had success, because he had so many ups and downs in Philadelphia, Harry was – and there’s nothing wrong with this – openly rooting for Pat to do things well.”
No. 9: Bryce Harper Starts With A Bomb
Date: March 30, 2019
“The Opening Day thunder got stolen a little bit,” Scott Franzke, the Phillies radio voice, joked. “Everything was sort of pointing to Bryce, and then Andrew McCutchen hit the home run right away.”
In perhaps the most anticipated Opening Day in Phillies history, the team defeated the Atlanta Braves, the defending National League East Champions, 10-4. McCutchen, as Franzke mentioned, led off with a home run. Maikel Franco homered. Rhys Hoskins put the game on ice with a seventh inning grand slam.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a great day for Harper. He rocked a Pulp Fiction-inspired shirt before the game that featured The Phillie Phanatic and Gritty. During the game, in between standing ovations, he showed off his green cleats the featured his initials and a Phanatic theme. And the Phillies were victorious on Opening Day, capping off a special day at Citizens Bank Park.
All that said, Harper went 0-3 on Opening Day, striking out twice. He did reach on a walk, but from an on-field perspective, Harper had an underwhelming Opening Day. That, of course, happens during a 162-game season.
It was OK, though, because Nick Pivetta was less-than-stellar on the mound for the team’s second game of the season two days later. The Phillies needed offense, and Harper provided some insurance in the bottom of the seventh with a 465-foot home run.
“It was awesome,” Harper said of his first home run as a Phillie to Gregg Murphy of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “That’s one of my favorite homers that I’ve ever had.”
No. 8: Ryan Howard Hits One 505 (?) Feet
Date: Aug. 30, 2007
Some day, they’ll be a list made, perhaps on this website, of the greatest Phillies games ever played at Citizens Bank Park. Aug. 30, 2007’s matchup between the Phillies and New York Mets will almost certainly be in the top five.
The game had a little bit of everything. The Phillies jumped out to a 5-0 lead, only to blow that lead between the fourth and fifth innings. In the bottom of the fifth, though, the Phillies took the lead back when each of Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins plated runs with RBI singles.
The Mets, however, erased the Phillies 8-5 lead when they scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, Billy Wagner, a former Phillie, came on for a two-inning save as the Mets hoped to avoid being swept in a four-game set with the Phillies.
Instead, Pat Burrell homered in the bottom of the eighth, to put the Phillies within one run. And in the bottom of the ninth, Jayson Werth stole two bases, with Tadahito Iguchi bringing him home with a pinch-hit single. Chase Utley, fresh off the injured list, would ultimately hit a walk-off single, allowing Iguchi to score the winning run.
With a four-game sweep of the Mets, the Phillies set the tone for the final month of the season. The Mets would ultimately blow a seven-game lead with 17 games to go in the National League East, allowing the Phillies to return to the postseason for the first time since 1993.
For the sake of this countdown, though, let’s circle back to the first inning. Ryan Howard, with Jimmy Rollins already on second base, tagged Mets starter Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez for one of the longest home runs in Citizens Bank Park history. While modern technology says Howard’s home run onto the old Ashburn Alley went about 473 feet, it was estimated to have gone 505 feet at the time. Either way, it was Howard’s 36th home run of the 2007 season, and it went a long way.
“I think that was an area of the ballpark that we always thought that Ryan Howard could reach,” said Franzke, who has been the Phillies radio voice on SportsRadio 94 WIP since 2006. “It’s one of those things that just leaves you with your mouth sort of wide open.”
No. 7: Jim Thome And Bobby Abreu Hit First Home Runs At Citizens Bank Park
Date: April 12, 2004
Don Money was a four-time All-Star, but all of those appearances came after his time with the Philadelphia Phillies. In the grand scheme of things, he was a rather insignificant person to have hit the first home run at Veterans Stadium. However, when the Phillies moved into Citizens Bank Park in 2004, they had two “first” home runs, both of which came off the bats of crucial players in franchise history.
Jim Thome, a future Hall of Famer, hit the first home run ever at Citizens Bank Park, but it came during the on-deck series, which was an exhibition series before the regular season began. Still, it was noteworthy that Thome, the face of the team at the time, recorded the first hit in the game, a second-deck blast into the right field stands.
“Jim had the ability to rise to the moment, regardless of what the situation was,” said Scott Graham, who did play-by-play for the Phillies from 1999-2006. “Jim was capable of rising to an occasion, so it seemed apropo that in the first opportunity to hit a ball out in the new park, Jim kind of christened it.”
The first technical home run at Citizens Bank Park wasn’t a “tater” in the fashion that Thome hit home runs. Instead it came off the bat of Bobby Abreu, an opposite-field home run on April 12 that showcased how Abreu often turned hitting into an art form.
“Bobby could hit home runs if he wanted to,” said Chris Wheeler, who was in his 27th season calling Phillies games in 2004. “He was like Tony Gwynn or Ichiro Suzuki – they could have hit a lot of home runs, but that wasn’t their style.”
Thome was inducted onto the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2016, two years before he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Abreu is in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, and was inducted onto the Phillies Wall of Fame in August of 2019.
Graham recalled that when the Phillies hosted the Reds in the first regular season series at Citizens Bank Park, there was still dust on some ceilings from how recently construction had concluded. He says that the two most accomplished players on the team at that time hitting the first two home runs at Citizens Bank Park allowed everyone to settle into the Phillies new home.
“What I remember most about that period of time is we were all so completely in on the new ballpark,” Graham recalled, referring to Citizens Bank Park’s first season. “I think when you start looking at those types of moments, it makes it so that it’s home a lot quicker.”
No. 6: Ryan Howard Goes Top Deck On A Future Hall Of Famer
Date: June 20, 2006
On June 20, 2006, the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 9-7 at Citizens Bank Park. But the outcome of the game isn’t what anyone remembers.
In the bottom of the first inning of the Tuesday evening tilt, Howard stepped to the plate with Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell already on base in front of him. Howard promptly hit a third-deck home run off of future Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, causing Phillies pitchers Ryan Madson and Brett Myers to geek out in the dugout at what they had just seen, and Yankees manager Joe Torre to give the most deadpan of deadpan reactions.
Those were the first three of seven RBIs Howard would collect that evening. Howard would hit another home run his next time up, his 25th of the young season. He would go on to hit 58 home runs and drive in 149 RBIs in a season that would ultimately conclude with him winning the National League MVP.
“It was one of those things where the legend sort of started to build with Ryan Howard at that point,” said Scott Franzke, who was in his first season broadcasting Phillies games in 2006. “I thought that was one of those things that not only cemented – or really started – his legacy with the Phillies, I think it also started to open people’s eyes nationally.”
No. 5: Oh My God!
Date: Aug. 15, 2019
The Phillies series with the Chicago Cubs was perhaps the most magical series of the 2019 summer. Cole Hamels returned. Charlie Manuel returned to the Phillies dugout as the hitting coach. And Bryce Harper, in powder blue, hit one of the most iconic home runs in the 16 years of Citizens Bank Park.
Though neither of the Phillies or Cubs would ultimately make the playoffs, both were in the thick of the National League Wild Card race when they met in a series finale on Aug. 15. The Cubs nearly avoided a sweep in the final game of the series, until Harper stepped to the plate against Pedro Strop with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and the Phillies trailing 5-3.
And he hit a grand slam. One that made John Kruk, a three-time All-Star himself, scream “Oh, my God!” as the ball sailed into the second deck. Tom McCarthy, who was calling the game on television for NBC Sports Philadelphia, had perhaps the greatest home run call of his career, channeling his mentor, the late Hall of Famer Harry Kalas, with an “Outta Here!” call.
Scott Franzke, who called the game on radio with Larry Andersen, says he wasn’t sure exactly where the ball would land off the bat. And he still doesn’t know exactly where it landed. But he knows it was one of the most memorable moments that he’s gotten a chance to call.
“To have a walk-off grand slam that comes in the bottom of the ninth, it’s not a tie game – you’re behind. They needed some kind of a hit to get that game tied up or better. And Bryce Harper, against a left-handed pitcher – it was not an easy matchup – made it happen again.”
“I wasn’t sure exactly where it would land. I’m not even sure in the delirium of it all I remember exactly where it did land, to be perfectly honest.”
No. 4: Ryan Howard Becomes First Phillie To Hit 50 Home Runs On Historic Day
Date: Sept. 3, 2006
As far as memorable day games go at Citizens Bank Park, Sept. 3, 2006 is pretty high on the list – almost exclusively because of Ryan Howard.
The Phillies entered the first-half of a day-night double-header against the Atlanta Braves at 69-67, 16 games behind the division-leading New York Mets. Bobby Abreu had been traded to the New York Yankees prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, a sign that while the Phillies weren’t completely out of the National League Wild Card picture, Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick wanted to get a look at Shane Victorino in right field as the Phillies prepared for the 2007 season.
Someone forgot to tell Howard that the Phillies had conceded that they probably weren’t going to be a playoff team in 2006.
After breaking Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt’s single-season franchise home run record with his 49th home run of the season at RFK Stadium in Washington on Aug. 31, Howard put on a show for the home fans three days later at Citizens Bank Park.
Howard hit his 50th home run of the season in the bottom of the second, making him the first Phillie to ever hit 50 home runs in a season. That alone probably would have made this list, but “the Big Piece” was just getting warmed up.
An inning later, Howard came to the plate again, this time depositing the ball into the visitor’s bullpen for his 51st home run of the season. With his 51st shot of the season, Howard matched Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner for most home runs in a player’s second major league season.
He was only tied with Kiner until his next at-bat, when he hit a sixth inning, opposite-field home run. Mind you, all three of these home runs came against Tim Hudson, one of the best pitchers of the era.
Scott Graham, who called the third home run on television, says he was delayed in recognizing that Howard had hit another home run because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“We were in the middle of a wave that was going on at that point that was unlike anything anybody had ever seen,” Graham remembered. “In that wave that was going on, it appeared like he was capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark in any at-bat, on any pitch. And I remember being incredulous that he reached out and kind of poked at it almost. His ability to be able to generate power the other way was what was eye-popping about him when he first got to the big leagues.”
“I remember that home run, I remember being on the air for it. My first thought was, I believe, if I remember it correctly, I wasn’t sure it was out. And it was out – it was out by a significant amount. But I think that the lack of belief on my part was from my angle, it didn’t look like the same kind of authoritative bomb the other way. But at the same time, it was also ‘He can’t do this again, right?’”
No. 3: Jim Thome Hits His 400th Career Home Run
Date: June 14, 2004
If you watched a highlight reel of Jim Thome’s Hall of Fame career, you would likely see quite a bit of him in a Cleveland Indians uniform, where he hit 337 home runs across two stints. Thome hit his 500th home run as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He joined the 600 Home Run Club while playing for the Minnesota Twins. Thome’s 400th home run, for him, was just another major moment in a historic career.
Still, a 400th home run is a major accomplishment, especially since it came in the first year of a new stadium. Scott Graham says it was important to him to balance capturing the moment without making it bigger than it was.
“If I remember correctly, all I was thinking about for mine was trying to make sure that I didn’t try to make the call more than it was,” Graham said of Thome’s 400th home run. “When you’ve got something that’s a 400th home run in somebody’s career, for a guy that as it turns out is ultimately one his way to better than 600 home runs in his career, you try not to insert yourself too much into that moment.”
Harry Kalas, who called the moment on television, did a perfect job of capturing the moment, according to Chris Wheeler.
“Harry had the ability to capture a moment more than anybody that I’ve ever been around, and maybe more than most guys that have ever done broadcasting for a living,” Wheeler said of Kalas’ call. “He was geared that night for if Thome hit the home run. And it was an easy one to call, because even though it went to left-center field, Thome had that unbelievable power to left-center and you just knew when he launched one that it wasn’t just going to be a fence-scraper. It’s the ideal thing for a play-by-play announcer, having done it myself, when you know it’s gone and then you can work on it. So, in that case, he knew it was gone off the bat and just made a tremendous, tremendous call about it.”
What many don’t remember is the Phillies-Reds game that night had a two-hour-and-eighteen-minute rain delay after Thome’s home run, before the game had become official. So if the game would have been rained out, Thome would have had to hit his 400th home run for a second time, leaving Kalas to make another call.
“Harry always had a great ability to live in the moment,” Wheeler said. “I’m sure he would have been very disappointed [if the game was rained out], the way we all would have been. But we kind of knew that night, because it was a summer type of storm, that there were thunderstorms coming through and unless something stalled for three or four hours, you weren’t going into a system that was going to sit there the whole night and rain the game out. So we thought it was going to be played later. But sure, that was always in the back of your mind that ‘Oh no, all this and it’s going to be gone just like that because of a rain delay.’ Harry would have been ready for it the next time, because as I said, he had an uncanny ability when a moment arrived in a game, to rise to it and make tremendous calls. He was just so good at that.”
No. 2: Joe The Pitcher Mashes A World Series Home Run
Date: Oct. 26, 2008
Joe Blanton finished his 13-year major league career with a .106 regular season batting average. He had an even lower batting average in 14 postseason at-bats: .071, 1-for-14.
And yet, in a moment that made you realize the Phillies probably were headed towards a World Series victory, Blanton hit a missile into the left field stands at Citizens Bank Park.
“We always used to call him big Joe,” Tom McCarthy remembered. “That’s one of the things we always talked about – if he could lean into one [it would go a long way].”
Blanton’s home run gave the Phillies a four-run lead in Game 4 of the World Series, a game that the Phillies would ultimately win 10-2, giving them a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Perhaps more noteworthy is that with his home run, Blanton, as Jeremy Frank points out, gave himself more World Series home runs than Ted Williams, who is arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history.
No. 1: Grand Slam Victorino!
Date: Oct. 2, 2008
“I think significance wise, it has to be up there,” said Tom McCarthy. “If it’s not one, it’s two.”
Spoiler alert, Tom: it’s No. 1.
Prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Milwaukee Brewers beat out the Phillies and other contenders to acquire reigning American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians. All Sabathia did after being acquired was go 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games, three of which were shutouts. Sabathia couldn’t quite walk on water during the second-half of the 2008 season, but he was pretty damn close, and helped the Brew Crew to reach the postseason for the first time since 1982.
But the 2008 Phillies, back in the postseason for the second consecutive season, were finally able to get to an overworked Sabathia in Game 2 of the NLDS.
We would be remiss to not mention Brett Myers’ nine-pitch walk earlier in the inning off of Sabathia. It kept the inning alive, and allowed Jimmy Rollins the chance to follow up with another walk.
And then Shane Victorino stepped to the plate, and promptly unloaded the bases with a grand slam.
“That was one of those [moments] that I think signaled to everybody at the start of the playoff series, that ‘Look, hey, we might really do this,’” said Scott Franzke, whose call of the moment is one of the most memorable of his career. “It was another emphatic moment that followed on the heels of Brett Myers and what he had done. The crowd was at such a fever pitch at that point. The crowd was just so over-the-top loud at that moment. It’s one of those things where even looking back now as I think about it, I still get goosebumps.”
Chris Wheeler called Phillies games for over 35 years. He says the Victorino grand slam was one of the most magical moments he ever witnessed.
“Oh boy,” Wheels said when asked to recall the moment. “Anybody that was lucky enough to be there that night will never forget the energy in the ballpark.”
“I’ve been there for a lot of moments of noise and excitement and adrenaline, but what a rush that was in that game after that. That was one of my favorite all-time moments in all the years I was with the Phillies.”
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