Cocks in the Hen House: 05.19.10


“Cocks in the Hen House” is a weekly column by friends of the Chicks that aren’t, well, chicks. Stop by every Wednesday to see what the men-folk have to say about the weeks biggest baseball stories.

By: Dany Sloan (@soundofphilly)

When you’re born in the Delaware Valley, the sports legacy that’s thrust upon you is a littered with epic disappointment, average teams, and just enough glory-filled seasons to remind you that winning is achievable in the near future.

But how often does that happen? A lot less than we’d like.

This past decade notwithstanding, it’s been tough to be a Philly fan, and even tougher to be a Phillies fan. My formative years in grade school saw me frequently getting made fun of for supporting the home team, which led me to briefly moonlight as an Orioles fan. This wasn’t a problem because Cal Ripken, Jr. was such a stand-up guy.

My first memories of baseball came around ’85 or ’86, as the local stations would frequently air Phils games. My dad was a baseball fan, but he only sort of followed the Giants, something which was passed on from my grandfather who grew up in Bayonne, NJ.

I first latched onto the Phillies in 1987. Mike Schmidt was at the tail end of his career and the closest thing to a young star we had was Von Hayes. Guys like Juan Samuel, Milt Thompson, and Shane Rawley put up some gaudy numbers, but these weren’t teams that were playing any baseball in October – unless it was with their kids in a park.

These were the lean years, and no matter how bad they were, I can’t help but look back on things with a nostalgic glint in my eye. As a confused kid, you’d be hard-pressed to get mad at me for thinking that this was a minor league unit. No one guy exemplifies this era more than the jheri-curled legend Larry Steven Jeltz.

As one of the eight major league players born in France, Jeltz exemplified these middling lineups and far-fetched dreams of post-season glory. He may have been average, but he sure as hell made being average fun!

His career line is a mere footnote in baseball history – .210 BA, 5 HR, and 130 RBI, but he did have one of the highest triples-to-hits ratios in modern baseball history.

Then there’s the infamous June 8, 1989 game against the Pirates. This is the sort of stuff I love about baseball, and the reason why I will watch any game at any time. Baseball has a habit of making giants out of even the role players on the bench, and watching this game as a 10-year old, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Twenty years later, I still feel the same way.

The switch-hitting SS didn’t even start the game, but he managed to hit 40% of his career home runs in this one game – from each side of the plate.

And would you believe that the Phils won this game, even after the Bucs scored 10 runs in the top of the first? The added cherry on the top of the game was Pirates on-air guy Jim Rooker, who had the audacity to state “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.”

Well Mr. Rooker, your team did lose the game 15-11. Taking it in stride (pun definitely intended), after the season he took part in a 300-mile charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

Steve Jeltz, you may not be Mike Schmidt or Greg Luzinski, but I salute you. I look back on your tenure with the Phillies with a smile, and I will always cherish your autographed rookie card.


[Dany has written about music for the likes of Pitchfork and Prefix and currently covers the Eagles for Phinally Philly. This Steve Jeltz piece is 100% sincere.]

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5 Responses

  1. I like that your story kind of mirrors mine. I was born and raised an Orioles fan, but Michael Jack was always my favorite player as a kid.

  2. Yeah I didn’t understand the idea of team loyalty until my teens – as my parents were fans of players rather than teams (eg – Dad loves Joe Montana and stopped following the 49ers when he went to the Chiefs).

    I loved Ripken, but it was hard to follow them after he left.

    • this comment was from me – I was logged in under a work account

  3. I’ve been working on a piece about team loyalty that I hope to have up soon. It’s interesting to really break down why and when it’s ok to cheer for a particular club.

  4. […] But then there is Steve Jeltz. But then there is the Vet and the state of mind that is the 700 level. Perhaps, afterall, we are not so resistant to nostalgia, though as fits a city like Philadelphia ours is a necessarily ironic nostalgia which highlights bad style and nosebleed seats as much as a pennant or an all-star third baseman. Either way, I can comfortably say that ours is not a fight with history. What is it then? Perhaps it is a fight with geography. Not for a place in time as it is for the Red Sox, but for a place in space. […]

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