Sunday, August 9, 2015

Some Phillies Fever from the Bicentennial summer of 1976


The 2015 Philadelphia Phillies have gone from historically awful — a 29-60 start to the season — to inexplicably red-hot, winning 15 of their 20 games since Major League Baseball's All-Star break.1

So it's clearly a good time to recall some true "Phillies Fever" from 39 years ago, the era of "Can you dig it!" and "Right on!"

I picked up this 1976 vinyl single, still in its paper sleeve, on the cheap earlier this year in Columbia, Pennsylvania. The three-minute song features the vocal stylings of Phillies Dave Cash, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Garry Maddox. It was produced by Walt Kahn, arranged by Andy Kahn, written by Walt Kahn, Lorenzo Wright and Rich Wing, and published by Grand Prix Records.

Dan Epstein, writing on Fox Sports' Just a Bit Outside blog, doesn't mix any words in his modern review of "Phillies Fever":2
"[It] may well be the worst record to come out of Philadelphia during the 1970s; at the same time, its sheer awesomeness as a cultural artifact cannot be understated. Where else can you hear disco music (which was rapidly ascending in popularity at the time) collide with the CB Radio fad of 1976? Indeed, where else can you hear Garry Maddox and Dave Cash banter with each other in CB lingo? Throw in Greg 'The Bull' Luzinski’s joke about taking batting practice 'as soon as I finish these three cheeseburgers,' and a picture sleeve that features 1976 NL home run king Mike Schmidt using his bat as an air guitar, and you’ve pretty much hit the jukebox jackpot..."

If you're now dying to hear it, here's a YouTube clip of the disco-era ditty. The audio is a little off, or it might just be that's as good as the song sounds...



On the back of the record's paper jacket, Walt Kahn writes:
"My 'producer's hat' is off to Dave, Larry, Mike, Greg and Garry. They proved to be as professional behind the microphone as they are in front of the plate. Their hard work and commitment to excellence in the recording studio has paid off. Phillies Fever is a home run! An exciting, danceable, upbeat sound that captures the spirit of the greatest team in baseball. Thank you, guys. You are real champions, as the world will find out come Series time."
While the 1976 Phillies were much better on the baseball field than they were in the music studio, they did not, of course, prove themselves to be the best team in baseball that October. They won 101 games but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series.

1977 was a repeat performance, with 101 Phillies wins and a National League Championship Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1978 brought another NLCS loss to the Dodgers.

It wasn't until 1980 that the Phillies — who had transitioned from a "Fever" vibe to a McFadden & Whitehead "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"3 vibe — finally won the World Series. Cash was gone from the team at that point, but Schmidt, Bowa, Maddox and Luzinski remained from the "Phillies Fever" core.

At that point, everyone could dig it.


Other baseball-related posts

Footnotes
1. It won't last. But it's fun to think about what the Phillies future might hold, based around a core of Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Ken Giles, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Scott Kingery, Jhailyn Ortiz, Cornelius Randolph and Franklyn Kilome.1
2. In the blog post, Epstein also discusses a 1975 single by Bowa and Cash titled “Ting-A-Ling Double Play.” It was an actual thing.
3. "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" was the theme song for the 1980 Phillies and the 1980-81 Philadelphia Eagles. In modified versions, part of the chorus included "Ain't no stoppin' us now, the Phillies got the groove".

Secondary footnote
1. I fully expect that footnote to be quite comical in fairly short order.

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