Philly Mag: You were both at the 1980 World Series parade. What are your memories 28 years later?
Jamie Moyer: Well, I was a high-school senior and an aspiring baseball player in Souderton, outside of Philadelphia. A couple teammates and I skipped school to go to the parade. We took the train downtown and then hopped on the subway, which I hadn’t been on before. Knowing that the parade was going to end at JFK Stadium, we decided to go there and wait for the parade to come to us. We heard all of the speeches, and it took us a while to get out of the stadium because of the crowd. You just couldn’t move. I thought of that during this parade. As we got closer to the stadium, people couldn’t move, there was just nowhere to go. And it was just a great feeling — a great assembly of fans pouring out their heart and their emotions. I can tell you this, a couple of times during our parade, I choked up. It brings tears to my eyes right now to talk about it. It made me feel like I’ve come full circle. When we were sitting in that stadium in 1980, I kept saying to myself, boy, it would be awesome to someday be in a parade like this. Now, many years later, that was truly the case. And having my family with me through all of the playoffs, through the World Series, and on the float in the parade — there’s no better feeling. On that float, it just kind of all hit me. I thought: This is a great way to celebrate, with the city where I grew up.
PM: Mike, when Jamie talks about ’80, does that bring back memories for you?
Mike Tollin: First, I should say, Jamie, in my office in California are four framed 1964 World Series tickets, which my dad brought home in late September and said, “Guess what, kids, we’re going to the World Series.” They were eight dollars apiece, and we never got to use them. [Editor’s note: The Phillies, up six and a half games with 12 to play, blew the 1964 pennant.] So 1964 was my first year of baseball consciousness. Anyway, 1980 was my rookie season as writer, director and producer for Major League Baseball Productions. I wrote the World Series film. Like you, Jamie, I chose to camp myself at JFK Stadium in ’80. I was a big fan of the Gamble and Huff Philadelphia Sound, so I recall the song the team came into the stadium to was “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” by McFadden and Whitehead. It still gives me goose bumps when I hear it. What I can remember most clearly about that series was that I was able to get tickets for my dad, and he sat in the stands for Game Six, and I remember making eye contact with him and seeing him tear up.
PM: Mike, you mention your dad, and Jamie, you mentioned family. Is there a common denominator there?
MT: Well, it’s been said many times that baseball is truly the intergenerational game. It is the game that fathers pass along to sons, to be passed along to their sons. I had my nine-year-old son Lucas with me celebrating the pennant clincher on the field in Los Angeles, and to sit there and hug him and celebrate the pennant for the team that he’s now learned to root for — it’s magical. Speaking of family, there’s this crazy cosmic connection for me between my dad and Jamie. In August 2006, my dad died suddenly. I was in L.A., got the news, flew back. Among my close friends in Philadelphia that I called was [Phils president] Dave Montgomery, who told me, “I think we’re getting Jamie Moyer.” Now, my dad was a Haverford College left-handed pitcher who didn’t throw very hard, but had great stuff. So I just got chills knowing that you, Jamie, would be the kind of player that my dad would really appreciate. I gave the eulogy, and I talked about the Phillies and how baseball is the greatest bond between father and son and how I know my dad is up there looking down and thanking the Phillies for acquiring Jamie Moyer. Fast-forward to spring training of ’07. I brought Lucas to the field at Clearwater, and there’s Jamie and Karen with their kids. Jamie’s throwing batting practice, the kids are playing the infield and shagging flies, and Lukie comes out, and it was, again, magical to see baseball as a common denominator. Here we are, strangers, but Lukie’s laughing and smiling and chasing and diving — it’s just such an immediate connection. The next month, we had a ceremony back in Philly for my dad. After the ceremony, we put on the Phillies game — because that’s what we do — and who’s pitching but Jamie Moyer? And it was the day you almost no-hit the Marlins. I think Cabrera broke it up —
JM: [Laughing] Yes, he did. Double down the left-field line.
MT: Well, just to sit there and watch you pitch the way you did, it felt like the embodiment of my dad’s spirit. So I’m forever grateful and forever touched. And to bring this full circle, the morning after we won the Series, I realized this whole emotional journey wasn’t complete. I traveled out to my dad’s grave site and sat there. It was a classic blustery East Coast fall day, the wind was blowing, the leaves were turning colors. There were Phillies flags at various gravestones in the cemetery, and I just sat there, with my dad, and laughed and cried and shared the joy with him.
PM: And Jamie, was baseball likewise such a strong bond between you and your dad?
JM: Yeah. My dad was a fast-pitch softball pitcher and also played shortstop. So I grew up going to his games. When I turned eight, I was old enough to play Little League, and my dad coached me for the next 10 years, through American Legion ball. When he came home from work, I would be on the porch with a catcher’s mitt and my glove and a ball, and before he could even go in to say hi to my mom, we’d be pitching in the driveway. And if he had a game that night, or practice, I went with him. On nights that he didn’t have games, and I didn’t have games, we’d be in the backyard, playing pepper. On weekends, as I got into my early teens, my dad would take me out to one of the local fields, and he’d throw me batting practice, and my mom and my sister would shag. It was a family event. That’s how I grew up, with baseball in my blood. And it’s true to this day. Not only were my wife and children at all of our playoff games, but my parents and my sister were at all of the games, and the playoff games, and they were at the parade. My parents live and die with the Phillies.
MT: Didn’t you tell me, Jamie, that you’re moving to Bradenton, Florida, so your two teenage sons can go to the IMG Academy baseball program?
JM: That’s right. I’ve told our boys, “Look, this is your opportunity, we can give you this opportunity, now it’s up to you guys to make something of it.” Our goal is to have these kids go through this program, graduate from the school, and go on to hopefully play college baseball, because we want them to get an education. After many years of pro baseball, I finally got my degree in 1996. This is an opportunity for them to make something for themselves.
PM: Speaking of sons, Mike, I’m reminded that you didn’t stay for the parade because you wanted to get back and take your son trick-or-treating.
MT: Well, this was a tough one for me. But I realized that when I left the graveyard, I felt like I had done everything there was to do, and I couldn’t ask for any more joy. I still get choked up when I think about it. I mean, I was at all three rounds of the playoffs, I sat with my family, my best friends from childhood, summer camp, elementary school, high school, college, and then got to share it with my dad. When Lidge struck out Hinske, I turned to my buddies and suddenly we were 10 years old again, dancing and crying and kissing each other. My lasting image of this experience is of men hugging men in the streets of Philadelphia. If you don’t believe in the power of baseball to pull that off —
PM: The only other time that happens is the Mummers Parade.
MT: [Laughs] But this is without alcohol! This is pure, unfettered joy. Anyway, the next day I called my assistant and asked her to find me a flight for that afternoon. I needed to get home. My family welcomed me home like I actually had something to do with the win. And the next day I marched in the Halloween parade at Lukie’s elementary school.
PM: Jamie, how do you handle having to miss so many of your kids’ games?
JM: I do miss a whole lot of them. But we talk on the phone at least once a day, and sometimes two or three times a day. I think it’s real important to hear them, to hear their voices, to hear what’s taking place in their games. The other thing is that this is all they know. Think about it. I’ve been playing for 20-plus years, and our oldest is 17. These are baseball babies, as Karen likes to say. Actually, my first spring training with the Phillies in ’07 was the first time my family wasn’t with me the whole duration of spring training. So we really try to stay together as a family. For Karen and me, that’s why we’ve been able to stay together and be happy. Our kids are a big part of this, and the day they’re not a part of it is the day that I’m not going to play. You know, it’s a great game, and you pass it along through the generations, but I also don’t want this game to break up my family.
MT: It really is a sport that’s all about family. One last thing about my decision to come back after the clincher. So we had the Halloween parade, and then Lukie, my wife Robbie and I went trick-or-treating —
PM: What did you wear, Mike?
MT: I wore my Phillies uniform, and a World Series champion hat. That made me the only one in L.A., I can assure you. But the next day, Lukie had a game, because it’s always baseball season in L.A. His team won, he had a couple of hits. Afterwards, we went out for a hamburger and he turned to me and said, “Dad, I think you should coach my team next spring.” So I looked at him, and I thought: Of course. How could I not? So I will.
JM: That’s awesome.
PM: This Phillies team appreciated the fans more than any other in recent memory. Do you have any insight into that?
JM: You know what, that is a great observation. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a team that embraced the fans like this team did this year. I honestly can say that. It was just amazing how my teammates realized we were on such a mission, but still realized that without the fans, we might not have been where we were. And we all know how tough the Philly fan can be. But during the parade, there were people literally crying. I don’t know how many times I just looked at Karen on the float and said, “Wow, can you believe this?” It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
MT: That really is a great observation, and it’s great to hear you confirm it, Jamie. And the flip side is the fans’ relationship to the team. The fans have had tenuous relationships with our teams, even the great ones. I think back to ’80. There was kind of an angry cold shoulder we had toward that team, because the Phils had lost in the playoffs so many times and we were so skeptical. But this team had such a remarkable resilience. There was just a sense that you guys believed in yourselves so deeply, you made the fans believe in a way that Phillies fans aren’t accustomed to. There will always be a special place in all our hearts for this Phillies team. And not just because we won, but because of the character of the team, because of how much you guys believed in yourselves and how you loved yourselves. And Charlie gets a lot of credit for creating that environment.
PM: Mike, you mentioned the collapse of ’64, which really did affect the city’s psyche. Jamie, to what degree are the players aware of that history? And do you guys think this puts that to rest?
JM: I don’t know if the players would have any recollection or knowledge of it. Too many players don’t understand the history of the game well enough, and I would put myself in that group, too. Will it put it to rest? I think it probably will. I really do.
MT: It’s funny. I would say nothing could or would or should put it to rest. It’s an indelible part of my childhood, and obviously I wear it on my sleeve, because I’m hanging it on my wall. But this changes the complexion of it. It makes it so we can talk about it without that deep pit in our stomachs. We don’t need to erase it, any more than a family tragedy ever goes away. My kids don’t share it, but the guys that share it with me will always remember it, will always remember hiding our transistor radios under our pillows and crying ourselves to sleep every night, starting with Chico Ruiz stealing home at the beginning of that 10-game losing streak. But as I said to my guys after the clincher, it’s okay now. You wake up that next morning and your view of the world is different. Our view of ourselves is different. For that, I am forever grateful to Jamie and his teammates.
JM: I think it’s great that we could all share it together. That’s what it’s about. It’s a great game, and for us or the organization to keep it away from the fans would be totally unfair. We shared it together.