The Phillies, the Mayor, and the Curse of Billy Penn
Relax, Phillies fans. Mayor Nutter knows better than to tempt the fates by adorning Billy Penn with a Phillies jersey and cap. The statue atop City Hall will not be touched. So no hat.
Hizzoner, it seems, puts some store in the so-called Curse of William Penn, which holds that Philadelphia's beleaguered professional teams have fallen short for so long because William Rouse had the temerity in 1987 to build a skyscraper — Liberty Place — that rose above City Hall.
Of course, it is possible that the championship drought has more to do with guys like former Phillies "closer" Jose Mesa and ex-Eagles quarterback Rodney Peete than Billy Penn.
But the mayor figures, why chance it?
"A lot of folks believe it's a jinx," said Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said, adding, "anyway, the mayor gave them all the luck they needed when he pitched that strike on opening day."
Fans wrote the mayor, Oliver said, firmly urging him to leave the statue alone. The Phillies felt the same way, Oliver said.
So there will no hat, and no jersey on the 37-foot, 27-ton Billy Penn.
Some past administrations (we're looking at you, Ed Rendell) tried to beat the curse by getting Billy involved. He was fitted with a giant cap when the Phils last won the pennant in 1993, and wrapped in a gigantic jersey when the Flyers made the finals in 1997.
It didn't work.
So when the Sixers made the finals in 2001 and the Birds were in the Super Bowl in 2005, Penn was left alone.
Of course, that hasn't worked out so well either.
In any event, while Nutter has ordered city workers to stay clear of Penn, he does hope to hold a City Hall rally for the Phillies on Wednesday, though that has not been finalized.
"The issue is, everyone wants to have some kind of celebration, there's no question about it. But the hard cold reality is, they have to get ready for the World Series," Nutter said early yesterday, before he had decided not to put a jersey on Penn.
The team and the city should know by tomorrow if the Phillies schedule will accommodate a rally.
"Look at their effort, their spirit, their commitment, the sense of fight," Nutter said outside his office earlier today.
"They keep coming back, and coming back, and even if they find themselves in a hole or in a deficit position, you can't count them out. And they've shown that time and time again and that's a bit of the spirit of this city."
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