Although they hold a special place in Eric Schaeffer's heart, they're not exactly loved by his, or anyone's, nose.

They're the game pants he wears while playing baseball for Philadelphia Academy Charter and, phew, do they reek!

With a big smile, Schaeffer said: "My big joke with the team is, 'If you don't want to smell my pants, don't come near me.' My mother says they're disgusting, but she understands."

Schaeffer calls his pants "dirty winners" and their streak is now at 11 games.

The latest triumph came yesterday in Fairmount Park as the Chargers scrambled past Julia Masterman, 11-6, in a second-round District 12 playoff designed to provide an opponent for Girard Academic Music Program (an established squad that competes in the Public League's top division) in the Class A final.

That contest will take place Monday at 7th and Packer, in South Philly. Over the weekend, don't expect Schaeffer's pants to get reacquainted with Tide.

Masterman and PAC are first-year Pub entrants. They met in the second Division D game of the season and the former triumphed, 11-3. Before this rematch, neither since had lost and Masterman, at 11-0, had become one of the very few teams in city history, in any sport, to go perfect in debut-season league play.

Schaeffer, a 5-8, 150-pound senior centerfielder, washed his pants after the setback. Game No. 3 produced a 12-1 win over Southern and, afraid of risking a streak of bad luck, Eric opted to become the diamond version of Joe Dirt.

"We're still going strong," he said. "I used to have the pants in my closet, but now I keep them in the laundry room. Had to get 'em away from close to where I sleep. They're covered in dirt."

Yes, we can smell that. Care to move downwind?

Schaeffer, a lefty swinger, bats leadoff. In this one, he went 3-for-4 with a walk, two-run single and three RBI.

He fired a ground single to open the sixth inning and the Chargers went on to post a four-spot, snapping a 6-6 tie. Taylor Vanderwoude (two-run) and Bobby Ropars (one-run) rapped singles to account for three of those runs; the fourth scored on an error.

"I get nervous up there," Schaeffer said. "As a leadoff hitter, I know you're supposed to work the pitcher, which I never do. I'm always ready to swing at the first pitch. If it's there, it's there.

"I might swing at some bad pitches, but I do try to get the ball on the ground and then start running."

PAC, coached by former Father Judge player Jack Smith, is in its fourth year of high-school existence and is about to graduate its first seniors. It's located at 11000 Roosevelt Blvd. in a way-up-there portion of the Northeast.

Schaeffer is from Mayfair, and he spent half of his freshman year at Northeast High before transferring. He still has vivid and quite unpleasant memories of that first baseball season.

"We were all ninth-graders, of course," he said. "We had [varsity] patchwork games against anyone who would play us. We'd lose by scores of like 31-1, in three innings. It's rough getting smoked every game.

"To go from that, losing pretty much every game, to this, winning every game but one, that's pretty cool. You always hope your senior season is going to be a good one. It's kind of amazing because we only have three in the lineup."

The others are leftfielder Justin Beattie (3-for-5, two-run double) and first baseman Matt Sanabor. Ropars, a junior, finished with three RBI while classmate Dave Pachuki, a junior lefty, toughed out an eight-hitter.

Evan Hunt and Bill Powers stroked two-run singles for Masterman while Adam "All My Children" Chandler and Chuck Feeley managed two hits apiece.

Schaeffer struggled as the season began.

"But I felt good coming back to this field," he said, "because this was where we beat Gratz and that day got me out of my slump. I've been going good since then."

His pants? Still not going into the washing machine. *