Joining some former Yankees and Mets, Dennis Werth was signing autographs at a sports-card show in Secaucus, N.J., on Friday night when he received a text message from his wife.
"Jayson hit a bomb," it said.
The elder Werth, who had brief major-league stints with the Yankees and Kansas City Royals, continued signing and continued getting text messages.
By the end of the night, Werth was bombarded with texts and phone calls. His stepson, Jayson Werth, had stroked three home runs and equaled a Phillies record with eight RBIs in a 10-3 win over Toronto.
Dennis Werth went back to his hotel room.
"I didn't want to call him, because I knew he'd be busy with you guys [reporters]," said Werth, sitting in the Phillies' dugout before last night's game. "So I texted him."
"Dude, what can I say?!"
Werth said he was playing off the Bud Light "Dude" commercial.
"That commercial cracks me up," he said.
Werth, 55, was so hyped by his stepson's performance that he couldn't sleep Friday when he went to his hotel room. "I was up at 4 [a.m.], watching the replays," he said. "It was fun."
Werth, an orthopedic sales representative, had planned to return to his home in Springfield, Ill., yesterday. Instead, he took a train to Philadelphia and surprised his stepson by showing up at the ballpark.
"He has a lot of God-given ability, and getting the opportunity to play on a regular basis helps," he said. "I was one of those part-time players, and it's tough coming off the bench."
Dennis has been in Jayson's life since he was 5 and used to coach him. Jayson had his name legally changed to Werth when he turned 18.
A utility player, Dennis Werth played in the majors from 1979 to 1982 and batted .209 in 117 games; he hit three homers - the same number his son launched in one unforgettable night.
The Werths are an athletic family. Jayson's grandfather, Dick "Ducky" Schofield, was in the majors for 19 years (1953-71), and his uncle, Dick Schofield, played in the majors for 14 seasons (1983-96). Jayson's mother, Kim, was in the U.S. Olympic trials in the long jump and 100 meters.
But the best athlete in the family, Dennis said, is probably his daughter, Hannah. She is a high school senior who will attend Nebraska on a volleyball scholarship and is an Olympic candidate.
Better than someone who became the 18th player in Phillies history to hit three homers in a game?
Hot-hitting catcher Chris Coste started for the fourth consecutive game.
"I like Coste - he's swinging real good," manager Charlie Manuel said, though he hinted that Carlos Ruiz would return to the lineup today.
With Werth, Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino and Geoff Jenkins, Manuel said he feels as if he has four starting outfielders.
Victorino was the odd man out last night. Werth, as expected, started in center.
"When he's playing as good as he's been playing, it's pretty hard to put him on the bench," Manuel said.
After Friday's game, Manuel said Werth is a player who, in a best-case scenario, can play 75 to 80 percent of the time. "And if you do that, you're going to get 500 at-bats," Manuel said before last night's game. "He gets worn down, physically and mentally. He might prove me wrong."
Entering the night, the Phillies led the majors with 62 home runs in 43 games. Last year, they didn't hit their 62d homer until their 59th game. . . . The Phils took a best-in-the majors 2.58 bullpen ERA into last night; their starters had a 4.68 ERA, 10th in the 16-team National League. . . . Righthander Kris Benson, whom the Phils signed to a minor-league contract in February, threw in a simulated game yesterday in Clearwater, Fla.
- Sam Carchidi