DAVE CASH coined the phrase "Yes We Can" in spring training 1974, and the Phillies splattered it on bumper stickers, posters and the Jumbotron at Veterans Stadium.
Coined the phrase? Coined the phrase?
"I didn't make a dime out of it," Cash said the other day. "I wasn't looking for monetary gain. I was looking to motivate the team for the challenges it faced, the [Bob] Gibsons and the [Tom] Seavers.
"The Phillies even put it on the back of the shirts the grounds crew wore. Once they put it up on the scoreboard, it really caught on."
Now, 34 years later, it has caught on again. It is Barack Obama's rallying cry. Maybe you heard it, final night of the Democratic National Convention, 81,000 partisans chanting "Yes We Can!" with the Hispanic delegates echoing "Si Se Puede!"
Cash is the hitting coach for the Sussex Skyhawks in the CanAm League. Caught up with him on Labor Day weekend when the Skyhawks played the Atlantic City Surf.
"I never thought," Cash said, "in my lifetime, I'd see a black man running for president. In 1966, when I signed to play pro baseball, I couldn't stay in a hotel with a white person. Now, anybody who says 'Yes We Can' is all right with me.
"I think Obama will win. The other party hasn't done much in 8 years. The economy is lousy, housing is a mess, the price of gas is too high. They told us John McCain was a conservative. And now they're telling us he's a maverick. It has to be one or the other."
With the Phillies, Cash was a no-nonsense guy, somewhere between Larry Bowa's cantankerous snarl and Mike Schmidt's laid-back humility. When his playing days were over, he coached and managed for 9 years in the Phillies' system and another 10 in the Baltimore organization. His Skyhawks will begin a best-of-five series tonight vs. Quebec for the Can-Am League championship.
The "Yes We Can" slogan did not come as an inspirational bolt out of a cloudless Clearwater sky. As a matter of fact, it was a spinoff from Cash's bragging about his greyhound handicapping skills.
"There was this dog I'd been watching at Derby Lane in St. Pete," Cash explained. "Went from the bush leagues to the big leagues. Started at Class D, then C, then B, then A, then against the best dogs at the track. Champions.
"I collected about $600 or $700 from maybe eight or 10 guys in the clubhouse to bet on him. His name was Sur Lilly. I told 'em if he drew the one hole [post position], he couldn't lose. He drew the two hole, but the dog inside him wasn't a fast breaker. Sur Lilly led from box to wire. Brought back around $3,000. That's more like $30,000 today.
"Next morning, we're out on the field and someone hollers, 'How'd we do?' and I yell back, 'Yes We Did!'
"And then, someone asked me about the team and I said, 'Yes We Can!' and it caught on."
Cash had watched the Phillies that afternoon on television in his room at a Comfort Inn on the Black Horse Pike. The Phillies beat the Cubs and Jayson Werth had a big day, punching one more hole in the rap that he is not an everyday player.
"Biggest fallacy in baseball," Cash grumbled. "I faced the same thing, 'Play him every day and he'll break down.' Well, I had Werth in the Orioles system. He was drafted as a catcher, but he'd shag flies in the outfield before games, and we thought he'd make a good outfielder.
"You play a guy regularly, he gets more relaxed, he gets more confident, he becomes a better player. And that's what's happened with Jayson."
There are softer jobs than coaching hitting in an independent league where guys are trying to rack up numbers to earn another shot at The Show.
"You have to convince 'em this is still a game," Cash said. "You've got to be able to move a runner, to sacrifice yourself, because the name of the game is putting guys in scoring position.
"You get everyone going in the same direction, you've got a chance. I told them I didn't want to be part of anything that wasn't a winner. And now, we've made the playoffs for the first time in the team's history."
Will he take time out to let the Democrats know they've borrowed his slogan?
"Nah," he said modestly. "I'll leave that up to the media." *