SELDOM DOES a baseball player arrive late for a game and get mobbed by delirious teammates and coaches.
These circumstances were rather special, however, and roughly 90 minutes later, they were followed by a wonderful accomplishment.
University City High, set to close next month, is in school year No. 40 of Public League membership. These Jaguars now own the only perfect regular season in the school's diamond history (12-0 in Division D), as well as only the third unblemished mark in one of the three major sports (11-0 in basketball in 1995; 4-0 in football in 2008).
The final score Tuesday, under thick clouds at 48th and Woodland, was U. City 3, A. Philip Randolph 2.
Let the celebration begin!
As a strikeout concluded the game, with the tying run on third, the Jaguars rushed toward the mound to engulf Anthony Morel, a 5-7, 135-pound junior righthander. Then they teamed to partially douse coach Marc Holley with water from a large jug. Next, Holley was held down on the tall, filled-with-dandelions grass - he offered little resistance - so the contents of a smaller jug could finish the job.
More than once, then and over the next few minutes, he could be heard yelling, "Oh, my God! What an adventure!"
Off to the side to start, careful not to get involved when the jumping and pounding was taking place, was Morel's brother, Brandy, a 5-10, 145-pound senior righthander.
Taking the chance of getting thumped in a playful celebration would not have been a good idea.
Brandy Morel is UC's ace and would have been pitching Tuesday if not for a scary development Monday in a game against West Philadelphia.
In the top of the first, he launched a ball deep into the outfield and tried for an inside-the-park home run. Alas, he was tagged out at the plate, at chest level, and the force flipped him backward. Bang! He hit the back of his helmeted head on the ground.
"He was shaking like crazy," Holley said. "Like he was having a seizure. We didn't know what was happening."
"Scared . . . shocked . . . worried," Anthony Morel said. "I was surprised that anything like that could happen to him, my brother. I played the rest of the game, but I had him in my head the whole time. Then I went to the hospital."
Brandy, who described the event as "terrifying," was released around 11 p.m. and, thankfully, the diagnosis was "only" a concussion. He even went to school Tuesday and, he said, was able to concentrate pretty well in class. Part of him thought he'd be cleared to play. Most of him knew the truth: no chance.
After school, he headed home - Fairmount, near 34th - and was driven to the game by his father, Rufino. He arrived as UC prepared to bat in the bottom of the second.
You would have thought he strolled in arm-in-arm with Jennifer Lopez. The Jaguars were thrilled to see him. And Brandy was ecstatic to be there.
He did not merely watch. For the rest of the game, Holley signaled the pitch choice to catcher Demetrius Rivers and Brandy flashed signs to indicate location.
Result: Anthony struck out a lifetime-high 15 batters and allowed only two hits, well-struck singles by Derrick Ramseure.
"I'm proud of this. It's fascinating," Anthony said. "I wanted to win for him. It's even better that he was helping me. He has taught me a lot."
Said Brandy: "I was very proud that my brother was listening to all the advice he was getting. He took orders from everybody. He did what he had to do: throw strikes down the middle to win the game. This is the best feeling I've ever had about my brother. So happy for him."
U. City scored one run in the first - Anthony Morel walked, stole two bases and scored on an error - and two more in the sixth to reverse a 2-1 deficit.
Rivers started the uprising against righty fireballer Justo Rodriguez by drawing a walk. He thieved the next two bags, then scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow left-center (caught by shortstop Devante Johnson) off Nakell Green's bat. Ricardo Romero singled to center, managed two more steals and raced home on a wild pitch.
"I didn't even tell him to go!" Holley said, in amazement.
Monserate "Monti" Martel scored Randolph's runs on errant pickoff throws. On the first, a fielder wasn't paying attention. The second was Morel's fault.
The seventh began as Morel drilled Michael Murray in the hip. He, too, stole two bases, but died at third as Johnson fanned on a 1-2 pitch.
Monday, U. City will visit Esperanza in the first round of the Pub's Class AA playoffs. Brandy hopes to be on the mound. If not, he'll again be a co-pitching coach.
As for next year . . .
"I think my brother is going to Future," Brandy said. "I wanted to see him play that last year at Uni. Can't believe our school is dying out."
At least the baseball team is going out with quite the bang.