Over the last year, I've listened to Merrill Reese call the final 8 minutes of last year's Giants-Eagles game at the Meadowlands, oh, 25 times or so. For the rest of this decade, it will be tough to replace that on the top of my list of most memorable Philly sports broadcast moments. But here are my collection of close seconds.
'He buried it!'
Oct. 4, 1980: Andy Musser was the most forgettable of the Phillies' announcing crew during the Harry and Whitey heyday. But from 1976 until 2001 (really), he was a mainstay in the booth. With a voice that sounded as if he were going through puberty and the appearance of a junior-high science teacher, he was never going to be the most popular game-caller in the city but in a fit of unscripted joy, creaky Andy went off script and tag-teamed with Harry for Mike Schmidt's division-clinching home run against the Expos:
Harry: Swing and a long drive . . . Deep leftfield . . .
Andy Musser: (Shouting over Harry) He buried it! He buried it!
Harry: Way back . . . That ball's outta here, home run! Mike Schmidt puts the Phillies up, 6-4!
And then Musser capped it off with a yelp. I was 6 years old when that happened. For the first time, I understood that men sometimes sound like women when they are overcome by joy.
Nov. 3, 1996: Stan Walters, an Eagles tackle from 1972-1981, joined with Merrill Reese in the booth from '84 to '97. His stint was memorable only because he was incapable of sounding as if he weren't annoyed to be there. Prone to criticism more than color, the extent of Walter's insights often consisted of incomprehensible grunts. On this day, he wasn't any better, as Troy Aikman marched all the way down to the 3-yard line to set up what appeared to be a Cowboys game-winning touchdown. Then, just as a loss seemed imminent, Aikman threw a desperate heave into the end zone. The ball was intercepted by linebacker James Willis. And although the game would have been over with the Eagles possession, Willis decided to keep running. As Reese shouted with excitement, Walters over-shouted him with desperate pleas for Willis to "fall down!" to prevent any chance of a dopey turnover. Willis never did, and instead lateraled the ball to Troy Vincent, who finished off the the run for a 104-yard touchdown. I always imagined Walters, still annoyed by Willis' near-boneheaded play, shaking his head in the corner while everyone celebrated around him.
'Here comes Iguchi!'
Aug. 30, 2007: When Chase Utley broke his hand in late July 2007, the Phillies' hopes of a pennant race also seemed broken. The Mets commanded the NL East, and the chances of their simultaneous collapse and the Phillies win streak seemed implausible. To replace Utley, the Phillies acquired Tad Iguchi, a slight Japanese journeyman who managed to do just enough to keep the Phillies in it. By late August, the Mets' collapse had begun, the Phillies were winning and Utley had returned. On this lovely August afternoon, on the last day of a series in which the Phillies had staged late-inning comebacks, they were once again forced to do so - and do it against former Phillies closer Billy Wagner. Iguchi pinch-hit in the ninth, tying the game, 10-10, with a single. Then he stole second. Rollins was intentionally walked. Up stepped Utley, then Harry with the call: "Line drive hit to rightfield . . . HERE COMES IGUCHI! . . . " It sounded both exuberant, and vaguely racist for some reason, and it was vintage Harry. To me, from that point on, "Here comes Iguchi!" became a silly, nonsensical battle cry until the end of that season. When the Phillies officially took over the Mets on the final day and won their first NL East crown since 1993, it was more than just a victory. The Mets lost to the Marlins and Jamie Moyer helped the Phillies defeat the Nationals on the last day of the season, which capped off the ultimate Iguchi-ing of the Mets.
'You have a quarterback'
Nov. 30, 1997: Reese is usually at his best during shell-shocked excitement but on this day, when young Bobby Hoying orchestrated a 44-42 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals,
Reese went all Edward R. Murrow on us, proclaiming with bold seriousness: "Ladies and gentlemen . . . you have a quarterback" after Hoying's final touchdown drive. After years of Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete filling in for a banged-up Randall Cunningham, Reese's call was probably born out of exasperation. But still . . . that was probably the last positive thing ever said about Hoying, given that the next season he went 1-6 as the starter, proving that the Eagles, in fact, did not yet have a quarterback.