The sports memories of 2019 ... Eagles hope they’re not over yet
From two doinks in a wild Eagles win in January to four doinks in a heartbreaking Sixers loss in May, it's been a year of highlights. lowlights and memories.
The Phillies played .500 ball. A one-game improvement from 2018, though not at all satisfying given they added the top free agent. Some more pitching would have helped.
The Eagles came out of camp with a squad on paper that was better than the Super Bowl team and are 8-7. Fortunately for them, they play in the Keystone Kops division and should get into the playoffs anyhow.
The Sixers got within a Game 7 miracle of getting to the conference finals in the spring, and the Flyers enter the dog days of winter looking like they could win at least one playoff round for the first time in eight years.
There were no championships this year, but there was plenty of entertainment and hilarity on the pro sports scene. Let’s take a cup of kindness yet to the friends we lost and salute the new ones we’ve made. Since Bryce Harper signed for $330 million, let’s make sure to serve only the good stuff.
♦ A few months before he retired, Eagles defensive end Chris Long received what is arguably the NFL’s highest individual honor. “My lasting legacy is what kind of person I am, hopefully,” he said. "And I’m going to fall short a lot. I’m going to have days when I’m not the Walter Payton Man of the Year. If my sons see me as a role model, then mission accomplished.”
♦ The Sixers pushed eventual-champion Toronto to a seventh game, but lost on Kawhi Leonard’s shot for the ages.
♦ The Phillies started the season winning four in a row, including a raucous victory in Washington when Bryce Harper homered in his first game against his former team.
♦ Donovan McNabb and Fran Dunphy were among those inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
♦ Greg Ward, who had been on the practice squad until late November, caught a touchdown pass with 26 seconds left against Washington to help keep the Eagles’ season alive. Even more notable for some Eagles fans was Nigel Bradham’s “rumble for cash” touchdown on a fumble recovery at the buzzer that allowed the Eagles to cover the 7-point spread.
♦ The Sixers posthumously retired Moses Malone’s No. 2 jersey.
♦ Claude Giroux scored in overtime as the Flyers beat the Penguins in an outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field in February.
♦ The Union had its best season ever, including the first playoff win in their 10-year history.
♦ Jay Bruce hit four homers in his first three starts after the Phillies acquired him from Seattle for cash and minor-leaguer Jake Scheiner. Scheiner hit .271 with 14 homers in 74 games at Class A for the Mariners.
♦ The Eagles (8-7) beat the Cowboys in Week 16 to give themselves an unlikely chance to clinch the 2019 NFC East with a win Sunday at the Giants.
♦ Former Inquirer writer Jayson Stark was given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the highest honor for a baseball journalist.
♦ J.T. Realmuto had career highs in homers (25) and RBIs (83) and claimed the Phillies’ first Gold Glove for a catcher since Mike Lieberthal 20 years ago.
Nolan Patrick with a trick shot
♦ Ben Simmons played in his first All-Star Game. And Joel Embiid played in his second.
♦ Nick Foles engineered a last-minute drive to give the Eagles an upset win at Chicago in the wild-card round last January. It will forever be known as the double-doink game because it ended when Bears kicker Cody Parkey missed the winning field goal by hitting the left upright and then the crossbar. Reserve defensive lineman Treyvon Hester tipped Parkey’s kick at the line of scrimmage.
♦ The Sixers beat Oklahoma City to end a 19-game losing streak against the Thunder that went back more than 10 years. And they did so without Joel Embiid, who sat out with knee tendinitis.
♦ The Phillies celebrated Charlie Manuel’s return as the team’s hitting coach by rolling up the Cubs, 11-1. The next night, they won again when Harper hit a walk-off grand slam. After that, they went 18-23.
♦ The Flyers badly mishandled the controversy surrounding the discovery of two racially insensitive songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s. They first covered up her statue outside Xfinity Live! before removing it. Smith was somewhat of a good-luck charm for the team throughout the 1970s. Now, she’s a flashpoint among fans.
♦ David Robertson, Pat Neshek, and Tommy Hunter — key components of the Phillies bullpen — threw a total of 30 innings. Combined.
♦ New Phillies slugger Bryce Harper ended his introductory press conference saying his goal was “to bring a title back to D.C.” It was an honest mistake, though D.C. did get its title eight months later.
Hero catches babies, “unlike Agholor”
♦ Then-Lakers president Magic Johnson stepped into it when he offered to help teach Ben Simmons some pointers about being an oversized point guard. Two months later, Johnson quit on the Lakers.
♦ Embiid played 32 minutes against Toronto in November, missed all 11 shot attempts, and did not score a point.
♦ In a season filled with injuries to the Eagles’ skill-position players, the most critical and mystifying was the abdominal injury to DeSean Jackson. Brought back to stretch the field, Jackson had eight catches and two long touchdowns in Week 1. He had just one catch the rest of the season.
» FROM THE ARCHIVES: DeSean’s ‘day-to-day’ cost him the season
♦ The Phillies brought out their hideous burgundy uniforms worn once in 1979 for a Saturday night game against Atlanta, and it went about the way you’d think. Zach Eflin gave up 10 runs, and they lost, 15-7.
♦ Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins wrote an op-ed in November suggesting the next police commissioner appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney not be “in lockstep with the [police] union.” FOP president John McNesby responded that Jenkins’ proposals “would leave Philadelphia’s many crime victims as defenseless as his poor play has left his football team.” It got nastier, but you get the point.
♦ After an unlikely walk-off home run, utilityman Sean Rodriguez lit into Phillies fans who had jeered him and Rhys Hoskins. When Rodriguez came to the plate the next night, he was booed.
♦ Cole Hamels made his first start at Citizens Bank Park and was lit up like an Italian Market trash can. Hamels gave up eight runs and was yanked in the third inning.
♦ Andrew McCutchen blew out his knee while caught in a rundown in early June. He was put into the pickle when Jean Segura failed to run out a popup. San Diego’s Ian Kinsler made the heady play of letting the ball drop and got a double play out of Segura’s laziness. The injury to McCutchen was unfortunate shrapnel.
» READ MORE: Bob Ford explains why Segura was not bailed out by the infield fly rule
♦ Alshon Jeffery saw a ball go through his hands, which virtually ended the Eagles’ chances of beating the Saints in a playoff game in January. Afterward, he received a hand-written letter of encouragement from West Chester second grader Abigail Johnson. His 2019 season ended in mid-December with foot surgery.
♦ Bryce Harper, who signed for 13 years for a record $330 million. Harper will be 39 when the deal expires.
♦ The Phillies’ first-round pick was Bryson Stott, a shortstop from UNLV whose mother once coached Bryce Harper’s sister in cheerleading.
♦ Krew Aron Harper, the first child for Kayla and Bryce Harper, was born on Aug. 22. "I hope he has a hockey stick in his hand,” his dad said. “That would be nice.”
♦ Gavin Giroux, the first child of Ryanne and Flyers captain Claude Giroux, arrived four days later.
♦ More new Phillies: J.T. Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, Didi Gregorius, Joe Girardi (manager).
♦ Sixers: Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Al Horford, Josh Richardson.
♦ Flyers: Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Alain Vigneault (coach).
♦ Eagles: Jordan Howard, Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson.
♦ Phillies: Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, Gabe Kapler (manager).
♦ Sixers: Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz.
♦ Flyers: Wayne Simmonds.
♦ Eagles: Nick Foles, Darren Sproles, Joe Douglas (executive).
♦ Philadelphia Soul: 2004-19.
Friends we’ve lost
♦ Tess Boyle, 76, matriarch of prominent Philadelphia basketball family.
♦ Don Bragg, 83, Penns Grove High/Villanova, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in pole vault.
♦ Jack Chevalier, 83, Philadelphia Bulletin sports writer who coined the 1970s Flyers the “Broad Street Bullies.”
♦ Jim Delaney, 83, football coach at Camden Catholic.
♦ Bill Fleischman, 80, Daily News sports writer, University of Delaware professor.
♦ John Hughes, 91, soccer coach for George Washington and Delran high schools.
♦ Frank Lucchesi, 92, Phillies manager 1970-72.
♦ Lewis Lloyd, 60, NBA player in 1980s.
♦ Bill Lyon, 81, renowned and award-winning Inquirer columnist.
♦ Philip E. Martelli, 87, unofficial guardian of St. Joe’s basketball and father of its former coach.
♦ David Montgomery, 72, beloved Phillies executive.
♦ Willie “The Worm” Monroe, 73, prominent 1970s boxer.
♦ Mary Scharff, 64, member of Immaculata’s 1974 national championship team.
♦ Al Shrier, 88, Temple media relations.
♦ Wayne Smalls, 65, Camden High basketball star in the 1970s.
♦ Micah Tennant, 10, slain at South Jersey high school football game.
♦ Frank Trotman, 81, coached numerous sports at Haddonfield and Haddon Township high schools.
♦ Major League Baseball announced Philadelphia will host the 2026 All-Star Game.
♦ There was plenty of drama in the Eagles locker room this calendar year, but unless anonymous sources want to go on the record, they might as well keep it to themselves.
♦ The St. Louis Blues turned a January visit to a Mummers club in South Philly into a rallying cry during their unlikely run to the first Stanley Cup in team history.
♦ Carson Wentz signed a 4-year, $128 million extension. The deal, which includes $107 million guaranteed, will keep him in an Eagles uniform through 2024.
♦ Blossoming Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom saw his season come to a stunning halt in December with the announcement that he has Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor.
♦ Defensive tackle Malik Jackson, the prize of the Eagles’ free-agent class who was expected to form a dominating duo with Fletcher Cox, suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 1 and was lost for the season.
♦ Jake Arrieta celebrated the Bryce Harper signing by putting on a Speedo and grabbing a broom. “Getting the house ready,” he joked on Instagram. He’s definitely a different dude.
♦ Odubel Herrera was arrested in May for assault related to a domestic abuse case and shortly later was suspended for the season. Contractually, he cannot be released without a baseball reason.
♦ Before the Flyers-Penguins outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field, NHL officials devised provisional rules — such as a potential shootout three weeks later in Pittsburgh — if a threatening rain storm made the contest impossible to finish.
♦ Flyers farmhand Jori Lehtera was convicted in his native Finland of buying cocaine and given a four-month suspended sentence.
♦ The Flyers played their first game outside of North America and beat Chicago in Prague in the 2019-20 season opener.
♦ The double-doink game was the first playoff game Jason Peters played in and won. He had been 0-3.
♦ Hopefully, we’re getting closer to the day that a made three-pointer by the Sixers’ All-Star point guard isn’t cause for a text news alert, but Ben Simmons made the first three of his career Nov. 20 against the Knicks. Just to prove it was no fluke, he did it again two weeks later.
♦ "It wouldn’t have made sense to franchise [tag] Nick. It just wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. He’s a legend in Philadelphia. He will always be part of our family, forever. ... He and Carson are different, and so terrific, both of them. They both benefited from each other in so many ways.” — Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie shortly after Nick Foles signed with Jacksonville
♦ “It hasn’t been his fault.” — Bryce Harper on manager Gabe Kapler after the 81-81 season
♦ "I don’t know Game 7, losing the game that way. Last shot after a hard-fought game. I feel like we had a chance. A lot of things go through your mind and it sucks. … I can’t explain it. It just sucks.” — Joel Embiid after the Sixers were eliminated by Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beater
♦ "It was definitely an eye-opening experience. … It was nice to see the other side of baseball for once. It’s something I’ve always thought about and wondered about if I’d be able to go through that process myself. It was definitely a good experience. I don’t know if I would do it again. But I enjoyed the process.” — Relief pitcher David Robertson, who acted as his own agent and signed a guaranteed two-year, $23 million contract with the Phillies
♦ “For me, that’s probably the weakest part of their offense is him. Everything else is good. They’ve got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers. You just want them to pass the ball. You want Kirk Cousins to get it in his hands.” — Eagles linebacker Zach Brown. Two days later, Cousins threw four touchdowns to beat the Birds. Two days after that, Brown was an ex-Eagle.
♦ “We’re going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play. And we’re gonna win that football game, and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East.” — Eagles coach Doug Pederson, the day before cutting Brown, about the following week’s game. The Cowboys won, 37-10.
♦ “The guy has 60-plus homers in three years and you’re booing him? Explain that to me. That’s entitled fans. I don’t know if it’s them feeling like they’re owed something. There’s nobody in here that doesn’t want to win. That’s what sucks. When we hear that, we’ve learned to try and take that and use it like we should. But if I sat here and just buried you every single day verbally, is that helping?” — Sean Rodriguez on Rhys Hoskins’ awful slump after the All-Star break
♦ The next night, Rodriguez walked back his criticism, saying he was “trying to promote love over hate. That was the message I was going for. It definitely wasn’t to offend [fans].”
♦ "He’s got to get a jump shot. It sounds stupid and all that, but I’m dead-ass serious. Because if not, he will regret it when his career is over.” — Kobe Bryant on Ben Simmons
♦ "That’s what people say, in general. It’s not just the Kobe thing. And I know that. I’m trying to develop my game, trying to get better.” — Simmons’ response
♦ "The Hayesey line — with Jake and James — that should be a big, good NHL line. They should be able to contribute five-on-five and play well offensively and defensively. I love Kevin Hayes as a person. James [van Riemsdyk] and Jake [Voracek], I’m starting to learn, are great people. But I need more from the hockey player. I know that they want to do well. We’re 20 games in. It’s time.” — Flyers coach Alain Vigneault
♦ “I didn’t trade myself. I never asked to leave,” former Sixers forward Dario Saric said. “Philadelphia was my first NBA home. It always will be.”
♦ "I love the French people, and I like a lot of the French food. But snails and beef tongue and pig’s ears? Their ham sandwiches are basically a giant baguette with one slice of ham and a huge slice of cheese. Jordan Matthews and his wife were over there. They told me I had to try this one restaurant. So I went there and beef tongue and pig’s ears were on the menu. I made the mistake of ordering it. The next day, I had the worst stomach ache of my life.” — Zach Ertz, who spent a chunk of the summer abroad training and watching wife Julie help the U.S. women’s soccer team win the World Cup
♦ “Rod Carew asked me for my autograph. I’m like, 'Are you serious? ' He said, 'Yes, I’m serious. ' What do you say to Rod Carew?" — Brandy Halladay, who represented her husband at Roy’s posthumous induction into the baseball Hall of Fame
♦ "This is not my speech to give, but I’m going to do the best I can to say the things I believe Roy might have wanted to say if he was here today. The thank yous could and should go on for days when you consider the impact so many people have had on Roy’s career.” — Brandy Halladay
♦ “I didn’t want to disappoint him, and that’s the first Flyers jersey I ever saw anyone wear with my name on the back. I was like, ‘Maybe I should just stick with 79. I don’t want his parents to be too mad and have to buy him another jersey if I switched numbers.’ I wanted to just honor that.” — Carter Hart explaining that he wears No. 79 because of young fan Connor Parkkila, a boy who has autism
♦ “It was early in the afternoon Friday, a gray sky above, when about 200 orange-clad tourists walked across the famed Charles Bridge [in Prague, Czech Republic] and let out a chant that was probably never heard on the 14th-century structure. ‘Let’s Go Flyers!’” — Inquirer writer Sam Carchidi describing the scene before this season’s opening game against Chicago
♦ "He’s ready. There’s a transition period for a guy like that who’s moving from [college] quarterback to receiver. But he’s so talented. He’s ready.” — Eagles radio analyst Mike Quick referring to wide receiver Greg Ward in August (!)
♦ “I could go back there and close my eyes and open my glove, and he’d pretty much hit it. That’s the first thing that sticks out with him.” — Realmuto after catching Aaron Nola early in spring training
♦ “First of all, he’s a nobody.” — Joel Embiid after a skirmish between the Sixers and Brooklyn’s Jared Dudley in the first round of the playoffs
♦ “He was probably the heartbeat of this organization." — Rhys Hoskins after the passing of David Montgomery
♦ “It was before he had become a household name. I was normal size and it was me and him in the finals. I think I hit two home runs, and he hit something like 11. It is something me and my family always laugh about.” — Brian O’Grady, a Northeast Philly native who made his MLB debut with the Reds this season, recalling about competing against Bryce Harper once in a Little League home run derby
♦ “If you worked for the Phillies, you were part of his family, and that was just as true when he was low man in the ticket office in the early 1970s as it was during his days as the team president.” — Columnist Bob Brookover after the death of David Montgomery in May
♦ “I’d do anything for this team. You would probably have to cut one of my limbs off for me to not be out there with those guys.” — Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox
♦ “I would say it’s a long shot, but we’re not out of it.” — coach Doug Pederson after the Eagles, 10.5-point favorites, lost to the 4-11 Dolphins. They’ve won three in a row since that loss and would get into the playoffs by winning this weekend at the Giants (4-11).