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Citizens Bank Park – A Chance to Start Over
When the first game was played at the shiny new Citizens Bank Park just off Broad Street in south Philadelphia on a rainy and cold April 12, 2004, the Phillies were already in last place coming off a three-game sweep by the defending World’s Champion Florida Marlins in snugly warm Miami.
You had to wonder what lame-brained scheduler set up that scenario. They lost the first game at the Bank also, which somehow seemed appropriate given the team’s dismal history. When the ballpark firsts began to be recorded, Randy Wolf had the distinction of being the first losing pitcher, but Wolfie recovered nicely from that 4-1 loss to Cincinnati with back-to-back shutouts, first at Montreal where he also homered, then the first shutout at the Bank, 4-0 over Arizona. If not for the six games they lost to the Marlins, April would have been a good month for the Phillies (10-11).
May was good (17-11), but it could have been better, the Phils lost some games they could have won. Guys were playing hurt. Polanco missed most of the month with a pulled quadriceps muscle; Chase Utley replaced him and was terrific. Billy Wagner missed the last three weeks with a pulled groin muscle. Jim Thome played with sore hands – strained ligaments in left thumb and forefinger, still healing middle finger right hand, broken in Spring Training.
The Bank quickly gained a reputation as a hitter’s park – the team set a record for home runs in May – 29. Abreu, Thome, and Burrell hit back-to-back-to-back home runs twice.
The Phillies finished June in first place by a percentage point over Florida. The team set a franchise record for home runs in June – 44. Jim Thome with 15 tied Cy Williams’ francise record for May homeruns set in 1923. Eric Milton ended the month with a 10-2 record, but an ERA approaching five.
On July 2 at the Bank, the Phillies struck out 19 times, accepted 18 walks and left 44 men on base in a 16-inning, 7-6 loss to Baltimore. Jim Thome was 0-8 with five Ks and no walks. For the month, it looked like they might hold the lead, but then they lost four straight to Florida, Atlanta went 20-6 for the month, and the Phils finished 4 ½ games behind the Braves.
August was another losing month for the Phillies, but nobody could even stay close to the Braves who were 40-14 in July and August. The Wild Card was also off the table for the Phillies with five teams ahead of them.
So what was left? How is this for bizarre: September 11th in New York – 9/11/2004. Phillies in town to play the Mets. At the end of nine innings, both teams had nine runs and 11 hits. The Phillies won the game 11-9 in 13 innings on David Bell’s two-out home run. Larry Bowa used 10 pitchers. Ryan Howard hit his first Major League home run, a pinch-hit two-run job off Bartolome Fortunato to give the Phillies a 7-6 lead in the seventh inning. Billy Wagner blew the save in the ninth inning and was ejected by home plate umpire Dana Demuth for throwing at hitter Cliff Floyd twice.
Ed Wade fired Larry Bowa two days before the season ended and hired Charlie Manuel to replace him. Manuel had managed the Cleveland Indians from 2000 to 2002, winning an AL Central Division title in 2001. When he left the Indians in 2002, Ed Wade hired him as a special assistant .By max blue