Welcome to “The Big Three-Oh!” I’m turning 30 at the end of July and to celebrate, I am counting down my best/favorite sports moments in my lifetime. If you missed the kickoff post, check it out for the background for the series. Today, we have another Phillies-related entry. Let’s get to it…
#14 — Ryan Howard Hits 58 Home Runs in 2006
I’ve spoken about Chase Utley before and how he is my favorite Phillie of all time. Ryan Howard ranks up there as well, behind Cole Hamels but probably 3rd. The 2006 season for the Phillies found them once again finishing 2nd in the Wild Card chase, albeit 3 games out instead of just one game like in 2005. That 2005 season saw the emergence of Ryan Howard as he won NL Rookie of Year. Coming into the 2006 season, the Phils seemed to have a solid batting lineup forming with Howard and Utley now fulltime starters along with mainstays Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, and the newly acquired center fielder, Aaron Rowand.
Honestly, this entry could turn into a pre-NL East-winning Phillies appreciation post as the 2005 team is one of my more fond memories of watching a full season of baseball, thanks to MVP Baseball 2005, and 2006 had incredible moments on top of Howard’s feats. Jimmy Rollins continued his hitting streak after rolling it over from 2005, Chase Utley had a streak of his, and Rowand proved himself to be a fan favorite with this catch:
Ryan Howard started the 2006 season slow, as did the Phillies around him. Howard hit only 5 homers in April and the Phillies found themselves at 10-14. Howard and the Phils caught fire in May with Howard hitting 13 bombs and the Phils ending May two games over .500. Howard stayed hot but by the midseason point, the Phillies were seven games under .500. Howard would win the Home Run Derby in Pittsburgh, the second Phillie in as many years to do so. Unlike Bobby Abreu in 2005, Ryan Howard was not done hitting home runs in 2006.
A stagnant July for the Phillies turned white-hot in August with the Phillies entering the month six games under .500 and exiting August a game above .500 thanks to an offense led by Ryan Howard. In that month, he passed Mike Schmidt’s single-season Phillies record and he didn’t slow down in September. Despite the Mets being one of the best teams in baseball, the Phillies competed for the NL Wild Card but fell short as the Dodgers took the 4th playoff spot in the National League.
Ultimately, the 2006 season stands out to me because of the above-mentioned moments but Howard ultimately stole the show. Despite an entertaining 2006 Playoffs that I watched from Berkshire (my first fall under the mountain), the MVP buzz is what captured my attention after the Cardinals won. Howard led the majors in homers and RBI but Albert Pujols had just won a World Series. This one of the first sports debates I remember passionating arguing with my friends about. Again, this was my fall at Berkshire so I was immersed into a melting pot of different fandoms. Sure, I’d gone to Camp Susquehannock every summer up to that point but most campers were fellow Philadelphians or New York Yankee fans–not too much arguing.
When I think back to Howard being announced as the 2006 National League MVP, I had the feeling of pride in being right but also in my baseball team. Up until then, I didn’t really have that with the Phillies. They hadn’t made the playoffs since 1993 and the other three major sports teams had made finals appearances in my lifetime that I could remember. My favorite team from my favorite sport was on the up-and-up. It gave me something to look forward to going into 2007; especially considering in the fall/winter of 2006 into 2007, Donovan MacNabb got hurt again, Allen Iverson got traded, and the Flyers had one of their worst seasons in franchise history–although the characters on that 2006-07 Flyers squad were fun to follow and their trade deadline performance that year set them up for their own successes. Howard ushered in a new era for Phillies baseball with a statement and I had no idea how great it could be. HINT. HINT.
Today’s Instagram Athlete
Nine years ago to count down the days until my 21st birthday, I posted a picture of athletes wearing the cooresponding number of day left to Facebook. While I did not have an Instagram account back in 2011, I have one now so I’ll be revisiting this idea in conjuncture with Top 30 Sports Moments. FOLLOW MY INSTAGRAM SO YOU DON’T MISS IT
Sean Couturier takes #14 as we have two weeks left until I turn 30 and baseball comes back. Remember how I mentioned that negative moments weren’t going to be featured such as the day Mike Richards and Jeff Carter got traded? Don’t get me wrong, the Flyers still lost the Kings trade considering they won two Stanley Cups but they did acquire the pick that turned into Couts from the Blue Jackets. Couts has been a mainstay of the Flyers organization since the 2011 Draft playing in all nine seasons since then–he’s only 27! Quickly becoming one of the Flyers’ best defensive forwards, Couts found his scoring touch racking up over 30 goals in the previous two season before scoring 22 in the 69 game-COVID-shortened regular season and he’s a front-runner for the Selke Trophy–talk about pride in your team’s players.Follow @geordo9