Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley got a hero’s welcome at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night, his first game back in Philadelphia since the Phillies traded him to L.A. in August last year. Utley received a standing ovation lasting nearly a minute and a half prior to his first at-bat to lead off the game. He hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and received a standing ovation and the crowd requested a curtain call.
In the seventh inning, with the Dodgers leading by a healthy 9-2 margin, Utley smacked a grand slam to right field. The Philadelphia crowd erupted once again, giving Utley a standing ovation and beckoning for a second curtain call. Once again, they were not disappointed.
All of that left Phillies manager Pete Mackanin a little salty. Per Jen Daniels of CSN Philly, Mackanin said he could have done without the standing ovation after the grand slam. He also said he “gets it,” meaning why the crowd wanted to lavish Utley with adulation.
Utley was a big reason why the Phillies repeated as NL East champions five years in a row from 2007 to ’11, won the World Series in ’08 and returned to the World Series in ’09. It was arguably the greatest period of Phillies baseball in the organization’s 133-year history. Utley was the best second baseman in baseball during his prime as well, and will go down as the second-greatest position player in Phillies history next to Mike Schmidt.
Tuesday night’s game was lost before Utley put the game out of reach with his grand slam. It wasn’t as if Phillies fans cheered a go-ahead home run in the middle of a pennant race. The Phillies are in fourth place at 56-64 in the NL East. All things considered, Tuesday’s game meant nothing to the rebuilding Phillies. And it was the city’s first time seeing an iconic player since he left? Go crazy, folks.
Ultimately, this boils down to policing fandom. And, really, one shouldn’t tell another how to be a fan. If that involves being a fairweather fan, or a bandwagon fan, or cheering for players on opposing teams one happens to like, those are all valid ways of enjoying the sport and the players who perform. At the end of the day, we are watching grown men wearing pajamas chasing a white sphere around a field of grass and dirt. It’s meant to be fun. Kudos to Phillies fans for remembering that.