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Dan Levy/Billy Penn

Ultimate Phillies Final Four: The Case for Chase

There are just four players left in the Ultimate Phillies bracket. Richie Ashburn handily won the outfielders region of this tournament. Steve Carlton easily took the starting pitchers region. Carlos Ruiz beat Bob Boone, Darren Daulton and Tug McGraw to win the catchers and relievers region. And Chase Utley beat Jimmy Rollins and upset Mike Schmidt to get to the Final Four.

A case can be made for any of these players—yes, even Chooch—to be named the Ultimate Phillie in this tournament. (Click here for all the match-ups and a look at the full bracket.)

On Tuesday, we made the case for Whitey with help of one of his all-time biggest fans. Wednesday, Kevin Negandhi, a ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Temple grad and die-hard Phillies fan, made the case for Lefty.

Today, we seek the help of an area native who left to cover the toughest sport in America: Presidential politics.

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The Case For Chase: Karen Travers, ABC News

travers-headshot
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“He’s a power hitting second baseman…you know how rare that is in the National League?”

How many Phillies fans seriously considered sending Chase Utley a love letter (with stickers!) like Mac on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?”

“I love your hair. You run fast…I’m sure our relationship would be a real home run.”

Utley’s stats alone should vault him into the final round – a 6 time All Star, 4 time Silver Slugger, named to the all-decade team for the 2000s, and an 88.89 career stolen base percentage, an MLB record. He hit five home runs (5!) in the six games of the 2009 World Series – something only Reggie Jackson has done.

But the things that make Chase Utley one of the best Phillies of all time don’t show up in the stat book. It’s his hustle, grit, quiet swagger and sheer toughness that made him beloved among the fans and feared by National League rivals. His pump fake/throw home for an inning-ending out in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series was quintessential Utley: Smart, aggressive and frankly, a bit cocky.

Despite his Southern California roots, Utley was Philly through and through. I would guarantee he has a whole drawer dedicated to gray sweatpants.

His first at bat as a starter was a grand slam. He ran out every play, even home runs. Was he dirty when sliding into or guarding 2nd base? That’s a debate for another article, but nobody who watched Utley play during his 13 seasons in Philadelphia would question that he gave he came to play every inning, every game.

He had a reputation for blowing off reporters, answering questions with as few words as possible, and shunning the limelight that comes with being a professional athlete, especially in a city that worships its favorite athletes with a passion.

And yet it was the soft-spoken Utley who would provide one of the most memorable lines of that glorious, magical 2008 World Series championship season.

I was watching the Phillies parade online in my office in Washington and I remember shrieking, “did Utley really just drop an F bomb? On live television?”

Indeed he did – and the 2008 team became forever known to fans as the WFC Phillies.

But maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised Utley had that saltiness in him. A few months before that he got a rousing Bronx cheer when he took the field at the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium. His response, caught on camera? “Boo? F— You!

In May 2009, the WFCs came to the White House for the traditional event honoring championship teams. At the time I was a reporter/producer covering the Obama Administration and when you cover politics, you do not have opinions. You cannot be biased. But that day at the White House was different. This was my team! There was nothing political about it and man, were me and my Philly colleagues giddy.

We chatted with several of the players before they left the White House. Charlie Manuel let us try on his World Series ring (holy bling). Ryan Howard told me how much he loved living in my hometown of Blue Bell, PA. Jimmy Rollins was funny and as excited to be at the White House as we were to have the team there.

Chase Utley (left) with Karen Travers.

Chase Utley (left) with Karen Travers.

Karen Travers

And then there was Chase. My colleagues and I had a few moments with him that pretty much mirrored that old Chris Farley SNL skit.

“Hey Chase…remember that time you won the World Series?” Pause. Awkward silence from #26. “Yeah, that was awesome.”

“Chase, are you going to beat the Nats tonight?”

“Yeah. We will.”

It’s hard to be a Phillies fan in Washington these days. The era of “Citizens Bank South” has passed, but I still represent my hometown at Nats Park as much as possible. My 3-year-old has a Phillies hat and the other day I dug up several Phillies onesies for my 6-month-old twins. One says “I Heart Chase” with #26 on the back. I can’t wait for my daughter to wear it.

I just wrote a nearly 700 word love letter to Chase Utley when perhaps I really only need six.

In the words of our beloved Harry Kalas, “Chase Utley, you are the man!”

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