Is the Reading Fightin Phillies Minor League Baseball Team leaving Reading, PA?
R-Phils of Reading, Pennsylvania
The Reading Phillies have always been affiliated with the major league Philadelphia Phillies and are in the Double-A Eastern League, Eastern Division. Founded in 1967, they have always played in Reading, Pennsylvania in the same stadium located within the city limits. It was fondly known as Reading Municipal Memorial Stadium until the city capitulated to the money-raising practice of allowing a corporate sponsor to brand the name of the stadium.
However, the team’s name change removing the word "Reading" in 2012 underscores many other changes which appear to me to make the team poised to relocate.
Recent Changes Continually Remove Reading, PA from the Team Brand
Uniforms, memorabilia, names, the wiping out of the Reading Phillies history.........
R-Phils and O-Phils
Popular local radio personalities (also known as disc jockeys) of the 1980s came up with the nicknames R-Phils and O-Phils. The R-Phils were the beloved hometown minor league team. The O-Phils were the "Other" Phillies - those major leaguers down in Philadelphia. The sobriquet fit the Reading team perfectly. The Reading Phillies wore white uniforms with the word "Reading" in red across the chest. Sometimes the uniform included pinstripes and their caps displayed the same font style of the letter "P" used by the big-league Philadelphia Phillies, however changed to be an "R" for Reading. (In fact, a friend of mine from Philadelphia requested that his mother sew an additional line on his Phillies "P" baseball cap for times he came to Reading to see the R-Phils.)
Now, however, there are no R-Phils. Instead they are Fightin Phils. They could live anywhere. The media is struggling with how to refer to the team. The Reading sportswriters sometimes call them the Reading Fightin Phils and other times omit the word Reading as they work on this name transition. In the meantime, the "R" logo has been manipulated to a become bizarre ragged-edged letter "F" (more on this under Ostrich.)
Baseballtown could be Anywhere
The references to the home of the Reading Phillies as "Baseballtown" started about a decade ago. At the time, it seemed to be a supreme compliment: that Reading, PA was SO perfect in its presentation of all-American minor league baseball, that it is the ultimate town for baseball. Now, conversely, the nickname can be incredibly useful if a team relocation is imminent.
Much of the new webpages and memorabilia post-2012 emphasize the name Baseballtown. Where IS Baseballtown? It could be Vineland, New Jersey, for all we know. The name certainly need not be synonymous with the city of Reading.
Old Webpages Gone or Altered to Remove Reading
This is 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 come to town. Scary.
Once upon a time, as recently as the year 2010, the Reading Phillies website contained many links describing capital improvements to the home stadium, a calendar of events, players photos, and more. One of my favorites was the list of non-playing personnel - public relations, ticket sales, facility managers, and so on. The page cleverly listed how many "Seasons" each employee had been with the club. Also, of course, team-related products and clothing were offered on the website.
As in the above-mentioned novels, history can be changed. Or lost. In this case, lost appears to best describe the situation. No history. No seasons worked.
Try to find historic photos of the Reading Phillies. They are not on the current team webpage. Try Googling it. Enter search term "Reading Phillies" and one is re-directed to the Fightin Phils. Or the Reading Fightin Phillies. In any event, the logo shown is the new ragged feathered (presumably ostrich-feathered) letter "F." One's best chance of viewing the traditional Reading Phillies garb is either on eBay or in a newspaper account which resisted tampering. In Internet research, it is as if they never existed. (In Fahrenheit 451, history was re-written to purport that Benjamin Franklin's fire companies scoured the city to burn books.) Even the official MLB team store has only jerseys with Baseballtown or Fightins.
The new uniforms are midnight navy blue, black with a little bit of "flesh-color" (Caucasian flesh), and gray for ostrich feathers. They are extremely plain - as if waiting for more detail. The word across the chest are either Fightin Phils or Baseballtown. There is NO mention of Reading.
A Reading Phillies Uniform in 2012
Ostrich as the Mascot? Too Commercial and Too Unrelated to Reading, Philadelphia, or Anything except another Corporate Sponsor!
Shamefully, the club decided that the primary mascot and animal-totem will be an ostrich. Ostrich? Does southeastern Pennsylvania German culture revere ostriches? Does baseball? (Answer: No.) This is an easy riddle to unravel if one has been attending games over the last decade.
Reading has local businesses which support the team and that is a very good thing. A silly publicity gimmick arose about a decade ago which did delight the fans. One of the local sponsors - Berks Packing (hot dogs and meats) - developed a character just for the Reading Phillies games called "The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor." The person wearing the vendor costume appeared to be an old fashioned delicatessan clerk complete with white paper hat riding an ostrich Kentucky Derby-style. (The actor's legs were encased in the ostrich legs and fake human jockey legs were sewn on the stuffed and fluffly ostrich body.) As is often the case for popularizing a gimmick - free stuff is given away. In this case, the freebie is adventurously flung by Super-Slingshot into the stands between one of the innings by The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. As the Vendor gallops around, sections of fans stand, shout and raise their arms in hopes of catching a cooked, wrapped hot dog. It is also amusing to see the occasional showering of relish and mustard drippings if the wrapping falls off during the forceful trajectory into the crowd.
I can only imagine that something made it worthwhile to especially honor the Berks Packing ostrich.
Although I am no actuary, I add 1 + 1 + 1 to get 3. If it smells like a rose, it likely IS a rose. The word "Reading," the letter "R," and more have been deleted from the team's effects.
I hope I am wrong.
Footnote on Minor League Baseball
Minor league professional baseball teams are the training and proving grounds for players aspiring to make it to the major league. Three tiers of ability exist within this system, also known as the farm clubs. The teams with the most novice level of players belong to Class A. Next higher in ability are players on the Double-A teams. The teams closet to major league ability are the triple-A teams. The Reading farm team is Double-A.
Text copyright 2013 Maren E. Morgan.
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