Sports fans across America received some disappointing news on Friday, as it was reported the greatest sports publication in American history will soon be no more.
Sports Illustrated staffers received this today. pic.twitter.com/Q0WdVRzuRb— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 19, 2024
That’s right. Sports Illustrated is going away.
Of course, we feel most sorry for the hundreds of employees who currently work at SI, and it’s obviously a stain on the sports media landscape as a whole. For millions of people, like myself, who grew up on Sports Illustrated, it’s the sad end of an era. I remember waiting breathlessly by the mailbox every Wednesday for the new issue to be delivered, hoping that maybe, just maybe, a Philadelphia athlete would be featured on the cover.
Every now and then, I would get my wish and see a Phillies player splashed in red and white (or maroon and blue) pinstripes, and those moments were pure adrenaline for a 10-year-old kid who lived and died with his baseball team.
So in honor of my favorite sports magazine going under, here are my 10 favorite covers featuring Phillies players on it (not including special commemorative issues).
10. Big Red Machine Joins the Wheeze Kids
Ahead of the 1983 season, the Phillies decided the ghosts of the 1976 NLCS were too much to overcome and brought aboard two additional members of the Big Red Machine that swept them in three games seven years earlier. By this time, a well-past-their-prime Joe Morgan and Tony Perez joined Pete Rose in Philadelphia and, although none of the three had banner years, a red-hot Morgan in September helped the Phils win the NL East and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS. They then, of course, lost to the Orioles in five forgettable games, but it’s clear the Machine magic rubbed off on the so-called Wheeze Kids of 1983.
When Carlos Ruiz was first called up in 2006, he may have been the last player you would ever have thought would be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. However, thanks to the Super Rotation of 2011, the dominance of Roy Halladay and his playoff no-hitter, Chooch garnered national fame as the man behind the mask who pushed all the right buttons. Ruiz getting an SI cover is one of the coolest things to have happened during that incredible era of Phillies baseball.
8. 1980 World Series
It’s a simple picture, and there are no captions on this cover. It’s just a cover shot of Mike Schmidt getting ready to hit the snot out of a baseball during the 1980 World Series in Kansas City against the Royals. Simple. Elegant. Classic. I love this one.
7. Ryan Howard 2009 World Series
Do you remember how hot Ryan Howard was in the 2009 NLDS and NLCS? “Get me to the plate, boys!” Howard set a record for RBIs in a playoff series against the Dodgers and, in this ‘09 World Series preview against the Yankees, looks ready to annihilate anything New York was going to throw his way. His iconic batting stance is seen here, reminding us all of the hulking mass of power Howard displayed at the dish. Unfortunately, Howard’s hot streak came to an end in that Fall Classic, but this cover absolutely owns.
6. The 2019 Core
It’s a cover with Bryce Harper in a Phillies uniform, his first after joining the team as a free agent that off-season. With Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola and J.T. Realmuto there, the ‘19 Phillies didn’t quite live up to the hype (thanks Gabe Kapler!), but this cover is one of my absolute favorites.
5. Jimmy’s MVP
The 2007 season is still perhaps my all-time favorite. Coming back from seven games down with 17 to play is still unfathomable, and Jimmy Rollins’ sprint to the finish line, and that final game, was one we’ll never forget. Look how happy he is! It’s a magnificent shot of Rollins in his MVP form.
4. Lefty’s 300th
This was one of my favorites as a kid, Steve Carlton in 1983 getting ready to make some hitter look like a fool with one of his patented sliders. The double-meaning of the caption: “Hey Lefty, Tell Us How You Won No. 300” commemorates his 300th career victory as well as the fact he had famously stopped talking to the media. People wanted to know more about his pitching and how he felt about that milestone, but Lefty wasn’t giving up the ghost! Still, it’s a really great shot of the best pitcher in franchise history in those beautiful road powder blues.
3. Schmidt & Brett
Schmidt and George Brett were the two best third basemen of the 1980s and faced off in an epic 1980 World Series. It was a match-up for the ages, and there’s no wonder why SI decided to have them share a cover for the ‘81 preview issue.
2. The Super Rotation + Joe Blanton
I often wonder how Joe Blanton felt about this cover? Would he have been upset if they hadn’t included him? Did he feel out of place, knowing that most people didn’t think of him when they talked about the 2011 “Super Rotation?” Was he worried that people would make fun of his inclusion, or would it have been worse not to participate? Maybe these are things only I think about, but it’s the first thing that pops to my mind when I see this incredible shot of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Blanton. I still can’t believe they didn’t win a World Series with that group. Sigh.
1. Bat Man
Maybe it’s weird that this is my favorite, but it’s iconic. The Phils were a going nowhere team in 1990, but Lenny Dykstra had taken the league by storm, hitting over .400 in early June and keeping the Phillies competitive much longer than they had a right to be. It was so rare for a Phillies player to be featured on the cover of that magazine that when it hit my mailbox, it was a shock to the system. My 13-year-old eyes couldn’t believe it. A Phillie on the cover of Sports Illustrated! I still have this magazine tucked away somewhere, and I’ll never lose it. It’s just beautiful.
I wanted to mention the 2008 World Series issue because, while I love seeing Lidge and Chooch at midfield, I really hated the rest of this cover. I hated how they pasted this “DEAR BUD” letter from Tom Verducci over top the players celebrating in which Verducci complained about how awful a World Series it was. I mean, I know this was not a very competitive series, in that the Phillies handled their business in an efficient five games, but the vibe of the cover seems to say that the Phils winning it was less important than getting certain aspects of the Fall Classic fixed. It’s a shame, it should be a top-three cover and, in my opinion, it isn’t. Bummer.