You loved Chooch. I loved Chooch. All of Philadelphia loved Chooch.
He was the most lovable Phillie on a team full of World Champions — the first team of World Champions that many in this city have ever known. So he'll always hold a special place in our hearts.
Carlos Ruiz is returning to Philadelphia tonight with the Seattle Mariners to play his beloved Phillies once again. And much like we did with the "26 times Chase Utley was The Man" when Chase returned, we put together a short list of 10 times we all fell in love with Chooch.
Here they are in no particular order.
1. Roy Halladay’s love of Chooch and that adorable pillow
Everybody loved Chooch in Philly but perhaps nobody more than his battery mates. Roy Halladay loved him so much he wanted to bring him home and he did at one point in the form of a pillow.
Doc also wrote a touching letter about Chooch when he got traded to the Dodgers, calling him the "little engine that could."
2. Dinker hit in Game 3 of 2008 World Series
This is one of my personal favorite Chooch memories. I was at my first World Series game sitting along the first base line and can still see Chooch’s little dinker that set off a wild eruption in the stands.
3. The play on Roy’s no-hitter against the Reds
Another Chooch moment I was lucky to be at. Ruiz actually had to make a pretty tough play on a dinker in front of the plate to secure the no-no. He made it look easy.
4. Ice Cream for Chooch
There was even once a whole website dedicated to the idea that Chooch simply deserved some ice cream after a great play. I'm excited for the day when somebody does an oral history of the ice cream for Chooch meme. I believe it started with The Fightins' crew (RIP).
5. "The Good One"
There are countless Chooch memories but none told better than the one by the guy who covered his entire career in Philadelphia, CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury. When Chooch was traded to the Dodgers, Sully wrote a wonderful piece that used the clinching moment of the World Series to tell the story of Chooch giving Philadelphia his "good one." It's worth another read today.
6. Chooch steals the show in Gary Smith's Sports Illustrated cover story on the 4 Aces
Remember the 4 Aces? Oh how spoiled we were. Gary Smith wrote those fantastic cover stories for SI about the pitchers but it was Chooch who made us fall in love with him even more.
He lowers his backside like an emperor settling onto an invisible throne, imitating Howard's setup in the batter's box, then points the end of Howard's bat at an imaginary pitcher, sighting on his prey like Howie does. Only now Chooch begins tilting his head and squinting, trying to see around Howard's big black war club, then yelps, "Hey! Where ees the peetcher? I can't see him!" and the whole squad's howling.
Chooch! comes a request. Do Sammy! That's coach Juan Samuel's nickname. Chooch flashes those big white teeth, those imp eyes and that mierda-eating grin that make every impersonation double delicious, and nails Sammy's slowwww, cool-disco-dude signals from the third base box. The boys roar. Chooch winks. Chooch, do Charlie! He takes a few shambling steps and sends his head bobbing and rolling from shoulder to shoulder, just like Manuel when the Phillies' manager is pissed and heading to the mound to separate the ball from his pitcher's hand, then drops the cherry on top: Charlie's Southern drawl strained through Chooch's Panamanian accent. Chooch, do Shane when Kuroda threw at his head in the playoffs! ... Chooch, do Cliff!
Wait a minute. He's got a dandy Cliff Lee in his repertoire, teething on his necklace and spitting it out as he peers in for the sign ... but Cliff's on the mound tonight. Nope, sorry, no way Chooch will imitate someone he's about to become.
"WHEN I am catching," says Chooch, "it is not two people out there—a pitcher and a catcher. It is one person. It is my fault if something goes wrong. Whatever is happening to him is happening to me. One person. That means I am a different man with each pitcher."
7. Hugging Brad Lidge
There’s no better moment in Philly sports in the last few decades (if not ever) than Chooch embracing Brad Lidge as Harry Kalas tells us the Phillies are the World Champions of baseball. Never forget that one.
8. Scoring from first on Jimmy’s Goodfellas play
The Goodfellas meme certainly helped cement this moment which was mostly J-Rolls moment but let’s not forget Chooch trucking around the base paths to score the winning run.
9. The way Chooch said goodbye
10. Chooch’s impeccable style
Not only would he rock the Godfather suit on the team airplane but he’d also give his teammates cowboys hats just because.
Welcome home, Chooch. We hope your trip is a good one.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot this: