When you’re one of the hardest working players in the game of baseball and you call Citizens Bank Park home for over a decade, Philadelphia is going to love you.
Chase Utley was just that and boy did Philadelphia love him.
Utley returns to Philly tonight for the first time since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer. It's sure to be an emotional night.
“I’m excited to get back, say hi to the fans and play in a great stadium,” Utley said last week of his highly-anticipated return to South Philly this evening.
The fans are excited too. The memories will come pouring back when Utley takes the field in that weird shade of blue.
One of the most vivid memories is of legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas giving Chase his nickname.
It stuck. Mostly because it was so true. Chase was The Man. And Philadelphia loves him for it.
Here are 26 times Chase lived up to that nickname and was The Man. In no particular order.
1. Utley’s first hit with the Phillies was a grand slam at the Vet. This was long before he became the fan favorite and WFC he is today, but it was an early glimpse that this guy does things a little bit differently.
2. The fakeout-throw-em-out in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. If there’s one play on the field that comes to mind when Phillies fans think of Chase, to me it is this one. Chase was always prepared, always knew the situation, and had the ability to act on his feet.
3. 2008 World Series Game 3 back-to-back home runs with Ryan Howard. Chase did it with more than just his defense when he brought it with his bat in the series that brought Philly that much needed parade.
4. The origin of The Man. Harry and Chase, forever linked. Two of Philadelphia’s sporting treasures.
5. The guy even loved dogs. Of course the guy and his wife Jennifer loved animals and worked tirelessly with the Pennsylvania SPCA and also created the Utley All-Star Animals event.
6. Mac’s letter to Chase. “Dear Chase, I feel like I can call you Chase because you and me are so alike. I'd like to meet you one day, it would be great to have a catch. I know I can't throw as fast as you but I think you'd be impressed with my speed. I love your hair, you run fast. Did you have a good relationship with your father? Me neither. These are all things we can talk about and more. I know you have not been getting my letters because I know you would write back if you did. I hope you write back this time, and we can become good friends. I am sure our relationship would be a real home run!”
7. Chase letter back to Mac
8. Owning the Mets and Utley’s corner. The best athlete’s kill their rivals and Utley’s dominance up at CitiField helped coin right field in Flushing as Utley’s Corner, a mark of total domination.
9. Tying Reggie Jackson’s World Series home run mark in 2009. The New York Yankees got the better of us in 2009 but you can’t blame Chase. That short, sweet swing produced and put the ball in the seats at a record clip.
10. The hair. Chase had great hair. The ladies loved him.
11. So did the men. Men and women alike loved Chase. It was weird.
12. Roy Halladay praising Chase. “Be like Chase.” Everyone respected the hell out of Chase and his work ethic but when the praise comes from a fellow legend with the work ethic of Roy Halladay, it meant a little bit more.
13. Walkoff walk. Chase loved shrimp as much as the rest of us.
14. Standup inside-the-park home run. There’s nothing quite like an inside-the-parker and when Utley ripped one and hustled around the bases so fast that he didn’t even have to slide at home, that’s one Phillies fans aren’t going to forget.
15. “Boo? F—— you" at the All-Star game in New York. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t wanted to give a New York crowd a piece of their mind? Utley simply did it on national television.
16. His rehab chair. Sadly, Chase had to rehab quite a bit. But thankfully he used a chair.
17. 35-game hit streak in 2006. Long before he was a World Champion, Chase put together one of the best hitting streaks in Philly history (Jimmy!) good for 11th best in MLB history.
18. Chase resorts to clubhouse voodoo. Chase wasn’t always hitting. So when he hit a slump, he would obviously watch tape on opposing pitchers, but he also wasn’t above resorting to some clubhouse voodoo.
19. Chase and Jimmy. The Utley and Rollins double play duo made countless dives and flips and turns and just generally made playing defense look like more of an art than a game. But it was the double play in 2008 to clinch the NL East crown in a win over the Washington Nationals in the final days of the season that sticks out.
20. San Francisco Giants confrontation, ball flip back to pitcher. The guy rarely showed emotion. So when he did, fans ate it up. Almost better than a walkoff home run.
21. Return from the DL game with a HR. Been gone a while? Come back and bash a home run.
22. Dude got hit by A LOT of pitches. Sometimes the bases were loaded in the bottom of the 10th and Utley got hit by a pitch for the walkoff win (video).
23. Diving line drive double play vs the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS. The Matt Stairs moonshot game. Shane Victorino going deep. Philadelphia's love affair with Jonathan Broxton. All made possible thanks to Chase's DP.
24. Sleeves were optional.
25. Chase Utley, still the Man, just in Los Angeles. Killing (and hurting) the Mets regardless of what team he played for. Six hits in one game. Just because he left Philly, Chase never stopped being the Man.
26. World EFFIN Champion. The most famous public speech in Philadelphia since the reading of the Declaration of Independence. But with more F-bombs. Honestly, if you ask Philly fans their favorite Chase moment, this is the one that comes up the most. Because it was so unexpected, declarative, and joyous.