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When Charlie Met Hattie ...
The path to the pennant may have crisscrossed the nation -- and North America for that matter -- but the Phils' road show hasn't spent as long on the run as Harriette "Hattie" Gubel.
And which turnpike was she on? "I, 95," says Gubel, road-warrior extraordinaire.
Indeed, the 95-year-old Phillie fanatic is root-root-rooting for the home team away from home; a lifelong Philadelphian and Cherry Hill, N.J., native daughter, she is spending her lively days these days in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Really, not that far, she concedes; maybe just a Ryan Howard blast away.
But she does know how to celebrate, and fireworks over the Park are nothing compared to the stars in her eyes each time one of those Phils swats it outta here.
"We go to see the Phillies every year to celebrate her birthday," says her great -- and really great-guy -- nephew, Daniel Bachove, who also lives in Florida. "We do this because so many of her friends and family are not with her anymore, and celebrating with 45,000-plus fans makes up for the losses."
Win it for the Gipper? Win it for the Gubel!
But what happens after you have spent a lifetime -- Harriette grew up near Shibe Park, "where I could hear when the Phillies came to bat" -- recalling and rooting for the Baldschuns, the Demeters, Mahaffeys, and now Utleys and Hamels, and the Phils are going, going, gone -- playing a game far from Fort Lauderdale on your birthday.
Break open a pack of Wrigley gum, Aunt Hattie; you're headed to see the Cubbies!
After making special arrangements to take Harriette to Chicago for the Phils game, Daniel broke it to her slowly, like a well-placed bunt rolling along the line.
For a woman who survived '64; watched the years whiz boy after the Whiz Kids of '50; and saw her Phils tamp Tampa Bay's dreams for a World Series ring with one of their own last year, there was only one line up and waiting for her to pitch to Daniel: "Do we have good seats?"
Ernie Banks couldn't have banked on a better response.
"Oh, it was wonderful, just wonderful," she said of the recent game and geriatric grand-slam of a gift.
"And, yes, I did have good seats," she added.
Charlie's the Man!
And she met a great manager: Her dream, she said, was to chat up Phils' main man, manager Charlie Manuel.
When Charlie met Hattie ... On the Aunt Harriette Gubel victory lap, she made a short stop and did just that: "I got to meet him, and he was such a nice man."
That's a relief (not spelled Lidge). And now Harriette -- No. 95 on her back -- a woman who has cheered the Phillies coming up the rear and roaring forward to first over the years, awaits her seventh World Series.
As the Phillies take the field ... have the Phillies taken the field?
"The first game I went to," some 50 years ago, "my [late] husband took me, and I was so excited. "I said to him, 'I can't wait until the Phillies get out on the field.' "
Foul tip! "Then he told me, 'Who do you think has been out there all this time on the field?' "
Seventh-inning kvetch? Not Aunt Hattie!
"She knows what bad times are," relates her nephew of one who has lived through both the Great Depression and the depressing Collapse of '64, "but she is the type of person who keeps going [even though others] will stop just because they see a red light. My great-aunt Harriette has continued to run the lights until she finds a green one" -- and he's not merely talking the Phanatic.
She must be watching the third-base coach's hand signals. Because, says the nonagenarian, with "no" not a part of her victor's vocabulary, the Phils are about to run away with it all -- hook, line and sinker ball.
"Repeat!" she exhorts.
And she hopes to do just that, waving the pennant -- not the white flag -- next year at 96.