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Philadelphia Phillies
Franchise has won, lost battles with cancer

By Mark Newman /

At Citizens Bank Park, which played host to a memorable 2008 postseason for the Phillies, the Stand Up To Cancer video was frequently played on the giant scoreboard in left. During the regular season, fans watched as actress Jessica Biel instructed them to text STAND to 40202 on their mobile phones. It was hard to miss.

That was the whole purpose.

The Phillies' run to World Series glory was a shared experience for the fans. Unfortunately, the subject of cancer is a shared experience as well, as the lives of many of those who fill up the ballpark have been touched by the insidious disease in some manner.

We root for our heroes on the field, but we also root for those who fight something far more serious, as well as those who fight to find a cure and to raise awareness. There is a common cause with Phillies baseball, and there is a common cause in the Stand Up To Cancer campaign -- a chance to make a difference together.

Think of Tug McGraw, the former Phillies reliever who passed away Jan. 5, 2004, if a more obvious face doesn't readily come to mind. The Phillies had some of their best former players throw out ceremonial first pitches during the 2009 postseason; just think how much McGraw would have enjoyed taking part.

Larry Bowa, the Dodgers' third-base coach, probably has a pretty good idea. On Oct. 21, 1980, he was the last Phillies player to swing a bat in the team's most memorable game prior to 2008. That was at the end of the eighth inning against the Royals, and the next half-inning ended with him watching from shortstop as McGraw struck out Willie Wilson and threw his arms up triumphantly.

The Phillies were World Series champions.

"He epitomized what Philadelphia is all about," Bowa said of McGraw in January 2004, a time when Bowa was managing the Phils. "He was hard-working, dedicated and never gave up. The picture of him jumping up in the air after the last out in 1980 is very memorable. He was a great person and will be missed."

"I first met Tug when I was in the Minor Leagues," Phillies pitcher Brett Myers said. "He was a great guy to be around and he always had fun. He brought a lot of that to me and I'll always remember him for that."

Major League Baseball remembers. Already a heavy promoter of awareness campaigns to fight breast cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer, MLB was the first donor to the Stand Up For Cancer program earlier in 2008, providing an initial contribution of $10 million.

Stand Up To Cancer, or SU2C, is a program devised by the non-profit Entertainment Industry Foundation. It was established by media, entertainment and philanthropic leaders who have borne the brunt of cancer in life-altering ways.

The goal is to bring people together by way of TV and the Internet to generate uncommon awareness about the disease and various screening devices, which, if utilized early enough, can be life-saving.

Phillies fans remember John Vukovich, who played in 49 games for Philadelphia in 1980, managed the team briefly in 1987 and served as a coach from 1988-2004. "Vuk" was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2001, but he remained a part of the organization and a friend to Phillies faithful everywhere until the disease finally claimed his life at age 59 in March 2007. The Phillies dedicated that season to him, and he is remembered now -- a big reason to Stand Up To Cancer.

Phillies fans remember Johnny Oates, who was a catcher for their team in 1975-76. He later was successful as a manager and beloved by many throughout the game, yet he was unable to overcome an aggressive brain tumor known as glioblastoma multiforme. Perhaps that ominous-sounding name will be eradicated from the medical textbooks one day.

Phillies fans are surely happy that Davey Lopes has successfully battled prostate cancer to date. The club's first-base coach underwent successful surgery during Spring Training 2008, giving him the chance to get back on the field and enjoy the Phillies' postseason experience.

Lopes isn't the only member of Philadelphia's coaching staff to have stood up to cancer. On top of surviving a heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery and an infected colon, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel beat kidney cancer during his days as skipper of the Cleveland Indians.

These members of baseball's family are just some of the faces that come to mind when thinking about why to be involved -- why to text like Jessica Biel implores on the scoreboard, why to donate now.

"I know there are other initiatives, but there's something so unique about this one," said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, a survivor of skin cancer, prior to the introduction of Stand Up To Cancer. "I know in talking to doctors about this that they feel this money for research will really lead to a breakthrough in finding a cure. So I would tell you this morning that I feel this is a privilege. I don't regard it as a responsibility."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.