Bryce Harper is restrained by, from front left to right, Colorado Rockies' Ryan McMahon, first base umpire Ben May and Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan after reacting to a taunt by Rockies relief pitcher Jake Bird in the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

When the Phillies lost 4-0 on Sunday, it was a bummer. With one of their aces on the mound and a chance to sweep a bad team in their home park, the offense had a wretched day at the plate (0-for-14 with runners in scoring position) and defensive miscues early paved the way for a disappointing end to a good series.

So, the Phils lost a baseball game. But at least they did it with a little style.

After wriggling out of a jam in the top of the 7th inning, Rockies reliever Jake Bird, possessing a stunning lack of self awareness, began taunting and jawing at the defending National League champions — a team that had just won the previous two games.

The gesture led to the Phillies’ first benches-clearing incident of 2023.

It capped off an eventful weekend for Harper, who was an offensive wrecking crew in the first two games. He started with a huge two-run double on Friday to break a 3-3 tie in the 8th, and then added two enormous insurance runs on Saturday night with a monstrous two-run blast, turning a tenuous 6-5 lead into a comfortable 8-5 advantage. After the swat, Harper apparently exchanged words with a group of young people behind home plate who had reportedly been getting on him during the game.

Harper’s three days in the mountains had me wondering something: Has there ever been a more perfect fit of city and player than Philadelphia and Bryce Harper?

From his on-field production, intensity level, and personality, I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who would rise above him in this category.

I can think of a few who are at least on par with the two-time NL MVP.

Eagles center Jason Kelce has embraced the city like few others have. Whether it be dressing up in Mummers garb and delivering an all-time speech on the Art Museum steps following the Super Bowl 52 victory or the fact he’s going to be a first-ballot NFL Hall of Famer and one of the greatest centers who ever lived, Kelce is a lock for this list.

Another Eagle, Brian Dawkins, would undoubtedly be on this list as well. It’s difficult to think of a more beloved athlete than B-Dawk, whose intensity and talent level on the field and generosity off it were like few marriages we’ve ever seen. Similarly, Chase Utley’s gritty personality and Hall of Fame resume will forever have him cemented as an inner-circle Philly athlete.

Last week, I would have put Joel Embiid on this list without a second thought, but after his performances in Games 6 and 7 against the Celtics and his postgame comments, the bloom is off that rose a bit. Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley generated a little too much negative press and controversy during their playing careers and had vocal opponents but, in retrospect, most fans appreciate their careers here and love them both. But they’re not quite at the level of the players above. Maybe Julius Erving? Dr. J. is a legend, an all-time fan favorite and led the Sixers to their last championship 40 years ago.

As for hockey, Bobby Clarke was beloved as a player, but not so much when he entered the front office. Claude Giroux was popular, but is he at the same level as Dawkins, Harper and the others? Probably not.

There are certainly other athletes who could populate this list, but you cannot dispute that Harper isn’t at or near the top of it, as this weekend’s festivities at Coors Field proved once again.


John Stolnis grew up in Delco as a rabid fan of all Philadelphia sports, but the Phillies have always held a special place in his heart, particularly those disappointing Juan Samuel-led teams of the late...