HEISER: York County baseball fan Bob Bogart deserves to be called 'real Phillie Fanatic'
- Springfield Township's Bob Bogart has kept score for 5,012 straight Philadelphia Phillies games.
- Bogart has followed the Phils since attending a game at Connie Mack Stadium when he was 5.
- Bogart's grandfather took him to that game and taught him how to keep score.
Bob Bogart’s devotion to the Phillies is unwavering.
It’s as constant as William Penn’s gaze over Philadelphia from his stately perch high atop City Hall.
It’s evident in every meticulous pencil stroke Bogart makes in his specially-designed score books.
Game after game, week after week, year after year. Through championship seasons and last-place finishes.
Almost without exception, if the Phillies are playing, Bogart is watching and making note of every single play.
The Springfield Township man recently passed a milestone that is staggering to comprehend.
For the 5,000th consecutive game, Bogart kept score for a Phillies game.
Actually, when the regular season ended Sunday, Bogart’s streak stood at 5,012 games.
And there’s no end in sight.
When asked how long he planned to continue his streak, the 56-year-old Bogart said succinctly: “As long as I’m alive.”
That, my friends, is dedication.
Streak begins: Bogart’s streak, which began Aug. 7, 1986, is actually even longer than 5,012 games. Bogart also kept score for every Phils’ postseason game during that 31-year stretch but doesn’t include those games in his streak.
“Cal Ripken didn’t count postseason games in his streak, so I don’t count them in mine, either,” he said.
Ripken is a beloved figure among Baltimore Orioles fans in York County. Known as baseball’s “Iron Man,” the Hall of Fame infielder owns the record for consecutive games played at 2,632.
Bogart’s streak is now nearly twice as long as Ripken’s.
Small asterisk: It should be noted that Bogart’s streak comes with a small asterisk. A few times — Bogart estimates it at approximately two dozen times — Bogart couldn’t watch or listen to the game live. Instead, he had to record a game and watch it later to maintain his scoring streak.
The last time it happened was May of 2016, when he was returning home from a business trip to New Zealand. The streak also survived a business trip to England.
Life, such as the high school graduations of his two children, occasionally got in the way, but Bogart makes every effort to watch, or listen, to every Phils’ game live, and keep score.
"It's enjoyable:" Why does he do it?
“Because it’s enjoyable,” said Bogart, a New Jersey native who moved to York County in 1993. “I couldn’t stand to miss whatever they’re doing. If they’re on the West Coast, I just stay up late. If I went to bed, I’d just be wondering what they were doing, so I might as well stay up.”
Bogart, who works for the Department of Defense in Fort Meade, Maryland, even plans his vacation schedule around his passion for the Phillies.
When the team’s 2018 schedule was released recently, Bogart immediately put in his vacation time so he could stay up late to watch the Phils and not have to get up early to go to work the next day.
It helps that after 32 years with the Department of Defense, he has 26 vacation days.
Love affair began in 1966: Bogart’s love affair with the Phillies began in 1966, when he was 5 years old and his grandfather took him to Connie Mack Stadium to watch a game. His grandfather taught him how to keep score, and he’s been doing it faithfully ever since.
He began doing it daily in the early 1980s, missing just one game in 1986 when he was traveling in Illinois en route to seeing the Phillies vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He couldn't find the broadcast either on TV or on the radio that day. That ended a streak of nearly three years. So, over 34 years, he’s failed to score a Phils’ game exactly once.
Streak begins: His current streak then started when he watched the Phils play the Cubs at Wrigley — a bucket-list item arranged by his then-girlfriend and now wife of nearly 28 years. Lauri Bogart just happens to be a Cubs fan who “puts up with” his Phils’ addiction. Their two children are ages 22 and 25.
Over the years, Bogart has seen the Phils play in every National League park. He also gets to about 10-12 games per year at Citizens Bank Park, mostly with his friend Barry Sparks. The two met through SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research).
Sparks is a well-known, veteran sports writer in these parts. He wrote a biography of Frank "Home Run" Baker, published in 2005. He also wrote a weekly baseball column for the York Sunday News from 2001-2004 and was a sports reporter for The York Dispatch from 1974-1982. His free-lance articles about baseball have also appeared in numerous other publications. After leaving the Dispatch, Sparks worked for WellSpan from 1982-2015 in the public relations department.
"Real Phillie Fanatic:" Sparks calls Bogart “the real Phillie Fanatic,” not to be confused with the trademarked mascot "Phillie Phanatic," but says other than his Phils’ passion, he’s just a “very regular guy.”
“Bob's passion for the Phillies, of course, is unrivaled,” Sparks said. “I've never met anyone who was as dedicated as Bob. I know other guys who attempted to watch every Phillies game, but they only lasted for three or four years. I know other baseball fans who watch a lot of games. But, they don't watch from the first pitch to the last out. And, they don't watch games on the West Coast or endure seemingly endless rain delays. But, Bob does.
"He's obviously not a fair-weather fan when it comes to the Phillies. … His enthusiasm for the Phillies is genuine and never-ending. He can't wait for spring training every year.”
"Oodles and oodles" of memorabilia: Bogart’s dedication to the Phils is manifested in many ways besides scorekeeping. He writes a weekly "Phillies Updater" that he sends out to 60-plus friends and fans.
He also owns the Topps Phllies team cards dating back to 1954, all the team yearbooks since 1964 and team media guides since 1970. His basement is packed with “oodles and oodles” of Phillies’ memorabilia.
His Philles’ fanaticism was honored by the team back in 2000, thanks to some help from Sparks. Bogart was selected as one of 10 Phillies Fans of the Century. A Phillies fan born in each decade was recognized, with Bogart representing the 1960s.
Optimistic about 2018: Through thick and through thin, Bogart has stuck with the Phils, and despite a last-place finish in 2017, he’s optimistic about his favorite team’s future.
“I’m encouraged,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll contend (in 2018), but they’ll do better. The have a good young offensive team. They’re on the upswing, for sure. They re-energized the club (during the second half of the season). Back in May of this year, they were just terrible to watch.”
Streak will live on: Still, he continued to watch, faithfully and without exception. And barring “something catastrophic,” he’ll continue to watch, and keep score, in 2018 and beyond.
Sparks is right.
Bob Bogart is the “real Phillie Fanatic.”
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.