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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Philadelphia Phillies
Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Philadelphia Phillies History
By Todd Zolecki
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2010 Todd Zolecki
All rights reserved.
The buildup had been incredible.
It had been 25 years since Philadelphia's last sports championship and 28 years since the Phillies had won their last World Series. For years fans had imagined where they would be when the drought finally ended.
How would it unfold?
How would it feel once it did?
When would the parade be?
They were about to find out, and they were about to learn it felt a heck of a lot better than they could have imagined. The Phillies had a 4–3 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the World Series on October 29, 2008, at Citizens Bank Park. The Rays had the tying run on second base with two outs in the ninth inning, but the Phillies had Brad Lidge on the mound. Lidge hadn't blown a save all year, and he had Rays pinch-hitter Eric Hinske in an 0–2 hole.
Lidge looked to catcher Carlos Ruiz for the sign.
Lidge glanced back at Rays pinch-runner Fernando Perez at second base before he threw. The slider tumbled toward home plate with the same nasty bite it had all season. Hinske had no chance. He flailed over the top of it for strike three. Lidge jumped into the air, raised his arms toward the sky, and dropped to his knees.
Ruiz ripped off his mask and ran toward Lidge.
"Oh my God!" Lidge said before Ruiz hugged him in front of the pitcher's mound.
Ryan Howard tackled both of them, and everybody else followed suit as the Phillies quickly formed a pile of red and white.
"I didn't know who I wanted to tackle," Shane Victorino said. "I wanted to tackle every single person. I only could tackle the pile."
The Phillies had won the World Series, and it wasn't a dream. It was real.
There was going to be a parade.
"Champs, baby!" Brett Myers said. "Twenty-eight years!"
The Phillies embarked on their unforgettable journey in February, when they gathered for spring training in Clearwater, Florida. Most prognosticators thought the Phillies, who overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games to play to win the National League East in 2007, would be good but that the New York Mets would ultimately win the division because they added left-hander Johan Santana in the off-season. Santana's arrival sparked a war of words between the Phillies and Mets when Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran pronounced his team the team to beat.
Beltran should have left the prediction business to Jimmy Rollins, who correctly made that prediction for the Phillies in 2007.
"He's just trying to pull a Jimmy, when you can't have a sequel," Myers said of Beltran. "Sequels are always terrible."
But things looked good for Beltran and the Mets in early September. The Phillies were three and a half games behind them in the NL East and four games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL wild-card race with just 16 games to play. The Phillies had battled adversity just to get to that point, and time was running out. Lidge, Rollins, and Victorino spent time on the disabled list early in the season. Ryan Howard hit just .163 through May 7. Myers, who was the team's Opening Day starter, was optioned to the minor leagues on July 1. Reliever Tom Gordon was lost for the season on July 6. Adam Eaton was optioned to the minors July 29, which was significant only because he was the Phillies' second starting pitcher to go to the minors in less than a month. The offense hit just .237 from June 14 through August 21.
"Last year, we were hot," manager Charlie Manuel said after a 7–3 loss to the Florida Marlins on September 10. "We could score runs, and it seemed like we had enough pitching to get through. We were playing good. ... We really got after it. Our team this year, when you're struggling to pitch and score runs, that's tough. But at the same time, I've seen us bounce back. We always have."
They would again. The Phillies swept the Brewers in a four-game series September 11–14 at Citizens Bank Park to pull even with the Brewers in the NL wild-card race and move within a game of the Mets in the NL East. The Phillies finished the season 13–3, the best record in baseball.
The Mets? They finished 7–10 and not only finished three games behind the Phillies in the division, but a game behind the Brewers in the NL wild-card race — missing the playoffs completely. But as good as the Phillies felt to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1980–81, they knew it didn't mean much. The Colorado Rockies swept them in the National League Division Series in 2007. They didn't want a repeat performance.
"I think we were so hell-bent and so focused [on winning] the division last year that we kind of ran out of steam heading into the playoffs," Rollins said. "There's no such thing as pacing yourself, but we know that there is more than just winning the division. We won the division last year, and three games later we were watching with everyone else. We don't want that to happen again, so we'll be a little more under control and hopefully bring home a championship."
Cole Hamels threw eight shutout innings in a 3–1 victory over the Brewers in Game 1 of the NLDS. Victorino hit a memorable grand slam off Brewers ace CC Sabathia in a 5–2 victory in Game 2. The Phillies lost Game 3 at Miller Park 4–1, but in Game 4 Rollins hit a leadoff homer in the first inning and Pat Burrell homered twice in a 6–2 victory to win the best-of-five series and put the Phillies into the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1993.
"We don't feel like we should be looking at anything less than a World Series," Rollins said as the Phillies celebrated their NLDS victory at Miller Park. "And that's a World Series win. It's a lot of work. It's not going to be easy, but we weren't geared just to get to the playoffs. We're geared to win. We haven't broken through anything yet. We've just stepped over one hurdle."
The Los Angeles Dodgers were the next hurdle, and the pundits picked them to win the series because they had left fielder Manny Ramirez and manager Joe Torre — and who didn't want to see them in the World Series again?
But Hamels allowed two runs in seven innings, and Chase Utley and Burrell both homered in a 3–2 victory in Game 1. Victorino had four RBIs and Myers had three RBIs in an 8–5 victory in Game 2, which was tempered because Charlie Manuel's mother, June Manuel, died before the game. To add to the heartbreak, Victorino learned after the game that his grandmother died in Hawaii. The Phillies traveled to Los Angeles with heavy hearts but remained focused.
"We've got things to do," Manuel said. "I feel like I know my mother would want me in the dugout — because she used to manage a lot for me anyway."
Jamie Moyer got rocked in a 7–2 loss in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, but even in a shellacking the Phillies showed heart. Benches cleared after Hiroki Kuroda threw over Victorino's head, which was retaliation for Myers throwing behind Ramirez's back in Game 2. The Dodgers had a 5–3 lead in the eighth inning in Game 4 when Victorino hit a game-tying home run into the visitors' bullpen in right field. Matt Stairs followed three batters later and crushed a game-winning two- run home run halfway up the bleachers in right field to win it 7–5.
"You've been here for a month, and you want to get that one big hit where you really feel like you're part of the team," said Stairs, who joined the Phillies after an August 30 trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. "Not that I don't feel like I'm part of the team, but when you get that nice celebration coming in the dugout and you're getting your ass hammered by guys, there's no better feeling than to have that done."
Hamels pitched another gem in a 5–1 victory in Game 5 to clinch the NL pennant, with Nomar Garciaparra fouling out to Ruiz along the third-base line to end the game.
The Phillies were going to the World Series.
"This is going to be the year," Manuel said afterward in the visitors' clubhouse. "I can feel it, yeah."
There certainly was an air of confidence that the Phillies were going to win the World Series, and it started at the top. General manager Pat Gillick loved the scouting reports his top scouts had put together on the Rays. He felt if his players executed, they would win. The Phillies got started early. Utley hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and Hamels allowed two runs in seven innings in a 3–2 victory in Game 1 at Tropicana Field. The Phillies lost Game 2 4–2 but returned to Philadelphia feeling confident.
They blew a three-run lead in the sixth inning in Game 3, which was delayed an hour and 31 minutes because of rain, but the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning. Rays manager Joe Maddon added a fifth infielder for Ruiz's at-bat. Ruiz chopped a ball up the third-base line, but Eric Bruntlett beat the throw home to score the winning run in a dramatic 5–4 victory that ended at 1:47 AM.
It wasn't a miracle, but maybe the Phillies had a little help from above. Country star Tim McGraw, son of former Phillies closer Tug McGraw, spread some of his father's ashes on the mound before the game.
"I'm sure he thought it was going to be good luck," Moyer said. "And it turns out that it probably was. It's pretty cool."
"Luck be a lefty," Rollins said with a smile.
The Phillies didn't need much luck in their 10–2 victory in Game 4. Ryan Howard homered twice. Joe Blanton not only pitched well, he also homered.
One more victory.
One more, then a parade.
"Maybe there will be a greater appreciation, if it does happen," Moyer said. "I think sometimes the longer you wait for things, the more you appreciate things. And when you feel like things are earned ... I would hate to use the word assume, but I feel like our fans are probably the same way. They've given their heart and soul and their hard-earned money to come out here and watch the games. But they've also supported us. And it's exciting because you feel like you're doing this thing together with a city. And I think that's pretty special."
But victory wouldn't come quickly. The Phillies took a 2–0 lead in the first inning in Game 5, which began October 27. But then a cold, hard rain began to fall. It didn't stop, and it got worse as the game continued. It got so bad that most of the infield looked like a pond by the fifth inning. But only after the Rays tied the game 2–2 in the top of the sixth inning did Major League Baseball suspend action for the first time in World Series history.
Fans were angry. Players were angry. Manuel was angry. This was supposed to be their moment. But not even Mother Nature could stop the Phillies. After a 46-hour delay, play resumed on October 29. Geoff Jenkins, who had been hitless in three postseason at-bats, pinch-hit for Hamels in the bottom of the sixth inning and crushed a leadoff double to right-center field. He eventually scored to give the Phillies a 3–2 lead. The Rays tied the game in the seventh, but Pat Burrell, who had been hitless in 13 World Series at-bats, ripped a leadoff double off the left-center-field wall in the seventh.
"Huge double," Utley said. "Obviously, the biggest double of the year."
Bruntlett, who scored the winning run in Game 3, scored from third on Pedro Feliz's one-out single up the middle to make it 4–3.
"There aren't words to explain it," Feliz said. "I can say it was my best moment in baseball."
J.C. Romero pitched a scoreless eighth. Lidge completed his season of perfection in the ninth.
"We started out in these playoffs saying we were going to put '93 in the past, and we sure did," Myers said. "And we put '80 in the past, too, because our banner is going up there, too."
"It couldn't be sweeter," Burrell said. "It's been a hell of a couple days with the delay and stuff, but to be here now, it's too much. It's too much."
Rollins had predicted the Phillies would win 100 games in 2008. They won 103, including the postseason.
"Golly, this has been a long time coming," he said. "I wanted us to believe that we were good and that we could win. People know it, and they keep it in their heads. They keep it inside. I guess that's the politically correct thing to do, but ... if you say something, you better be able to back it up, because people are going to put a target on you. When you have as good a cast as we had last year, and to see the way we picked it up this year, you can say things like that because they're going to back you up. You don't have to go out there, worried and afraid that you're going to be left out there on an island."
The Phillies learned that night that they weren't alone. More than 45,000 fans in the ballpark sang Queen's "We Are the Champions" in perfect harmony. On the streets of Philadelphia, fans celebrated. At homes across the country, Phillies fans jumped up and down and screamed.
From the Team to Beat in 2007 to 100 Wins in 2008, J-Roll had called it all.
What could possibly be next?
"This is just the beginning."
THE LONGEST OUTS
Tug McGraw needed 12 minutes and 54 seconds to finish off the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning in Game 6 of the 1980 World Series.
That's 774 seconds.
But it wasn't nothing. It was everything. The Phillies had waited 97 years for these three outs. They had suffered through World Series losses in 1915 and 1950. They had fallen short in the National League Championship Series in 1976, 1977, and 1978. They had endured one of the worst collapses in baseball history in 1964. They had been close. And when they weren't close, they were far, far away. From 1918 to 1948, the Phillies lost 2,941 games, an astounding 1,111 more games than the New York Yankees and 302 more games than the Boston Braves, the team with the second-most losses in baseball in that 31-year span.
Just 12 minutes and 54 seconds?
Just nothing. It was an eternity.
"It was a long three outs," left fielder Greg Luzinski said. "A long three outs."
The Phillies had a 3–2 lead over the Royals in the best-of-seven series when they entered the ninth inning with a 4–1 lead at Veterans Stadium. Three more outs and they were World Series champions for the first time in franchise history.
McGraw had little left in the tank when he entered the game. He went 5–1 with a 0.52 ERA in 33 appearances down the stretch. He had thrown eight innings in a tense NLCS against the Houston Astros, and six and two-thirds innings in the World Series, including the eighth inning in Game 6, when he replaced Steve Carlton.
He was gassed.
"He started warming up, and every pitch was high," catcher Bob Boone said. "After a couple of those, it's like, 'What is this?' He and I had a great relationship. He [was] looking at me, and his eyes were like, 'Come on, you know me. What am I doing wrong?' Every pitch was up, up, up. I'm looking at him, now going, 'Is his stride too long? Is his arm up?' I'm looking for all these things. I know I've got to go out there and say something. I'm looking to see what's wrong. Finally, after the second hitter, I was like, 'Well, I've got to go out there.' So I was walking out, and I walked up kind of slow because I wasn't sure what I was going to say.
'Yeah?' McGraw replied.
'Everything is high.'"
That's it. Boone turned around and walked back to home plate. Boone got to the plate, looked back, and saw McGraw laughing.
"And then he came right back," Boone said.
McGraw had loaded the bases with one out when Frank White stepped into the batter's box. Mercifully for McGraw, White popped up the first pitch into foul territory in front of the Phillies dugout. It looked like a certain out as Boone pursued from behind the plate and Pete Rose pursued from first base.
Boone put his glove out and ... the ball popped out! It was going to fall! White and the Royals were going to get a second chance! For a split second, terrible thoughts raced through the minds of millions of Phillies fans. They knew what disasters looked like, and this looked like one of them. But Rose, whom the Phillies signed before the 1979 season as the missing piece to their championship puzzle, wouldn't let that happen. He snatched the ball out of the air for the second out.
"I'm not a good spectator when it comes to playing baseball," Rose said. "The ball was in my area, so I just ran over there. It was a tough play for [Boone] because he was on the dead run at the top step of the dugout. I just saw it pop out of his glove and grabbed it."
It remains one of the biggest catches in Phillies history. Of course, Boone and Rose still disagree about why it happened the way it happened. Typically, the catcher handles pop-ups anywhere from the left and right side of home plate and behind. So Boone chased the ball to back up Rose, not to make the catch. Boone expected Rose to call him off, but the farther he ran, the longer he waited to hear Rose's voice.
Where is Pete? Boone thought to himself. Where is Pete?
"I'm way out of my area, and I can't hear him," Boone said. "Well, I know I can outrebound him. But I figured I'm going to catch this, he's going to hit me, and we're both going down. It got to the point where it's like, 'Geez, I've got to go for this.' And then I dropped it. And I was so pissed. I was so pissed at Pete, I wanted to kill him. And then all of a sudden his glove came through, he caught the ball, and I wanted to kiss him. But the bottom line is Charlie Hustle, my ass. I'm the one that hustled on that play."
Rose shrugged it off.
"First of all, Boone is probably right when he said that was my ball," he said. "It would have been my ball if it was first and third and one out and I was holding the runner on, you understand what I'm saying? But because the bases were loaded, I was playing way back, like 25 feet off the bag at double-play depth. That made him closer to it than me."
Excerpted from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Philadelphia Phillies by Todd Zolecki. Copyright © 2010 Todd Zolecki. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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