10/30/08 3:11 AM EST
Phils get to celebrate in front of fans
Series clincher at Citizens lets home crowd share in title joy
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
For the final farewell, no satellite hookups were necessary, and that's the way the Phillies wanted it. The Phillies are the fourth team during this decade to clinch the World Series at home, joining the 2006 Cardinals, the 2002 Angels and the 2001 Diamondbacks.
Even a 46-hour rain delay couldn't dampen the enthusiasm on Wednesday, as the city of Philadelphia finally got to shower its conquering heroes with the lavish applause they so rightly deserve.
"That's the shortest game I think we've ever played," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "I wish it would have went down the other day. That way we wouldn't have had to wait so long. It feels really good to be in this situation and have these fans behind us. Without them, we wouldn't be here. I'm just happy that we were able to do it."
The Phillies moved past the Brewers in a four-game National League Division Series before wiping away the Dodgers in five NL Championship Series contests. Their World Series matchup with the Rays actually opened under the catwalks of Tropicana Field with the home team being favored, if you stuck to the Vegas odds.
But the inescapable symphony works of "Rocky" composer Bill Conti, at least on these streets, should have indicated something else on the bottom line. Philadelphia, a city founded on rough-scrabble grinders and a defiant attitude, just loves embracing its underdog mentality.
"The reason why things like this happen," left fielder Pat Burrell said, "is because guys care. Team is the number one thing. There's a lot of superstars on this team, but everyone has a common goal, and that's the team. When you get that kind of effort, these are the things that happen.
"For us to get to this point is so rewarding. I'm proud to be here. I'm proud for all the times we hung in there. This group, you couldn't bring us down. To hang in there under the circumstances and do what we did, it's just a huge thrill."
The final out came at 9:58 p.m. ET, as Lidge toed the rubber and, joined by more than 45,000 of his closest friends, stared into catcher Carlos Ruiz's glove.
Home sweep home
|The Phillies became just the fifth team in World Series history to clinch the Series by winning three games at home after a 1-1 start:|
One strike away from a celebration the likes of which Philadelphia hadn't seen since Michael Jack Schmidt was playing third base on the long-gone turf across the way, Lidge blew an 0-2 offering past Eric Hinske to clinch the Phillies' second World Series title and first since 1980.
"I just had to make sure I took a deep breath and stepped back, because my heart was going 100 miles an hour," Lidge said. "It's indescribable. I'm so happy we won it here because it had to be won here. These fans deserved it to be won here."
They chanted the name "Charlie" until their throats burned. Manager Charlie Manuel's time in Philadelphia certainly hasn't been uneventful, particularly with a demanding fan base -- you know the deal. But standing outside the clubhouse, still head to toe in Phillies pinstripes, Manuel had nothing but positive words and a sly grin to offer.
"When you get a World Series ring, you automatically become a winner," Manuel said. "Wherever I go and whatever I do from here on out ... to win one as a manager, you'll always be known as a winner. This is the greatest thing I've ever done. We just won a World Series."
Wandering aimlessly on the field minutes after the last out, Eric Bruntlett's eyes glazed as he glanced at the presentation in center field, where starter Cole Hamels was being anointed the World Series MVP.
"It's too much -- it's too big," Bruntlett said. "I don't even know what to do now, because I've never done it. What do I do?"
The answer, of course -- celebrate, and enjoy the moment. They don't come around too often. The Phillies sported drenched gray T-shirts reading "World Series Champions" in the clubhouse, the sting of bubbly liquid running past their goggles and the sweet smell of $11 cigars filling the room.
"Anytime you win a World Series is special," Hamels said. "Winning it in a city that hasn't won in a while is a tremendous and special experience for us, to be part of the history of Philadelphia. To be a part of this now, it's going to be a grand memory. It'll provide a good story for our neighbors, family, friends, everybody."
Not that Philadelphia didn't try to reciprocate when given the opportunity. Ryan Howard may already have a national advertisement deal with a sandwich company, but at least one Philadelphian could claim to have purchased a little boost for his favorite team on Wednesday.
"I had a guy pick up the tab for lunch for me today," Howard said. "For the city of Philadelphia, it's great for them. It's great for us. It's great for the organization. It felt so good -- tiring, but good. It's the chemistry and camaraderie on this team. We like to go out and have fun. We believed in each other from day one."
Hiding behind a PVC shield, Jayson Werth reclined in his locker, swigging from a bottle safeguarded between his kneecaps and flexing his knuckles behind his head. The dream felt good, even if Werth wasn't 100 percent.
Spending six innings in the rain-soaked outfield during the first half of the to-be-continued Game 5 didn't agree with his immune system, so Werth spent most of Tuesday getting better acquainted with the line of Kleenex products. Turns out, winning a World Series can serve as quite the cure-all; you should try it sometime.
"I was kind of lucky to get the day off," Werth said, cracking his knuckles behind his head. "I felt all right today, I just lost my voice. We're just a loose team. We've got a bunch of loose guys. We play hard and we do what it takes. We're a team of necessity and we do what we need to do to win."
These Phillies won all seven of their home games this postseason, becoming just the second team to win all its home games since the advent of three rounds of play. They went 11-3 in October and closed the regular season on a 13-3 run as well, making it a 26-6 from Sept. 11 through Game 5.
"With the guys that we have and the talent we have, we put it together the last two months of the season," second baseman Chase Utley said. "We played as one. It showed. The fans deserve a lot of the credit -- they came out and supported us from day one. They didn't give up on us and we definitely didn't give up on them."
Back on the field, beer cans bulged from both of Utley's back pockets as he headed back for round two, visiting a diamond where Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" played on loop -- and seemingly might for the next 15 weeks until Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.
With help from the Phillies grounds crew -- those same hardy souls who'd earned repeated praise from Commissioner Bud Selig two nights prior -- Jamie Moyer dug out the mound rubber and hoisted it over his left shoulder, making his own victory lap. For a Pennsylvania guy with little left to prove, this was the ultimate.
"We were in a situation that nobody has ever dealt with before -- a suspended game," Moyer said. "You don't know what's going to happen. The weather was rather cool tonight, but it didn't seem like the weather really affected anybody. We just went out and we had three extra outs which, fortunately, we didn't need.
"You dream, you play, you practice, and it's here. I'm excited for everybody that's a part of this organization and our fans. It's just a great situation."
All of 24 years old and transplanted to this cold and gritty city from the West Coast, Hamels couldn't claim to know much about the moment Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson back at the Vet -- that Philadelphia where-were-you event that has taken on a tone of heartache as its repeat grew more and more elusive.
For Hamels, that grainy analog video footage might as well have been Phillies fantasy. But this World Series win is for real, and what's more, it's in bright, beautiful high definition. Pictures don't get much clearer than this.
"The reality is tremendous," Hamels said. "I know in the next several weeks and months, it'll sink in and I'll be able to really realize what we were able to accomplish. But truly, as the weeks tick away, I'm going for another world championship next year."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.