10/30/08 2:27 AM EST
Love a parade! Phils' fans rejoice
Title 28 years in the making sets off joyous celebration
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
They have waited to say that here for a quarter-century. It has always been about the parade. Bring us a parade. Why not a parade yet?
They waited since 1980 for another World Series winner, and then they waited another 46 hours to finish it off. The Phillies are the 2008 world champions, with Brad Lidge closing out a 4-3, unbelievable Game 5 victory over the Amazin' Rays to end the season in style at Citizens Bank Park and bring the kind of joy to impatient fans that you couldn't imagine.
It was an unprecedented and stunning final three innings, a night to remember, a world championship won in a way no other Major League Baseball team ever won one.
"Redemption. Elation. Jubilation," says Tom Gallagher, as he watches the final out and the fireworks and the victory lap with Ryan Howard holding the big 2008 red banner. "I was in college when they won it back in '80. Now I'm here to share it with my son, Tommy. It can't get any better."
8:40 -- It was officially another 46 hours. Grant Balfour throws the 188th pitch of the game, and the first on this night, to pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins.
8:41 -- Cole Hamels' pitching line is announced. That is really weird. When was the last time that a pitching line was announced at the start of a night with his team taking its turn at-bat? That was standard operating procedure, and instant surrealism.
A PERFECT HOME RUN
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8:42 -- Jenkins leads off with a double to the wall in right-center on a 1-and-2, 96-mph grooved fastball from Balfour, and then pumps his fists at second. The crowd is instantly berserk. You never saw a crowd this berserk this fast after showing up in their seats.
8:43 -- A sac bunt by Jimmy Rollins moves Jenkins to third. The white towels are starting to wave and look like snow flurries again.
8:45 -- Jayson Werth pops to to shallow center, and second baseman Akinori Iwamura tries to make an over-the-shoulder basket catch. On most days, he would have it. But the wind is gusting from left to right, and he misjudges it. Score it a hit, and score it a 3-2 Phillies lead. Everything is lining up for the hometown faithful.
9:00 -- With Rocco Baldelli's solo homer against the wind in left off normally steady Ryan Madson, Hamels gets a no-decision and is denied in his bid to become the first pitcher ever to win five postseason starts. Alas, there still is the possibility at this point that Hamels could start Game 7 at Tampa Bay on Friday night. Will it come to that? Remaining innings will help decided that.
9:14 -- It is obvious now that the fans have already re-established their late-innings mentality. They are being led in this song by the Phillie Phanatic, standing on top of the Phillies' dugout. Pat Burrell has just doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Shane Victorino is turned around due to the insertion of Chad Bradford, and proceeds to pull a grounder to third that moves pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett to third. Pedro Feliz singles, and Bruntlett scores what proves to be the winning run for the second game in a row -- making it 4-3. The scene is astounding, the realization stronger, the anticipation powerful.
9:20 -- Fans are three-deep all around in the standing areas, every eye and ear on the game. Virtually nobody is at the bathrooms, nobody in line at concession stands. People get what every pitch, every move, means.
9:38 -- No one is sitting down. It is just one out, and Werth is batting. It is the bottom of the eighth, a 4-3 Phillies lead. Normally in the summertime, the crowd would be seated, waiting to stand up for the next dramatic at-bat situation or the top of the ninth when Lidge comes in. But not tonight. They are standing the whole way.
9:45 -- Howard strikes out to end the eighth. The crowd goes wild again. Why? Because Lidge is trotting in from the bullpen in center, and they are roaring during his long trot to the pitcher's mound during the TV commercial. He has not blown a save this season. The fans expect that pattern to continue, and they know that if it does, they are Major League Baseball's world champions for 2008. The Philadelphia Phillies.
9:47 -- "Eva! Eva!" The chants continue to dog Rays rookie Evan Longoria. He has said during this Series that it makes him laugh in the batter's box. Earlier in this game, two nights earlier, he made them pay a little bit. Will he now? This would be the perfect situation if there ever was one, a chance for some ultimate payback. The chants are louder, louder and louder. It is his moment.
9:49 -- Let's Go Phillies! Let's Go Phillies!
9:50 -- Longoria pops out to Chase Utley in shallow center on a 2-2 pitch. Nice season by the rook, but it appears to be his last at-bat.
9:52 -- Dioner Navarro's bat is shattered, but there is enough of the wood left to send a single to right field. Fernando Perez runs for him.
9:55 -- Ben Zobrist lines an at-'em ball to right. It's a game of inches. If it's not perfectly positioned, that falls and it's a 4-4 game and maybe extra innings. Fans start to erupt. A boy holds up one finger, telling his father next to him in the upper deck, "One more out!"
9:57 -- Everyone has a camera out, hoping to record the final play of 2008.
9:59 -- Lidge strikes out pinch-hitter Eric Hinske. Lidge remains perfect on this year. The Phillies win, 4-3, and they take the World Series in five. A long five. The world stands still in Philly. It's a mob scene on the mound. Smoke is everywhere from the fireworks. Fans are exalting.
10:01 -- Gallagher takes it all in with his son. Fans aren't going anywhere. They are just surveying every inch of the stadium and enjoying the spectacle, breathing it in completely. The Phillies are world champions.
"It's about time!" young Tommy Gallagher shouts. "That's what I'm talkin' about! My first playoff game, my first World Series, my first championship!"
10:07 -- The victory lap is happening. It's really happening.
10:09 -- "We are the Champions, no time for losing, 'cause we are the champions -- of the world!" The fans sing it, every one of them, along with Queen. Your spine truly tingles. It is a beautiful scene. They will always remember singing this song together.
10:35 -- Looking into the cooler filled with more champagne bottles, it says on the label: "Domaine Ste. Michelle / Brut / Columbia Valley Sparkling Wine." Howard's eyes are burning; he needs goggles. This is new to them. Only a few Phillies are wearing goggles. It is raw, and it is joyous. Their eyes are burning, like new champions.
11:06 -- Jamie Moyer is on the mound, surrounded by groundskeepers, including one who is trying feverishly to dig up the pitching rubber. It is a chore, planted firmly in clay soil, and it takes a long time. "We're not used to this," jokes one groundskeeper to another. "It's been 28 years." Then, finally, it budges, like a buried treasure, and Moyer hoists it up, and he does his own little victory lap around the first-base side, in front of the fans, a man and the pitching rubber he stepped on for so many pitches this year.
11:27 -- Hamels has the microphone in front of the Phillies' dugout. It is a dream come true for him and for the lingering fans who don't want to leave. "We're undefeated in the postseason here," he tells them, "and it's because of you." The Phillies finish 11-3 in October, making it a 24-6 finishing run. They never lost at home this postseason.
11:29 -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel takes the mic: "Who's the world champions? The Fightin' Phillies! This is your team and it always has been."
11:54 -- Coldplay is cranked up in a stadium that is now back to mostly sapphire-blue, the seats virtually empty. The fans have spilled out into that good night. The celebration has started outside, in the streets, in their neighborhoods, in their homes. The song says: "That was when I ruled the world."
On this night, the Phillies ruled the world.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.