At 9:58 p.m., Wednesday, October 29, 2008, Philadelphia exorcised its demons with a brilliant rush of red.
The rush sounded like a vaccuum, a blast of wind escaping from a crowded, decaying room. And that it was — the voices of the thousands of Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park represented the collective joys of an entire fanbase, an entire city, finally being released into the crisp, cold October air.
No longer will we speak of Joe Carter’s home run. No longer will we speak of throwing up on the field, or suffering a concussion on the ice, or stopping a jump shot from a clutch player. Now we’ll speak about Matt Stairs’ dramatic atomic bomb, and Pedro Feliz’s seeing-eye bouncer, and Brad Lidge’s slider.
Lidge’s slider was the most appropriate ending to this incredible ride. I kept envisioning Lidge tossing a slider, a bat swinging through the zone, Lidge dropping down and awaiting the stampede. And of course, that’s how it happened. Of course.
We didn’t see it earlier in the season, when the team was a few games back and plodding. We didn’t even see it when they were in first place, hanging on tight while being poked by the Mets and Marlins. But as the postseason crept closer, we started noticing that businesslike swagger from the Phillies. It wasn’t young energy, or scrappiness, or a great final push forward. This was a team assured of its place and abilities.
During the time we loathed him, Jimmy Rollins said the Phils would win because they’d come through late in the season. We rolled our eyes at him, even cursed him. Of course, he was correct. Of course.
Through all our whining and moaning, we didn’t know how focused and relaxed this team really was. They played their game — a game Rollins knew could win 100 times. They never fretted when down a run or three, they never let up when up a run or three. Together, 25 men played their game — a game that not only won 100 games, but 103, and a world championship.
It’s a Phillies team that we haven’t seen recently in Philadelphia. We’ve seen the young, energetic teams (1997 Flyers), the scrappy teams (1993 Phillies) and the teams making a final push forward (2001 Sixers). We’ve seen heartbreak after heartbreak. But now we have our team — our strong-willed, hard-boned, focused, determined team that took us all the way to the door.
And last night, amid a sea of red in a city of nerves, that team broke down the door and let it all out.