Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.
For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.
Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.
Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.
Date: October 29, 2008
I waited 24 years.
I waited while watching poor teams. Very poor teams. I waited while sitting in blue seats in Veterans Stadium. And yellow seats. And orange seats. And brown seats. And red seats. I watched while thinking Jim Thome was the cure. Or Gregg Jeffries. Or Billy Wagner. Or Tyler Green. Or Bobby Abreu. Or Kevin Milwood. I waited.
The night the Boston Celtics won the National Basketball Association championship, I cried. I actually cried. “Why can’t it be us?” I pleaded as Kevin Garnett held up a trophy and yelled “Anything is possible!” Yes, I actually cried. Why Boston all the time? Why not one championship for a Philadelphia team? I’d even take the Sixers.
My prayers would be answered swiftly. In fact, the next championship to be determined. The Phillies.
Seriously — the Phillies? The Philadelphia Phillies? With their red pinstripes and funny logo text? With their troubled past and 10,000 losses? With their mediocre stars and half-baked celebrations? Please. Championships came to big-time franchises. To the New Yorks and Bostons and Saint Louises of the world. To the Chicagos and Los Angeleses. Not to Philadelphia. Not to the blue-collar little brother of everyone else. Not to this funny little city.
And yet there I was, standing with legs shaking, hopping madly in front of my television screaming “Come on, Brad! Come on, Brad!” as Eric Hinske confusedly took his stance at the batters box. How the hell did I get here? How did we get here?
While the season itself took 174 games to play out, this moment began to unravel on a Monday night, two prior. Sitting on a stool in a cavernous bar in Mansfield, Connecticut, I watched Shane Victorino lace a single to left field, scoring two runs and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Everyone was bundled, but nobody was sitting. Then I watched as a torrential storm moved over Philadelphia, and the Rays chipped out two runs before the game could be halted. Angry? Yes. Upset? Sure. Confident? Still.
After 45 nail-biting hours, we returned. Shaking but excited, I watched with eyes wide all by myself in a Connecticut house. To my side was my phone, my connection to my father, my brothers — my lifeline. Geoff Jenkins was first. He meant business, bashing the ball into right-center field, celebrating with fist pumps and shimmies. I love Geoff Jenkins.
Then came the leader, the consummate Philadelphian, Jimmy Rollins, who bunted Jenkins over for Jayson Werth, who brought him in by capitalizing off the Rays’ bumbling defense. Boom. A lead. A light.
Rocco Baldelli would bring it right back to squares with a home run. The Rays rallied after that, but Chase Utley made possibly the most amazing defensive play in World Series history, a sttuter and throw to home that ended the inning and caught the Rays in an eager position. All of this wouldn’t deter me at all. I called my dad.
“Don’t worry. It’s okay. Pat’s hitting one here. He’s gonna do something.”
My dad was hesitant, but I was never more sure. And Pat Burrell stepped up, worked the count, then unleashed his most gorgeous swing, which launched the ball into left-center field, inches shy of clearing the fence. It didn’t matter — Pat did his job. His final hit as a Phillie was his biggest.
Shane Victorino followed, and though he failed in his bunt attempts, he bounced one to the right side, moving pinch runner Eric Bruntlett to third. Up stepped Pedro Feliz — unquestionably the most clutch Phillie in the most clutch opportunities — who took a Chad Bradford fastball up the middle for the go-ahead run. And that was all they needed.
JC Romero continued for the eighth and though he let up a hit, induced an excited BJ Upton to ground into a double play — now the biggest double play in Phillies history.
Then it was Brad Lidge’s time. It was time to complete a perfect season. He got an abused Evan Longoria to fly out. Then he gave up a hit to Dioner Navarro, but got Ben Zobrist to line out to Jayson Werth. Breathe in, breathe out. And here we were.
Did I think Hinske could continue the game? Maybe a little. Hey, I’m from Philadelphia. But I knew Lidge wouldn’t spoil his perfect season here. No, not here.
So one strike went bouncing into foul territory. And one more strike was called by the umpire, much to Hinske’s chagrin.
Hinske settled back in. Lidge set up. Ruiz gave him the fingers — slider. Lidge confirmed. He set. He breathed.
I swear I can tell you exactly what happened. Lidge’s pitch started high, dipped low. Hinske took a mighty wail but missed it. Ruiz clasped the ball in his glove. A bunch of fans behind the screen leaped in the air. One fan turned to his friend and raised his arms. An enormous roar rushed through Citizens Bank Park. And that roar — I swear to you — wasn’t just the people in the stands. No, the roar included some South Philadelphians, some Chester residents. The entire region let out an exasparated, long overdue roar.
And I, in my Connecticut house some 300 miles away, leaped into the air, squealing like a 5-year-old girl. I hurriedly found my contacts and pushed “Dad,” still squealing. He picked up at some point, just to hear me in various forms of squeal. He was laughing.
Meanwhile, Brad Lidge was being hugged by Carlos Ruiz, then tackled by Ryan Howard. Others followed. I didn’t see any of this — instead I was stepping around my living room, squealing and cheering and beaming. Without a doubt, it was the happiest moment of my life.
I waited 24 years for this kind of happiness, and when it happened, I had no words. I’ve written more than a thousand posts about the Phillies, and I’ve written thousands of things in my life, but just once, I had absolutely no words. Nothing could match the elation I felt at that moment. Nothing.
That’s why we follow baseball. That’s why we engage so much effort in such an endeavor. Sometimes it rewards us. And October 29, 2008, I was rewarded. We were all rewarded. We were champions.
Easily the greatest moment of 2008. Easily.
The video: We win
From the comments:
Craig: C’mon Phillies. World champions tonight.
NJ: Chase Utley you the man!
Joe: Is that the last at bat for Pat?!? Goodbye, friend.
NEPA: So clutch by Feliz. Great play by Iwamura.
Georgie: Seriously, who sits in a bathtub on the beach holding hands with another person in a bathtub?
CT: OH GOD, JUST ONE MORE
Matty: YESSSSS!!!!!!!! CHAMPIONS!!!!!!
Poomie: we are the champions, my friends