Title in hand, Phils fans breathe again
Club's second World Series championship erases bad memories
PHILADELPHIA -- On Oct. 21, 1980, Kim Kardashian was born a Scorpio, the prime rate for an adjustable mortgage was a whopping 14.00, Ronald Reagan was about to overtake Jimmy Carter in the polls, Blondie asked everyone to "Call Me," Lech Walesa and Poland practiced Solidarity and Tug McGraw jumped for joy.
The Phillies were the champions of baseball.
At least the game of baseball is almost exactly the same, in terms of its rules of play. Other things -- not quite the same. On display at the Hall of Fame Club level at Citizens Bank Park are a pair of encased 1980 World Series tickets, each with a face value of $15, for Section 652, Row 6, Seats 19-20 in Upper Reserved at old Veterans Stadium. Not quite the same, but always there to connect us.
Right now, it is time to connect, indeed. What the Phillies did this season is inspiring a lot of talk about 1980, about how they celebrated, about how they uncorked decades of pent-up frustration and calendar cycles and then rejoiced.
It was a more innocently profound moment then, but no less exciting. Imagine nearly eight full decades and waiting for your first World Series title as a major U.S. city. It was impossible to fathom the Phillies winning it all in the Fall of 1980, just as impossible as what the Red Sox did in 2004 or the White Sox did a year later. Going into Monday night's Game 5 of this World Series between the Phillies and Rays, that still remained the only world championship for the locals.
Among Major League Baseball's 16 franchises that existed in the first World Series season in 1903, the Phillies were the only one to have just a single title. The other 15 all had two or more. Maybe Cub fans have it worse on the whole, but that is a long, long way to go with just one world championship. Even Cleveland has a pair, in 1924 and 1948. The Washington Senators went a long time with just one, adding two more after relocating to Minnesota. For the Phillies, it was always about 1980.
"They really didn't know what to do in 1980, didn't know how to act," said MLB.com analyst Hal Bodley, who wrote "The Team That Wouldn't Die" that year, when he was sports editor of the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. "They never won anything that big before."
"I keep using the word 'exorcise.' It was exorcising the years and years and years of terrible baseball here. In the '70s, they won the (National League East) division three straight years, but couldn't get past the Reds and Dodgers. They got Pete Rose, and after a disappointing 1979, it was all over.
"It was a tremendous amount of excitement, obviously. I was talking to Tim McGraw (on Saturday, when he participated in pregame festivities) about when his dad, Tug, jumped off the mound that night. I said, 'How many times have you watched that clip?' He said probably hundreds. That is how it felt in the city then."
Pure, unadulterated joy and bedlam.
Peg DeLuca remembers it well. She was 18 then. Her parents had two Phillies season tickets, and they always took her and decided which one got to take her to Veterans Stadium. On the night of Game 6 of the World Series, Peg went with her mother.
"We just stood in the stadium after they won and screamed for two hours," recalled DeLuca, interviewed with her husband, Mike, while they were at Game 1 of World Series last week at Tropicana Field. "Nobody wanted to go home. They stopped traffic on I-95 just waiting to get home. We lived 29 miles from The Vet, and it took five hours to get home. People were stopped and out of their cars.
"That's what it's going to feel like now. This is unbelievable. We are ready. We've been ready. When we win, the place is gonna go absolutely crazy -- the biggest thing since that night in 1980."
Indeed, Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey was appearing on local TV news before Monday night's game, getting the word out in hopes that citizens here will celebrate in a positive manner.
They could not know to be that preventative back then. Who knew what would happen on Broad Street, where things got a little out of hand?
"Sports were cool, but it wasn't anything like now," DeLuca said. "People are so informed now. All the outlets -- MLB.com, ESPN, you go to any Web page all the time now and get what you want. That's how we get information today.
"That's a whole new group of kids growing up. They've been so hungry for so long in Philadelphia. People think we're bad fans. We're just misunderstood. All that talk for years about how we even booed Santa? He wasn't even a real Santa. He was a drunk in a fake suit, according to a TV report a while back. There are so many good things and not bad in Philadelphia. We are very good fans -- we are passionate. When we boo, we are just disappointed. We don't hate them forever.
"We're passionate times a million. We live every pitch like it's do or die. That's how we roll, as they say."
Paul Hagen knows that as well as anyone. He is the longtime baseball writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, and he said that a world championship celebration at Citizens Bank Park would be only the beginnings of unbridled joy.
"I think it'll be nuts, but I don't think it'll be a case of everybody does what they do after the game and it's over," Hagen said. "It's about a parade. I've heard for years, 'I haven't seen a parade.' People have really become focused on the parade, it seems. If they finally get that wish, then they'll probably start talking about wanting another parade."
The Red Sox finally got their parade in 2004, and they took celebrating to the extreme by using the city's famous Duck Boats to allow for a parade that was one if by land and two if by sea. Millions watched it happen, and they did that again in 2007.
The White Sox finally got their parade in 2005, and it was ticker-tape madness with double-decker buses for the champs as a daytime crowd filled with workers on break packed downtown Chicago to celebrate.
The next year was certainly a unique celebration, as the Cardinals accomplished the amazing feat of winning a World Series in the first year of a new ballpark -- and then finishing off a parade right there in the glistening confines of new Busch Stadium. It was a great example of how-could-they-ever-top-this.
Now Philadelphians are awaiting their parade.
Steve Yoder is 41 and a partner in the Wilmington law firm of Potter, Anderson and Corroon. At one point during Game 1, he stood up after B.J. Upton hit into a double play and told an entire section of Rays fans: "You score that 5-4-3." He spoke slowly for special effect. They were giving him a hard time, but there were lots and lots of other Phillies fans there, so he was far from alone.
"Look, by nature we are pessimistic," Yoder sad. "Most of my buddies were convinced something bad is gonna happen. That's just the way it is when you go that long without a championship. There are a lot of those stories that get recycled, that make good press, about how bad we are. We're passionate, and a lot of us are bitter because we haven't won going into 2008. But we're knowledgeable.
"We appreciate the effort, and if you're not giving it, you're going to be booed here. I'm not a big boo guy. I get quietly frustrated."
Many have felt that way for a quarter century. That's how long it's been since the 76ers won the last major sports championship in the City of Brotherly Love. And three years earlier, it was the one moment for a baseball franchise to shine.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.