2008 is a season that will forever be etched in my mind. I can remember growing up as a Phillies phan listenting to the home run calls of Harry Kalas "Michael Jack Schmidt!" They are some of my earliest, fondest Phillies memories. My dad let me stay up late to watch Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, hoping that the '93 Phillies would find a way to bring another championship back to Broad Street. He would always reminisce about the 1980 Phillies down to the tiniest detail. It wasn't until October 29, 2008 did I understand it.
the Regular season
Opening Day is a day of new beginnings. Everybody is even with just as much a chance to succeed as the next guy. The Phillies started off 2008 fresh off a division title and a post-season berth. With a hunger for more, something greater. They had tasted success and wanted it to continue. You could see something great building as this homegrown core of Phillies talent were beginning to click together.
The Phillies started 2008 off to a slow start, failing to win any of their first 3 series. Thanks to the hot bats of Chase Utley and Pat "The Bat" Burrell they managed to battle to a 15-13 record to begin the year. With early injuries to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino the Phillies desperately needed some bats and some steller pitching. Thanks to "Lights Out" pitching by closer Brad Lidge, reliever J.C. Romero and Ace Cole Hamels, the Phillies stayed afloat. Jayson Werth carried the offense, in the absence of J-Roll and Flyin' during the month of May. The Phillies were finally starting to see the unique talent they had in Werth. From May 26-June 13 the Phillies were 14-4 and finished out June and July playing just above .500 ball, ending the month of July on a 5-game winning streak. With their usual slow start it was nice to see momentum beginning to form.
Opening Day starter Brett Myers struggled early on in 2008. Through the first 2 months of the season he recorded only 3 wins. On July 1 Myers was optioned to the minors to work on his mechanics and focus on pitching. After 2 starts, one in Reading and one in Clearwater, Myers came back to the Phillies in late July. The demotion worked. Myers bolstered the strength of the Phillies' starters toward the end of the season; he boasted a 7–2 record and a 1.80 ERA from his return until September 15.
The Phillies heated up in the dog days of Summer making quick work of NL East foes. The streaking Phillies traveled south to Atlanta and completed a series sweep of the Braves; the Phillies also swept the Braves at Turner Field for the season and handed the Braves its first nine-game home losing streak against a single team since 1909.
The domination over the NL East helped the Phillies secure their first 90-win season since 1993. The next day, the Phillies clinched the NL East Division title for the second consecutive season, beating the Nationals by a score of 4–3. Jamie Moyer contributed a one-run, six-hit performance over six innings. The game came down to the very last play. They won the division title as Brad Lidge earned his 41st consecutive save on a game-ending double play. It was an adrenaline packed, stomach churning way to clinch the division! Having gone an entire season without losing a save opportunity, Lidge was recognized as 2008's National League Comeback Player of the Year
Looking back on that magical post-season run it is easy to say that "I knew they were going to win it all," but there was just something special in the air that season.
There is nothing in sports else remotely comparible to October baseball! For the first time since 1993, on October 1, 2008, the Phillies recorded a playoff victory thanks to a stellar 8 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs performance from Cole Hamels. The NLDS versus the Milwaukee Brewers would prove to be just a warm up. In game 2 a grand solami from the Flyin' Hawaiian off "Ace" CC Sabathia helped the Phillies put up a 5 spot in the 2nd inning, it was all they needed.
After a 3-1 series win over the Brew Crew the Phils were headed to the NLCS to face the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 4th time in team history.
In Game 1 of the 2008 NLCS the Phillies fell behind early but came roaring back with 6th inning homers from Chase Utley and Pat the Bat. Hamels was brilliant again going 7 strong and only allowing 2 runs. The Phillies would mount another memorable comeback in Game 4. "The blast heard round the world."
Down 5-3 in the 8th inning Victorino hit a 2-run shot to tie the game at 5-5. After a two-out single by Chooch, LA skipper Joe Torree called on closer Jonathan Broxton. Broxton attempted to throw a 3-1 fastball past the 40-year old Matt Stairs, but Stairs lit up the Los Angeles sky with a blast to deep right. The ball traveled half-way up the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium. It was another one of those moments that just seemed right. The Phillies would go onto a 7-5 victory in Game 4 and clinch Game 5 with a score of 5-1 behind a J-Roll home run and another stellar performance from Cole Hamels. Hamels was named NLCS MVP and the Phillies were National League Champs!!
The world series
I did a lot of traveling from Lancaster to Philly during the 2008 playoffs. During the 2008 World Series I spent most of the Phillies home games in the parking lot of the Bank, trying to get as close to the action as I could. It was a memorable Fall! The energy and atmosphere was indescribable.
The Fall Classic began on Octber 22, 2008 in St. Petesburg, Florida vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Comparing Tropicana Field and its "fans" to the Bank and South Philly is like comparing kittens to lions. Hamels continued his post-season dominance pitching the Phillies to a 3-2 Game 1 victory. Rays starter James Shield stifled the Phillies lineup in Game 2 as the Rays evened the series. As the series shifted to Philadelphia weather would steal the headlines.
After a 91 minute rain delay in Game 3 the Phillies literally squeaked out a crucial win that carried a lot of weight moving forward. The Rays and Phillies traded runs the entire game with the Rays tying it up at 4-4 in the top of the 8th. With the bases juiced, Eric Bruntlett on 3rd, in the bottom of the 9th the stage was set. Chooch hit a hardly moving dribbler down the 3rd base line and the walk-off "hit" was enough to score Bruntlett for the win!! The Bank erupted!!
Game 4 was an offensive explosion. Ryan Howard went 3-4 with 3 home runs, as well as homeruns from Jayson Werth and pitcher, yes pitcher, Joe Blanton!! I can remember the feeling of euphoria throughout the Bank parking lot after Blanton's home run. Like this is too good to be true!
Game 5 Part 1 was absolutlely miserable weather wise. We had setup our tailgate in the Jetro parking lot with no protection from the rain. Thankfully an awesome group next to us with an RV and a canopy let us get out from under the rain and watch the game. The players weren't as lucky. I can remember how cold and hard the rain felt. I couldn't have imagined trying to play a decisive World Series game in those conditions.
Thanks to 1st inning hits by Victorino and Pedro Feliz the Phils were off to an early 2-0 start, history was being made!! The Rays tied it up in the top of the 6th, right before the game was called. The wind and the rain was too much as the game was offically postponed in the middle of the 6th. Chase Utley said "the infield was basically underwater." The nasty weather continued into Tuesday with the Part 2 finally resuming on Wednesday.
We made the trek to South Philly again for Game 5 "Part 2" on Wednesday. I wasn't about to miss this!! With a beatup van, a grill, some food, a tv, and a generator we joined the massive tailgate in the Jetro Parking Lot. With the tv hooked up and Harry on the radio, the Bank in the background, we were ready to go! We knew that resuming the game in the bottom of the 6th with a 2-2 tie, momentum was going to have to be captured early! A lead-off double by Geoff Jenkins, a bunt by J-Roll to move the runner, and a hit by Werth and that quickly the Phils had a 3-2 lead! The Rays re-tied the game in the 7th but a fake throw over play by Chase Utley to throw out Jason Bartlett at home held the tie. The Phils wasted no time retaking the lead in the bottom of the 7th. Pat the Bat led off with a double, Bruntlett came in to pinch run and Pedro Feliz drove in the game winning run.
With a scoreless 8th it all came down to the bottom of the 9th. Brad Lidge vs. Eric Hinske. Lidge looked in, we waited in anticipation, Harry gave the call:
"One strike away; nothing-and-two, the count to Hinske. Fans on the their feet; rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0-2 pitch — swing and a miss, struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball! Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season! 48-for-48 in save opportunities, and let the city celebrate! Don't let the 48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment, and the celebration. And it has been 28 years since the Phillies have enjoyed a World Championship; 25 years in this city that a team that has enjoyed a World Championship, and the fans are ready to celebrate. What a night!"
October 29, 2008 will go down as one of the greatest sports moments in my entire life! October 31, 2008 is right there with it! The city of Philadelphia waited 25 long years for a championship team, 28 years since the Phillies had won the World Series. The anticipation of what was going to take place down Broad Street was large!
The parade started in Center City, passed City Hall and traveled nearly four miles south to Citizens Bank Park. It started at noon and crawled at a speed of about 4 miles per hour, arriving in South Philadelphia more than an hour later than expected, about 3 p.m. It was estimated that 1-2 million people packed the parade route as a sea of red filled the city. Public transportation was put at a stand still as people from all over tried to get to Broad Street. Thankfully instead of taking the train we hopped in our car and headed for South Philly. We parked at the Bank and were in perfect position at Broad and Oregon to watch the team come by. We even had parade leaders Pat the Bat, Elvis and the Budweiser float parked right in front of us. It was unbelievable to see the amount of Phillies phans who came out to witness this historic event!! The crowd was massive.
It was a beautiful, 60-degree and sunny day in South Philly. Such a stark contrast from the conditions earlier in the week. It was a perfect day to celebrate a World Series Championship! Seeing the players, the Phanatic, the coaches, families, and the staff ride by waiving the 2008 Championship flag, and hoisting the trophy was amazing. The party ended inside Citizens Bank Park as the team addressed the phans.
The fireworks and celebration that ensued all over Phily on that cold Wednesday night and that led into that warm Friday afternoon parade was so much fun! I still look back in awe of just how much fun it was!! The odds are stacked against the Phillies in 2013 but baseball is a funny sport. I predict that we won't have to wait 28 years in between Phillies World Series titles this time around. Here's to 2008 and the start of a new year in 2013! Go Phils!