A Christmas Story – Phillies Nation

A Christmas Story

Sometimes I’ve crossed the boundary of “Phillies blogger” to get personal here. I’ve done so knowing full well my stories return back to the Phils. After the NLCS victory, I spoke about a dream I had that night. After the World Series victory, I spoke about my relationship with my father. I suppose I don’t mind presenting some of the more personal items of my life here, as my story twines interestingly with the ups and downs we all experience as followers of the red pinstripes. Our passion meets, and more than we realize.

Our passion, really, is somewhat ridiculous. Step back for a moment — we follow a band of baseball players, men who swing bats and throw balls across dirt and grass. We follow men who play meaningless games 162 times each year. We’ve followed them so strongly that they’ve been able to turn their cottage industry into worldwide mainstay. Shrines of brick and metal are constructed for millions of dollars so they can work there. Wise men earn millions to build these teams through convoluted networks of farm systems, waiver piles and league-wide bargaining meetings. These teams are run like well-oiled, Rockefeller-type business. Well, they are Rockefeller-type businesses.

Even more ridiculous is how we — the fans — devote our lives to following the sport. The game. Some of us fans earn wages writing about the game. Some of us fans earn wages preparing the field for the game. Some of us fans earn wages selling food at the games. But most of us fans just watch, and use much of our free time watching, studying, discussing and questioning the game. At times, our lives rely on the outcomes of these games. By following this game so devotedly, we’re embracing distraction. We’re embracing the ridiculous.

But by embracing this game, we’re quietly holding together the relationships that keep us human. If not for the Phillies, I would barely speak to my brothers, not because we don’t want to talk, but because we wouldn’t know what to say. If not for the Phillies, I wouldn’t have too much to say to my father. And if not for the Phillies, I wouldn’t be exercising my writing every day, keeping a semi-respectable relationship with the thousands of readers who purvey this site each day. If not for the Phillies, who am I? Who are you?

2008, without a doubt in my mind, was the most trying year of my 24-year life. It began innocently, turned dramatic, and resurfaced as something entirely different from what I originally expected. For those who remember, on April 26, my apartment was victim of a massive blaze that displaced more than 120 people. The Phillies had just defeated the Pirates, and I had just finished a night of casual drinking when the fire began. In three hours, my world transformed from mundanely and routinely normal to wildly uncertain. I had lost everything material, and for a little while I was shocked and dizzy. But the next day — after realizing my home was destroyed — I began rebuilding my life by starting with what I still owned: My body, my health, my family, my friends and my Phillies.

Those five things kept me going in 2008. And those five things kept you going in 2008. Not our iPods or our cell phones. Not our laptops or our golf clubs. If your heart beat, your heart beat for those five things.


On Friday, May 2, 2008, I drove to Philadelphia, seeing my family for the first time since the fire. It was the end to a week of rebuilding, of seeing firsthand the gracious and loving eyes of humankind. First, my boss told me to take the week off: “Your job is to rebuild your life,” he told me. Co-workers called, telling me what they wanted to donate. Other co-workers at my workplace began collecting money — thousands of dollars in all — for my roommate and me. The entirety of Eastern Connecticut ponied thousands of dollars for us displaced, and many more donated things to an abandoned warehouse. I shuffled around the building in a hoodie, collecting silverware, plates and bowls, dry food. I couldn’t believe the outpouring.

And here, on the blog, some collected money to buy me a Chase Utley jersey. I wore that proudly during the season.

When I arrived in Philadelphia that Friday night, my brother wanted me to come to his house. He was hosting a party, and his friends gave me their best. On the television was the Phillies, playing the Giants at home. And we rallied around the television when Aaron Rowand homered to take a lead in the 10th inning. Of course, Pat Burrell took a Brian Wilson fastball into the seats, scoring two and winning the game in the bottom half. We cheered and embraced, a bunch of rowdy Philadelphians celebrating a classic Phillies win.

While Burrell’s home run didn’t erase the tragedy that occured a week earlier, it helped for certain. In time, my life would retain itself almost fully, though the memory will never die. I moved to a new home, then moved again when a new job surfaced. Now I live alone again, in a new town, in a new state, pressing on, sure to meet people, pushing for the next step. But the constants remain: My body, my health, my family, my friends, my Phillies.


On October 29, those five things converged, and unquestionably, it was the greatest moment of my young life. I don’t even mind saying that. Ridiculous? Please.

It was the greatest moment because I felt it. I never screamed louder. My tears never felt more real. My smile never reached wider. Even re-watching the moment, I can’t help but smile widely. I can’t help but notice the boyish, wide-eyed cut of Carlos Ruiz as he dives low to hug Brad Lidge. Or Lidge’s baffled quick take to the heavens, as if to ask his God, “How did this happen?” Or the dozens of fans hunched together behind home plate, raising their arms in jubilation, almost in some unceremonious manner, since the moment had built to that climax so effortlessly. Or the crowd succinctly before Eric Hinske swung — how quiet Philadelphia became for a few milliseconds. For just those ticks, we bottled up all the bad we’ve endured.

As sports fans, we’ve endured horrible things. We’ve endured Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning home run. And The New Jersey Devils’ comeback in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. And Joe Jurevicius’ pattern in the 2002 NFC Championship. And Robert Horry’s rampage in the 2001 NBA Finals. We’ve endured years of criticism, choking and sheer horrible sport. We’ve endured name-calling, posturing by rival teams and 10,000 losses.


Yes, when looked at it through the scope of the world, it’s all ridiculous. But when you’re shown a baseball field at a tender age, you don’t ask why, you just fall in love. It’s indescribable, because no adult can put into words the joy a child receives from watching a baseball game. And no adult can put into words how a child grows fond of a certain baseball team. There’s a father’s guidance, there’s constant trips to the ballpark and constant showings of the game on television, but to take that and formulate it to a devout love? There’s a missing part, and that’s totally indescribable. That’s the part that makes the ridiculous seem believable.

And that missing part is the part that ignited us the night of October 29, 2008. It caused us to run onto the streets of Philadelphia, madly cheering and hugging any and everyone we saw. It caused us to call out sick and skip school so we could watch a bunch of flatbeds roll 3 mph down Broad Street. It’s the part that causes us to follow this team each and every day, the part the causes me to write each and every day about a stupid, mindless form of entertainment known as baseball.

It’s the exact same part that causes us to love our parents, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives. Why we trust certain human beings with all our feelings and emotions is the same reason why we allow a game to dictate our emotions 162 times each year. Totally inexplainable, but understood by all, for good or bad.

As I move through this world, pushing through to my next arrival, I don’t expect my iPod or cell phone, my laptop or golf clubs, to last with me throughout. At some point, I’ll lose them, or destroy them, or forget about them, or upgrade them. Like everything I lost in the fire, they are things, material possessions, minute pieces of inhumanity that — on the surface — define me to the world.

But what really defines me, and you, and everyone else, are those things inside, those things you cannot explain, those things that are bridged to reality by that secret part that you also cannot explain. For us here, the Phillies are one of those things. The Phillies have been integral in my life since a tender age. I’ve lived with their ups and downs just as my life has endured ups and downs. No matter how good or bad my life may be, I know one thing: That one day in April, I will turn to the Phillies again and smile, at least for a day. And no matter what results, I’ll continute to allow them into my heart and mind.

On October 29, the devotion paid off. And today, Christmas day, I’m alone, in my new town, proceeding as if it was just another day. Sure, I will soon be with family and friends, celebrating our proper Christmas with gifts, food and drink, but it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas. Not for bad, no, but because my Christmas came October 29. My Christmas was watching my passion pay off, and celebrating the accomplishment of my passion with those I hold closest in my life. However ridiculous it may seem.



  1. Tom

    December 25, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Ridiculous? No. Christmas came as Eric Hinske whiffed on that unforgettable Brad Lidge slider. Today is simply an extension of what the Phillies set in motion that day.

  2. Mike s

    December 25, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Well said Tim.
    I too moved away from Philly, to LA of all places, and away from the passion Philly has. I watched games all year at work, the 3 hour time difference caused the end of my days to be filled with no work but with only Phillies games. I watched the playoffs against the Brewers at work, screaming loudly that my boos heard me when Lidge got out of the jam in game 1. Screaming even louder when Vic took CC deep. I got booed while watching Brett Myers collect hit after hit against the Dodgers and watching Vic take one off the wall. I watched alone as Carlos took that foul ball in Dodger stadium into his glove sending the Phils (and myself in my own head) back to the World Series. I couldn’t help but become emotional after the NLCS, the last time the Phils were there, I was 9 years old, with my dad in the 700 level of the Vet watching Dutch leap into Mitch’s arms.

    Since then I endured the Flyers, Sixers and Eagles get my hopes up only to crush them (the Eagles the worst of the bunch) However, even though I love all 4 teams, the Phils are MY team. I grew up on baseball, it’s my sport, the Phils are my team.

    I’ll never forget Chase going deep in the first inning, and Cole mowing them down. I never felt so at ease watching a Phils game as I did when Cole was pitching this postseason.

    I’ll never forget the seemingly 5 hour rain delay in game 3, Moyer pitching the game of his life, only to have the W taken right out of his stat sheet because of an ump and his horrible location on the play. I’ll always remember Brunt hustling around to 3rd base, and Carlos and his 15 feet blast.

    I’ll never forget Howard and Werth and Blanton breaking things open in game 4.
    Could it happen? Only a real Philly fan would have doubts being up 3-1, but I did. I’ve see it enough.

    Then game 5, and the rain. Cole being wasted, game 6 and 7 with two rays pitchers who pitch much better at home, and two Phils pitchers who didn’t pitch well on the road were waiting…

    The 28th of October took two weeks to get through, I couldn’t wait for the 3 innings to go.

    When the camera started rolling, and I saw the life and energy in that stadium, I knew this was it. when Jenks crushed that ball off the ball, I knew it was it. When J-Roll put down a perfect sac bunt and Werth followed with a bloop single, I knew this was it.

    Even after Madson tried to sneak one inside Rocco, giving up the lead, I didn’t panic. I remembered your post earlier that day, about Mr. Burrell. I too had it in my mind that he would do something. He had to, this would be the last time we would ever see him in red pinstripes.

    when he first hit it, I thought he had it. Seeing him taken out for a pinch runner, I clapped. Why? I was in LA, 3,000 away, but I felt I had to. He had given this city all he had, he knew what it took. One of the few.

    When Pedro had the clean single up the middle, I knew it was going to happen.

    When JC induced the double play ball in the 8th, then got Pena out, going right through their meat, I knew it would happen.

    I walked around my apartment after the bottom of the 8th, trying to catch my breath, even though I knew it would happen….I still didnt know.

    Eva(n) pops up….2 outs away.

    A broken bat single…oh no. not this.

    A stolen base.

    oh no.

    A shot, that I honestly thought was going to fall off the right, falls into Werth’s glove.

    1 out away.

    Foul ball down the line.

    2 strikes away.

    Check swing strike.

    1 strike away.

    At this moment, I didn’t know what to do I thought, this is Philly, and Lidge has been perfect, we are 1 strike away….if Philly really is cursed, then Lidge is going to give up the lead, and the Phils will collapse and lose game 6 and 7.

    as much as I wanted to think that….this time, I didn’t. this was different.

    Lidge throws his slider, Hinske swings and misses, Carlos picks it and throws his mask.

    I fall to the ground, crying…I didn’t know what else to do…I’d waited, literally, my entire life for this.

    I cried….I called my dad, crying. My mom in the backround screaming and yelling, my sister calling in on the other line from Temple saying the dorms are emptying up to City Hall.

    I never cried so much in my life….and I was never prouder of that. This was my team, that was my city.

    That was the best x-mas gift I could ever get.

    It only got better when my dad bought me a plane ticket the next day from LA to Philly so I could go to the parade.

    My dad and i at the parade, was the greatest day of my life.

  3. Greg V.

    December 25, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Wonderful tribute to life and a team! I endured many hardships this year, myself. Life is going to beat us down somedays. But no matter what is thrown in our face, at the end of the day from April through September there is a baseball game on somewhere to erase our reality. Being a Phillies fans since watching the 1980 World Series at 2 months old (obviously I don’t remember it but my mother claims she made me watch it), I grew up with this team’s success and matured through it’s failure. That wonderful October night, when my team, the team I’ve cheered for my entire life was victorious, there is no feeling that could match that. This is why I am a fan. All those failed years, all the dissapointments, all seemed worth it all of a sudden. I had a rough year this year. There is a whole bunch of negatives to point out in my life. But when someone asks me what 2008 was all about, it was about The Phillies and the parade and a great year for the fans of this great team! The fact that it happend this year just seems to make it all the better! I’m a happy fan today (Plus, I got the DVD box set)!

  4. Kenny

    December 25, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Great post, and like all of you I could not agree more. I was lucky enough for the Phillies to win on my 30th birthday also. It was truely no lie the best day in my life…Me and my wife made a bucket list when we go married 3 years ago and the first thing on the list was witness the Phillies win a world series. Not only did I witness at our beloved park but it was my birthday!!! Are you kidding me. I that day cried for the first time ever in front of my wife. I think everyone here can agree with me, a huge weight was lifted. I am a PHILLIES fan, I could care less if the Eagles, 76ers, or Flyers win a game all year. I cheer for them but I bleed Phillies. My wife says that we are the chachters in Fever Pitch, and I could not agree more. I have had season tickets, that I bought off my parents, for the past 6 years, and my wife was not a phan until she met me. Now our entire Christmas was a Phillies Christmas, almost all of our gifts from family friends and each other had something to do with the Phillies. I am the same as you Tim, Phillies made me and my dad very tight. It is what we talk about all the time. I played ball all my life and played all 4 years in college and was lucky enough to win 2 all americans, but was never good enough of a fielder to amount to anything, but baseball is what made my dad and me close. We always had something to talk about, it is the first thing out of his mouth when he talks to me or about me. This is truely the best game ever and we have the best franchise to cheer for. I have always and will always love my Phillies.

    On a last note, I went to Models the other day to get a jersey for my wife and they were on sale for $45.00!!! I got myself and my wife a Pat Burrell World Series Jersey. I will truely miss him, he will always be a Phillie in my eyes!! Fairwell and good luck Pat the Bat

  5. Felix from Sacramento

    December 25, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Great story. I agree with your thoughts about how our cell phones, laptops, and all the other things that direct our lives are really not all that important. Family and friends are. And I don’t think that cheering for a baseball team, especially millionaires playing a kids game, is silly. It helps us get through a tough day at work, dealing with family issues, and just getting through everyday life.

  6. Matt

    December 26, 2008 at 12:14 am

    well written my friend… would love to sit down and have a drink with you

  7. Richie Allen

    December 26, 2008 at 12:29 am

    You are a true blue Philly Fan for sure….As I have said throughout this year I’m glad to have found this blog,…very good job Tim….

    Everyone has to have an interest in something besides the humdrum mundane things life deals every day,and luckily for us Philly fans,Christmas just came in October.

  8. Brian

    December 26, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Outstanding writing, Tim …. didn’t know about the fire, since I’m a recent subscriber. Agree with you 100% about the team … love what you have to say. Keep up the good, have a great 2009, and reading your posts is a highlight for me and my late-night mail!

  9. Fran

    December 26, 2008 at 1:52 am

    I got The Perfect Season narrated by Lidge for xmas. If you didnt get it go out and buy it. It gave me chills the whole time while i was watching it

  10. Mike

    December 26, 2008 at 2:44 am

    IT was good — I got both the perfect season and the official MLB one. Shockingly, I enjoyed the MLB one more! Gave me more chills I think. The Perfect Season is way better for the regular season highlights, but the MLB one is better for the post season stuff.

    Last year’s 2007 video was also really really really well done.

  11. Fran

    December 26, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Tim, just finished reading the post and i’m realzing how true that all is. You have to take a step back and look at things as a whole. It’s been a great year for Philadelphia, we have had our ups and downs but in the end we got what we all wanted. We were “Great in ’08” now let’s continue and be “Fine in ’09”

  12. Malcolm

    December 26, 2008 at 4:46 am

    Thank you Tim

  13. Gabriel

    December 26, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Timmy – great post as always…
    my roommate got me the perfect season narrated by lidge and my girlfriend (soon to be wife due to this gift…) got me the 8-disc set. after unwrapping – if it wasn’t an argyle sweater it was something phillies. even my girlfriends 10 year old little bro and 9 year old little sis hooked me up with phillies swag. the 9 year old MADE me a little phillies toothpick man and her little bro got me a phils keychain! top to bottom i dont’ think anybody didn’t get me a phillies something. best christmas ever… i suppose this christmas is like the game 5 rain delay. it started oct. 29th, had a 2 month rain delay, and ended dec. 25th.

  14. carlvolz

    December 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Tim, love the post and love being part of Phillies Nation….
    and yes love your five: My body, my health, my family, my friends and my Phillies. As true Phillies fans, we can all relate.
    I will use your “five” and adopt them, as it is very true.
    Wishing all Phillies Fans a Happy and Healthy New Year.

  15. Matt Kwasiborski

    December 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    First, Merry Christmas everyone!

    And Tim- great, great post. It isn’t easy to put out your personal feelings on the web for the entire world to read/see. I applaud your courage.

    Growing up (And still to this day) the Phillies are an escape. For three hours every evening or afternoon from April through September they are the constant elixir to the day whether it was a good day, bad day or just an average day. You want to turn on the TV or radio/internet just to be a part of the ambiance and comforting feeling of the Phillies. Baseball is truly a relaxing sport (I am not a golf fan) and isn’t the constant adrenaline rush that the other major sports induce. Baseball has always been such an escape from the everyday life we live.

    I am fortunate enough to work overseas in the summer time but everyday when I wake up 6 hours ahead of EST, I have to turn on the computer and see what the Phillies did the night before. And on Sunday evenings, I can turn on the internet and listen to Harry and Boys send me into a pleasant night’s journey into the next day. There is something amazingly consistent and calming about listening or watching a baseball game.

    And I realized this calming effect early on. I was about 11 and had done something to warrant a small punishment from my Mom who raised me by herself. She said that I couldn’t watch the Phils that night. So, a couple of hours later she came into my room to say goodnight and could hear something on the radio. Sure enough it was the Phillies game, and when she said that I couldn’t watch it, I said, I am not watching it, I am listening to it!

    Even today my girlfreind cannot understand how I get upset at the Phils blowing a lead in the 7th inning in early May. Truly the passion we Phillies fans have amaze anyone who isn’t from Philly.

    The Phils have carried all of us through trying times, happy times, the loss of relationships and the excitment of new ones. But honestly, the one consistent relationship we can directly pass on is our love of the Philadelphia Phillies, the 2008 World Fuc**ng Champions!

  16. Brooks

    December 26, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I have some age on most of you. I was born in 1953 and lived in Baltimore, MD from 1959 until 1967. The formative years, especially from a town that knows only football (Colts) and Baseball (Orioles).
    Fortunate yet spoiled to be reared in a town where winning was not only expected, it was a tradition. The Colts had Johnny U, my dad took me to a few games but the Orioles, Brooks & Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and the list goes on. Including an incredible ride i 1966, following that up with WS appearences in 69, 70 & 71 – I was spoiled and quite usned to seeing the worlds best third baseman (Michael ranks as #2, Brooks outdid him in defense only) and the best pitching staff in baseball. My dad got me started by taking me to a handful of games each year. What a joy, what fun. Sitting in the left field bleachers, cheering the Birds on with my dad.
    When I moved to this area in 1970, I was still an Oriole fan and did not find much to cheer for with the Phillies until the middle part of the 70’s but joined the Air Force so did not keep close tabs on what was going on.
    I settled in the Philly area and the Phillies pulled me in slowly at first but now my blood is true! I went to games in the 90’s, more so in 93 and enjoyed some terrific times but family always came first in my priorities and I neglected the urge to fully submerge myself in my own indulgences. That is until the last season at the Vet. When the Phillies signed Jim Thome, my finger was on the trigger, when they signed Kevin Millwood (I was fooled in thinking he was the real deal too), I purchased my first partial season plan.
    Last year almost came unexpectedly. I share 2 17 game plans and a Sunday package. I have gone to opening days and season finals (2007 was the best!) for a few years now. I got to go to 1 NLDS, 1 NLCS game and all 3 of the WS games! What a ride! I purchased another 17 game package (shared of course) with 2 more friends and have met some great people while at the Park.
    My neighbor (and great friend) shares this passion with me and I am quite blessed that my grand daughter who is 14 now, loves the Phillies (She got to dance on the dugout with the Phanatic in 06) and goes to a number of games with me.
    What a blessing in my life. I seriously cannot think of how this year could have been any better! And, fellow fans, I am convinced that we’ll be doing it again this year!!!
    Go Phils! Keep up the good work Tim – you are part of this great tradition.

  17. 50+ Phanatic

    December 26, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Ridiculous? Not in the least. I have chills reading this and identifying with the words. Wow!!!

  18. Woodman

    December 26, 2008 at 5:43 pm



    December 26, 2008 at 7:04 pm


    Happy Holidays

  20. Mike B.

    December 27, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Wow, Tim. Well-written and well-said. I, too, am happy to have found this blog, and only regret finding it after the World Series. Thanks, Tim.

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