Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 1.
THE DATE: Oct. 27-29, 2008
THE GAME: Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
THE STAKES: Game 5, World Series; Phillies lead 3-1
THE GREAT: On a Sunday night, Oct. 26, 2008, the Phillies took a commanding three games to one lead in the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. In that game four, Ryan Howard homered twice, Jayson Werth went yard, and heck, pitcher Joe Blanton socked one out.
It seemed apparent that the Phillies would win the championship. They had the momentum. They had the better team.
After a crazy season of ups and downs, and after incredible memory after incredible memory, the Phillies were set for a second ever world championship.
But it wouldn’t come easy. Because does anything? For that reason, it’s the greatest Phillies game of the last 50 years.
TIM MALCOLM: If you’ve been reading this website for a while, you know where I was in 2008.
Here. I was here. All the time I was here.
I was born in 1984, so I had nothing. I went nuts for the 1993 Phillies. I watched every single game of the 2000-01 Sixers season until Game 2 of the NBA Finals, which was happening while I was on an airplane. I blame myself. And those Eagles teams? So-called “friends” razzed me as Joe Jurevicius scampered down the sideline. And I mentioned it before, but I openly cried while watching the 2007-08 Celtics celebrate their NBA championship.
“Anything is possible?” Shut the hell up.
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: I was only eight in 1983, and wasn’t really into basketball yet anyway, so I hadn’t seen what I’d consider a Philadelphia championship by the time the 2008 Phillies rolled around.
My favorite Philly teams had been (and still are) the 1993 Phillies and the 2001 Sixers. And all they had was a league/conference championship, which somehow turned into my definition of a championship, cemented with the 2004-05 Eagles. But I was now going on 25 years of taking crap from my non-Philly fan friends, and I was sick and tired of it. I needed this. We all needed the 2008 World Series.
COREY SHARP: What a time to be 13 year old kid in Philadelphia. I had Allen Iverson, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook as guys I looked up to as a young athlete. And the 2008 Phillies had more than a few more. Jimmy Rollins had the swag, Ryan Howard launched baseballs in the second deck, Shane Victorino could fly around the basepaths, Cole Hamels’s nickname was “Hollywood” and Chase Utley played the game as hard as I had ever seen.
I was lucky enough to attend, remember, and appreciate all of Game 5.
KIRSTEN SWANSON: As you read in some previous Greatest Games recaps, I was lucky enough to work at Citizens Bank Park during the greatest era in Phillies history. I started in March 2008 during my junior year of high school. It was the greatest summer of my life, working at the hottest spot in the city during homestands and spending road trips down the shore listening to Scott Franzke and LA on the beach.
DANIEL WALSH: At the time, I was a student at a small and sleepy liberal arts college in Pennsylvania where sports did not matter. For that reason, I watched Game 5 with a few friends – all Phillies fans – under the assumption that no one other than the people in that room knew it was happening at all.
TIM MALCOLM: I posted everything I had to for Phillies Nation, then met up with some friends at some bar I’d never been to out in Connecticut for Game 5. It was a huge place – televisions everywhere, few people there (it was a Sunday) – and, worse, they were blasting music over the potential clinching game of the World Series.
It never ever felt right.
KIRSTEN SWANSON: There was no way I was going to be stuck behind a ballpark cash register while my team won the World Series. Being the high school senior that I was, I thought I would get over on my boss by saying I had to leave the game early because of school. My master plan was to clock out and walk back into the ballpark to watch the last few innings with my mom who worked as a host, as I have done countless times.
Just as I turned back around after clocking out, however, security stopped me. Like a ’90s sitcom, my master plan didn’t work out. Shocker.
Instead of celebrating with the other 45,000-plus inside, I was banished to the streets … in the pouring rain … without an umbrella and without cell service. Again, being the high school senior that I was, this was without a doubt the worst moment of my life.
TIM MALCOLM: I was growing red in the face. “STOP THE DAMN GAME” as players splashed and fumbled all over the ball, as the Rays squeaked out a ridiculous run in a monsoon. Remember the shot of Rollins standing beside a mammoth puddle? Come on.
I hated that night. I hated that bar. I love my friends, but I didn’t want them around, asking me about things, acting as if this was anything less than the biggest night of my life.
I wanted to be home, alone, with my eyes fixed on the TV and a cold freakin’ beer in my hand.
COREY SHARP: I remember being soaked when I got home and upset that we had to wait another two days, because the forecast wasn’t promising for the next day. I think I was more upset I had to go to school the next day, because my mom said she would let me stay home if the Phillies won. But that’s another story.
KIRSTEN SWANSON: Little did I know while I was wandering around Packer Avenue aimlessly and crying, Major League Baseball was making the decision to postpone the game. After the longest 30 minutes of my life, I finally got cell service. It was my dad calling. “They called the game. They’re not finishing tonight.”
Cue the euphoria.
The next 48 hours were like walking on Cloud 9. There was no doubt in my mind that the Phils were going to clinch it on Wednesday. I was given a mulligan. My team wasn’t going to disappoint.
TIM MALCOLM: I was frustrated (that we had to wait) but pretty glad (that I didn’t have to sit at that bar anymore). And it was such a unique circumstance – a game starting back up on another day in the sixth inning … or … in medias res. It was if the gods were handing the city that thrived on narrative the absolute perfect narrative.
I wrote up a post about how the Phils could tackle the final couple innings, and I wrote that Pat Burrell was going to come through. I had no proof. I just had … wait for it … narrative.
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: Ugh, the wait. The wait was unbearable.
In Scranton we got almost a foot of snow. It was all rain in Philly, but we were still digging out when the game finally got back underway.
I had been at Game 4 a couple days earlier and we were in shorts – now everyone was in winter coats and still cold. It was weird.
It seemed like the air had been taken out of this whole magical run. My father didn’t plan on coming to my house to watch those last couple of innings, but he had just finished up work as the lone holdout on a jury that wanted to hand out a death penalty. He was spent and mostly despondent before the game started, and it dragged me down too.
But once that first pitch got thrown, we forgot about it all.
COREY SHARP: I remember the parking lot being so loud and full of life. Then I went into the stadium about an hour before the game, and I never remember it that packed that early. Then, it seemed everyone was on their feet for all three innings.
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: It was one of those times you can feel the stadium just ready to explode. On. Every. Pitch.
TIM MALCOLM: Geoff Jenkins with the hit of his life, and then that clap-clap-fist pump. Shivers, man. Then the little bloop single by Werth. Then Rocco Baldelli, of all people, ties it back up in the top of the seventh. The Jason Bartlett single. The Akinori Iwamura single …
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: Utley’s fake-out of a throw home is one of the most impressive baseball plays you’ll ever see.
TIM MALCOLM: I still can’t believe it. I mean, I believe he had the awareness to make the play, but that throw … that throw was dead on. And I can’t believe J.C. Romero was able to keep away from obstructing the play.
That’s Pete Rose nabbing the ball off Bob Boone’s glove in the 1980 clincher. Same play. It’s the team’s field leader doing exactly the right thing at the right moment because the ball just happened to find him. Narrative!
Then came Burrell.
KIRSTEN SWANSON: Burrell was the first Phillie I remember cheering for at the Vet, the player I stuck up for no matter how many low and away breaking balls he missed.
When he hit perhaps the longest double in history, I’m pretty sure my heart stopped. With my eyes closed, I could tell by the crowd’s reaction that it wasn’t a home run but that Burrell was running the bases. When I finally got the courage to open my eyes, I saw Burrell standing at second.
Was this all a dream? Was I still standing in the pouring rain on Packer Avenue?
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: I think my TV actually shook when Burrell nearly hit that one out, the hit that brought everyone back to life after we sat around for what seemed to be a month.
I had been scared of Brad Lidge for weeks. He had been playing with fire since the end of August with that whole consecutive saves streak. He should have lost it in June but Victorino saved him by throwing out Gregor Blanco of the Braves at home to end an extra-inning game. But he had been getting hit pretty hard lately, and I couldn’t get two people out of my head – Mitch Williams and Albert Pujols. Thank God, those scenarios never happened.
I remember I wanted to be confident in that ninth inning, to soak it in and enjoy every second of it. But I couldn’t. I watched through my fingers, which were covering my eyes.
TIM MALCOLM: I stood inches from my television, nervously hopping and repeating the same thing, over and over, “Come on Brad … Come on Brad … Come on Brad …”
DANIEL WALSH: But when Eric Hinske struck out, because he had to, my next memory is of everything in my dorm room crashing to the ground. The whole building shook from longtime fans throwing each other around, screaming, spilling things, and doing all manner of celebration rituals you never know to prepare for until you’re in the middle of carrying them out.
Even at this quiet college where sports were somehow just something you watch on TV every now and then, people came pouring from their dorm rooms and onto the lawn, yelling into the tedious Pennsylvania night that the Phillies had won, that they were the best team in the world, the world something champions, and it was easy to forget that baseball is just an old game played by grown-ups in pajamas that has a long history of questionable facial hair choices.
KIRSTEN SWANSON: We finally got to hear Harry Kalas say “Swing and a miss, struck him out … the Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 world champions of baseball!”
DANIEL WALSH: The 2008 World Series feels perfect to us in part because of its timing, I think. Something I hope is never forgotten about it, is that Kalas was alive to see it – and to make an incredible call of the last out.
In my own life, the timing was such that my parents had only recently figured out texting, so it was a moment I could share with my dad from 100 miles away – and a moment we had been hoping for but never honestly expecting to happen for the entirety of our time watching the team together.
COREY SHARP: I remember screaming, hugging my uncle and high-fiving a hundred other strangers. I was in disbelief because none of our teams ever won.
TIM MALCOLM: Within seconds of the final out I was shaking and dialing my dad. And I just started screaming gibberish. He picked up and started laughing.
I called back about five minutes later and said “Thank you. Thank you for raising me a Phillies fan. For putting this team in my life.” Tears streaming down my face.
MICHAEL SADOWSKI: My father jumped up and we bear-hugged each other. The phone calls started, the texts were coming in fast even though only a handful of my friends and family knew how to text, there were neighbors knocking on my door making sure everything was OK since I was waking up the whole block screaming. It almost seemed like work answering everyone for the next hour or two.
I stayed up most of the night watching all the highlights, all the postgame coverage and all the interviews. This was the moment I had been waiting for most of my life, and now that it was finally here, I wasn’t quite sure how to even feel. Relieved or ecstatic? I still can’t even put my finger on which was more prevalent.
COREY SHARP: All was even better when my mom held her end of the bargain by giving me off the next two days, one as a “mental health day” and the other … parade day!
TIM MALCOLM: My boss came into my office the next morning. “Congratulations,” he said. Then, “So you’re not gonna be here tomorrow, right?” My head titled quizzically. “I saw the parade was tomorrow. You’re not gonna be here tomorrow, right?”
I was in Connecticut. My boss was a Yankees fan. He was (and I’m sure still is) a really good guy.
So I took the early morning Acela to Philly, walked from 30th Street to the parade route and then all the way down Broad Street. I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted to soak all of it in with everyone else on the absolute most gorgeous, picture-perfect day Philadelphia had ever seen.
Check out our exclusive footage of these memories:
Video of the final out
Win this 2008 World Series Print
We’re partnering with our friends at Shibe Vintage Sports again to offer a special giveaway for this memorable Phillies game! Philly artist Dan Duffy weaves every game, score and team played during the magical 2008 season into this officially-licensed 16″ x 20″ print. Look closely and you can see the artistry involved in creating this unique piece of artwork. For your chance to win this print, fill out the form below to enter. We’ll select one random winner on Friday. Good luck! Go Phils!