Commentary

The wild ride of a Phillies fan

Passion.

Tradition.

Pain.

Triumph.

The Philadelphia Phillies are now in their 134th season in professional baseball. As new people enter this world every day, there are new people to Phillies fandom. For parents of newborn babies, read this to your kids when they’re 10. For anyone older, and you want to become a Phillies fan? We welcome you. With open arms. Because we’re the City of Brotherly Love. To be a Phillies fan, you need to know some things. And the first four words of this piece describe Phillies fandom in a nutshell.

Passion

Phillies fans are made of all different colors, sizes and ages, and come from all over. You don’t have to be from Philadelphia, or live in the city, to love this team. But just know that all of our real fans are passionate. The most passionate I’ve ever seen. When you flip on a game, when the Phillies are playing at Citizens Bank Park, you might see some empty seats and ask yourself, “where is everyone,” and that’s OK, I get it. But know this: just because you see some blue empty chairs doesn’t mean we’re not watching. We’re going through a tough time right now. But once they build it, we will come. The finishing touches of this project are coming. And once they’re done, it’ll be like nothing you ever seen before.

We have the reputation of being unfair to our players and riding them out of town. That’s completely unwarranted. Phillies fans have a simple philosophy: If you play to the best of your abilities, you won’t have a problem. In fact, we’ll love you. It’s the players that don’t give everything they have or even call us out, unnecessarily, that hear us the most.

Tradition

Again – 134 years of professional baseball. Philadelphia’s first season of baseball came in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers, lasing until until 1889. Then, in 1890, the Quakers became the Philadelphia Phillies, where they continue to hold that name to this very day. The Philadelphia Phillies are the oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of American professional sports (127 years). There’s a short list of guarantees in life: death and taxes. It isn’t too far fetched to add the city and name of our baseball team to that list.

The Phillies have played in some of the most notorious stadiums in sports. From 1887-1970, the Phillies played their games in North Philadelphia. They played at the Baker Bowl and Connie Mack Stadium – later named Shibe Park. They moved to South Philly, when the 56,371-seat, multipurpose Veterans Stadium opened in 1971. In 2004, the Phils moved right across the street, into arguably the most beautiful ballpark in the league: Citizens Bank Park. The Bank is the place to be – as a family outing or a night out with friends – on a hot summer night.

There are a select few Phillies players who are immortal. The best third baseman of all time, Mike Schmidt, played his entire career in Philadelphia. He hit 548 home runs in his career, which is 16th all-time. There’s a statue of Schmitty at the ballpark, too.

Steve “Lefty” Carlton is perhaps the greatest Phillies pitcher ever. In 1972, the Phillies won a total of 59 games. “Lefty” himself won 27 of those games. He only lost 10 games and posted an ERA of 1.97. Carlton also started game six of the 1980 World Series, ending one of the two championships the Phillies have. A statue of Carlton also stands at the ballpark.

The most recent generation is familiar with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels. All four players were instrumental in the 2008 World Series run and are some of the most beloved players in Philadelphia sports.

Pain

You’re not going to escape some pain as a Phillies fan, but it’s alright, because it makes us that much stronger.

The Phillies haven’t made the playoffs since 2011. Since, the team hasn’t been exciting, and yes, the games can be painful to watch. But if you’re a fan this year, it will be different. There’s new, young blood on the team that needs to/has to/wants to prove themselves to us.

The Phillies had a stretch of years the franchise wouldn’t mind erasing. For a period of 30 years until 1949, the Phillies suffered losing seasons in 29 of them. They lost 90 games or more 23 times. There’s no other way around it: It was pure futility. The Phillies are also the first franchise in American professional sports to reach 10,000 losses.

Then, as fans, we’ve had our painful moments.

The collapse of 1964. The Phils were up 6.5 games with 12 remaining. They lost the next 10 games, and eventually their lead in the National League. It’s considered one of the most epic collapses in sports history.

When the Phillies reached the NLCS in 1977, a possible blown call at first base still haunts Larry Bowa to this day. A two-run Phillies lead in the ninth vanished, and so did their World Series dreams. The game is known as “Black Friday.”

Then Joe Carter broke our hearts in 1993, literally. In game six of the World Series, the Phillies were clinging to a 6-5 lead, poised to force a game seven. But that’s when Carter delivered a walk-off World Series-winning three-run home run that moved most Phillies fans to tears.

Then Chris Carpenter happened. In 2011 the Phillies won the most games in franchise history (102). They had four elite pitchers (Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt) and clearly the best team in league. But the Phils lost a decisive game five in the National League Division Series to St. Louis, 1-0. The only run was scored in the first inning. Carpenter prematurely ended our season. You could hear a pin drop. There was an emptiness that October night we’ll never forget.

Triumph

All of those moments and years of pain equalled two moments of triumph.

That’s right, just two.

The Phils made the playoffs for three straight years in the late 1970s. They missed the playoffs in 1979. Many thought the Phillies were underachieving.

Then 1980 happened.

Most of 1980 had “underachieving” written all over it. In mid-August the Phillies were six games back, planning their tee times for the offseason. But then, something changed. The late manager Dallas Green ripped into his team so hard, reporters outside the clubhouse were able to hear the rant. But the rest is history. The Phils squeaked into the playoffs, played a wild NLCS, and finished off the Royals in six. After 97 years of baseball, the Phillies captured their first world championship.

Then 2008 happened.

Another come-from-behind story that united millions of Phillies fans. The Phillies were 3.5 games back of the Mets with 16 games remaining. The Phils went 13-3 and clinched the NL East for the second consecutive year. They then won the franchise’s second world series, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in five games.

Those two moments resulted in some of the happiest faces I’ve ever seen. All of the pain and suffering made those two moments that much sweeter.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world. The Philadelphia Phillies will be a part of our lives for as long as they’ll be here (hopefully forever). The past, good and bad, is what makes us embrace our team that much more. When we don’t think we can love our team any more … we do, somehow, someway.

To those of you who are new Phillies fans: Welcome to our ride.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Paul Fort

    April 7, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Hi Corey !! Actually it’s the 135th Season. 2017 – 1883 = 134, but you must add one because you’re counting the first year. Let’s say the first season of some event was 2011. 2017 – 2011 = 6, but you must add the first year to make it 7 seasons.

  2. Keith Griggs

    April 7, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I lived through the underachieving and finally monumental first world series, just old enough to appreciate it. I watched a team that should’ve never even been in the race for best team get all the way to the series and lose. Somehow I still like Joe Carter. I watched the 08 boys do their thing. I’m probably a little over passionate about my Phillies, but I can’t help it. I’m not even close nor have I ever been close to living in Philly, but my oldest brother and I live and breathe them. I’m an Indiana boy, but it only took one glorious Schmitty home run at Wrigley to hook me. I was at the loss yesterday, and it hurt like they all do. I’ll be there again later this year in Chicago, hopefully, no pain. Thanks for the piece! Go Phillies!!

  3. Craig Rex

    April 7, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Im an aussie Phillies fan who began follwing the team in 2009 when i first started watching baseball and fell in love with the game. I didnt follow a team at first but when the phillies made the world series against the yankees i knew i couldnt support the yankees and i love the underdog so phillies it was. Ive stuck with them through the highs and lows and im looking forward to the future when we’re back up the top.

  4. Mike Fassano

    April 8, 2017 at 11:40 am

    After the collapse of 1964, I was almost suicidal. The only thing that got me through it was that I was positive that we would return in 1965. I’m in my declining years, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be around for the next parade. By the way, tell the Cubs fans to take good care of their championship hats and shirts … they may have to last 100 years.

  5. Kelly Jones

    April 10, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Great article. Couldn’t agree with you more about pain making Phillies fans stronger. Also, change has been inherent, and there’s never a dull moment. I mean look at how many times their logo has changed! But it’s all part of the fervor for a Phillies fan!

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