Saturday morning, Jimmy Rollins spent over two hours signing autographs and taking pictures with Philadelphia Phillies fans at Dynasty Sports in the Oxford Valley Mall. Of the over 200 fans that he spoke with, at least half of them thanked him for helping to win the club’s second World Series title in 2008. Others talked about how special the team’s five-year run between 2007 and 2011 – widely considered to be the most successful period in franchise history – was to them.
Does Rollins, now 39, ever get tired of being thanked for being a key member in the greatest era the Phillies have ever had?
“Hell no, [are] you crazy? No, the short answer is no,” Rollins joked in an interview with PhilliesNation.com. “It’s great. It had been a while – a generation – since a World Series had been won here.”
During the 2008 regular season, two college-aged fans famously brought a sign to Citizens Bank Park that read “Dad got his, now we want ours.” Many Phillies fans in the Millennial age group grew up hearing about the franchise’s first – and to that point, only – World Series title in 1980. Coupled with the fact that no Philadelphia professional sports team had won a title since Julius Erving and Moses Malone led the Sixers to a title in 1982-83, tales of the Mike Schmidt-led 1980 Phillies found their way well into the 2000s.
While any team that wins a championship in Philadelphia is celebrated, continuously celebrating a title won in 1980 was a hard sell to many fans in the early-to-mid 2000s. It was especially difficult to those that weren’t alive in 1980. Rollins, who wasn’t yet two years old when the Phillies won the 1980 World Series, says that constant reminders about the club’s first title motivated him.
“Being in this organization, all you ever heard was about the 1980 World Series team,” Rollins recalled. “And you go to the Vet [Veterans Stadium] and it was fitting because that’s where they played, that was their home. Then, we build Citizens Bank Park and they are still showing us old clips. And it was just like ‘I am so tired of seeing 1980, hearing about 1980.’ ”
In Rollins’ first six full seasons with the Phillies (2001-2006), the Phillies nearly made the playoffs every season. But despite posting a .530 winning percentage in those six seasons, the Phillies never once actually did make the playoffs. So there weren’t many moments to revisit other than the 1980 World Series, and the 1993 National League pennant winning team, to a lesser extent. It’s easy to imagine players that had no connection to the 1980 team getting fatigued by that.
But after failing to get over the hump in his first six seasons, Rollins’ 2007 National League MVP season propelled the Phillies to their first National League East title since 1993. After getting swept out of the playoffs in 2007, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. They returned to the World Series again in 2009. Rollins and company made a third consecutive NLCS in 2010. And they won a franchise-record 102 games in 2011.
Highlights from that era of the Phillies are now replayed frequently at Citizens Bank Park. There’s Chase Utley’s walk-off single against the New York Mets on Aug. 30, 2007. Matt Stairs’ pinch-hit home run in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS might be the most important home run in Phillies history. And Rollins’ walk-off double in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS has also become an iconic moment in Phillies history.
Rollins says that he hopes the 2018 Phillies – who are on-pace to be the first Phillies team to make the playoffs since 2011 – find similar motivation in constantly seeing clips from his era.
“So now, it’s up to the new team to take that same mentality and get tired of hearing about the 2008 team and put up their own banner.”
PhilliesNation.com’s Kevin McCormick contributed to this piece.
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