As many of you may know, I turned 40 last Saturday October 25, 2008. But of course that has been overshadowed by the damn Phillies
and their winning the World Series and all that. Of course it's great that they won, but why this year? They couldn't have picked a less momentous year for me? How about when I turned 17 or 26 or 38- would that have been so hard? Now all that anyone will remember is the victory over some team from Florida (I am four times as old as they are) and the parade and all. Even at my great birthday party last Saturday
night they took the attention away from me with one of their most dramatic wins ever in game 3. Even one of my best birthday presents ever was Phillies
related. That's right, Dad was able to get us tickets to game 5- that's right game 5 we were there - game 5 and game 5.2. Dad scored tickets at face value through a friend of a friend- no inflated scalper / stub hub tickets for us.
The last and only time the Phils
' won the world series I was turning 12. I spent many nights up late listening on the radio and finding it hard to go to sleep afterwards. So when it turned out that game 5 could be a clincher with the Phillies
up 3-1 and their ace Cole Hamels
on the mound everything looked great for Monday's
game. I've written before about sports fans and their superstitions, and they kick into high gear when the games are important. It's bad luck to be overconfident and predict victory or start planning a parade. Of course it also really matters what clothing you wear and where you sit to watch the games. So we obviously did something to anger the gods of baseball before game 5, because it turned into one of the most excruciating
and torturous and finally, joyful
games in World Series history.
It's often said that at any baseball game you go to you may see something you've never seen before- like a triple play or a perfect game. I had never seen a World Series clinching game before, so that's
what I was hoping for. What happened was also unique, but nothing that anyone had anticipated. I went over to the ball park on Monday night with my brother and his brother-in-law, Nigel. We met Dad up at our seats- section 430 third tier in left field. Now I listened to the radio and checked the internet
all day to see about the weather, and I didn't hear any big warnings. Maybe it was all false hope, because
as soon as we got to the park (maybe about 7:oo
pm for an 8:30 start) it started to drizzle and the wind picked up. Semi-miraculously, the rain stopped right at game time, which was good because I wasn't prepared for it and our seats were not under cover. Everything started out great: in the first inning Hamels
shut down the Rays and the Phils
scored two in the bottom of the inning. The score held for a while, but the rains did not.
It got increasingly wetter and windier as the game went on. The ground crew came out between innings to put down sand or miracle dry dirt or something. We all sat out in that rain for maybe three innings or more- why? because they kept playing. My greatest mistake was having some faith in major league baseball and the powers that be- I kept thinking that they must be checking the weather and that the rain would end any minute. Little did I know that the radar showed a different story. Alex and Nigel and I sat through the rain for what seemed like forever. Nigel is from England, so this was actually not such a bad night to him. Dad was smarter than all of us and went to find a spot undercover. They some how made it through six and a half innings of puddles and wind blown pop-ups before they pulled the tarp over the field.
The Rays tied the game up in the 6th
and then they shut it down.
There are all kinds of rules in baseball about what happens when a game gets shortened
due to weather, but none of those rules were going to be applied tonight it seemed. Really no one wanted to see the Phillies
win the series on a rain soaked technicality, but over the next two days everyone talked about how MLB
Bud Selig really screwed us on this one.
They had effectively knocked our ace out of the game and gave the Rays an extra at bat in the rain to tie the thing up. Of course over the next two days of what must have been the longest rain delay in major league history Phillies
fans worried about what a bad omen this was for us. This time we saw the black clouds forming literally and figuratively.
The wait for Wednesday nights "re-start" was excruciating. Who would pitch? Who would have the momentum now? Does momentum carry over through a 46 hour rain delay? In the end, game 5.2 was everything you could have wanted. We were all back again in our appointed seats seeing the same people filter back in like deja vu
all over again. Of course this being a wacky 3 inning game, the home team came up first. The Phils
did exactly what they had to do in that first inning, uncharacteristically
scoring the go ahead run playing small ball. Unfortunately the Rays came back in the next inning tying the game up on a home run. Still, you could feel the confidence in the crowd that this was our time. We have all been through so much as Philadelphia fans the last 25 years, but this team seemed different- they were never out of it.
The ending of the game is well known, the Phillies
scored a run in the bottom of the seventh and held on to take the title. But even though things looked so good for us heading into the ninth inning I'm sure Phillies
fans everywhere we worried when Brad Lidge
took the mound for that last three outs. Why so worried? Because he was having a perfect season. What, you say that doesn't
add up? Lidge
had not blown a save all year, the perfect season does not happen in Philadelphia. Lidge
made us all nervous by giving up a hit to the first batter. Here we go again.
But it was not to be this time, the gods of baseball were finally smiling upon us. Lidge
made it scary, but he closed the deal just like he did every single time this year.
In the moment and still a bit now, its hard for all of this to sink in. World Champions. The greatest birthday present I've ever received. I try to stay away from sentimental cliches as much as possible, but this was truly a week a I will never forget and sharing it with Alex and Dad made it even more special. They are the biggest sports fans I know. We have been through so much together as loyal Philadelphia fans over the years- mostly disappointment
. I hope in the future when we are down on our teams we will remember game 5 and smile.