In a previous blog post, I chronicled my five worst Phillies memories. Now, as promised, it’s time for the good stuff—the five best Phillies memories of my young life.
#5: 1997: Curt Schilling gets 319 Ks
It took until the late 2000s for me to see what a great Phillies team looked like, but I got to see what a great Phillies player looked like in my childhood years thanks to elite pitcher Curt Schilling. The Phils had some very bad teams in the late 90s, so the games were much more exciting with Schilling on the mound, with the Schillometer fan group in the stands counting each strikeout with posters displaying the letter K (the abbreviation for strikeout). And Schilling got a lot of strikeouts, particularly in 1997, when his 319 Ks set a team record for a right-handed pitcher. Thanks, Curt, for keeping my childhood baseball memories from being completely miserable.
#4: 2008: Matt Stairs walk-off jack lifts Phils over Dodgers
There has always been bad blood and drama-filled pennant races between the Phillies and the Dodgers in their rivalry, dating all the way back to the 1950 Phillies Whiz Kids. But the 2008 league championship series took the animosity to a whole new level. Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda threw over the head of Phillies center-fielder Shane Victorino, prompting a benches-clearing fight that even featured a scrum between coaches Davey Lopes and Larry Bowa.
Back on the field, the teams were tied at 5 in the top of the eighth inning of Game 4, with the Dodgers threatening to even the series 2-2—when pinch-hitter Matt Stairs stepped to the plate. More the size of a lumberjack than a baseball player, Stairs only did one thing well—hit home runs—but he crushed a pitch off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton deep into the stands, catapulting the Phillies into their first World Series in 15 years.
#3: 2010: Roy Halladay’s playoff no-hitter
Halladay’s perfect game against the Marlins earlier in 2010 doesn’t make this list for the simple reason that I didn’t get to watch it, so it isn’t really a memory for me. But I was able to watch Halladay’s first career playoff game, the divisional series opener against the Cincinnati Reds. As the game progressed, it became clear that I was watching something even more special than a perfect game: Halladay’s no-hitter would be just the second no-hitter in baseball’s postseason history. It was so exciting that Phillies legend Mike Schmidt couldn’t sleep, calling up ESPN talk show hosts in the middle of the night to chat. Thank you, Roy, for one of baseball’s truly great performances.
#2: 2007: Phillies rally to make first playoffs in 14 years
As I said in a previous post, I could not remember seeing the Phillies in the postseason before 2007—and with the Phils seven games behind the Mets with 17 to play, it looked like I would have to wait until 2008. No team in baseball history had ever overcome such a large deficit. But then the Mets got cold, and the Phillies got hot, winning 12 of 16 games and entering the final day of the season tied for first place. The excitement at Citizens Bank Park that day was unforgettable, and it grew when the scoreboard announced that the Mets had lost, meaning the Phils just needed to complete the victory against Washington to win the division.
As closer Brett Myers prepared to record the final out, legendary announcer Harry Kalas gave one of his best calls: “Myers ... has the sign from Chris Coste ... curveball, struck him out! The Phillies are National League East champions! Look at the scene on the field! Look at the scene on the stands! This is incredible! The Phillies are the National League East champions and will go to the postseason for the first time since 1993! Wow!”
Even a three-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies didn’t put a damper on fans’ spirits that year—and fans were looking forward to what lay ahead in 2008.
#1: 2008: Phillies win the world series
Winning championships has never come easy to Philadelphia teams, so when the Phillies looked on the verge of a non-dramatic, 4-1 World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, perhaps it was fitting that the weather got involved. Tampa Bay tied Game 5 at 2-2 in the sixth inning off Phillies ace Cole Hamels in the midst of a driving rain, after which play was suspended—and wouldn’t be resumed for two days.
When it finally resumed, more drama ensued. The Phils took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth, but Tampa Bay answered with a Rocco Baldelli home run in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, unfairly maligned outfielder Pat Burrell doubled, and Pedro Feliz drove in what turned out to be the winning run. The Phillies mobbed closer Brad Lidge on the mound after he recorded the final out, a scene of celebration and euphoria I will never forget.