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28 years later, Phillies again are baseball’s best

Philadelphia's quarter-century without a major sports championship is over — outta here.

The Philadelphia Phillies celebrate after the final out in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.
The Philadelphia Phillies celebrate after the final out in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.Read moreAP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

This column originally published in The Inquirer on Oct. 30, 2008.

After 25 years of drought and two days of too much rain, Philadelphia has its championship.

It felt like a dream, but it wasn't. You are wide awake and the Phillies really are World Series champions. They beat the weather and the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, to earn just the second title in franchise history.

Philadelphia’s quarter-century without a major sports championship is over — outta here — thanks to a gritty, talented team that won two games in one day and one game that took three nights.

"I grew up watching this silly team play," said Souderton native Jamie Moyer, who skipped school to attend the Phillies' only other championship parade in 1980. "And now I'm standing in their clubhouse as a player, and we won a world championship."

Moyer, eyes red from champagne and tears, took a breath.

"Wow," he said. "World championship. That's the first time I've ever used those words. It sounds great."

Moyer and a million friends will attend another parade tomorrow. It won't be in Boston. It won't be in New York City. It won't be in Los Angeles or Chicago and it sure as heck won't be in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It will be right down Broad Street, right under the approving gaze of Mr. William Penn, right through the still-racing heart of Philadelphia.

"We play in a tough-ass town to play in," Pat Burrell, the longest-tenured Phillie, said. "I'm proud of that. I don't think anybody in here knows this city and the way they think the way that I do. To be able to hand this over to them, this is as good as it gets."

So remember Brad Lidge, completing his personal perfect season by striking out pinch-hitter Eric Hinske for the final out. Lidge dropped to his knees as the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park roared, fireworks filled the sky, the Who blared on the PA system and the Phillies rushed to the mound to celebrate.

Remember Cole Hamels, seven months younger than our title drought, delivering five stellar postseason starts to earn the World Series MVP award.

Remember Charlie Manuel, awash in chants of his name, standing on the makeshift stage behind second base and holding up his index finger: No. 1. Manuel, who buried his mother during the playoff run, promised Philadelphia a "grand parade," and he delivered.

"I know she'd be happy," Manuel told the crowd. "She'd be laughing and giggling."

Remember the Phillie Phanatic rushing across the field with the 2008 championship banner fluttering behind him on a pole.

"The Phanatic isn't as young as he used to be," said Tom Burgoyne, who is about the same age. "The fans got him around the stadium."

Remember Burrell delivering a 400-foot double in what might be his last at-bat as a Phillie.

Remember Pedro Feliz driving in the biggest run of the Phillies' season - the one that gave them a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning last night.

Remember every last thing Shane Victorino did: the grand slam, the two-run shot in Los Angeles, the defense, the four-RBI game against the Dodgers, the beanball throwdown and, of course, the two-run single 48 hours before the end of Game 5.

Remember Ryan Howard's just-in-time power surge, and the electrifying moments when his moonshots landed amid the bouncing fans and clutching hands.

Remember Chase Utley's opening statement, a two-run homer in his first World Series at-bat to signal that these Phillies were different from the teams that had disappointed in every sport for the last 25 years.

Remember Jimmy Rollins for the leadoff home runs and for leading the way all along.

Remember Carlos Ruiz, the shy, smiling catcher, topping a ball 50 feet down the third-base line for the biggest little hit in Phillies history.

Remember Eric Bruntlett sliding safely home on the biggest little hit in Phillies history to win Game 4 at 1:47 a.m. Sunday.

Remember Joe Blanton and his no-way home run in Game 4.

Remember the fans who turned the Bank into the loudest, happiest, coolest place in sports for the past month.

Remember the 25 years. They're important. They were real, too, and they helped define this city as a sports town for way too long. It was long enough to turn passion too often to anger. Maybe this championship will turn the vinegar back into wine.

Remember 1964 and Black Friday and Joe Carter, because they're all just a little further away and a little less menacing than they were a week ago.

Remember the Phillies' 10,000 losses, because they make this one win all the better.

Remember the other, uncountable losses: the loved ones buried in their red caps and Eagles sweatshirts, the fathers and mothers, spouses and friends who didn't make it to this day. Even the die-hards die in time.

Remember the older loved ones you weren't sure would live to see it. Make a call. Give out hugs. Bask in this with the people who matter most.

Remember Tug and Whitey. Remember Vuke and the Pope.

Remember it all, savor every moment.

After all, you waited forever and a day.