AS THE PHILLIES reached the top of an escalator in 30th Street Station yesterday, they were faced with the statue of an angel holding up the limp body of a fallen man.
They were also faced with a throng of about 200 fans who, like that angel, held up their tired team - not with their arms but with their voices.
"We came because they deserve to know we're all proud of them," said Elaine Palmiero, 46, who came with her son from Washington Township, N.J. "No matter what, it was a great fight."
Only a handful of prominent Phillies, including Charlie Manuel, Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels, took Amtrak back to Philadelphia.
Team spokeswoman Bonnie Clark later said that some players had made their own travel arrangements based on their schedules or desire to drive back to Philly with family members.
Ryan Madson and J.A. Happ offered the best smiles to the crowd, but even those charming grins couldn't warm the disappointed hearts of Angela Dougherty and Ruby Murphy, both 5 years old.
They waited with their moms for three hours to see Chase Utley, who wasn't on the train.
"I didn't get to see our Chase," Dougherty said, pouting. "He's our man."
Several people unintentionally found their way to the welcoming because the SEPTA strike had diverted them or because they'd gone to the station for lunch.
Others, like a group of Amtrak employees on their lunch breaks passed around the news via e-mail.
"I'm multitasking," one employee said.
Brent Haverly, 19, and his Drexel University roommate Matt Castelli, 19, came to the station with rally towels in hand.
"We've got to let them know they're champions," Haverly said.
After the Phils lost Game 6, "the reality of life came in," said Haverly, who stayed up with Castelli to study for an engineering exam."We had our own game to play."
A 56-year-old Mount Airy resident who called himself Town Watch Tony, dressed in a Phillies T-shirt, gray blazer and a cowboy hat, came with three giant Phillies collages to welcome the team home.
"Don't you dare drop those heads," he said to the few players who arrived at the station. "There should be no disappointment from you or anybody else."
As fans waited for the possibility of another train carrying the rest of the team, a message came over the public address system:
"There are no more Phillies," the announcer said. "The Phillies have left the building."