As usual, the roar of the crowd came first. Then the explanation.
From the top of her rowhouse steps on South Alder Street near Bigler, Sandra Guerrera sits with a view unlike any other: straight into the stands of Citizens Bank Park a few blocks away.
She can see the curved sea of red and hear, slightly ahead of TV, the sounds of the crowd. Most of the time, she and her neighbors say with reverence, they can just feel which way the game is going.
"We know," she said. "We can hear."
"It's beautiful," says her neighbor Christie Foti, who lives on the corner of Bigler and Alder and whose bedroom window faces the park.
Foti says she used to plop her children inside her front window seat on Bigler where they could look out to the stands and listen to the game.
Now, at 13, her daughter, Gabby, sits with the adults on the porch with an iPad and an MLB animated app, atmosphere provided by proximity, but scoring supplied by technology. (Roar of crowd plus ringing Liberty Bell equaled Shane Victorino home run in the fifth.)
Late at night, Christie Foti says, she lies in bed with the windows open and hears fans leaving the game, their chatter giving her all the postgame wrap she needs. "We don't need the radio on," she says. "You're sleeping and you hear, 'Damn Phillies, they should have done this.' "
Tuesday, the rain was past and just a hint of fall was in the air over Alder Street. Game time approached.
And there they were, these 45,742 people in red arriving after dinner yet again. It's been 185 straight sellouts over there at Citizens Bank Park, unusually giddy dessert company.
"I've got a front-row seat," says Guerrera, 58, who says she's out on the steps for nearly every home game. She cannot see the field, but it does not matter. The rhythm, sounds, the masses in view, are enough. Unlike the old circular Vet stadium (whose implosion they all watched), this ballpark opens up on its north end. This time of year, the sky darkens around the fourth inning as the ballpark lights up, like a baseball sunrise.
With the team on such a tear, it's been an exhilarating time for these ballpark neighbors, who also include the Sisters of St. Joseph (Meg, Jean, and Veronica) who live in the convent on nearby 10th Street, a block closer even than the Alder Street gang.
They all speak with awe of the rare treat of being so nearby, night after night, win after win, and only an occasional grumble about parking inconvenience. (Eagles game days are a bit more problematic.) It's a treat, they say, to know something's up moments before it's on television, a joy to maintain such a visceral relationship with a team, a ballpark, a game.
Even the sisters are invigorated by their into-the-ballpark view (shared somewhat by cars that pass by the convent on their way to and from the Walt Whitman Bridge).
Inside the convent, there's an entire room they call the Phillies clubhouse, a room with a singular view and a Phillies shrine - there's no other way to describe it - composed of a cardboard box covered with a rally towel, topped with figurines of Victorino and former Phillie Jim Thome. "When you hear that crowd, it's like magic to me," says Sister Meg. "It's like the ocean roar. The television is a few minutes behind. We know before anyone."
"We're just hoping they can't see us," adds Sister Jean with a smile.
The night the Phillies won the World Series, Sister Meg says, "all 10 of us were in this room. We were so alive. They won before it was on the TV. You could hear it."
The devotees also include Cassie McCallion, whose friend Dennis built her a deck on the roof of her 10th Street house for a clear view of the stands. Her neighbors - "Carol across the street, Barb, Tony on the end, crazy Kathy" - similarly sit out for the live shot. They go to a few games every year, but McCallion is just as happy to experience it from her house, then maybe take a walk toward the park as the game is ending.
"It gets crazy," said Dennis, who did not give his last name, some things in South Philly being better left unsaid. "You can hear the hits and everything. It's perfect. When the World Series is on, you turn down the TV and listen for the screaming and then go in and see what happened."
One time McCallion used binoculars to look at the people in the park and a neighbor called the police to say she was spying on them.
Tuesday night, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the roars of the crowd were somewhat scarce: the early home run, a rare double by Halladay himself in the seventh, a tepid attempt at a ninth comeback.
With the crowd subdued, the talk among the women on Alder wandered to other things: the weekend, work, wedding showers.
Even with the Phillies ahead, they noted, there was not the usual oomph in the air. Melissa Matarazzo, sitting in a folding chair on the sidewalk, didn't even look up at the roar for Halladay's hit.
These are students of crowds both triumphant and troubled. Things felt different. "You can tell the tone," said Foti with a knowing nod.
"They're not up," Guerrera agreed. Sure enough, Halladay gave up the lead in the top of the ninth, and the sea of red rapidly emptied itself to reveal a sea of blue (seats). A rare home loss, and so no strains of the ritual Harry Kalas "High Hopes" over Adler, Bigler, and 10th Streets.
Just the old Mister Softee truck. And the more conventional expression of Guerrera's father Sam Fiore, 85, who sticks to the couch and the television, just inside the front door.
Fiore leaned over and gave the porch crowd a thumbs down, and the losing score with his fingers. And everyone went upstairs to bed.