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Joy reigns at Philly City Hall watch party as Taney Dragons advance

They gathered at City Hall for a pep rally, watch party to cheer the Taney Dragons on in the Little League World Series

Mayor Nutter, standing center, cheers on the Taney Dragon with the rest of the crowd that gathered at City Hall for a Dragons Viewing party on Sunday, August 17, 2014.
Mayor Nutter, standing center, cheers on the Taney Dragon with the rest of the crowd that gathered at City Hall for a Dragons Viewing party on Sunday, August 17, 2014.Read more

WAYNE STEWART Sr. and his son who shares his name knew all along that Philly's own Taney Dragons could bring a win home against Texas in last night's Little League World Series game.

Even as the rest of the crowd of about 200 Taney fans that the Stewarts joined to cheer the team on the big screens at the City Hall courtyard tensed up during the nail-biter of a contest, they held fast to their Philly faith.

"I'm still feeling good," the older Stewart said after Pearland, Texas' Cole Smajstrla hit a three-run homer to take the lead and Taney changed its pitcher in the top of the fifth inning. "He was getting to the end of his pitch count. It happens."

Sets of bleachers at City Hall were packed with fans of all ages from across the city last night to attend Mayor Nutter's pep rally and watch Taney's breathtaking win, broadcast on four big-screen TVs set up in the courtyard.

J-Dogs catering brought 400 hot dogs, 300 pretzels and 300 servings each of popcorn and cotton candy for the pep rally and game, and just about ran out of food by 8 p.m., manager Daniel Flaherty said. Hot dogs were the most popular item.

"Everyone always loves a good hot dog," Flaherty said.

The excitement was contagious among the crowd as Mayor Nutter himself settled in on the bleachers to take in the game alongside his wife, Lisa.

"The city is fully behind them, and they've taken the nation by storm with a true Philadelphia story," Nutter said of the Dragons about 30 minutes before the first pitch. "They're already our champions."

Across the bleachers, Jen Leaman's 10-year-old son Isaiah proudly wore a homemade Mo'ne Davis jersey in honor of Taney's 13-year-old ace pitcher, who throws a mean fastball at about 70 mph.

"I made it out of a shirt I found," Isaiah said proudly, turning around to show "Davis" and "3" drawn onto the back of the shirt in blue marker.

He, his mother and his brother traveled from Oxford Circle to take in the game among other fans at City Hall.

Isaiah, who used to play on a city Little League team himself, had a spot-on prediction about two-thirds of the way through the game: "I would expect" a win from Taney, the boy said, "But it's gonna be a tight game."

Herbert Johnson, 55, came from North Philadelphia to join the pep rally and the watch party at City Hall. He said he came to watch "history in the making" among his fellow Philadelphians. He was pretty amped about hanging out with the mayor, too.

"It's good. I gave the Mayor a peace sign," Johnson said. "Everybody's having fun, eating cotton candy."

He added that he's been especially impressed with Mo'ne Davis. "I'm waiting to see her on the cover of Sports Illustrated," he said.

With a hearty laugh, he added, "I heard her quoted in the paper, 'Guys think I'm soft - 'til they see my fastball.' "

Just after 9:30 p.m., as Taney clinched the win, all fans in the City Hall courtyard sprung to their feet, cheering and basking in the glow of the hometown team's success.

"It was tight, but they got it done," Stewart Sr. said. "Like only Philly could."

His son, a baseball player himself for the East Falls Astros, chimed in: "The Philly team that could!"