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Fan celebration worth the wait

A final, biting Brad Lidge slider. And then, bedlam. A scream of triumph decades in the making burst forth from bars and living rooms across Philadelphia last night as the Phillies won their first World Series in 28 years.

ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff PhotographerRead more

A final, biting Brad Lidge slider.

And then, bedlam.

A scream of triumph decades in the making burst forth from bars and living rooms across Philadelphia last night as the Phillies won their first World Series in 28 years.

Citizens Bank Park trembled beneath the feet of 46,000 ecstatic fans. Teeming masses of humanity instantly seized South Broad Street, the intersection of Frankford and Cottman, and Main Street in Manayunk. Center City was so crammed with revelers, it was a challenge even to move.

Tens of thousands of euphoric college students from Drexel, Temple and Penn spontaneously marched en masse to join the party. The few cars on the roads were overloaded with fans, who rode on roofs, trunks, even front windows.

Fans clambered up light poles, and ripped down the World Series banners atop them. They filmed the exuberant scene with camcorders and cell phones. Fireworks shot into the sweet October sky in neighborhoods across the city.

"This is the best thing that could ever happen to this city. The Phillies finally did it, and we're the happiest people on earth," Joe McClain, 23, said from the intersection of Frankford and Cottman.

In Center City, a pregnant woman named Amy Arcarso pointed at the statue of William Penn atop City Hall and bellowed: "We broke your curse."

She said she was considering naming her baby Chase.

Though the crowds were generally more joyous than rowdy, there was also unruly behavior, including some looting and cars being overturned.By midnight, crowds were ebbing in most sections of the city, except for south of City Hall, near Walnut and Broad Streets, where the celebration turned ugly. A car was set afire, and a luggage store was looted before police intervened. Firefighters turned a hose on some revelers, who were preventing them from reaching trash can blazes. Around 12:40, two buses full of police in riot gear arrived on the scene.

By 1 a.m., police were moving in force to quell the disturbances, sending personnel from three different directions.

For the most part, though, fans were too relieved and too buoyant to do much damage.

And why not? The victory halted a stretch of athletic futility so long and undistinguished that it felt, for many fans, almost like a civic failing, a kind of hole in the city's soul.

The hole is gone.

"It means just like a monkey off your back, everyone putting us down all the time," Robert Deegan said as he held his 11-year-old son on his shoulders at Frankford and Cottman.

It had not been what purists would call a pretty game. On Monday, before the suspension, smooth-fielding Jimmy Rollins struggled to make basic plays in the wet and the wind. Yesterday, gales seemed to knock down a couple of possible Phillies home runs.

But in the eyes of Phillies fans, the victory was all the more glorious for its grittiness, and fitting, in a way, for a city that has had its share of hard luck.

"When our teams lose, we cry. When they win, we're overjoyed. We've been waiting for this for so long," Stephanie Fink, 37, of Huntingdon Valley, said from the main concourse of Citizens Bank Park.

Even before the suspended game resumed, the emotional weight of the moment had brought tears to the eyes of 68-year-old great-grandmother and Phillies usher Mary Anthony.

When Lidge, the Phillies' closer, struck out Eric Hinske to end the game, the waterworks really opened up.

For a few minutes, Anthony couldn't speak. Then she threw her arms up in the air: victory.

"Other than the births of my children, this is - this is the best night of my life," Anthony said, accepting hugs from fans in Section 106.

She picked up her phone and called her children, her sister.

"I just want them to hear this," she said as a clutch of players headed to the outfield with a "2008" flag and the crowd roared louder. "I am just so happy for this team, for this city. I love my fans."

There were plenty of similarly tender scenes amid the hubbub of Citizens Bank Park as young and old watched the game together.

Dan Schubel held his 6-year-old son, Chester, on his shoulders.

"I'm either going to throw up or start crying," he said when the game was tied.

But he was smiling.

"Having your boy on your shoulders for the World Series - that's priceless," said Schubel, 41, of Yardley. "He just knows that if the Phillies win, they're champions."

Caren Silverman had a lump in her throat, too.

She's a Phillies lifer, attending games in the '80 and '93 Series as well as last night. It was the most important night of all, she said.

"I know what it means, now," said Silverman, 40, who lives in the Art Museum area. "I've been waiting so long."

Baseball means family to her, as it does to so many. The win was all the sweeter because she was surrounded by people she loved.

"It's a link," Silverman said. "My father's watching at home, my uncle loved baseball and he passed away, but I'm here with his grandchildren."

When the top of the ninth arrived and a Phillies victory seemed more certain, police got into position. Over police radio, units were directed to get in position along Broad.

Once the celebration was under way, police appeared to exercise real restraint, overlooking minor vandalism and plenty of public drinking.

"This is wonderful. This is a good crowd," said Capt. Daniel Castro said at 11:15 p.m., well after celebrations had begun. "We want them to have a good time, but we want them to be responsible."

The weather for yesterday's game was better than Monday's, but only marginally. By game time, the temperature had fallen to 43 degrees, though gusty winds made it feel more like 37. Most important: It was dry.

Fans covered themselves in earmuffs, mittens, stocking caps and blankets. Some wore winter hunting ensembles, and their camouflage green and blaze orange mixed in with Phillies red and blue.

"It's not baseball weather, but it's the World Series," said Michael Robertson, 26, who went to the game with his mother. "You look past an awful lot."

Needless to say, after the Phillies won, the weather ceased to matter at all.

The forecast for tomorrow, when Philadelphia will finally get its parade, is perfect. Sixty degrees and very, very sunny.