Somehow, Sean Whalen knew he had to get to the ballpark.

He left the University of Maryland early yesterday, hopping a ride with a buddy. He walked down part of Broad Street in wonder, then persuaded someone to hand over a ticket for Lincoln Financial Field. But that wasn't good enough, so Whalen sweet-talked someone into swapping a drink for a ticket to Citizens Bank Park and the last hurrah for his world champion Phillies.

"This is the happiest I've ever been," said Whalen, 22, who grew up in Newtown. "I'm here, here, where they won it. With the greatest fans in the world."

Walking the concourse, surveying the thousands and thousands of fans packed into the stadium, Whalen got choked up. He started shouting to no one in particular: "This is awesome! Awesome!"

Ed Booth, who recently moved from Fishtown to Mountaintop, Pa. - a town so far from Philadelphia that not everyone is a Phillies fan - woke his 11-year-old, Nick, before the sun rose to drive to Citizens Bank Park.

"This is sacred ground," said Booth, 37. "To be here on the day we celebrate, the day when we lift that trophy up. . . . Well, I can't think of anything better."

It was vital that Michael Greenberg get as close to the field as possible. He's spent the last few weeks living and breathing Phillies. He traveled to St. Petersburg, Fla., where he displayed a sign reading "Only God Saves More Than Brad Lidge," then came back for the rain delays and the suspended game.

Yesterday, he sat along the firstbase line, facing the diamond-shape stage at second base where several Phillies spoke to an adoring crowd. "I had to be here, had to see it through," said Greenberg, 50, of Yardley.

Greenberg saw a problem: returning to real life after a month of playoff euphoria.

"I'm trying to figure out what to do next week," said Greenberg, a lawyer. "I guess I have to go back to work."

Joan Pollak tried her best to keep the tears away, even if they were happy tears. She and husband Ron are fanatics, season-ticket holders and lifelong devotees. They brought a still camera and a video camera, and had two televisions at home recording the ballpark ceremony.

"I've just been so emotional," said Joan Pollak, 61, proudly pointing out that she did not cry when she was at the Marlton ShopRite to get Shane Victorino's autograph.

While they sat in the lower deck, the Cherry Hill couple's son had to resort to eBay for a $49 ticket way up in the nosebleed seats. It doesn't matter, they said.

"Who knows whether we'll ever see something like this in our lifetime?" said Ron Pollak, 63. "I wanted to be here, to see and hear everything."

The best part of Lamont Henry's day? "Just being in the building," said Henry, 24, of Upper Darby.

His brother Damon Henry, 41, nodded. "This is the greatest place in the world," Damon Henry said. "I'm so proud to be a citizen of Philadelphia. I wouldn't be anywhere else."

Neither would Ruth Cramer, 83, who tucked her gray curls under her red Phillies cap and made her way from Northeast Philadelphia to the stadium with Helen Krushauskas, 57, her niece.

Illness kept Cramer from the World Series. But nothing would keep her from cheering her heroes. "They have a nice bunch of fellows," Cramer said. "I really appreciate them."

Krushauskas danced and clapped, waved her arms and whooped when four fans helped hoist the "2008" flag marking the team's championship.

"It's nice to have something good, with everything going on in the world," she said. "Wars. Police officers being killed. We need this."

From their seats by the left-field foul pole, Peg and Gino Formaroli, mother and son from Trenton, started whooping the moment the team rolled out onto the field, one by one, in sleek convertibles. Peg waved two white "World Champion" flags.

"Goosebumps," Gino, 42, whispered as skipper Charlie Manuel took the microphone, declaring the long, slow ride up Broad Street "the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life. I'll always remember it."

Peg Formaroli clapped her hand over her mouth when Chase Utley reminded the city, with the use of an expletive, that they were champions. But she started to cry when Jamie Moyer talked about how he "lived and died" with the Phillies as a youth.

"That's the best story on the team," Peg, 72, said of Moyer. "He had a dream of being here, and now he's won a world championship for his city."

Gino patted his mother on the shoulder and reminded her that there were about 150 days until opening day. Peg waved him off, smiling.

"The happiness," she said, pausing, sniffing. "Words aren't good enough to describe it."