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October 27, 2008 at 7:21 AM

On the brink

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We’ve talked a bit over the past week or so about World Series slumps and long-suffering fans. Everyone knows about the Boston Red Sox going 86 years without a title before winning in 2004. Or the Chicago White Sox going 88 years until that 2005 championship. The Cubs, we’ve heard, haven’t won in 100 years. But for sheer futility over a prolonged span, none of those teams has the Philadelphia Phillies beat. The Phils have only one title — in 1980 — in their 126-year existence.
The Cubs? Two titles since 1907. Boston has seven titles since 1903. The White Sox have three crowns since 1906.
But the poor old Phillies still have only that lone championship to show for since 1883. I mean, think about that. One title since Canada was 16 years old. Wonder what Matt Stairs thinks about that?
Well, after a 10-2 rout here last night, the Phillies send their ace, Cole Hamels, to the hill tonight looking for that second championship. Obviously, the locals are a tad excited.
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The fans seemed a lot more into this game than they had been the previous night after a 91-minute rain delay caused the contest to start at 10:06 p.m. EDT. There was certainly a lot more street life outside the ballpark pre-game, without the monsoon-like rain of the previous night. See it in the video down below. Citizens Bank Park is in a massive sports complex. In the video, you’ll see the old Spectrum, where the NHL Flyers used to play, in the background. And also, Lincoln Financial Field, home to the NFL Eagles. On the opposite page, you’ll see some interesting post-game footage, with a close-up view of what these fans are like.

Maybe the fans were left charged-up by the stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from Philadelphia native Patti LaBelle, seen in the video below. See if you can catch the two or three mistakes she makes with the words. Not sure whether it was on purpose or not.

The Rays were never in this one. Once “Joe the Lumber” Blanton went deep, the first pitcher to do so in a World Series since 1974, the celebration was on inside the stadium. For all of its success this post-season, the Rays’ inexperience is starting to show. The bullpen hasn’t really been lights out since that Game 5 meltdown in the ALCS. Last night, it gave up home run after home run.

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Nowhere is that “deer in the headlights” syndrome more apparent than with Evan Longoria, the dazzling rookie who’s been downright awful in the Fall Classic. No hits and a number of miscues at third base. Yeah, he got rooked by the umpire on that play at third involving Jimmy Rollins in last night’s first inning. (Look for increased use of instant replay down the road in the post-season after several botched calls in this series). But when it’s not going right for you, everything seems to turn sour.
The chants of “E-va!” “E-va!” are now routine at Citizens Bank Park and grow with each new Longoria strikeout.
Listen to it in the video down below.

On the other side, Rollins and Ryan Howard — who hit two home runs last night — have both shaken their slumps and finally shown up for the series. And with that, the Phillies are on the brink of their second title.
I’ll be there tonight in case the Phillies do wrap it up. And I’ll show you what fans starved for a championship truly look like.
Here’s an advance indication, in the video below. You’ll see the final two outs, then the post-game celebration in an outside the stadium. Check out the fans near the end as they surround a Tampa Bay television crew in the parking lot.

Talking with the fans here last night, it was a bit funny. They seem to think the Phils should wrap it up tonight with Hamels on the mound. But it’s almost like they’re afraid to think it. Even with a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning last night, they seemed oddly quiet. As if they were waiting for the whole thing to implode. That’s what years of suffering will do to a fanbase.



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