Author: Chris M. Slawecki
The 2008 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies were honored as one of three 2008 Pride of Philly Award winners by the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
The 2008 Phillies were truly the "Pride of Philadelphia" and the announcement of this award made by the Secretary of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame Bob Cassidy left little doubt: "The 2008 Phillies energized the city with an electrifying playoff run and capped it with the parade that a generation of Philadelphia sports fans has been waiting for."
Down 3.5 games to the New York Mets on September 10, they clinched the division title on September 27. Their 92 wins were the most by a Phillies team in more than a decade, and they almost sprinted through their playoff gauntlet of the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Tampa Bay Rays, with an 11-3 postseason record. Their world championship ended the city's quarter-century, 98-season (across all four major professional sports) championship drought, and was celebrated with an amazing parade on Friday October 31 - on Halloween!
These 2008 Phillies offered plenty of treats. Six players returned from the regular starting lineup that won the 2007 division title, including homegrown talents Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. In 2008, Rollins broke his career stolen base record (47), Utley was the National League's leading vote getter for the All-Star Game, and Howard led the majors in both home runs (48) and RBIs (146). Outfielder Shane Victorino registered career highs in five different offensive categories to help the team finish first in the majors in home runs, second in slugging percentage, and tied for second in runs scored. Victorino also hit the first grand slam in Phillies' postseason history (against Milwaukee) for good measure.
But it was their timely, clutch pitching, especially in relief, that turned the real trick: NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels won the first playoff game against the Brewers; the first and clinching first games against the Dodgers; and won the first game, and pitched six strong innings in the deciding fifth game of the World Series. Led by closer Brad Lidge, the Phillies' bullpen finished with the National League's lowest bullpen ERA and an 88-0 record when entering the ninth inning with a lead. Lidge only allowed two home runs all season and converted everyone of his 41 save opportunities.
Beloved by generations of working class Philadelphians as "The Fightin' Phillies", the 2008 model of "the Fightins" was perhaps best personified by starting pitcher Brett Myers, who proved both good enough to be the team's Opening Day starter and bad enough to return to the minors to get his groove back after a particularly horrendous stretch from April to June. "There's not a guy on this team that doesn't want to give everything they've got, risk the chance of hurting themselves, to win for this team," Myers told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I think that's the type of team we have, and that's why we won the World Series."
Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer, who grew up in Souderton (Montgomery County), played baseball at St. Joseph's University, and skipped school to attend the Phillies' championship parade in 1980, told the Inquirer, "I grew up watching this silly team play, and now I'm standing in their clubhouse as a player, and we won a world championship."
Even so, their journey was not without heartbreak. During the NLCS against the Dodgers, outfielder Shane Victorino's grandmother died. So did manager Charlie Manuel's mother, who reflected after the championship, "I know she'd be happy. She'd be laughing and giggling."
Just like the rest of us Philadelphians, "Uncle Chollie". Just like the rest of us.