We were amidst the mayhem last night as the Phils brought home their second straight NL East Division Crown and then unfurled the banner on the field for the 45,122 Phans who got to watch it live. My brother Matt has a nice wrap up over at The700level.com, but I am going to give you the inside story.
My son John and I got a pair of $20 tickets in the 400 level by simply calling the Phils at 10 am. The seats were great. In the third row and on the aisle. We bummed around for a bit, watching college football and then decided we couldn't wait anymore. We packed some rain gear and the camera into the bag we always take to games (Fenway, Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, CBP, some minor league parks) and headed over the bridge.
We stopped at Tony Luke's for cheesesteaks (somehow we missed Sarah Palin) and watched some of the Flyers game on the myriad of flat screens. Then we drove down to the park and wandered among the tailgaters as I explained the finer parts of the game of washers to John and declined several kind offers for beers.
After worshiping at the old bronze statues where The Vet used to stand, we headed into the game. The guard quizzed us about the books in our bag. I just shrugged and said, "Uhh rain?" Pointing at the sky. "Don't even SAY that four letter word here," he boomed. As we filtered in, we were each given a white hand towel emblazoned with a red Fiightin' Phils logo. We wandered the first level for a bit, and then found a friendly guard to let us down toward the left field line to beg for some balls during the Nationals' batting practice. The crowd was light this early, but Jamie Moyer got a nice hand as he headed out to the bullpen to get warmed up. "He's older than YOU, dad," John enthused.
I chatted with a few other dads and the cops along the fence as John waved and called to the mostly stone-faced shaggers. These guys were playing out the string and not having much fun doing it. We didn't get any, and headed up the steps as the grounds crew got to work. I grabbed a $6.75 plastic cup of Victory Hop Devil and we headed up the escalators to our seats. As the ceremonies for Deaf Appreciation Day and various other pre-game time wasters droned on, I watched crews finish the infield, put up the Fox Sports banners signifying a nationally-televised game and the crowd start to fill The Bank.
An old lady bounced the first pitch and a teenager aced the second first pitch (two)? The national anthem was lustily sung by some choir and signed by several deaf folks.The starting lineups were read by a guy who won the chance to do it and he did it pretty well despite the nerves. And then we waited.
Dan Baker encouraged us to wave our rally towels for the folks at Fox as they came live to Philly and finally cried, "Your Philadelphia Phillies," as the nine blue-hatted Phils sprinted from the dugout.
I'll spare you the play by play, since you probably watched. I only had two moments of doubt all day. The first came on the flare to center that JRoll sprinted out on and made an incredible sliding catch. As he got up and rifled the ball into the infield, Shane Victorino lay on the field in obvious pain from his collision with Rollins. "He broke his leg," the guy behind me mumbled, clearly a Phils fan of long standing, quite used to tragic ends to seasons. Werth waved for the trainer. By the time Charlie Manuel huffed and puffed out to center field, The Flyin Hawaiian was stretching and demanding to stay in the game. The funniest moment of the game happened as fans encouraged Charlie in his race back to the dugout with the trainer. The trainer won. The Phils ended my moment of doubt by escaping the 8th inning with a lead.
John seemingly never had a doubt, watching each pitch carefully, swinging and twirling his rally towel, jumping at dancing at every playing of music. He is too young to know the gut-clenching fear that comes of being a life-long Phils Phan.
My second moment of doubt came in the 9th, as Brad Lidge struggled for the first time in recent memory and there were 2 on with one out. But we all know that Rollins got to Zimmerman's sharply hit grounder and Utley made the turn at second.
As the players mobbed each other and jumped up and down, John and I jumped up and down too, laughing and slapping fives with out 400 level friends. I took some pictures and waved my towel and hugged my son. Finally, after Pat Burrell unfurled the 2008 pennant, and most of the players were up on Phanavision shooting Domaine St. Michelle foam at each other, the crowd began to make its way to the parking lots.
As we walked down the ramp, the humid close concrete so reminiscent of The Vet, John turned to me and said, "This is the greatest night of my life, Dad!"
I can't top that.