Phillies Fans Get Chance To Go Crazy

Monday, October 1st 2007, 7:04 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Drenched in beer or soaked by a water hose, the celebration in the stands on Sunday was nearly as wet-and-wild as the one in Philadelphia's clubhouse.

No boos. No boorish behavior.

The Phillies faithful were on their best _ and loudest _ behavior as they celebrated their team's first playoff trip since 1993.

The team famous for collapses took advantage of one of the greatest flops ever. And this was no time for all the long-suffering diehards to hold back.

``You've got to give the fans a huge amount of credit for coming out and supporting us when things weren't looking so good,'' said left fielder Pat Burrell, booed on opening day. ``I knew if we got into this situation, there is no better place to play.''

White rally towels whipped around like helicopter rotors hours before the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 6-1. Coupled with the New York Mets' 8-1 loss to Florida, the Phils clinched the NL East title.

A pretty good ending for a team that earlier this year became the first club in major league history to post 10,000 losses.

Several thousand fans lingered after the game and watched a replay of the final out. The Phillies returned to the field for some more celebration and Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas sang Frank Sinatra's ``High Hopes.''

Kevin Horne, of West Berlin, N.J., took in the scene from behind the plate.

``It completely unbelievable,'' he said. ``It's something we've been looking to finish for the last three or four years. We just wanted the end. Today, we got.''

One fan took particular interest nearly 3,000 miles away: former Phillies pitcher Dennis Bennett, a member of the infamous '64 collapse team.

Bennett, who lives in Klamath Falls, Ore., listened to the game on the radio while he was deer hunting and returned home to watch the ninth.

``I was rooting for them all year,'' Bennett said. ``I hate to see the Mets go through what we went through. I guess they can't say we were the worst team anymore.''

Bennett was the opening day starter in '64 and went 12-14. He lost two games during the infamous collapse when the Phillies held a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play, only to blow the National League pennant by losing 10 straight.

``I really feel for the Mets and all the anguish they've gone through,'' he said.

No one felt for the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

Mets starter Tom Glavine walked off the mound after a seven-run outing at Shea Stadium at the same time the Phillies lineup was being introduced to the 24th sold-out crowd of the year.

While some Mets fans wore grocery bags over their heads, the Phillies faithful were dancing, stomping and chanting in a way normally reserved for Eagles playoff games.

``You couldn't ask for a better atmosphere,'' first baseman Ryan Howard said. ``The fans were watching the score and every time the Marlins scored, they let us know. They were just electric out there today.''

Earlier this year, some fans created Web sites that counted up to the franchise's 10,000th loss. Some of those fans were in line again Sunday, camping out at Citizens Bank Park as early as 2 a.m. to snag a standing-room ticket. The Phillies said all 500 SRO tickets were sold in 18 minutes.

``I left my family in the dark to stand outside and get a chance at a seat,'' said John Griffith, of Philadelphia. ``My wife doesn't understand. Sports is what makes most of these people happy.''

None of Philadelphia's four major professional teams have won a championship since the 76ers captured the NBA title in 1983.

The Phillies will open the playoffs Wednesday at home, against the winner of the NL wild-card tiebreaker between Colorado and San Diego.

The crowd of 44,865 put the Phillies over the 3 million in attendance for the third time in history. They also did it in 1993 when the won the NL pennant and in 2004, the first year at their new ballpark.

When Brett Myers struck out Wily Mo Pena to end it, the reliever tossed his glove underhanded straight in the air and jumped off the mound. Fans stood and erupted in cheers, but no one ran on to the field.

Waving their towels, they broke into an ``M-V-P!'' chant for Jimmy Rollins.

``I was trying to compose myself when the fans were cheering in the bottom of the ninth,'' Myers said.

The ones who stuck around an hour or so after the game were rewarded for their patience and loyalty. Some players popped out of the dugout and sprayed the first few rows of fans with beer. Other took laps around the field and slapped hands with the fans.

Then reliever Antonio Alfonseca broke out the big gun: a water hose that sprayed fans in all directions.

The Phillies and their fans will get one more celebration before the playoffs start: There's a rally at noon Monday at City Hall.