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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Updated: October 23, 2:51 PM ET
Philly sports fans are a unique bunch, and the Phillies are due

By Eric Karabell
ESPN.com

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Eric Karabell's new book "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Fans", copyright 2008 by Eric Karabell. Reprinted with permission of Sourcebooks, Inc.

Eric Karabell book
Purchase Eric Karabell's new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments."

Chapter 1: Are Philadelphia Sports Fans the Best … or Worst?

Say what you want about Philadelphia sports fans -- and everyone pretty much has, by the way -- but you can't deny the passion. The fans demand winning and, if forced, accept losing, but most importantly you've gotta put it all on the line, every time, or they'll let you hear it. Philly fans are truly misunderstood as sick, evil malcontents who booed Santa Claus and root for opponents to suffer misfortunes.

Yeah, so what? At least we're not apathetic. If you don't like it, you must root for Dallas or New York or Washington or Pittsburgh. This is Philly, a tough town where the athletes are doing more than swinging a bat and throwing a football. They represent Philadelphia when they're in battle, and if someone misses a block or doesn't skate as fast as they can, that's when trouble occurs. Because there is something worse than finishing second in Philadelphia, and it's finishing second while not giving extra effort.

Philly fans are smart and knowledgeable, and while that comes off as overly critical at times, to home and road teams alike, so be it. The stadiums aren't empty for big games, and neither are the parking lots before them. Eagles games are events, not just from 1 o'clock ET until the game ends, but for the entire day, the weekend, the season. When the Eagles made it to Super Bowl XXXIX, generations of fans came along for the ride to Jacksonville. It had been 24 seasons since the Eagles were in the biggest game. Not everyone could get tickets, of course, but Eagles fans stormed the Florida city and turned it green.

You want loyalty? Philly fans don't stop loving -- or hating -- their favorite teams in bad times, of which there are many. They demand the very best from the players. When the teams are good, there's no better time to be in the city and hop along for the ride. Kids wear the jerseys of their heroes proudly, and not only Donovan McNabb, Jimmy Rollins, and Andre Iguodala. How about Chad Lewis, Jim Thome, and Kyle Korver? Sure, the names change, because sports aren't like the 1970s anymore, but the passion doesn't end.

Philly fans get a bad rap nationally, but they don't care. In fact, the Philadelphia sports fan considers the notoriety an honor, a badge of overwhelming spirit to be passed on from generation to generation. There's no apathy here! If you're not from Philly you wouldn't get it, and you know what? It's your loss. That's what the Philly fan believes. They don't want your sympathy or forgiveness for the bad things that have happened over the years. Fair or unfair, consider Philly guilty for some wretched and raucous acts.

There's no point in naming the bad events again, because you wouldn't understand our thinking. … And Santa Claus -- look, that guy just plain deserved it.

Yeah, yeah, so we've booed our own, even the Hall of Famers. Well, maybe if Michael Jack Schmidt had talked to us once in a while, let us into his life, maybe we'd understand him better. Similarly, if you don't want to be here, Scotty Rolen and Curt Schilling, then get out. It's not just that Philadelphia fans demand more than 100 percent effort, you've gotta look like you're trying as hard as the fans would if they got that chance for one shining moment. Athletes get paid a lot of money to use their gift, and a tough town like Philly certainly recognizes that along with that gift comes a duty.

Philadelphia has enjoyed fantastic moments, unforgettable games, but for the most part the city has had to deal with bad teams more than good. That just makes us stronger, able to enjoy the good with a fervent zeal more than other towns. It's been 25 years since Philadelphia celebrated a winner, but in reality, we celebrate every day. Philly teams are rewarded with unbridled loyalty through thick and thin. That's a sports town.

Without even knowing the politics, Philly fans would elect any number of sports people mayor if they could. That's how much sports mean. Dick Vermeil has been gone for 25 years, but remains a beloved personality for what he accomplished as Eagles coach. Pete Rose might never make it to the Hall of Fame, for other reasons, but in Philadelphia, he got us over that proverbial hump. He caught the carom off Bob Boone's glove. He was a winner who never gave less than 100 percent. Bobby Clarke and Maurice Cheeks didn't get booed in Philadelphia when they were players, that's for sure. They were the little guys out there, the overachievers who made their teams better.

There's a rich history of sports in the City of Brotherly Love, and the fans have been through all of it. They care. More than you know. It's called passion. And it's what makes the Philly sports fan second to none.


Chapter 33: What were the Phillies' Five Most Memorable Playoff Wins?

(Editor's Note: This was written before the 2008 season.)

When you play in nearly 19,000 games, some of them are going to be very memorable. Then again, that's just the regular season. In 125 years, the Phillies have been involved in only 60 playoff games, and quite a few of the memorable ones saw the Fightin' Phils walk away on the losing end. In fact, the Phillies have won 22 playoff games in their history -- not even one playoff win for every five years of existence -- but there was a World Series championship in there, after all. And don't forget the 1915 World Series, which the Phillies lost to the Red Sox in five games, the postseason series in the late 1970s, and the one win in the 1983 World Series against Baltimore. That said, here are the five most memorable playoff wins in team history.

5. 1993 NL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, GAME 5 -- OCT. 11, 1993
The series was tied at two games apiece, and some thought even that was quite a trick for the Phillies, as they were facing the juggernaut Braves, a 104-win team. The Phils took Game 1, when Kim Batiste got the winning hit in extra innings in his only postseason at-bat, but lost the next two games by scores of 14-3 and 9-4. Danny Jackson outdueled John Smoltz to win Game 4 by a score of 2-1, and Game 5 pitted Curt Schilling against Steve Avery. Schilling was masterful, scattering four hits and no runs through eight innings, and the Phils had a 3-0 lead. Schilling started the ninth allowing a walk and Batiste committed an error, and manager Jim Fregosi brought in Mitch Williams. With Schilling covering his head with a towel, hardly instilling confidence in the team's closer, the lead soon evaporated on a single, a sacrifice fly, and two more singles. Now Williams faced runners on the corners with one out, and Mark Lemke at the plate. Tension was high as the Phils saw Schilling's great outing about to turn into a loss, and Williams desperately tried to avoid letting the team fall into a three-games-to-two hole. Lemke fanned, and Bill Pecota flied out to Lenny Dykstra, sending the game to extra innings. With one out and the count full, Dykstra homered to deep right center field off Mark Wohlers, giving the Phils a 4-3 lead. Larry Andersen retired the Braves in order in the bottom half of the inning, and the Phillies came home ready to clinch. In Game 6, Tommy Greene rebounded from his awful Game 2 start with seven strong innings, while Dave Hollins homered off Greg Maddux to help send the Phils to the World Series.

Curt Schilling
You can't deny the fact that Curt Schilling has been an incredible postseason performer throughout his career.

4. 1993 WORLD SERIES, GAME 5 -- OCT. 21, 1993
The Phillies were still deflated from the way Game 4 of the Toronto World Series had ended, as leads of 7-3, 12-7, and 14-9 evaporated in a miserable top of the eighth inning. The Blue Jays scored six runs and held on for a 15-14 win at the Vet. Mitch Williams was on the mound in that eighth inning, allowing two of Andersen's runs and three more of his own to blow the game. One had the feeling with Schilling on the mound in Game 5 that he wouldn't leave the game in the hands of any relief pitcher. Schilling is one of the best postseason pitchers in history, establishing himself in this 1993 postseason by beating Juan Guzman 20 and sending the World Series back to Toronto, where Williams and Joe Carter would meet for history. Schilling allowed five singles and threw 147 pitches. What would have happened had Schilling not retired the side 1-2-3 in the ninth inning? Would Williams have come in? Would Schilling have let him? Let your imagination wander.

3. 1983 NL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, GAME 4 -- OCT. 8, 1983
The upstart Wheeze Kids, as the old Phillies were known that year, didn't fare well against the Dodgers during the regular season. In fact, the Phillies won exactly one game in 12 attempts. That's it. So it wasn't a surprise that the Dodgers entered the playoff series with a decided mental edge. Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt took care of Game 1, as Schmitty swatted a first-inning home run, and Carlton, with help from Al Holland, outdueled Jerry Reuss for a 1-0 win. The Dodgers tied the series the next day, but Charles Hudson went the distance in Game 3 and Gary Matthews homered for a 7-2 win. For Game 4 it was Carlton vs. Reuss again, but Matthews set the tone in the very first inning with a three-run home run, and the Phillies cruised the rest of the way, qualifying for the World Series against the Orioles. Matthews had a huge series, hitting three home runs and driving in eight in the four games, and was named series MVP. The Phils carried their momentum to Baltimore and took Game 1 on homers by Joe Morgan and Garry Maddox. They wouldn't win again, but Matthews's heroics in vanquishing the Dodgers carried the entire offseason.

2. 1980 NL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, GAME 5 -- OCT. 12, 1980
Arguably the greatest postseason series in major league history, the Phillies and Astros played five close, tense games, with the final four going to extra innings. Rookie pitcher Marty Bystrom hooked up with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, 11 years his senior, in the finale in Houston on a Sunday afternoon. Things didn't look so good for the Phils when the Astros got to Larry Christensen and Ron Reed for three runs in the seventh. But then Ryan, the leading strikeout pitcher of all time, allowed three straight singles in the eighth, and walked Pete Rose, making the score 5-3 and bringing in Joe Sambito to pitch. Keith Moreland pinch-hit for Bake McBride and grounded out to score a run. After Schmidt struck out, Del Unser singled in the tying run and eventual series MVP Manny Trillo tripled in two runs. The Phils led 7-5! Tug McGraw quickly gave the lead right back, and neither team scored in the ninth. In the top of the 10th inning, Unser stroked a one-out double, and two batters later Maddox doubled him in. Dick Ruthven, the team's No. 2 starter during the season, had retired the Astros in the ninth inning, and did the same in the 10th, with Maddox catching an Enos Cabell lazy fly out to end the game. For the first time in 30 years, the Phillies were heading to the World Series!

1. 1980 WORLD SERIES, GAME 6 -- OCT. 21, 1980
The Phillies took the first two games of the series at home, then lost the next two in Kansas City. In the critical Game 5, the Phillies trailed the Royals 3-2 in the ninth inning, with ace closer Dan Quisenberry on the mound, when pinch-hitter Unser followed a Schmidt single with a clutch RBI double down the right field line, tying the game. Two groundouts later, Trillo lined a shot off Quisenberry for an RBI hit. McGraw loaded the bases in the ninth, but held on for the 4-3 win, and the Phillies had their chance to clinch in Game 6 at home. In the series winner, Schmidt singled in a pair of runs in the third, and by the time Carlton left after seven innings, the Phils led 4-1. McGraw made things interesting yet again, escaping a bases-loaded situation in the eighth, then loading the bases in the ninth. The Royals had the bags full with one out and Frank White at the plate, and the second baseman hit a pop up near the Phillies dugout, which catcher Bob Boone let bounce out of his glove. However, before it hit the ground, Rose famously reached out and caught it for the second out. McGraw then struck out Willie Wilson to end it, at 11:29 p.m. ET, and give the Phils their lone World Series title.

Eric Karabell has served as ESPN.com's lead fantasy editor/writer since 2001, specializing in baseball and football. He writes a daily blog, appears on ESPNEWS, Motion and ESPN360, hosts two weekly ESPN Radio shows and appears in ESPN The Mag.