Phillies make White House visit

Updated: May 15, 2009, 4:32 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama turned Phillie Phanatic for a day, praising the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies as "an underdog team that loved to prove the prognosticators wrong."

"And so we share something in common there, because nobody thought I was going to win either," he said to laughter at a White House reception Friday.

Obama talked up manager Charlie Manuel and players such as Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, as well as fellow Hawaiian Shane Victorino.

[+] EnlargePresident Obama and Jimmy Rollins
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty ImagesPresident Obama thanked Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins for making calls on behalf of his campaign last year during a Friday ceremony.

And he thanked shortstop Jimmy Rollins for making calls on behalf of Obama's campaign last year.

Rollins presented Obama with a jersey and baseball, but the president wanted more -- he jokingly asked for Rollins' World Series ring.

Obama said Philadelphia's championship was a victory for fans like Vice President Joe Biden and David Plouffe, who managed last year's campaign.

"I'm not sure whether he cared more about my victory or the Phillies' victory," Obama cracked about Plouffe.

The Phillies' championship was their first since 1980, and Obama said that as a fan, he knows something about long droughts like that -- his Chicago White Sox went nearly nine decades without a title before snapping the streak in 2005.

"So Cubs fans out there, take heart," he said to laughter. "Anything is possible." The Cubs, Chicago's other baseball team, last won a World Series in 1908.

Rollins told reporters later that the event meant a lot to him.

"To have the first black president in office, number 44, it kind of just brings it all together," he said. "It was like something that was meant to be -- he won the presidency, we won the World Series."

Rollins said he did hesitate at first when approached to campaign for Obama.

"Sports and politics -- they tell you don't do that," he said. "But at the same time, I'm a U.S. citizen first."

The two men joked about hoops during the White House visit.

"I asked him where the basketball court was, and he said, 'I got a foot on you,' " said Rollins, who is listed at five-foot, eight-inches tall. "I told him I'm too quick."

The Phillies were originally scheduled to meet the president on April 14. But that visit was postponed after the death the day before of Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, whom Obama also praised Friday.

Philadelphia opens a four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Friday night.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press