Ten years ago this month, the Phillies won their second World Series title in franchise history. Over the next few weeks, Jim Salisbury will look back at the team's run through the NLCS and World Series.
The Phillies dispatched the Brewers in four games to advance to the NLCS against a Dodgers team that featured Joe Torre as manager and Larry Bowa as third base coach. Though the Dodgers won just 84 games, they were hot. Helped by the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, who slashed .396/.489/.743 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs over the final two months, the Dodgers went 17-8 in September and swept the favored, 97-win Cubs in the NLDS, setting up an NLCS meeting with the Phillies.
The two franchises had been here before. The Phillies beat the Dodgers in the 1983 NLCS but lost to them in 1977 and 1978. In 1977, the Phillies were one out from winning Game 3 and taking a 2-1 series lead when a sequence of events conspired against them and the Dodgers rallied for three runs to win, 6-5, on what is still called Black Friday. The next day, the Dodgers took the series when Tommy John outpitched Steve Carlton in the rain at the Vet.
"Devastating," said the late, great Dallas Green, recalling the Black Friday loss on the eve of the Phillies taking on the Dodgers in the '08 NLCS.
"Still the toughest game I've ever been involved with," club president Dave Montgomery added.
But these were a new group of Phillies in '08, loaded with young talent and swagger. Jimmy Rollins embodied that swagger. As he swigged champagne in Milwaukee after the Phils' NLDS clincher, he made it clear that Black Friday meant nothing to him and his teammates.
"I didn't know anything about it until earlier this season," he said. "We just have to get ready to play our game.''
The Phils did that.
October hero Cole Hamels continued a blossoming that began with eight shutout innings against Milwaukee in the NLDS and delivered seven innings of two-run ball in front of a raucous crowd at Citizens Bank Park and the Phils got a two-run homer from Chase Utley and a solo shot from Pat Burrell to overcome a two-run deficit in the sixth inning and win the opener, 3-2.
Both home runs came against Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, who had gone 6-1 with a 1.27 ERA down the stretch. It wasn't surprising that the Phils rode the long ball to victory. They hit an NL-best 214 homers during the season.
Drafted first overall 10 years earlier, Burrell was in his final days with the Phillies. He had a big NLCS, going 6 for 18 with a homer and three RBIs. The Phillies rode a special clubhouse vibe into the postseason that October.
"There's not that one guy who walks in and the room stops,'' Matt Stairs said 10 years ago this month. "There are a number of guys with leadership qualities.
"If you pressed me as to one guy who stands out most in this clubhouse, I'd probably say Pat. I've been on some teams where you had to be the guy to say hello. When Pat walks in, he makes an effort to say hello to everybody. It shows he's caring and supportive.
"One of the strengths of this team is it's one big family, and a lot of that starts with Pat."