The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded for the 1883 season in the National League, and is the oldest continuous same name, same city franchise in all of North American pro sports.
However, for all of their history, the Fightin’ Phils had won the World Series, the championship of American professional baseball, just once, in 1980.
The 2008 Phillies had won the National League East Division crown for a second straight season, then fought past the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the World Series for the sixth time.
They were underdogs to a young, talented Tampa Bay Rays club. But after taking the opener and escaping Florida with a split of the first two games, the Phillies captured a dramatic Game Three in walkoff fashion, then punished the Rays by pounding their way to a blowout win in Game Four.
On Monday night, October 27th, the Phillies took the field in front of a jam-packed, rally towel waving, frenzied crowd of 45,940 at Citizens Bank Park hoping to clinch a second world championship.
The Rays were just trying to win Game Five of the 1980 World Series to stay alive. A victory would take away the Phillies momentum, cut the Phils’ lead down to 3-2, and send the World Series back to Tampa.
The 24-year old lefty was in his third big league season. He went 14-10 during the regular season with a 3.09 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, and a 141 ERA+ mark. He allowed 193 hits over 227.1 innings in 33 starts, with a 196/53 K:BB ratio.
During the postseason, Hamels had stepped his game up another notch. Coming into Game Five he had won all four of his playoff starts, allowing just 18 hits over 29 innings.
The game began under the looming threat of rain, but the Phillies ignored the elements, intent on capturing the crown this very night.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, Kazmir was wild, something that happened at times with the young southpaw.
With two down and the sacks jammed with Phils base runners, up stepped ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’, center fielder Shane Victorino.
Victorino worked his way into a 2-1 hitter’s count, the ripped a liner down the left field line for a base hit. Werth and Utley came home on the base knock, and the Phillies had an early 2-0 lead.
Hamels was dealing early, shutting the Rays down over the first 3.1 innings. But with one out in the top of the 4th, Carlos Pena pulled a double to right, and Even Longoria knocked him in with a base hit to center field, cutting the Phillies lead in half.
The Phillies loaded the bases off Kazmir in their half of the 4th, but the lefty got Utley on a grounder to second to end the threat and keep the game at a 2-1 score.
As the game moved into the middle innings, Kazmir stayed wild. When he walked both Ryan Howard and Burrell to lead off the bottom of the 5th inning, Maddon had seen enough.
The Rays manager went to his bullpen for right-hander Grant Balfour, who had been phenomenal out of the pen for Tampa all year.
During the regular season that year, Balfour, a native of Australia, had gone 6-2 with four Saves. He registered a 1.54 ERA, 0.891 WHIP, and had allowed just 28 hits over 58.1 innings with an 82/24 K:BB ratio.
As the game moved to the top of the 6th inning, the rain was getting torrential and puddles had formed in various places around the infield, despite the yeoman work of the grounds crew to try to stay ahead of the elements.
Hamels maintained his concentration, retiring the first two batters. Then up to the plate stepped 24-year old center fielder “B.J.” Melvin Upton.
Upton slapped a 2-2 pitch right at shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but the combination of the hard hit ball and the slick conditions made it impossible for “JRoll” to handle, and Upton was on at first base.
The speedy Upton then immediately took off for second when Hamels kicked to deliver the first pitch to the next batter, Carlos Pena.
Pena battled Hamels to a 2-2 count, and then sliced a base hit to left field. Upton rolled around ahead of the throw home with the game-tying run, making it a 2-2 score.
A passed ball by Ruiz allowed Pena to move up to 2nd base. But Hamels got Rays’ star Evan Longoria to sky out to center field to end the inning.
At that point, Major League Baseball stepped in, having the grounds crew come out and cover the infield with tarp as the rain poured down. Few realized at the time that the tarp would remain down for two days.
With weather reports calling for the rains to continue overnight, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made the smart decision, albeit possibly a couple of innings late, to suspend the game at that point.
“Obviously the conditions deteriorated. The grounds crew has done a phenomenal job to keep the game going,” said Bob Dupuy, MLB’s Chief Operating Officer, from down on the field. “But with all the puddling and the wetness, the Commissioner and the (umpire) crew chief Tim Welke decided that the playing conditions were such that we ought to call time and get the tarp on the field.”
The following day, Tuesday, October 28th, the rains continued all day long and into the night, and MLB announced fairly early on that the game would remain suspended for yet another day.
The game resumed with both skippers planning on a bullpen battle. Things would pick up with the Phillies coming to bat in the bottom of the 6th in a 2-2 game.
Maddon sent Balfour back out, hoping for his shutdown reliever to shut down the Phillies bats and move the game into the 7th inning still tied.
Hamels spot was due to lead off for the Phils, and after pitching six innings just two days earlier, he was obviously not an option.
Instead, Manuel sent up lefty Geoff Jenkins to pinch-hit. Jenkins worked the count full, then ripped a one-hop liner off the wall in right-center field for his first hit of the postseason.
Rollins then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving Jenkins over the 3rd base with one out, and bringing Werth to the plate.
On a 2-2 pitch, Werth popped a ball into shallow center field. Rays’ 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura went out on it, trying to make a basket catch as he ran into center field. The ball dropped from Iwamura’s glove, and Jenkins scampered home with the go ahead run.
The Phillies took that 3-2 lead into the top of the 7th, and Manuel sent hard-throwing Ryan Madson into the game, trying to set up his usual “Bridge to Lidge” bullpen.
After striking out the leadoff man, Madson faced Rays’ veteran Rocco Baldelli. The 27-year old right fielder had been Tampa’s 1st round pick in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft as the 6th overall pick, but had a largely disappointing, injury plagued career.
Baldelli wasted no time in making up for that disappointment, blasting Madson’s first pitch, a letter-high fastball, over the wall in left-center field for a game-tying home run.
Jason Bartlett, the Rays shortstop, followed with a base hit, and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt, putting the go ahead run in scoring position.
The lefty-hitting Iwamura now stepped in, and Manuel made the move to bring in lefty reliever J.C. Romero.
Iwamura grounded a ball up the middle as Bartlett came racing around third base with a run that would put Tampa up. And then one of the most important defensive plays in Phillies history unfolded.
Utley ranged up the middle deep, fielding Iwamura’s grounder. He turned as if to throw Iwamura out at 1st, which would have been a near impossible play.
Instead, the Phillies’ 2nd baseman pumped a fake throw to first, wheeled around, and fired the ball home as Bartlett sprinted for the plate.
Utley’s throw bounced to catcher Carlos Ruiz, and “Chooch” fielded the ball up the third base line. As Bartlett dove head first for the front of home plate, Ruiz dove at him, and got Bartlett just before he reached home for the third out.
The bang-bang play, now known in Phillies lore as “Utley’s Deke”, was typical of the type of hustling, heads-up style that had resulted in Utley receiving the nickname “The Man” from broadcaster Harry Kalas a few years earlier.
The game was now back to a 3-3 tie as the Phillies came to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning. Leading off for the Phils would be left fielder Pat Burrell.
“Pat the Bat” had been the Phillies selection as the #1 overall pick way back in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft. Having turned 32 years of age just over two weeks earlier, Burrell was a pending free agent, and was likely in his final days with the team.
Burrell was 0-13 to that point in the World Series, and was looking to make a mark in some way. Facing lefty reliever Jay Howell, Burrell worked the count to 1-1.
Howell then tried to loop a curveball over the plate, and Burrell looked as if he knew exactly what was coming. He teed off on the pitch, driving it deep to dead center field, to the deepest part of the park.
The ball banged high off the top of the center field fencing, just a couple of feet from being a home run. Burrell rolled into second base with a double, and the Phillies had that go ahead run in scoring position with nobody out.