Phillies fans gather at downtown rally

October 22, 2008 4:02:22 PM PDT
The Phillies are in Florida to open the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, but hundreds of loyal fans braved cool, blustery fall weather - and their native pessimism - to turn out for a pep rally Wednesday The fans chanted "Let's Go Phillies" and "Four More Games" and cheered as ballpark announcer Dan Baker read off the roster. But the loudest applause came when he said the team had "a great chance" to end the 25-year title drought of Philadelphia's major professional sports teams.

The life of a Philadelphia fan is not easy. Just ask Greg Clark, who says he has been one for all of his 28 years.

"Oh my God, the Flyers when they lost, the Sixers when they lost, the Phillies when they lost in Toronto - I cry each time because you want it so bad," said Clark, of the city's Kensington neighborhood.

His nephew, Jojo, bounced on his shoulders to the tune of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," oblivious to the pain of fandom. But then, he's only 3 years old; he'll learn.

"I believe they're going to make it every year, but I'm glad they made it this year finally," Clark said. "It's been so long of a heartache. I'm just praying they can do it."

Anna Godfrey looked carefree in her red shirt, dancing to the sounds of "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover." A fan since the 1970s, she knows both the pain of losing and the joy of winning.

"I always have faith in them," said Godfrey, 52, of the Bridesburg section. "I mean, you cringe a little, put the pillows in front of your face because you can't watch them lose. But otherwise, I have faith. You have to."

Michael Leff, 50, of Cheltenham, knew he would miss the first inning of Wednesday night's game but brought his radio and made sure to pack a fresh set of batteries for the train ride.

"The last game had a leadoff home run and I missed that," he said, holding up his "Ya Gotta Believe" sign. Many people waved placards with the saying coined by Tug McGraw, who threw the final pitch when the Phillies won their only World Series title in 1980.

Greg Glanzmann, 62, a retired machine shop worker, said he was at the 1980 series and wants to see another parade on Broad Street.

"I'll tell you, back in '64 they broke my heart, losing in the last couple of days," said the 62-year-old retired machine shop worker from Port Richmond in Northeast Philadelphia. "But 1980, they made up for it and now they're making up for last year."

The Phillies haven't even been to World Series in 15 years. The last major team from Philadelphia to win a national title was the 76ers in 1983.

Twenty-year-old Ricky Yong, sporting a Ryan Howard jersey, vows to dye his mohawk red if the Phillies win it all.

"We've got a pretty good chance," said the North Philadelphia resident, who said he has been a fan since he was a kid. "Cole Hamels is on fire, so I think we'll do pretty good."

Mayor Michael Nutter, wearing a red Phillies hat and jacket, said there was a "105 percent chance" you'll see him at the games. He called the team "role models on the field, off the field."

"They really stick up for each other," Nutter said. "Every time someone is struggling, somebody else pops up and does the thing."

Fans with cellphone cameras clustered around 5½-year-old Justus Agosto, of Langhorne, who wore a pint-sized version of the furry green, bug-eyed costume of the Phillie Phanatic, the team mascot. His mother, Hope, said she bought the handmade costume at a yard sale last year for $5.

"Who knew it would be such a big hit?" she said after Justus posed for pictures with the mayor.

Justus said his sister likes J.C. Romero, but he likes Ryan Howard "because he hits home runs."

Announcer Baker laid out the agenda for the team's long-suffering backers.

"All you fans have to do is be yourselves - loyal, supportive, LOUD and absolutely wonderful!" he said.


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