Phillies fans rally outside City Hall

October 26, 2009 1:18:26 PM PDT
Fifty-nine years ago, Phillies fan Wiley Smith and his friends suffered through a World Series sweep at the hands of the Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and the rest of the New York Yankees.

PHILLIES FANS CENTRAL

Now, the Phillies are preparing to defend their World Series title against the 2009 Yankees. The 75-year-old Smith just wishes more of his pals could have lived to see the day their team could get revenge against those Bronx Bombers.

Smith was one of several hundred fans who gathered for a rally outside City Hall on Monday, two days before Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Accompanied by a Mummers string band, they waved red towels and expressed cautious optimism for a repeat of last year, when the Phillies beat Tampa Bay for their first world championship in 28 years.

"I keep thinking about all the people I knew who waited year after year for a heyday like now," Smith said of the Phillies, who in 2007 became the first major professional sports team with 10,000 losses. "For me, this is something special."

Smith waved a red towel and swayed back and forth while a Phillies announcer led the crowd in Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes." The tune was a favorite of longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who collapsed and died before a game in Washington in April.

The Phillies are trying to become the first team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1998-2000 Yankees, and the first from the National League since the 1975-'76 Cincinnati Reds teams, dubbed the Big Red Machine.

"I never would have imagined the Phillies would be the Big Red Machine," said Smith, who was also at the last game the Athletics played in Philadelphia before leaving town in 1954 - a loss to the Yankees.

The Phanatic, the team's large, green furry mascot, shuffled through the sparse crowd at Monday's rally, dancing and offering high-fives.

Some fans brought along a few of this town's trademark "boos" and unleashed them on Mayor Michael Nutter when he took the stage in a red Phillies jacket and announced plans to raffle off a pair of playoff tickets.

Darren Daulton, a catcher on the Phillies team that lost the 1993 World Series to Toronto, praised the fans for their passion and their ability to intimidate opponents.

"We are the world champions and I think (the Yankees) are aware of that," said Daulton. "I think it's the fans who can rattle the other team."

The boobirds were also out each time anyone on the dais said the word "Yankees."

But generally the mood was one of optimism, especially among the many who weren't even born in 1950 and have seen a tiny fraction of those 10,000 losses.

"It will be nice to win against them," said 15-year-old Marykate McGurk, of Wilmington, Del.

Her mother, Patsy McGurk, 48, was born 10 years after the Yankees swept the Phillies in the 1950 World Series - and four years before the infamous Phillies collapse of 1964, when they held a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play only to lose the NL pennant by dropping 10 straight.

Both said their team was ready to start setting less ignominious records - like maybe a dynasty.

"We like having lots of records," Patsy McGurk said.

2009 WORLD SERIES INFORMATION

2009 NATIONAL LEAGUE SERIES

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