July 21, 2015
For most Philadelphia sports fans, the 2008 World Series was a week of pure, unbridled joy. The Phillies gave the city its only championship in one of the four major sports since 1983, and two million (note: it wasn’t actually two million) deliriously happy people painted Broad Street red on Halloween.
Adding to the celebratory mood was the simple fact that the Phillies were fortunate enough to win at home. They swept the middle three games of the Fall Classic at Citizens Bank Park and clinched during a weather-delayed 3.5-inning sprint to the finish when Eric Hinske swung through Brad Lidge’s slider. World f*****g champions, indeed.
The Tampa Bay Rays remember the time a little bit differently. After going from the worst record in baseball to 97 wins in just one season and dispatching the vaunted Boston Red Sox in a grueling seven-game ALCS, their season came to an anticlimactic end here in Philly. With the Rays back in town this week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times did some excellent work and documented the recollections from members of the 2008 team. It’s safe to say they’re not very fond of our city and fans.
For instance, take Rocco Baldelli. Now the Rays’ first base coach, the former outfielder hit a clutch tying homer off Ryan Madson in the seventh inning of Game 5. In Topkin’s story, Baldelli not only complained about the inclement weather (which, you know, both teams had to deal with), but he had unflattering words about the people of Philadelphia in general after how the Rays were treated in 2008:
Anybody who talked about the city of Philadelphia at that time, nobody is exaggerating any of those thoughts and comments. Whatever the opposite of hospitable would be to you, that's what the people of Philadelphia were to us at that time.
It didn't seem like the people of the city were happy that their team was in the World Series. It seemed like they were more happy and excited to take out their anger on the opposition and to degrade us.
They were lined up on the street "gesturing" at us. Many, many gestures. They were banging on our bus.
Along the same lines, the the following comes from Jim Hickey, who now is in his ninth season as the Rays’ pitching coach:
My ex-wife was there and she was appalled at the behavior of their fans, especially toward ours. At one point she went to get the security guard, who was actually an on-duty police officer, and he laughed at her and didn't help at all.
The fans lived up to their belligerent level. They revel in that type of thing. They wear it as a badge of honor, but it really ought to be a source of embarrassment to them.
The whole thing is absolutely worth a read, as there are more anecdotes of little kids cursing at players, police officers not keeping the peace, etc. Now that the Phillies are the worst team in baseball with a largely apathetic fanbase, the good news for the Rays is they're guaranteed to find not nearly as much hostility here this week.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann