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Philadelphia has a real reason to cheer

October 30, 2008|Mike Berardino | Mike Berardino is a columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

PHILADELPHIA — Forty-six hours on the nose.

That's how long they waited for the wind and the rain to clear.

Waited through a prime-time political infomercial and Bud Selig's latest crack at explaining the unexplainable.

Waited through an interstate hotel swap and a million repetitive questions about how this Game 5 ranged so far into the theater of the absurd.

And then, once they finally got around to resuming the first suspended game in World Series history, it was over like that.

Three quick innings on a chilly Wednesday night.

That's all it took the Phillies to pocket this 4-3 win and their first World Series crown in 28 years.

Seventy-eight more minutes.

That's how long it took to play out the most over-analyzed late-game chess match in recent memory.

The Rays barely had a chance to scribble down the license plate of the semi that flattened them on a frenzied night at Citizens Bank Park.

That's how much intensity the Phillies brought to baseball's version of a NASCAR short-track restart.

"They beat us," Rays Manager Joe Maddon said. "They flat beat us."

It began with Geoff Jenkins' hand-clapping, fist-pumping reaction to his double off the wall and continued right on through Pedro Feliz's go-ahead single in the seventh.

It culminated with Brad Lidge's primal-scream strikeout of Eric Hinske for the last out of a baseball season that was starting to look as if it might never end.

With that, a rugged city of angry boo birds jumped and screamed and cheered -- yes, cheered.

Yes, they cheered Pat Burrell, who has been the object of so much derision during his nine years here. Viewed as overpaid and uncommunicative, Burrell hit a leadoff double in the seventh that got the winning rally started.

He didn't score the winning run, though. That was pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett, one of many complementary pieces that kept coming through on a deeper-than-you-realized club.

You think these last couple of days were excruciating for the Phillies? How about their neurotic fan base?

Try waiting almost three decades between World Series championships. Try waiting a quarter-century between major sports championships of any sort, going all the way back to Dr. J. and the '83 76ers.

"These fans are amazing," said Lidge, the first-year Phillies closer who incredibly made it through the whole season without hearing a single boo at home.

Going 48 for 48 in save chances will do that for you.

Strange? That's what this night was from the outset.

Instead of starting off with the national anthem, we heard "God Bless America." After all, we were only one inning away from the seventh-inning stretch.

The first batter was a pinch-hitter (Jenkins) for Phillies starter Cole Hamels, the Series most valuable player.

Three batters in we had our first pitching change. Five pitchers were deployed for the first 12 batters.

In that same span we had two successful sacrifice bunts, a failed sac bunt and a pinch-runner.

On and on it went, two teams in a sprint to the finish line, two managers with brains working in overdrive.

In the end, Charlie Manuel's side made the folksy West Virginian look a tad smarter than the erudite Maddon, who waited far too long to get David Price into the game.

"When you win a World Series, you automatically become a winner," Manuel said. "Wherever I go, whatever I do, from here on out, I'll always be known as a winner."

Pete Rose wasn't here this time to grab a foul-pop carom off Bob Boone's mitt. The late Tug McGraw wasn't here to fling his glove 30 feet into the air after the last out.

Instead, Lidge sank to his knees in stunned jubilation. It was as if those 46 hours of uncertainty and confusion never happened.

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