On June 3, with a record of 22–29, Joe Girardi was fired from his job as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Five months later, the Phillies would face off against the domineering Houston Astros in the World Series, culminating in one of baseball’s greatest Cinderella stories.
Being an underdog is somewhat of a Philadelphian trait. The Rocky franchise. The Flyers’ 3-0 comeback against the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Conference Semifinals. The German Shepherd mask that catalyzed the Eagles’ magical Super Bowl run in 2018. The comeback city holds pride in being an underdog. Yet, even with this background, plenty of Philadelphians are still surprised their Phillies made it this far.
“It’s been an interesting season because they had a bit of a rocky start in the spring,” said Phillies fan Madeleine McGrath, U2 Arts. “It is really special to see how far they’ve come when no one really expected them to get here.”
The turning point for the Phillies came when Rob Thomson took over as interim-manager on June 3. Affectionately known to Philly as “Topper,” Thomson led the Phillies to a 65–46 record after their poor start, edging out the Milwaukee Brewers by a single win for the last wildcard slot in the expanded 2022 playoffs.
In the Wild Card series, the Phillies quickly dispatched the St. Louis Cardinals in two games. Next, they would face the 111-win Atlanta Braves, last year’s World Series Champions. The Phillies dethroned the reigning champs in four games of the best-of-five series, averaging a remarkable six runs per game. The Phillies faced the San Diego Padres with the chance to win the National League Pennant and make it to the World Series. Once again, against all odds, the Phillies won the best-of-seven series in five.
The Phillies powerhouse offence has been led by the ‘chosen one’, Bryce Harper, who slashed an absurd .349/.414/.746 throughout the playoffs. Their postseason run revolved around his clutch at-bats, especially Harper’s two-run go-ahead homer that sent them to the World Series. Despite Harper’s outrageous 13-year, $330-million contract signing in 2019, Phillies owner John Middleton now thinks he was underpaid.
The entire city has taken this playoff run to heart, partying after wins and singing the city’s new unofficial anthem “Dancing on my Own,” a Phillies locker room favourite, in perfect unison.
Moreover, the Phillies have been sporting shirts with the number 46,026 emblazoned on the chest during their pre-game routines. The number refers to the sum of the stadium capacity and the number of players within the Phillies roster. A video clip of a television interview from back in 2011 has even become the unofficial rallying cry of fans and players alike. The brief clip features a local fan who infamously says, “We’re talking about the Fightins!” when asked about the Phillies’ chances to come back in a playoff series, referencing the Philadelphian desire to always fight back.
The Astros, however, stood tall as the Goliath in the path of the Phillies’ attempt to be David, winning the World Series in six games. The 2022 Astros are in the running to be one of the best teams of all time, winning 101 games in the regular season compared to the Phillies’ mere 87. Moreover, the depth of the Astros squad is almost unheard of and is the first in MLB history to post a sub-1.00 ERA with a minimum of 40 innings pitched in the postseason.
Although the Philadelphia Phillies may not have completed the ultimate underdog story this postseason, they remain the only team to even beat the almighty Astros this October. Next season, baseball will look different. Pitch-clocks, bigger bases, and shift bans along with other rule changes are set to roll in with the 2023 season that will change the sport forever. For those who will miss the old game, the Phillies’ drama-filled run provided the perfect way to say goodbye.