Fightin' Phils show their inner-Rocky
Channeling Balboa, club fights on, 'Gonna Fly' to New York
PHILADELPHIA -- In the middle of the first inning Monday at Citizens Bank Park, not far from where Sylvester Stallone shot scenes for the classic 1976 movie "Rocky," they played inspirational highlight clips of the lovable slugging icon and fired everyone up with strains of "Gonna Fly Now."
It was hardly original, a club marketing ploy while the FOX audience was away for commercial, but yo, Adrian "Cap" Anson, all you ghosts of baseball past, let the record show that if the Phillies go on to become Major League Baseball's first repeat World Series champions since 2000, that was exactly the moment that the boxer got up off the canvas and slugged away to cut-eyed glory.
That statue of Rocky Balboa that stands at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's famous steps? It would have to be included in a second annual victory parade. The Phillies came out swinging, winning Game 5 by an 8-6 count and forcing at least one more game as the 105th Fall Classic now moves back to Yankee Stadium at 7:57 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
We are not making this stuff up. Ask any of the 46,178 fans in the sellout crowd who watched the final National League home game of the 2009 Major League Baseball season. Ask that big blue bloc of Yankees fans who annoyed Phillies fans out in left field for Games 3-5. Ask Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies' catcher. He saw the "Rocky" video played at that moment as well.
"That was great. That's how it is for us," he said. "It really is like fighting. We are fighting right now. We got to keep fighting. You keep going, keep going, keep going. Because you know the Yankees are good and they've been in these situations. Just keep fighting, like that."
On any other night, it would have sounded like a string of cliches, but they just played "Rocky" in the city where they filmed "Rocky" and now they think their team is Rocky. That is what happens when you fall behind, 3-1, in a best-of-seven series. That is what happens when there is actual champagne on ice in your opponents' clubhouse, just taunting you.
Pedro Martinez will be back at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night in that familiar setting, trying again to beat the Bombers, and Andy Pettitte probably will be back there yet again, looking to extend his own record of most career series-clinching victories with No. 6. Pettitte already has won the Yankees' previous two series clinchers this year, at Minnesota and at home against the Angels, and now Yankees manager Joe Girardi will take a good, hard look at his veteran lefty during Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET workout back at Yankee Stadium, and then formalize who will start Game 6.
It will be the first Game 6 in a World Series since 2003, back when lasting that long didn't seem like such a big deal. It has special meaning now, after five straight years of quickies. This is without question a heavyweight title fight, the real deal, complete now with Rocky himself. The Yankees are now Apollo Creed. Or maybe they are Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. They could win, and they could do it in a new Yankee Stadium just the way Babe Ruth & Co. won it all in the 1923 debut of the old Yankee Stadium. But the challenge just got a little bigger, ever since they played that "Rocky" video.
Five off the floor
It was under a full moon and the Yankees had scored a run in the top of the first when Alex Rodriguez doubled in Johnny Damon, and the writing seemed to be on the wall in the form of that plastic covering the Yankees' lockers. You could feel the end of the baseball year in front of you, and you were thinking how it would be the last night you got to watch the Phillie Phanatic zoom across the outfield on his little red vehicle and the last night you got to buy a hot dog and watch a game.
Then came the video -- you watched it and perhaps felt your spirits lift, making you want to go out and punch a side of ribs and swallow a glass of raw eggs, and right after the "Gonna Fly Now" music stopped and the bottom of the inning began, Jimmy Rollins got up from the canvas and battled starter A.J. Burnett for a clean single to center on the sixth pitch.
Then Shane Victorino got up off the canvas and he squared around to sacrifice Rollins over to second base. Burnett's 95-mph heater zoomed up and in, and as Victorino tried to wheel around, in an instant, the ball clipped him on the right index finger. X-rays would prove negative; it was a bruise, and Victorino would take first base and then spend a couple innings shaking off the pain.
One win away
|2008||Phillies||Rays||Phillies in 5|
|2006||Cardinals||Tigers||Cardinals in 5|
|2000||Yankees||Mets||Yankees in 5|
|1995||Braves||Indians||Braves in 6|
|1993||Blue Jays||Phillies||Blue Jays in 6|
|1992||Blue Jays||Braves||Blue Jays in 6|
|1988||Dodgers||Athletics||Dodgers in 5|
|1985||Cardinals||Royals||Royals in 7|
|1984||Tigers||Padres||Tigers in 5|
|1983||Orioles||Phillies||Orioles in 5|
|1979||Orioles||Pirates||Pirates in 7|
|1977||Yankees||Dodgers||Yankees in 6|
|1974||Athletics||Dodgers||Athletics in 5|
|1972||Athletics||Reds||Athletics in 7|
|1970||Orioles||Reds||Orioles in 5|
|1969||Mets||Orioles||Mets in 5|
Then Chase Utley got up off the canvas and he knew exactly what to do. Burnett grooved the first pitch after the warning, a 93-mph November gopher ball, and Utley smoked it into the right-field seats to make the score 3-1. He would add one more later for good measure, tying Reggie Jackson (1977) for the all-time World Series record with five homers, with another night or two in which to pass him.
This went on for most of the night, then the Phillies had to hold as the inevitable counter-punching came from the American League champs, and the night ended when reliever Ryan Madson stood up to AL home run champ Mark Teixeira and got the last out of the game and his first postseason save, cutting the Yankees' World Series lead to 3-2 and forcing a third travel day.
"We have a good feeling," said Derek Jeter. He's a fighter, too. "We came here in a tough place to play and won a couple of games. Now we get an opportunity to go back home and play Game 6. We have confidence playing there, but you've still got to play a good game."
Raymond Cobb was there in the crowd with his son, Raymond Jr., who had just turned 10 the day before. The game of baseball was being passed down to a new generation on this night, and the lesson was that you don't give up, never give up, don't even think of giving up even when the Yankees have you down, 3-1, and are rolling out celeb after celeb such as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and Jack Nicholson and that whole Yankees Universe thing.
"It's fantastic," Raymond Sr. said as he was exiting the Hall of Fame Club with other red-clad fans following the last out. "It's going to be two more games in the Bronx that we get to watch the Phillies win. It was fun to watch, and it's going to be fun to win."
His boy was trying hard to work in a few words, saying over and over, "World champions. We're going to destroy the Yankees." Not beat the Yankees. He kept saying to his dad and this reporter that they were going to "destroy the Yankees." This is a fighter mentality. There is only win and knock the other guy out. The same thing some dad up in New York was telling his son to remember.
"I think anyone who knew something about baseball thought it would go this way. It's a fantastic series, it's exciting, it's everything you could want in baseball."
By the time this heavyweight title fight is over, it might be the best there ever was.
It could be Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey. It could be Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali.
That's the thing about this 105th World Series. It is not just the promise of a six- or seven-game series. It is the drama and special moments along the way. Where it winds up in the annals of your memory, no one can say yet, and that will be individual preference. But it's a fight.
Now they go to their own corners again.
The Yankees are the 44th club to take a 3-1 World Series advantage. Of the previous 43, the team on top went on to win it all 37 times, with 24 of those closing out the Series in five games. These Phillies are trying to become only the sixth to come back and win a title.
The others that did it were the 1985 Royals (over Cardinals), '79 Pirates (Orioles), '68 Tigers (Cardinals), '58 Yankees (Braves) and '25 Pirates (Senators). These Phillies and their fans believe it can be done. They just played "Rocky" and won.
"It's a breather. We've got ourselves a breather," said a relieved Ira Gerstman of Fort Washington, Pa., wearing a white Phillies jersey and reluctantly leaving his summertime home of dreams. "Of course, we're relieved. And it's nice to have the last game of the season here as a win. We're still in it, and there can be a miracle, but the Yankees are tough. They're an unbelievable team.
"I don't know that I feel really good, but there's always a chance. It always comes down to Game 7, in my mind."
Now the World Series goes back to the Bronx. The Yankees are trying to win their 27th World Series championship. The Phillies are trying to win Game 6 so that it all comes down to a Game 7 on Thursday night, a fitting end perhaps to this wondrous season and World Series.
"Basically our backs were against the wall, a do-or-die situation," said Cliff Lee, who won again to improve his record to 2-0 in this World Series. "To go out there and give the team a chance, the offense scored plenty of runs to make things a little easier on me, and that was all good. But for me, I've still got to try to put up zeroes and get deep into the game, and I did that and gave the team a chance.
"So it was a group effort and we're still fighting."
They played "Rocky" on Monday.
The Phightin' Phils are going to meet the Bronx Bombers on Wednesday.
This is the 105th World Series, there is an eye of the tiger, the nights of November are getting longer and we are entering the final rounds.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.