phillies win world series, phillies end drought, Philadelphia 100 seasons

World Series Champion Phillies Latest Team to End Drought, Curse

October 30, 2008 11:07 AM
by Denis Cummings
The Phillies’ victory ends a 25-year drought for Philadelphia’s four major sports teams. Three epic championship famines have ended in this decade, but more remain.

Phillies Win 2008 World Series

The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series Wednesday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 in Game 5. Phillies fans had to wait two days for the end of Game 5, which had been suspended during the sixth inning due to rain, but that wait was insignificant compared to the 25 years they’ve had to wait for a Philadelphia sports championship.

Philadelphia’s last championship was won in 1983, when the 76ers swept the Lakers to win the city’s fourth NBA championship. After that win, the city’s four major professional teams—the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles and Flyers—went a combined 100 seasons without a title, though two of those seasons were strike-shortened and crowned no champions.

“What can they say now that we’re world champions?” said shortstop Jimmy Rollins. “Twenty-five years they’ve waited. I was barely born.”

The World Series championship is just the second ever for the Phillies, who began play in 1883 as the Quakers. They are one of the least successful teams in baseball history and the only team to amass 10,000 losses.

This year’s win continues a trend of historically unsuccessful teams to win the World Series; the Red Sox ended an 86-year drought in 2004 and the White Sox ended an 88-year drought the following year. However, many teams and cities are still looking for a long-awaited title, including the Chicago Cubs and the cities of Cleveland and Buffalo.

Background: 100 seasons of misery

The last 25 years of Philadelphia sports has seen many great players and teams fall short of a championship. All four teams reached the final of their respective sports, only to come up short.

Sports Illustrated reviewed the 100 worst moments in Philadelphia sports over the last 25 years, which include Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb vomiting in the Super Bowl, Flyers center Eric Lindros being knocked out and Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams giving up a World Series-winning home run.

There were several curses and theories for Philadelphia’s failures, which were analyzed by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Peter Mucha. Some say there was a Curse of Billy Penn’s Hat, which began in 1984, when the city allowed a skyscraper to be built higher than William Penn’s statue atop City Hall. Others said the players were negatively affected by Philly’s famously pessimistic fan base or by the culture of losing.

Mucha believed that there was no single reason for Philadelphia’s drought. He writes, “Blame the problems that teams everywhere face: Picking players, getting them to outperform opponents, and just plain being lucky.”

Ironically, Philadelphia teams outside of the big four have had a great deal of success. The Arena Football League’s Soul, American Hockey League’s Phantoms, National Lacrosse League’s Wings, Major League Lacrosse’s Barrage, Major Indoor Soccer League’s KiXX and World TeamTennis’ Freedoms have combined for 16 championships since 1983 and 10 in this decade alone.

Some fans argued that the drought was ended by the Soul’s 2008 ArenaBowl championship, which was celebrated with a parade down Broad Street. “I’ll take what I can get,” said one fan. “A parade is a parade.”

Others mocked the supposed drought-breaking ArenaBowl win, including the satirical newspaper The Onion, which said the title “just rubs salt in that wound.” But with the Phillies win, there is no longer any doubt that the drought has been broken.

Opinion & Analysis: Which city has it the worst?

Philadelphia’s 25-year drought has come to an end, but there are plenty of other long-suffering cities still hoping for a championship. There are several candidates for the most tortured sports city, beginning with Cleveland, which has gone 129 seasons over 44 years without a championship.

The Browns have been one of the NFL’s least successful teams since the AFL merger, failing to reach the Super Bowl even once. They came close in 1986 and 1987, but suffered two of the most heartbreaking playoff losses in NFL history, known as “The Drive” and “The Fumble” games. Browns fans even lost their team for three years and had to watch the former Browns, who had moved to Baltimore, win the Super Bowl in 2000.

Meanwhile, the Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the second-longest drought in baseball. They carried a lead into the ninth inning of Game 7 in the 1997 World Series, but lost in 11 innings to the Marlins, a team that had been in existence for only five years. The Cavaliers had a chance to end the drought in 2007, but they were swept in the NBA finals.

Buffalo fans also have a claim to the title of longest-suffering city, with the Bills and Sabres failing to win an NFL or NHL title in their histories, though the Bills won an AFL championship in 1965 before the leagues merged. The Bills were in position to win the 1990 Super Bowl, but kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired. The Bills returned to the Super Bowl the next three years, but were blown out each time. The city’s other team, the Sabres, lost the 1999 Stanley Cup on a disputed goal by the Dallas Stars’ Brett Hull, referred to by Sabres fans as “No Goal.”

Seattle fans are likely the most miserable at the moment, with little hope on the horizon to snap a 29-year drought. The city’s only championship was won in 1979 by the Sonics, who were moved to Oklahoma City this off-season. The Mariners finished 2008 with an American League-worst 101 losses, while the Seahawks have begun this season with only two wins in seven games. Even the University of Washington is down, with its football team off to an 0-7 start.

Other cities can also make a claim. San Diego’s MLB and NFL entries have yet to win a championship in 88 combined seasons, while New Orleans has gone more than 50 seasons without a title. Kansas City has a Super Bowl and World Series championship, but its two teams haven’t even won a playoff game since 1994.

San Francisco is the home to the five-time Super Bowl champion 49ers, but also to the Giants, who were still in New York when they won their last World Series in 1954. Chicago, despite the success of the Bulls in the 1990s, has the longest Stanley Cup drought and the longest championship drought in any sport—the Cubs’ 100 years without a World Series.

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