One of the things I think about from time to time is the moment that a sports franchise was at its summit. While this exercise factors in great moments in franchise history, it is not judging which single moment is the best a franchise has experienced. It's a look at the exact moment that a franchise was at its apex.
If you don't get it now, I think you will as we look at the summit moment for each of Philadelphia's Big 4 franchises this week, beginning with the Phillies just before the 11-year anniversary of theirs.
October 28, 2009
As defending World Series champions, the Phillies captured the 2009 NL pennant and marched into Yankee Stadium looking to cement their status as an all-time team.
On this date 11 years ago, the Phils sent trade deadline acquisition Cliff Lee to the mound for the first game of the Fall Classic and the former Cy Young winner dazzled the Yankees. The Arkansas native cut through the Bronx Bombers, striking out 10 and allowing a lone ninth-inning run in a complete-game victory.
Derek Jeter was the only Yankees hitter that night to record an extra-base hit, a two-out double in the third inning. Lee threw 122 pitches in the game, 80 of them for strikes. Pure dominance.
As he had in the previous World Series, Chase Utley started the scoring with a home run in the third inning, a solo blast. Utley then doubled the lead with another solo homer in the sixth off of CC Sabathia. A two-run single by Raul Ibanez in the eighth off future Phillie David Robertson put the game to bed as the Phillies took Game 1 by a score of 6-1.
The best moment on that crisp October night in the Bronx was not a home run or a strikeout, however. It was Lee's nonchalant catch on a Johnny Damon popup to the mound in the sixth inning. In that moment, it felt like the Phillies were completely in control, not just of that game but on a path toward becoming a dynasty.
Lee then followed it up with a behind-the-back snag of a Robinson Cano grounder in the eighth. The Yankees faithful paid to see a baseball game but received a one-man magic show instead.
Unfortunately, the final trick was on the Phillies as the Yankees stormed back to win four of the next five games and claim the title.
Remarkably, neither franchise has returned to the World Series in the 11 years since.
Honorable Mention: October 10, 1981
After winning the franchise's first-ever World Series title in 1980, the Phils made it to the division series the following year. MLB went to a division series format thanks to a strike in the middle of the season. These series pitted a first-half division champ against a second-half division-winner. That was a blessing for a Phillies team that sprinted out to an early division lead but faltered in the portion of the season following the work stoppage.
In the five-game series with the Expos, Dallas Green's Phillies dug themselves an 0-2 hole. After winning Game 3 at The Vet behind a stellar outing from Larry Christensen, the Phillies took Game 4 to extra innings. In the 10th frame, pinch-hitter extraordinaire George Vukovich hit a walk-off solo homer into the home bullpen to force a winner-take-all Game 5 the next day in Montreal.
Phillies superstar southpaw Steve Carlton started that deciding game against the Expos' Steve Rogers. Scoreless into the bottom of the fifth, Rogers opened the scoring with a two-run single off Carlton. Rogers gave himself all of the support he would need, blanking the Phillies by a final score of 3-0. That was the last game Dallas Green would manage for the Phillies as he left to become the Cubs' general manager.
Vukovich's Game 4 home run remains the only walk-off homer in Phillies postseason history.