Remembering Philadelphia Millennials’ First Championship Win

While living in Florida, of all places

Has it really been 10 years?

The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series one decade ago. They defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in a history-making five-game series.

It was also the first championship win my generation witnessed in their lifetime.

There was a possible Curse of Billy Penn and a very real championship drought in the city for 25 years. It was a weird existence for my fellow millennial Philly sports fans, whose parents and older relatives had experienced championship victories and wondered if they’d live to see their own.

Pew Research Center defines anyone born between 1981 and 1996 as part of the millennial generation. Save for a 1983 Sixers championship for super-young Gen Y fans, we were title-deprived. To rub salt in the wound, we watched each of our four major sports teams reach the championships — every four years from 1993 through 2005 — and lose the big one.

In 1993, I remember someone yelling “Down in front!” at my uncle’s house in the Far Northeast as I walked past the TV with the Phillies-Blue Jays series on (which seems a little harsh toward a 6-year-old, but hey, Philly). The Phils lost in six.

Four years later, the Flyers were swept in the Stanley Cup finals in 1997.

After my grade school graduation dance in 2001, I came home to watch a replay on the local news of 76ers fans booing Destiny’s Child — the NBA Championship halftime show for that game — off the court. The Sixers would go on to lose the series to the Lakers.

And lastly, Eagles vs. Patriots, Vol. 1, in 2005. I worked my job at a Bucks County deli Sunday morning before returning to my parents’ house for our Super Bowl party. We lost another one in heartbreaking fashion, and my lingering memory is of my friend excitedly calling afterward to say she was taking her crush to prom.

Fast forward to 2008. Newly 21 years old, I had a senior-friendly class schedule my last year at Temple University. I also had the luxury of staying up past rain delays and leaving campus early during the playoffs, while my then-boyfriend faked a dentist appointment at his new job so he could watch an early NLDS game.

I remember taking selfies in my Phillies gear with my Verizon LG flip phone before going out for Game 5, the night I knew — felt it in my bones — the team would win it all. Of course, it would later be designated Game 5, Part 1; the first-ever suspended World Series game in history.

My boyfriend and I went to the same bar at Cottman & Frankford for Game 5, Part 2. Even though there had been plenty of playoff magic moments — and it felt like we could clinch that night — there was still a nagging feeling of, “But we don’t win in Philly…”

Until we did.

When Brad Lidge struck out the last batter and fell to his knees, bartenders popped bottles of champagne and sprayed them into the crowd. We went out into the neighborhood, sticky and giddy, and celebrated with strangers.

A sea of red at Cottman & Frankford in Northeast Philadelphia | Photo credit: Kathleen Garvin

We took it all in — people walking around with homemade signs, little kids banging pots and pans like it was New Year’s Day and fans climbing everything from traffic lights to street lights to, amazingly, a billboard. All in the same area where my dad, his brothers and their friends celebrated a number of Philly championships decades earlier.

An excited Phillies fan climbed a billboard | Photo credit: Kathleen Garvin
Phillies fans of all ages celebrating the World Series Championship win | Photo credit: Kathleen Garvin
The Phillies won the World Series Championship in 1980 and again in 2008 | Photo credit: Kathleen Garvin

I’m reflecting on this 10-year milestone in St. Petersburg, Fla., where I moved for work three years ago. The city is home to the Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field, and Games 1 and 2. The Trop is a five-minute drive away from my apartment, and I attended a game in the Phils-Rays series this past spring. It’s pretty wild to now live in an area where I watched World Series magic happen on TV a decade ago.

When I think back to it, my excitement during the World Series is unmatched. Don’t get me wrong: This year’s first-ever Eagles Super Bowl win was absolutely incredible. But you never forget your first championship.

Pop the cork, yo! | Photo credit: Kathleen Garvin

Kathleen Garvin is a Northeast Philly native living in St. Petersburg, Fla.