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Friday, January 1, 2010

The Decade In Philadelphia Sports Part 11: 2009 Year In Review

In the Wild Card round against the Minnesota Vikings and as the sixth seed, the Eagles won 26-14. Clearly, they were the better team in this battle.

The Divisional Round was going to be the tough game. At the Meadowlands against the top seeded Giants, no one thought the Eagles would win. They proved everyone wrong. The defense took care of the Giants stellar running game and the Birds won 23-11.

Heading onto their fifth NFC Championship Game in eight years, everyone thought with how hot this team is and the fact that the Birds were facing the Arizona Cardinals…the Arizona Cardinals…there was no chance of a loss.

Well, think again.

The Cardinals came out firing and took a big first half lead. The Eagles fought back and actually took the lead in the fourth quarter. But, the Cardinal running game killed the clock and Arizona scored late to take a 32-25 lead. Donovan McNabb could not lead the team down the field to tie the game. It was another heartbreaking NFC Championship loss.

This was the last game Eagle legend Brian Dawkins ever played in green and white, as he signed with Denver in the off-season following the loss.

Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas also played their last games as Eagles in this crushing defeat.

FLYERS: Couldn’t Carry Over The ’08 Magic

It’s safe to say the 2009 was not as fun as 2008. Mike Richards was now the captain and Jeff Carter got off to a roaring start, but cooled off as the regular season came to a close.

Although the Flyers finished with a better record of 44-27-11, a late season collapse and backing into the playoffs put the Flyers as the fifth seed.

They faced the fourth seed and eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins again, but this time in the first round.

The Orange and Black lost the series in six games, with Game 6 having them give up a 3-0 lead to lose.

It marked the last season for Marty Biron as goalie. In the off-season following, the team traded for big time defenseman Chris Pronger and signed Ray Emery to be their full-time starter.

76ERS: Brand New Player, But Same Old Recent Story

In the off-season prior to the 2008-09 campaign, the 76ers made a big time move signing Elton Brand to a long-term lucrative deal.
The idea behind this move was to get the 76ers to the next level and also get the fan base reinvigorated. However, Brand struggled to fit into the Sixers running style and as a matter of fact, injured himself a little over a quarter into the season. After his dislocated shoulder happened, he was done for the year.

Also, a poor start by this team, a squad that was expected to be one of the top competitors in the East, led to the firing of Maurice Cheeks in December of 2008. A member of the organization's front office, Tony DiLeo, took over.

With Andre Iguodala as the team leader and Andre Miller the floor general, the Sixers finished 41-41, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

They faced the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic in the opening round of the playoffs. This series read almost exactly as the previous season's playoff series against the Pistons.The Sixers overcame a huge Game 1 deficit to win the first game.

They dropped Game 2,but won Game 3.

The Sixers almost won Game 4, but Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu wouldn't have it.

After dropping Game 5 to the Magic, a hard foul by Dwight Howard in that contest forced him to get suspended for the sixth game back in Philly. Everyone thought the Sixers could at least pull this one off.

Not the case. It was a bit embarrassing.

DiLeo would not resume his head coaching duties after this season. Instead, the Sixers brought in Eddie Jordan to fulfill that role. And recently, they brought back fan favorite Allen Iverson out of retirement. The city, along with the Answer, was very happy.


The 2008 season was definitely one of champions. The Phillies ended the city's drought of 25 years with a major sports championship and in 2009 with basically everyone back, a second title was expected.

This year, unlike the previous two seasons, was one where the Phillies dominated the NL East and cruised to a third straight division title. With a record of 93-69, the Phils were headed back to the postseason. Not only that, but they also received their 2008 World Series Championship rings!

Putting that aside though, 2009 was not only about the success of the team, but remembering the voice that brought Phillies fans the team for 38 years. Prior to the seventh game of the season, on April 13, Harry Kalas sadly passed away due to a heart attack. He was in the booth at Nationals Park preparing for the Phillies/Nationals game and suddenly collapsed unconsciously. HK was rushed to the hospital, but pronounced dead at the young age of 73. This crushed the Delaware Valley, the world of baseball and the world of sports. Harry was our friend.

How loved was Harry? The fans made an impromptu memorial for Kalas outside of Citizens Bank Park, right on the Mike Schmidt statue.

Thus,the rest of the 2009 season was dedicated to the memory of Harry The K.

On April 17, the Phillies held a memorial service for Kalas inside of Citizens Bank Park. Fans were able to come down the stadium to walk by his casket. It was only the third time in baseball history something like this happened. The other two people-Jack Buck and Babe Ruth. Pretty darn good company for Kalas.

In the end, as you can see above, HK was carried out by the Phillies players and organization members to the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which was one of Harry's favorite songs.

HK's renditions of "High Hopes" would be played after every home win for the Phillies fans to sing along with.

Harry would have been proud no matter what, but with the way 2009 went, you knew he was estatic. The big addition to the team was Raul Ibanez in left field, replacing the popular Pat Burrell. While many fans were upset to see Burrell gone, Ibanez quickly entered their hearts as well. He got off to a roaring start, hitting home runs left and right. It wasn't uncommmon to hear a "Rauuuuuuuul" chant in the ballpark. He made his first All-Star team in 2009.

Also having a good season was Ryan Howard, who lost weight and improved his defense to make him a better overall player. Once again, "The Big Man" or "The Big Piece" finished with 40 plus homeruns and over 140 RBIs.

Chase Utley remained solid. Jimmy Rollins, albeit a really slow start, was J-Roll as usual. Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth became All-Stars in the outfield. Carlos Ruiz was solid behind the plate and J.A. Happ in his first full season in the bigs, was a stellar 12-4 and major candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.

The big difference between 2008 and 2009 was the pitching staff struggled more in 09. Cole Hamels could never really gain back the dominance he had in the 2008 playoffs and Brad Lidge was anything but perfect, having 11 blown saves. Jamie Moyer, after going 16-7 in 2008, was moved to the bullpen in 2009. J.C. Romero, after a 50-game suspension to start the season, never really got into the form he had before. Ryan Madson was awesome at times, but switching him from set-up man to potential closer disrupted his rhythm.

Near the trade deadline, the Phillies signed future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez to a one-year deal. When he started to pitch in August, Pedro went 5-1 and was a solid addition to the rotation.

But the big deal for new general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., as he replaced the retiring Pat Gillick after 2008, was trading prospects away to the Cleveland Indians for Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and solid outfielder Ben Francisco.

Lee was sensational.

In his first game as a Phillie, he pitched a complete game win against the Giants. The lefty carried that over for the rest of the month of August. Although he struggled a little in September after getting off to a hot start with his new squad, in the playoffs, as we will go over, he was even better than when he started with the club.

In May, the team visited the White House to honor their World Championship. Here is what happened.

On September 30, the Phillies clinched the NL East to a capacity crowd at CBP.Manager Charlie Manuel did something pretty impressive that night. Instead of bringing the off and on Lidge in to the game for the entire ninth inning, he waited to the last out. The "symbolism" as broadcaster Tom McCarthy of bringing Lidge in like that was something to cherish. Although he struggled in 09, he is the reason the Phillies won in 08. It was fitting for him to get the final out.

It only took one pitch and actually gave Lidge a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs.

Going into the postseason, there was a lot of concern about the Phillies bullpen. But in actuality, they didn't do that bad. And to sum up the National League playoffs in one word, a couple of examples could be nail biting, nerve wracking and UNBELIEVABLE!

In the NLDS against the Wild Card winning Colorado Rockies, it was sweet revenge for the Phils as they knocked out the Rockies in four games 3-1, with Game 4 being a huge come from behind win in the top of the ninth inning.

In the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a rematch of the previous year's championship series. This one went almost the same exact way. The Phillies win in five games 4-1. In Game 4, they were down to LA and its dominant closer Johnathan Broxton in the bottom of the ninth inning by one run.

With two men on base and Rollins up to the plate, J-Roll sent the CBP crowd into a frenzy.

The Phils won Game 5 easily and headed onto the World Series for back to back seasons. It was the first time that ever happened in franchise history. Ryan Howard, setting a Phillies record for RBIs in a postseason, was named NLCS MVP.

In the World Series against the New York Yankees, the Phillies struggled a bit. After taking Game 1 with a 6-1 laugher and Lee throwing a complete game, the Phillies dropped the next three contests to go down 3-1. Game 4 was especially disheartening. The score was tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth at home with Lidge on the mound. Prior to this appearence, he was pretty darn good in the playoffs. He was one strike away from getting out of the inning untouched in Game 4 against New York. But, Johnny Damon got on base, stole second and took third on a non-covered third base. A couple of hits later, the Phils found themselves down 7-4.

Game 5 with Lee on the mound agains was great. The Phillies won 8-6 and were headed back to New York for Game 6. Unfortunately, the Yankees won that game 7-3 to win the 2009 World Championship. Howard's bat cooled off in the series and the Phils pitching did not match up to the Yankees.

Even in defeat, some performances were worth taking note of. Chase Utley hit five home runs in the World Series to tie a major league record. And Lee was 4-0 in the postseason with a 1.56 ERA.

In this current off-season, Amaro has made some more moves to tinker the club. Pedro Feliz is no longer on the team. Placido Polanco returned and is going to play third base. Also, Cliff Lee was traded to the Seattle Mariners for prospects because Amaro dealt two of the club's main minor league players in Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor to the Toronto Blue Jays for stud Roy "Doc" Halladay.

With "Doc" as our ace and hopefully a rebounding Hamels and Lidge, along with this lineup, the Phils should once again be contenders in 2010.

We have "High Hopes" for them.

EAGLES: High-Powered Offense and Let's Win One For J.J.

Like the Phillies, the Eagles also lost a beloved member of their family in 2009. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson sadly passed away during the summer due to cancer. He was only 68. He was a hard-nosed, tough love coach that orchestrated top notch Eagle defenses for 10 seasons.

Like the Phillies did with HK, the Eagles dedicated their 2009 season to J.J. Sean McDermott, who coached the secondary and linebackers at one point or another, took over his position.

So far this season, the Birds are 11-4 and going into a Week 17 battle with the Dallas Cowboys in the new Cowboys Stadium. The winner takes the NFC East. If the Eagles win, not only do they win the division, but they also get the No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

This team is anchored by an explosive offense with Donovan McNabb, new fullback Leonard Weaver, star wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Brian Westbrook, Brent Celek, Jason Avant, rookie running back LeSean McCoy and rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Something that caused major controversy in the pre-season was the surprise signing of quarterback Michael Vick to a two-year deal. The Eagles said it was a football move and that he can help them on the offensive side of the ball.

For most of the season, Vick didn't do much, but lately after he has gotten back into the flow of the NFL game more, he has been a little more effective.

Another thing that happened this season so far was we got to see a little bit more of backup QB Kevin Kolb. After McNabb injured himself in Week 1, Kolb got to start two games and set an NFL record for most passing yards by a quarterback in his first two starts.

And fittingly, the Broncos were on the Eagles schedule this year as a home game. Dawkins returned to the town he played in for 13 years. Here is how the fans responded to him when he was introduced.

What will happen with the Eagles in the rest of this season? Only time will tell as 2010 is now upon us.

The year 2009 was definitely one that had a lot happen in it. One more thing to take note of, this was the last year the Wachovia Spectrum (formally with other names and previously just The Spectrum) hosted events, whether they were sporting events, concerts or shows.

Replacing the great building, which is scheduled to be knocked down in 2010, will be a shopping center called Philly Live. Without question, the Spectrum will be missed and will always be something to cherish on.

Thanks for the memories!


Here are the results of the 2009 South Broad St Awards ballotting, as voted on by you the readers. Thanks for voting!

Team of the Year
2009 Phillies

Athlete of the Year
DeSean Jackson

Coach of the Year (The Jim Johnson Memorial Award)
Charlie Manuel

Rookie of the Year
J.A. Happ

Newcomer of the Year
Cliff Lee

Is this an oxymoron?

Executive of the Year
Ruben Amaro Jr.

Unsung Hero of the Year

Carlos Ruiz (Senor Octubre)

Game of the Year
Phillies National League Championship Series Game 4

Moment of the Year

Jimmy Rollins Walk Off Hit in Game 4 of NLCS

Quote of the Year
"We lost our voice today."-Phillies President Dave Montgomery on the sad passing of Harry Kalas

Signing/Transaction of the Year
Phillies trade prospects to Cleveland Indians for Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco

Broadcaster of the Year (The Harry Kalas Memorial Award)

Merrill Reese

Venue of the Year

Citizens Bank Park

PA Announcer of the Year

Dan Baker

Mascot of the Year

The Phillie Phanatic

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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http://ticketfront.com/event/World_Series_New_York_Yankees-tickets looking forward to it.