The 2007-08 Flyers were an interesting team. Led by the talents of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Flyers welcomed several new players to the team. Paul Holmgren was a busy dealer in the pre-season. The team acquired forwards Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul, along with defensemen Kimmo Timonen and captain Jason Smith.
With Marty Biron as the full-time starter now and John Stevens in his first full-season as head coach, the Flyers got off to a roaring start and were in second place in the Eastern Conference by mid-season. However, a long losing streak in the second half of the campaign almost caused them to miss the playoffs. Fortunately though, they finished 42-29-11, good enough for 6th in the Eastern Conference.
In the first round, they faced the upstart Washington Capitals and star Alexander Ovechkin. After dropping the first game in a crushing, give the lead away defeat, the Flyers won the next three contests, with Game 4 going to double overtime and Mike Knuble netting the game winner.
But, the Flyers dropped the next two games, leading to an epic Game 7. This game, like Game 4, went to overtime. Lupul scored the game winner and series decider.
In the second round against the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens, the Flyers gave up Game 1 the same way they did against the Caps. However, this series finished much differently. The Flyers won the next four contests decisively, with young forward R.J. Umberger playing sensationally.
In 17 postseason games that season, Umberger scored 10 goals and had 5 assists for 15 points.
In the Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers struggled against the Pens stars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. The Orange and Black lost in five games to Pittsburgh, but had a lot of promise going into the next season.
76ERS: Turning in the Right Direction
The Sixers got off to a rough start in the 2007-08 season. This led to the firing of Billy King as President and General Manager and the hiring of Ed Stefanski in that position.
By the time the second half of the season came around, the Sixers started to turn it around and finished with a record of 40-42. Amazingly, with the poor records for a lot of Eastern Conference teams that season, 40-42 was good enough for the seventh seed in the playoffs.
The Sixers squared off against the Detroit Pistons with nobody giving them a chance.
Led by Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller, with the promising play of rookie Thaddeus Young and hustle of Reggie Evans, the Sixers came from behind to win Game 1 in shocking fashion.
The Sixers got annihilated in Game 2, but in Game 3 at home, they returned the favor to the Pistons, crushing them.
But after that the Pistons woke up and won the next three games to win the series 4-2. While Games 1 and 3 were without question big highlights of the season and a lot to be positive about for the future, arguably the main highlight of the season had something to do with a player on another team.
The year 2008 marked the return of Allen Iverson. In March, he played his first game in Philly since he was dealt the previous season. He got a very warm welcome.
Oh…and by the way…it felt good to win the game too.
May 31, 2008 marked the 25th anniversary of the last major sports championship our beloved city had seen. With the Flyers and Sixers both being eliminated in the playoffs, it was a quarter century since one of our teams were No. 1.
A lot of us believed we were cursed, the Curse of Billy Penn.
Call it what you want. Believe in these things or not, but after that smaller statue of Billy Penn went up on the Comcast Center, our fortunes changed.
In the off-season, the Phillies dealt the talented Michael Bourne and other players to the Houston Astros for Eric Bruntlett and closer Brad Lidge.
Lidge was known for a mean slider, but had not played up to his potential in recent seasons. Following the first postseason appearance for the team in 14 years, 2008 was a year where the Phillies had to make that next step. Getting to the playoffs wasn’t good enough anymore. We as fans needed more.
Lidge, as we all know, was crucial in that happening.
Coming from behind the Mets in the standings for the second year in a row, the Phillies finished with a record of 92-70 led by the same group of players pretty much. Aaron Rowand was gone, but Shane Victorino filled in nicely in center field and Jayson Werth proved he could be an everyday starter in right. Cole Hamels was once again sensational and the ageless Jamie Moyer went 16-7.
Brett Myers in the second half of the season was as good as he ever was and steady Joe Blanton, who the team acquired at the trade deadline, was a good addition to the rotation.
But the key was Lidge and the bullpen, who established themselves as the best in the league that year. Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin and Scott Eyre complimented “Lights Out” Lidge well.
On September 27, the second the last game of the season, all the Phils needed to do to win the division for the second year in a row, was win that game.
They had a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth with Lidge coming in for the save. He was 40 for 40 at that point in save opportunities. However, the Washington Nationals got to Lidge a bit and cut the lead to one. With the bases loaded and only one out, Ryan Zimmerman came up to the plate. On the 1-1 pitch, here’s what happened.
What a thrilling way to clinch the division. Now it was, as that season’s slogan was, “Go Time.”
In the NLDS against the wild card winning Milwaukee Brewers, the Phils won that series 3-1. The highlight was in Game 2 when the Phils faced off against stud pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who was basically untouchable after coming to the NL.
The Phils got to him.
In the NLCS against Manny Ramirez and the hot Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phils dominated, winning the series 4-1.
The highlight-Game 4 in the top of the eighth inning with one man on and pinch hitter Matt Stairs at the plate. The result-a shot to right field that is still going to this day.
Stair’s reaction to the go ahead home run:
The Phils won Game 5 easily and were on to the World Series for the first time since 1993. Hamels was named the NLCS MVP.
Lidge up to this point was now 45 for 45 is save opportunities.
In the World Series against the surprising Tampa Bay Rays, the Phils ended the curse. They eased our pain. They eased Billy Penn’s pain.
They won Game 1 in Tampa Bay behind the stellar pitching of Hamels 3-2.
Lidge was no 46 for 46.
After dropping Game 2 2-1, the series headed on to Philadelphia. Game 3 had about a hour and a half rain delay. With the hometown native Moyer on the mound, the crowd was electric even in the rain. Moyer was phenomenal. After having a 4-3 lead with Moyer out of the game, the Rays tied it in the eighth at 4-4. In the ninth, the Phils loaded the bases with no outs and Carlos Ruiz up to the plate. This is what transpired.
It was the biggest-little-hit in club history.
Game 4 was an annihilation of the Rays as the Phils bats erupted for four home runs to win 10-2. Blanton, as a matter of fact, hit one of them.
On October 27, Game 5 began. Due to heavy rainfall, it had to be suspended until two days later with the score tied at 2-2.
On October 29, Game 5 resumed and ended. The final score–your Philadelphia Phillies 4, the Tampa Bay Rays 3. What did that result in? A World Series Championship, second in franchise history. The first championship this town saw in a quarter of a century.
That Game 5 would definitely had not been won without the clutch hit of Pat Burrell in the bottom of the seventh inning. His hit, replaced by pinch runner Eric Bruntlett, ending up leading to the game winning run. It was the last time we ever saw "Pat the Bat" in a Phillies uniform. The Phillies did not resign him after the season, instead they brought in Raul Ibanez to play left field, which ended up, as we will learn in the 2009 post, working out pretty good.
Without question though, the Philadelphia Phillies of 2008 were without question the team of the decade.
EAGLES: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!
This was an interesting season, one of the most odd ones in recent memory. We were introduced to rookie sensation DeSean Jackson at wide receiver and punt return man, along with the re-emergence of Brian Dawkins at the free safety position and Asante Samuel as one of our new corners.
The 2008 Eagles were an up-and-down team that you never really knew what the heck was going on. Midway through the season, they were 5-3 and possibly headed in the right direction. Then, a loss to the Giants in Week 10, a tie against the lowly Bengals in Week 11, then an annihilation by the Ravens in Week 12 (on top of a Donovan McNabb benching that game) put the team at 5-5-1 and an outlook of most likely missing the playoffs and the end of the McNabb era.
But then, as things usually did for the Birds in late November/month of December, everything turned around.
McNabb was back in as the starter and the Eagles won three in a row with two games to go. At 8-5-1 all they pretty much needed to do is win their last two games and have a little help to creep into the playoffs.
But after a disheartening loss to the Redskins in Week 16, it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.
For the Eagles to make the playoffs at that point, they had to beat the Cowboys at home in Week 17, along with having the lowly Raiders defeat the Buccaneers and Houston Texans beat the Chicago Bears.
Amazingly, both the Bucs and Texans won, giving the Birds the opportunity to defeat Dallas, prevent them for making the playoffs and have us go instead. Well, the Eagles did more than beat them.
The 2008-09 playoffs were something to remember after that.
Putting that aside for a second, it's definitely safe to say 2008 was a pretty darn good year in terms of Philadelphia sports.