Celebrations of Underdogs

The Stadiums in 1970. (PhillyHistory,org)

Having just celebrated the Eagles Super Bowl win with a procession witnessed by nearly three-quarters of a million, we have to ask: has Philadelphia ever before experienced so sweet a victory?

Then we recall October 21, 1980, when the Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals 4 to 1, winning game 6 of the World Series. How did the city react then, exactly half a century since the Philadelphia Athletics brought home the same title? How did celebrating victory feel back then in this city of underdogs?

Folklorist Henry Glassie was there. And fourteen years later, he shared his impressions with the Philadelphia Almanac and Citizens’ Manual in a piece entitled “1980 Remembered:”

“October air glistens with victory. Shocks of fodder, piles of pumpkins, the traditional assemblies of harvest home stand in the cool air, marking the end of the farmer’s long war with earth. Clear and bright, autumn at its best, is how we recall the city’s day of triumph. It had been a long season, a tense playoff, a hard series, but Greg Gross laid down the perfect bunt, Manny Trillo made the perfect throw, Tug McGraw leapt and patted, and a Whitmanesque babble of humanity overflowed the streets, crowding joyously to let us feel for one day how civic life might be. Divisions dissolved: bankers, bums, secretaries, newsboys, and housewives, we smiled and touched and traded small gifts like kids at an antiwar rally. Packed close, standing, dancing, yelling, we reached toward the trucks moving slowly along the route of the Pope’s flash. On the trucks rode the men whose intensity yielded this bounty. They were not cool. Like heroes loosed from some old epic, they gave completely, Carlton in lonely discipline, Bowa boyishly, McBride bravely, Schmidt with the body that would have won him laurels in any sport in any age. Rose had come from the west to provide the missing link; we unified in the rhythm—Pete, Pete, Pete, Pete—when he set records and watched the man on the field, made for baseball as Eakins was made for painting. But it was, at the heart, Garry Maddox, spread at the plate into an image of concentration, Maddox doubling to center, Maddox moving stealthily to the last catch, Maddox sitting above us now. He should have been wearing embroidered robes of fawn-colored silk and riding a white charger. It was only a truck, only a game, but he was our hero, the prince of a city named Brotherly Love.”

(Source: From the Philadelphia Almanac and Citizens’ Manual for 1995. Edited by Kenneth Finkel. Published by the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1994.)

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