The Philadelphia Phillies have become the talk of the town in Delaware as they gear up for the National League Championship Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. This ninth shot at a National League pennant has fans excited and hopeful for a third World Series title. However, their history of more than 10,000 losses since 1833, the most of any professional sports team, shows that Phillies fans have certainly suffered.
One long-time fan, Bill Winters, recalls his earliest memory of attending a Phillies game when he was just 10 years old in 1964. He and his father and friends embarked on a journey to Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, hoping to attend Bat Day. Unfortunately, they arrived without tickets, as the game was sold out. Despite this setback, Winters has remained a loyal fan throughout the years.
Winters and his wife, Joan, were among the 45,798 fans in attendance at a recent Phillies game against the Braves. The atmosphere was exhilarating, with six home runs from players like Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper. Winters described the crowd as incredibly energetic, making it difficult to have a conversation without screaming to be heard.
Delaware has its own connections to the Phillies over the years. In 1980, when the Phillies won their first World Series, the team was owned by Ruly Carpenter, a Delawarean from Montchanin. Carpenter sold the team a year later due to concerns over player salaries. His father, R.R.M. Carpenter, had owned the team from 1943 to 1972. Another Delawarean, Dallas Green, managed the 1980 championship team.
The Phillies have also had Delawareans playing for the team, including Chris Short, a left-handed pitcher from Lewes High School who was twice an All-Star in the 1960s. Huck Betts, a Millsboro native, pitched for the Phillies in the 1920s and later for the Boston Braves. Betts was also known as the owner of the Ball Theater in Millsboro, which had a large baseball on its rooftop.
Delaware even had its own minor league affiliate of the Phillies, known as the Dover Phillies, from 1946 to 1948. The team played in an 1,800-seat ballpark on Court Street, in the same location where the Wawa and Legislative Hall stand today. Unfortunately, the 1948 team was one of the worst in baseball history, finishing 26-10 and 65 ½ games behind the Eastern Shore Baseball League champions.
Many Southern Delaware baseball fans used to take passenger trains to Philadelphia to watch Phillies games. Trains would leave in the morning, allowing fans to attend afternoon games and return home in the evening. This transportation option made it easier for Delawareans to support the team.
In 1915, the Dover Opera House was a hotspot for following the Phillies-Boston Red Sox World Series. Lights were set up to simulate a baseball diamond, and a telegrapher would wire the action to the opera house, where an operator would light up the screen for the audience.
While many Orioles fans reside in Sussex County, Delaware, due to broadcast rights and the availability of Orioles games on television, Phillies fans still dominate in the area. The Orioles were shown on television across Southern Delaware, making the team more popular in that region.
As the excitement builds for the Phillies in the postseason, one cannot help but reflect on the long history of the team and the dedication of their fans. Through the highs and lows, Phillies fans have remained loyal and committed to their team. This year’s National League Championship Series gives them hope for a triumphant run at the World Series title and the chance to savor a well-deserved victory.