PHILADELPHIA — PHILADELPHIA - Standing on the Citizens Bank Park field last night in the middle of the chaos, being drowned out by euphoric fans and just missing the champagne shower delivered by a teammate, Philadelphia Phillies reliever J.C. Romero tried to smile.
With one hand, he clutched his 2-year-old daughter; with the other hand, he brushed a tear from his eye.
"I have a very humble heart right now and am so thankful for this opportunity," said Romero, the winning pitcher in the Phillies' 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series' Game 5 clincher.
It gave the Phillies their first world championship in 28 years, the city's first major pro title since the NBA's 76ers in 1983 and ended the only World Series game in history to be suspended.
The 2008 World Series, one of the strangest ever, included a 46-hour rain delay for Game 5 and a Game 3 that ended just before 2 a.m. It also featured a Phillies team that seemed to always fight back when it was counted out.
"It was just wild, with the weather and dealing with that has been crazy," said outfielder Eric Bruntlett, who scored the Series-winning run in the seventh on a RBI single by Pedro Feliz. "I think it tested our team's mentality to stick around and maintain the same intensity and the same focus throughout. ... It wasn't easy."
Nothing ever is in Philadelphia. But when closer Brad Lidge, who didn't blow a save all season, struck out pinch hitter Eric Hinske with a runner on second and two outs in the ninth and was immediately decked by his teammates, the title became reality.
"When I saw the last out, I kind of looked up and I was kind of watching the fans and I was watching our players," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I said, 'You know what, we just won the World Series. Like, we're champions.' I kind of laughed. I took it all in."
Exactly 46 hours after commissioner Bud Selig halted Game 5 in the bottom of the sixth, Manuel's first official move last night was to pinch hit for Series Most Valuable Player Cole Hamels, who had allowed two runs in six innings Monday.
On the sixth pitch after the resumption, pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins doubled. He later scored on a bloop single by Jayson Werth - perhaps an omen that this was the Phillies' night and year.
The Rays, who were attempting to become the first club to go from the majors' worst to its best in one year, tied the game at 3-3 with Rocco Baldelli's homer. But the Phillies answered when Pat Burrell led off with a towering double in the seventh. Bruntlett ran for Burrell and moved to third on a ground out.
With a runner on third and one out, Rays manager Joe Maddon chose to have former Oriole Chad Bradford pitch to Feliz instead of walking him to set up a potential double play. The decision backfired.
With the infield playing in, Feliz hit a grounder up the middle and into center field, scoring Bruntlett to make it 4-3.
"He just beat [the ball] up the middle," Maddon said. "I chose to do that and it did not work out."
The rest was left up to the bullpen, which had been the National League's best. Lidge, a postseason goat for the Houston Astros in 2005, picked up his second World Series save.
And Romero, who was released from the Boston Red Sox last year before they won the World Series, threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Romero was emblematic of the 2008 Phillies, a guy who blossomed after being given a second chance by Pat Gillick, the former Orioles general manager who is likely retiring from the same position with the Phillies after this season.
Now, Romero, his teammates and the city of Philadelphia are champions.
"Last season, I was in my house asking God, questioning him, 'Why me? Why didn't this happen to me,' " Romero said, eyes welling with tears. "But I always believed that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and God wanted me to be here with the Philadelphia Phillies. I am here and I was a big part of this victory."