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Top 10 Worst Losing Moments in Philadelphia Sports History: Where Does Phillies' NLDS Collapse Rank?


Top Ten Worst Losing Moments in Philadelphia Sports History

Being a Philadelphia sports fan is a lot like being in a brutal relationship. Just imagine you love your girlfriend or wife to death and they constantly screw you over, yet you for whatever reason continue to love them unconditionally. Rather than come to your senses and leave them, you continue to stick around like an idiot. This is what it's like to be a Philly sports fan more often than not it seems. 

Philly sports is a religion. It's a lifestyle. For many area residents it's as big of a part of our lives as our jobs, families, and friends. Whether you're a hardcore fan or a casual fan there is a common bond, which links Philadelphia area fans together unlike any other region in the nation. You have to from this area to truly understand it. No offense to Boston or Chicago. They have great fans, but aren't on our level.

And of course, we are tortured year after year with amazing choke jobs by our teams. In just the past three years since the Phillies' 2008 World Series Title, we have seen the Eagles blow another NFC Championship game against the Cardinals, Donovan McNabb meltdown against the Cowboys two games in a row (his last two as an Eagle), the Flyers lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Phillies regress the past three years. And, oh yeah the Cardinals pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Major League Baseball history by knocking off the Phillies in the NLDS.

We at Philly2Philly are proud to bring to you our Top Ten Worst Losing Moments in Philadelphia Sports History. Enjoy, or not.....

#10. The Fog Bowl: 1988 Bears-Eagles Playoff Game

the fog bowl

This was the year the Eagles were supposed to make it to the Super Bowl. The game started normally, but as fate would have it - a fog rolled in during the second quarter of the game and limited visibility to 10-20 yards. Thus, "The Fog Bowl" was born. Randall Cunningham finished with over 400 yards passing, but the Eagles lost 20-12 and would never win a playoff game under Buddy Ryan. With one of the most dominant defenses in league history it went to waste as the Eagles not only didn't win a single playoff game during the Ryan regime.




#9. 1981 Eastern Conference Finals: Sixers and Celtics

Larry Bird 1981 Eastern Finals

For many old school 76ers fans, the words "Larry Bird" are synonymous with "F U." Larry Bird had his way with the Sixers during the 1980's as they dispensed of the Sixers on many occasions. The most bitter defeat for the Sixers came in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals as the Celtics rallied back to knock off the 76ers in seven games. The series produced five games which were decided by two points or fewer. The Celtics were down 3-1 in this series, but of course rang off three straight wins to knock off the Sixers in seven. The Sixers lost Games 5 and 6 by two points each, and Larry Bird F'd the Sixers in a big way in Game 7 by knocking down a game-winning shot to win it 91-90.




#8. 1980 NBA Finals: Sixers and Lakers

Magic Johnson 1980 NBA Finals

Once again we feature the Sixers, this time against the Celtics' ultimate rival; The L.A. Lakers. During the 1980 NBA Finals, reigning MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar was dominant for the first five games of the series. However, he suffered a severely sprained ankle in the fifth game. Enter 20-year-old rookie Earvin "Magic" Johnson who stepped up and volunteered to play center in Game 6. What ensued was one of the most dominant performances in NBA playoff history by the rookie "guard." Magic Johnson finished with 42 points and sent the Sixers home. Thus the legend of Magic Johnson began, and the Sixers endured yet another heartbreaking defeat, just a few years removed from their NBA Finals debacle against the Portland Trailblazers. Rumor has it that Johnson found out prior to the game that he was beaten out for the 1979-80 Rookie Of the Year Award by Larry Bird and took his frustrations out on the NBA hardwood. Hey Magic, it's not the Sixers fault you didn't win!




#7. Phillies 1964 Collapse This sucks. Photo: sanftleben.com

I'm sure we'll receive some angry emails because this wasn't listed higher, but with so many brutal disappointments in our history, there's not a whole lot of separation between our Final 7. For many, the Phillies' late-season collapse in 1964 will always be #1. A season that was liek Camelot for Phillies fans turned into a nightmare that this city has still never fully recovered from.

All the pieces were in place for this team to make a surprising but serious run at the National League pennant. Richie Allen spearheaded the team's offense, bringing home Rookie of the Year Award, Johnny Callison was 2nd in the MVP voting and won the All-Star Game with a game-winning walk-off home run, and Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game against the Mets on Father's Day. All was well in Philadelphia. World Series tickets were printed, and the Phillies were on their way.

Then, not only did the roof cave in, but a meteor crashed down and demolished the entire house.

With the Phils up 6 1/2 games with 12 to play, they lost 10 in a row to lose the pennant to the Cardinals (why does that sound so familiar?). Many criticized manager Gene Mauch, who got so desperate near the end that he used Bunning and Chris Short on two days rest while a young right-hander in the minors named Ferguson Jenkins surely could have given them a spot start or two. Others said that the Phillies were playing over their heads all year and that it finally caught up with them during that last week or so. Whether the Phillies would have beaten the Yankees in the World Series is unclear.

Either way, just mention 1964 around Philadelphia. Chances are you won't be talking about the Beatles playing on Ed Sullivan.




#6. Eagles Super Bowl Loss to Patriots- February 2005

Eagles Patriots Super Bowl XXXIX

The Eagles' 2004 season was amazing in so many ways. For years, we were screaming for this team to get an (expletive deleted) playmaker at wide receiver. Well not only did they go out and get one in Terrell Owens, they also got Jevon Kearse to sure up the defense, and they brought back Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas. It was like old times once again with their new elite acquisitions.

The Birds took no prisoners and reeled off a 13-1 start before Owens went down with a broken ankle. He made his valiant return in Super Bowl XXXIX against New England and was the best player on the field - finishing with 9 receptions and 122 yards. Unfortunately, Donovan McNabb threw two costly interceptions (his third was a hail mary) and the defense imploded like a cheap tent in the second half. McNabb will forever be known for his "puking incident" and the atrocious clock management in the final five minutes. Despite a touchdown pass to Greg Lewis, the Eagles squandered far too much time and the Patriots hung on to win 24-21. This would turn out to be the first and last Super Bowl appearance during the failed Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era.

#5. 2000 NHL Eastern Conference Finals Game 7- Flyers vs Devils

Eric Lindros knocked out game 6 2000 conference finals

The story of the 1999-2000 Philadelphia Flyers has to be one of the more tragic seasons in the history of Philadelphia sports. There were problems on and off the ice, as well as discord amongst management, coaches, and players. A few years later, one of the participants involved even passed away.

Not only did this game devastate the Philly fanbase, it symbolized the end of the Flyers' run as well as the Lindros era in Philadelphia. To top it off, it marked the beginning of an ugly chapter in Flyers history. GM Bobby Clarke and Lindros' disgusting feud officially kicked into high gear, and tragically, head coach Roger Neilson (who was fighting a battle with cancer he would ultimately lose) was watching the game from the press box. Cancer would later claim Neilson in 2003.

For the second time in six seasons, the Flyers faced off against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers dropped the first game to New Jersey, but then rang up three straight victories to take a commanding three games to one series lead. Despite the return of much maligned Flyer Eric Lindros, the Devils tied the series at three games a piece, setting the stage for a dramatic 'winner takes all' Game 7 in Philadelphia.

The tone of this game was set from the start when Lindros was knocked out of the game with a concussion by Scott Stevens. Lindros was carried off the ice, never to play for the Flyers again. The Flyers wound up losing the game 2-1 on a late third period goal by Patrik Elias as well as the series in seven games. And in customary fashion, the team which knocked a Philly team out of the playoffs went on to win the whole thing. This was the Devils' second Stanley Cup since 1995. As for the Flyers...well they are still without a Stanley Cup since 1975.



#4 Black Friday 1977  (helping out for #4,3, and 2: pinch hitter Joe Vallee)1977 NLCS

Until last Friday night, "Black Friday" in 1977 was seen by many as the worst loss in Phillies' history. And it's kind of odd that 34 years to the day, "Black Friday Part II" reared its ugly head, but more on that later.

The juggernaut Phillies, who won a then-franchise record 101 games in 1977, faced off against the Dodgers in the NLCS. After splitting the first two games, the series shifted to Philadelphia, where the Phillies proceeded to rattle Dodgers starter Burt Hooten so badly he folded like a deck of cards and was basically booed off the mound. The Phillies entered the 9th inning with a 5-3 lead. Three more outs, and they would take a 2-1 series lead. With Steve Carlton set to pitch Saturday night for Game 4, a World Series berth seemed like a sure thing.

What transpired next was arguably the most heartbreaking half inning in Phillies history. And a disputable call, whether it was right or wrong, influenced the outcome of an entire season.  

Phils reliever Gene Garber got two quick outs. Then aging Vic Davalillo (think of the 'old' jokes we use for Jamie Moyer), who was playing in the Mexican League earlier that season, beat out an 0-2 drag bunt. Then Garber got two strikes on a 'slightly' younger Manny Mota. Not known for any type of power, Mota took Garber deep to the warning track in left field, where an inept Greg Luzinski trapped the ball against the fence. When he throws the ball into second base, it gets past Ted Sizemore and Davillio scores. 5-4.

Next former Phillies coach Davey Lopes hits a screamer of Mike Schmidt's foot at third base. Larry Bowa makes the most unbelievable recovery and throws to Richie Hebner at first to retire Lopes and end the game.

Or so the entire Delaware Valley thought.

Umpire Bruce Froemming called Lopes safe. Hebner and Sizemore go bat-sh*t crazy, and rightfully so. Replays showed that Lopes, a speed demon, was out. Mota scores. 5-5.

An errant pickoff attempt by Garber sends Lopes to second base, and a single by Bill Russell scores Lopes. Phillies go down in order in the 9th and lose the game, 6-5.

The fact that Greg Luzinski was even in the game will be forever disputed, as Jerry Martin was his defensive replacement during the season and most likely would have made a clean grab of Mota's long drive.

The Phillies never recovered, and in a rain-drenched game that should never have been even played, Tommy John beat Carlton the next night 4-1, and the Dodgers were on their way to face the Yankees in the World Series. 

#3. 1993 World Series Game 6: Phillies vs Blue Jays

Joe Carter 1993 World Series Game 6

The Phillies' magical 1993 season was by definition lightning in a bottle. They were perennial bottom feeders in the National League and came out of nowhere to win the NL pennant and take on the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. One of the common themes of our beloved teams is that they run out of gas when it counts. The 1993 Phillies hung with the Blue Jays in the first two games by knotting the series up 1-1 before heading home to Philly. The Phillies only took one out of three at home and found themselves in a 3-2 hole before going back to Toronto. They hung in there during Game 6 after trailing late in the game, but Pete Incaviglia's sacrifice fly gave the Phils a 6-5 lead as they entered the 9th inning. Three more outs, and this series would be tied.

Enter Mitch Williams

To his credit, 'Wild Thing' was out of gas, everybody knew it, but he was still man enough to take the ball. There is speculation as to why exactly nobody else was used out of the bullpen, but Williams never hesitated. We all know how this one wound up. Hell, I knew how it was going to wind up when his warmup pitches were hitting the backstop.

Rickey Henderson walked, Paul Molitor singled, and Joe Carter gave the Jays their second straight championship. That whole season (and I saw almost every inning of every game) flashed before my very eyes. You know why there is no video of this on here? To this day, I STILL haven't watched the entire replay of what happened. 

Nonetheless, Philadelphia's title drought continued.

#2. 2011 NLDS Game 5: Phillies vs CardinalsTo say that things have been going downhill for Ryan Howard since the 2009 World Series is a vast understatement.

The Phillies' recent Game 5 collapse against the St. Louis Cardinals comes in at #2. That's how significant this loss was. This team won 102 games and couldn't even manage one run in their most important game of the season. All the good will surrounding this Phillies team since 2007 was severely dented last Friday, as it should be. For the first time in a long time, we are reminded that the baseball Gods are not fans of the Phightins. We're not talking much about this. You just lived this nightmare. You know what went down....

Ryan Howard's season-ending/series-ending groundout and subsequent blown achilles tendon is to the Flyers season what Eric Lindros' brutal concussion was to the 2000 Flyers. The Phillies organization won't be the same again. They'll most likely be competitive, but too many new faces will adorn their clubhouse next year. This team could have been the greatest of all Philly teams. They were heavily favored heading into the series against St. Louis and came up emptier in Game 5 then Fredo in Godfather II.

#1. 2003 NFC Championship: Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronde Barber 2003 NFC Championship

When you consider the enormity of the Eagles' choke job against Tampa Bay in the 2003 NFC Championship, this is the clear-cut #1. Most people in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region were celebrating the Eagles' NFC Championship victory before this game was even played. Once they knocked off the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Divisonal Playoff game, our tickets were being punched to San Diego for Super Bowl XXXVII. The Eagles owned the Bucs in the playoffs. And, prior to the 2002 regular season, Tampa Bay had NEVER won a game which was played in temps below 40 degrees. Moreover, it was the final game at the Vet. What a better sendoff then an obvious Eagles victory.

When Brian Mitchell returned the opening kickoff 70 yards, this looked like an easy victory. Duce Staley went up the gut for a TD and victory was just 3 hours away. This would turn out to be the Eagles' only touchdown on the afternoon as they were thoroughly dominated and humiliated for the remainder of the game. The result was a 27-10 Tampa Bay victory. The image of Ronde Barber returning Donovan McNabb's pass in the waning moments will forever be burned in our minds.

The Bucs would go on to demolish the Raiders in the Super Bowl. This truly was the year the Eagles should have and could have won a Super Bowl. And, it will go down as the worst loss in Philadelphia history...until one of our teams manages to outdo the 2002-2003 Eagles for Philadelphia Choking Supremecy.

Honorable Mention: Super Bowl XV- Eagles-Raiders, 2010 NLCS- Phillies-GIants, 2001 NBA Finals Sixers-Lakers, 2004 NFC Championship Eagles-Panthers, 2010 Stanley Cup Finals Flyers-Blackhawks

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo Credits:

The Fog Bowl - espn.com

Larry Bird during 1981 Eastern Conference Finals - sportsthenandnow.com

Magic Johnson during 1980 NBA Finals - nba.com

1964 pic- sanftleben.com

XXXIX Super Bowl - boston.com

Eric Lindros knocked out - dphockey.com

Joe Carter 1993 Game 6 photo - astropix.com