Philadelphia Phillies: Top 5 Rivals in Franchise History
The evolution of a rivalry is often the result of two successful teams. Because the Phillies’ have played through over 10,000 losses, there are few rivalries that have existed continuously over time.
But over the Phillies’ past century of existence, the team has built up its share of enemies.
Here are the top five rivals in Phillies' history.
5. New York Mets
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The rivalry between New York progressed in 2007, when Jimmy Rollins predicted his team to defeat the Mets in the division race. When the Mets blew a 7.5 game lead with just 17 games left in the season, Rollins’ prediction proved accurate. The Phillies, who had not won the division since 1993, have not relinquished their hold of the NL East since. During that time, the Mets have been in a downward spiral, which has seemingly diminished the rivalry. But for two straight years, it was one of the best in all of baseball.
However, this has always seemed like more of a rivalry for the fans, rather than the players. The close proximity of the ballparks allows for easy travel for fans to visit their team on the road, often causing fights, outbursts, and brawls in the stands.
With the Mets and the Phils playing each other 18 times per season, all it will take is one good year from both clubs to reinvigorate this rivalry once more.
4. San Francisco Giants
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This is the newest formed rivalry for the Phillies, but it has been in the making for quite some time
It all really started with a growing tension between Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and Chase Utley, involving a few hit by pitches and a home run.
But it wasn’t until last year’s National League Championship Series that this thing began to really take shape. Benches cleared in Game 6 last year, and a brawl was narrowly avoided.
This year, Manuel and Lincecum had a war-of-words, in which Manuel called the Giants staff “good, not great.” Lincecum took offense.
The next series featured a fairly significant fight, which was the result of Shane Victorino being intentionally, or “unintentionally” if you believe the Giants, hit by a pitch.
Right now, these two teams are considered the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. This rivalry is far from over.
3. Philadelphia Athletics
When the Oakland Athletics played in Philadelphia, the Phillies were considered major rivals with them. The City Series, as it was called, took place every year from 1903 until 1955 (240 games) when the A’s moved to Kansas City.
Although interleague play has brought back competition between the two clubs during the regular season every few years, after nearly half a century of a hiatus, the spark was already dead. Unfortunately, this is one rivalry that is, most likely, gone for good.
2. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are one team Phillies fans love to hate.
Despite the Phils being huge underdogs in the 1993 NLCS, they were able to defeat Atlanta in six games.
That particular group of players couldn’t stand the Braves. At one point in the series (as shown on the official Phillies documentary of the '93 season), Larry Anderson was caught in a war-of-words with some young Atlanta fans, mockingly and repeatedly yelling out, “the Braves are gonna lose” and "we're gonna kill 'em," seen at the end of this video. It was one of the funnier moments of an intense, and bitter series fight for the pennant.
The division foes have become even bigger rivals since re-alignment in 1994, and today, the rivalry continues. The Braves and the Phils are the two best teams in the division, and could very well meet for a NLCS rematch in this year’s postseason.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
It used to be one of the best in the game.
Today, many fans don’t even know it existed. But it did. And at one point, it was huge.
Both teams were around before 1900, but the rivalry really didn’t begin to form until the 1970s, a time when both teams were big-time competitors in the National League. Nine of the 10 NL East titles in the decade went to either the Philles or the Pirates. Those titles led to three pennants, two for the Bucs, one for the Phillies, all of which resulted in World Series championships.
The rivalry has featured several brawls, fights, and skirmishes over its history.
Former Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa recalls the rivalry being enormously intense.
“Every game had a playoff atmosphere. Every year there was going to be a bench-clearing brawl,” he said. “There were never any warnings from umpires in those days; you just took care of those things yourself. They had old school guys and we did, too.”
One of the most memorable brawls occurred in 1980, after multiple hit batsmen from both sides. Former manager Dallas Green called it “one of the best fight’s I’ve ever seen.”
Other notable moments in the rivalry include Mike Schmidt’s 500th home run in Pittsburgh and the Phillies ten-run comeback in 1989, in which Pirates broadcaster Jim Rooker vowed to “walk home” if his team lost the game. Rooker had to make good on his vow, making the 300-mile walk from Philly to Pittsburgh after the season was over.
The re-alignment of the divisions pushed the Pirates to the NL Central in 1994, effectively ending what was left of the rivalry.
Perhaps someday, the Pirates can return to the Eastern Division. Pirates President Frank Coonelly says he wants it. Phillies chairman Bill Giles has said he believes the Pirates belong in the East as well. If they do end up returning in the future, one of the best rivalries of all time will have a chance to be reborn. That’s undoubtedly a win-win for the Phillies, the Pirates, and baseball itself.