Before Game Six of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero wrote on the board of the team's locker room, "Win together today and we walk together forever."
I was five months old. Cole Hamels, as my dad likes to say, wasn't even a gleam in his father's eye.
Monday, Cole Hamels has the chance to pitch himself into Philadelphia sports history.
The ace of the Phillies' staff is 4-0 this postseason, with an ERA under two. His team is 6-0 at home, leads the Tampa Bay Rays three games to one, and seeks to clinch its first World Series Championship in 28 years.
More than a generation of Phillies fans have grown up never knowing what it feels like to win a championship. In fact, most generations have grown up never knowing that sensation.
The franchise, founded in 1883, the one that just observed it's 10,000th loss, is now just 27 outs from only its second World Series title. That 1980 team is practically revered in Philadelphia, its cast of champions rolling easily off the lips of everyone from casual fans to 700-level die-hards.
One-hundred twenty-five years of history, and only one title to show for it. Only one team walking alone.
But now, a new cast of characters stands poised to make history of their own. A young nucleus, built over time, with key veteran additions—just like before.
Lesser teams over the years have wilted from the pressure of performing in Philadelphia. Just ask this year's Chicago Cubs how the weight of expectation can crush postseason aspirations.
But this team doesn't seem to mind the spotlight. In fact, it seems to relish its role, determined to claim its stake in history.
Twenty-five years have passed since any team in Philadelphia (MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL) has brought home a title. A quarter century of near-misses, heartache, and despair. The 76ers were the last to do it (1983). The Eagles were the most recent to come close (2004). The Flyers have had the most chances (1985, 1987, 1997).
Over the years, we've had our supposed heroes. You know the ones that were sure to end the drought for the city and its fans. Ones that still have a place in Philly fans' hearts in one form or another:
Randall Cunningham. Eric Lindros. Curt Schilling. Donovan McNabb. Peter Forsberg. Allen Iverson. Scott Rolen. All good players in Philadelphia. None were able to bring it home.
Now a 24-year-old, left-handed ace from southern California takes the mound with a chance to make history in the biggest game of his short career, and with him go the hopes and dreams of legions of Philadelphia fans. The atmosphere will be electric, the stadium rising and falling with every pitch, every at-bat.
Twenty-five men, only 27 outs away from ending 25 years of futility.
And together they will walk forever.