The wolfman mask is retired. Even without a costume, one of the founding fathers of the Wolf Pack — a band of Philadelphia Phillies fans that once commandeered a section of cheap seats at the Vet — still roots for his favorite team from a considerable distance.
Patrick Wood slipped a bartender “a Euro or two” inside a raucous rugby Irish pub in Vienna around 11 p.m. local time, and soon one TV was flipped to a Phillies playoff game. The longer Wood and a buddy stuck around to watch, the more the beer drinkers and rugby fanatics that stayed deep into the night became absorbed by Phillies baseball.
Kind of like back home.
Wood, his brothers and cousins once formed one of Philly’s favorite fan clubs, howling, dancing, pumping their arms from section 739 — in 2023 jargon, about a Schwarbomb and a half from the plate — at the cold, concrete cookie cutter known as Veterans Stadium. The seasons were lean in Philly around the turn of the century — consider, a nondescript lefty named Randy Wolf was their conquering hero — and attendance was sparse.
“Like an Eastern European town stadium prior the end of the Cold War,” Wood said.
The October nights in South Philadelphia these days are more like an endless Mardi Gras. Only it’s the kind of rave thrown inside a construction zone. It’s loud. Like standing next to a jackhammer loud. Angus Young guitar solo loud.
“AC/DC concert level,” Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said.
Fans cheer before Game 1 of the baseball NL Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks in Philadelphia, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Phillies manager Rob Thomson said a rival coach told him last season that a playoff game in Philly was “four hours of hell.” Backed by packed houses at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies have sent teams on a figurative highway to one with six wins at home this postseason. That stands as an unfortunate harbinger for Arizona to overcome with its season on the line Monday in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.
“Look, we could be playing on the moon. Everybody is talking about coming into this environment,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said, “and I don’t care.”
Maybe so, but bedlam created by 45,000 fans can shift momentum — that mythical, intangible force that can turn an inning, a game, a series, permanently toward one side — has worked pretty well for the Phillies the last two Octobers.
The Phillies win on a heavy dose of both power at the plate and of positivity.