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Crowd gathers for rally in Philadelphia

Fans gather for rally in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- Almost two weeks have passed since the Phillies' most recent home game, and three days still remain before the National League champs will return to town.

But thousands of Phillies fans gathered outside City Hall on Wednesday afternoon got a preview of how loud it will be in Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night, when the World Series makes its first Philly appearance in 15 years.

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The team's public address announcer, Dan Baker, read Game 3's projected starting lineup the same way he plans to read it on Saturday night -- starting with shortstop Jimmy Rollins and ending with pitcher Jamie Moyer. The crowd of Phillies fans cheered with the reading of each name.
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"We have a great baseball team," Baker said, "and a great chance to end the 25-year drought of professional sports championships."

Philadelphia, of course, hasn't experienced one of its teams capturing a title since the 1983 Sixers won the NBA crown.

But the city's hunger for its next championship showed on Wednesday. Red-and-white clad Phillies fans filled Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall, gathering around a stage that sat below a huge inflatable Phillies jersey. A worker passing out rally towels was mobbed by dozens of fans and nearly knocked over.

Some had come bearing home-made signs that proclaimed the Phillies champions of the National League. Others were city employees, making their way out of City Hall to see what all the fuss was about.

All of them booed at any mention of the Phillies' World Series opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays.

"The American League champion Rays are a very good baseball team," Baker said. "But they're not the best. I think we know who is."

Mayor Michael Nutter also took the stage to encourage the crowd. On Friday, the mayor said, all city employees can wear jeans to work -- as long as they also remember to wear their Phillies gear. Nutter encouraged all employers around the area to extend the same offer to their employees.

"We need to take this excitement, and make sure the Phillies hear about it down in Florida," the mayor said.

The Phillies have yet to lose a postseason game at home. They beat the Brewers twice at Citizens Bank Park in the National League Division Series and defeated the Dodgers at home twice in the NL Championship Series.

If Wednesday's rally is any indication, the Phils will have an even more intense crowd on hand Saturday night.

"What do you say we keep it that way for Tampa Bay in the World Series?" Baker said. "All you fans have to do is be yourselves -- loyal, supportive, loud and absolutely wonderful. I have a feeling the Phillies will do their part."

Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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