Baseball fans, at least the knowledgeable ones, approached the season in Philadelphia with the realization that this would be a long summer. Most people predicted that the Philadelphia Phillies would finish last and most Philadelphians, deep down in their hearts, believed in the prognostications.
Then suddenly the Philadelphia Little League team, the Taney Dragons, grabbed the middle of the summer and surprisingly made it one of the best baseball seasons ever in the city, including the 1980 and 2008 World Championships.
Somewhere in July, stories started appearing in the back section of the Philadelphia papers about a Little League team from “Center City Philadelphia” good enough to win the districts. A lot of people did not even know little league was being played in downtown Philadelphia, let alone at such a high level. That was a nice little story, but most people thought it would go no further. Then more stories appeared about the team going to the regionals and, at the end of one of the stories, it was noted the team that won the regionals would “advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.” That got a few hairs to stand on the back of some necks.
More than that, though, the star pitcher of the team was an unflappable girl, Mo’ne Davis, who was as up to the big moments as the rest of her teammates were. When her 8-0 shutout over a Delaware team that made the LLWS last year happened, an entire city and suburbs believed. For her part in this drama, Davis brought the nation on the Taney bandwagon and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Taney beat Tennessee and Texas, handing Texas its first loss after 14 straight wins to get to Williamsport, and the thought entered into the minds of people that winning it all could happen. It didn’t, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that Taney was one of 7,000 U.S. teams that started with the same dream and finished No. 3 of 7,000. “I thanked them for the best summer of my life,” head coach Alex Rice said.
He was speaking for every baseball fan in the city.