Stadium fan groups are something we just don’t see too much anymore. Prior to the opening of Citizens Bank Park, they were fairly numerous at the vet. Cheap, widely available tickets combined with mediocre Phillies teams in the late 90’s and early 2000’s led to the rise of player fan groups. These groups featured fans who would show up to all or most home games – typically in the nosebleeds of the nosebleeds – with a banner and some sort of gimmick in support of a player.
They existed prior to this time period and they can still be seen from time to time (shoutout Ruppie’s Puppies). However, player fan groups are something that Phillies fans more or less haven’t seen since 2006 or so. The 08′ World Series win and subsequent franchise golden run drove ticket prices up and led to a decline in fan groups.
Who knows if this phenomenon will make a wide scale comeback or not. On one hand, modern ballparks have less capacity. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see tickets in hot dog packages again, seeing as how ballparks post vet-era lack that sketchy, deserted upper deck. On the other hand, third party ticket resale has led to cheaper tickets than ever, depending on circumstance.
If I had to gamble on ballpark fan groups making a comeback, I’d put my money on yes. Who knows when it will be, but I bet there will be a renaissance of player based fan groups at some point. In the clout chasing era, it’s inevitable.
Until then, we can take a look at four of the most memorable Phillies fan groups from the early 2000’s.
The Padilla Flotilla
Vicente Padilla spent parts of six seasons with the Phillies from 2000 through 2005. He was acquired via the Curt Schilling deal with the Diamondbacks in 2000. A 2002 All Star appearance was the highlight of what was a largely average Phillies run for Padilla.
Average players are the basis for the best fan groups, however, and Padilla is no exception. The “Padilla Flotilla” is arguably the best fan group name in Philles history and their presence close to the rafters of the vet basically sums up this era of Phillies baseball. This fan group is also one of the few that made the jump from the vet to Citizens Bank Park, which is an impressive distinction.
Not sure how the sombrero’s would play in the era of woke Twitter and Karens, though.
One fan group etched into Phillies lure is “Howard’s Homers”. These guys could be found in the 400 level of CBP during Ryan Howard’s 2006 MVP campaign.
Donning Homer Simpson masks, the group was featured prominently when Ryan Howard hit three consecutive home-runs on September 30, 2006. Harry Kalas had the call when Howard clubbed home-runs numbered 50, 51 and 52 on the season. After each home run, the broadcast panned to Howard’s homers. A kid in the group had a shirt for numbers 50 and 51, which Harry and LA (yeah, that was a pairing once upon a time), found amusing.
“Sal’s Pals” made Sal Fasano’s half season stint as the back-up catcher quite the memorable one. This group seemed to be present at all or most home games during the 2006 season and were absolutely unrelenting in their support for Sal Fasano and his insanely bold mullet/goatee combo. They’d go absolutely nuts over any Fasano contribution while rocking the look to every game.
In fact, 14 years ago to this day, the Phillies dropped their eighth home-game in ten attempts. This time, the team came up short against Miguel Cabrera and the Florida Marlins. Dan Uggla stole home, which only highlights how miserable this game must’ve been, while the Phillies wasted a solid outing from Jon Lieber. They would ultimately slide to a 6-10 record on the 2006 season.
Fasano had a productive night, however, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. True to their namesake, Sal’s Pals kept the hype alive that night despite the less than ideal atmosphere. As a thank you, Fasano sent pizzas to the right-field fan club mid-game.
Fasano – who is currently the catcher’s coach in the Atlanta Braves organization – was more than fond of the fan club. “Those guys are awesome. (I) kinda wanna have em’ over for dinner, I might have to do that,” he said to Comcast in 2006.
The Wolf Pack
Who could forget “The Wolf Pack”? This Randy Wolf appreciation group came equipped to every Randy Wolf start with their own wolf masks and a signature strikeout dance. Like the Padilla Flotilla, the Wolf Pack made the jump from the Vet to Citizen’s Bank Park.
When you really think about it, these guys had the original dog masks.
The group was started by a family of die-hard Phillies fans, the Wood family, during the 1999 season. “The Phillies stunk in ’99, they were terrible,” Patrick Wood – founding member of the wolf pack – told ESPN’s Amy Nelson in 2009. “We just decided we’re gonna support this guy. My brothers picked up some masks, made a banner that said wolf pack on it. We danced around, had fun and enjoyed it.”
Originally meant to be a one time event, brothers and cousins in the family wanted to join in and the group eventually became a ritual. They were able to find a local warehouse to source the wolf masks year round and even inspired an unaffiliated “Wolf Pack West” in Arizona.
In a tragic turn of events for the Wood family in 2002, Tom Wood, the youngest of 11 children, was killed in a car accident. Stricken with grief, the Wolf Pack attended Wolf’s next start in honor of their brother. Wolf, who had called the hospital to check on Tom’s condition before he passed away, pointed to the Wolf Pack before throwing out the game’s first pitch. The Phillies also ran a tribute video prior to the game.
Randy Wolf attended Tom Wood’s funeral the next day and maintains a special relationship with the Wood family and their friends. The legendary fan group last made an appearance in 2016, when Randy Wolf signed a ceremonial one day contract to retire as a member of the Phillies.