PHILADELPHIA – Never known as lovable losers, cursed, or even affectionately as bums, the Philadelphia Phillies have long held a more pitiable title: The losingest team in sports.
From the Baker Bowl to Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium to the Vet and Citizens Bank Park, futility has tailed them like the sound of boos that echo throughout Philly for the disheartenment of every September collapse, every last-place finish, every near miss.
No team has lost quite like the Phillies. Now, make it 10,000 times.
Bad starting pitching, brutal relief, hardly any hitting, it was all in there in Sunday's milestone loss. Albert Pujols hit two of the St. Louis Cardinals' six homers in a 10-2 rout.
"I don't really care about it," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We haven't been really talking about it. Our players haven't been talking about it."
Maybe there wasn't much chatter in the clubhouse, but the fans jumped all over the ugly number. They started Web sites that counted down to 10,000, blogged about the memorable defeats and brought signs to the game that poked fun at the unimaginable number.
By the ninth inning, fans in the sellout crowd of 44,872 thumbed their noses at the dubious mark, standing and applauding. Camera flashes went off all around the park, trying to record the final pitch as NL MVP Ryan Howard struck out to end the game.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made sure to snag the ball and said he would auction it off for charity.
"That ball is history," he said. "It's nothing to be ashamed about."
Maybe not. But only one World Series championship (1980) in 125 years has long brought that feeling to the fans in a city way too familiar with losing.
The Phillies have had few moments to celebrate. The franchise, born in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers and briefly called the Blue Jays in the mid-1940s, fell to 8,810-10,000.
Next on the losing list: the Braves, with 9,681 defeats. It took them stints in three cities (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta) to reach that total. Not even those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, come close at 9,425.
And for those counting, it was the 58th time the Phillies have lost by that exact 10-2 score, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
The Phillies avoided the milestone for three games, but the Cardinals — the team that caught them 43 years ago for the NL pennant in one of the biggest collapses in baseball history — beat Philadelphia one more time.
All that mattered to the Phillies was winning the series, 2-1.
"It doesn't matter one way or the other to all the guys in here," All-Star center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "The guys in here weren't responsible for 10,000 losses, so what does it really matter to us?"
It hasn't been all bad for the Phillies. They've had their share of highlights and Hall of Famers: Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn.
They haven't lost 100 games since 1961, and they won the NL East three straight years from 1976-78 behind Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Larry Bowa. Philadelphia lost the World Series in 1983 and 1993, though it hasn't returned to the playoffs since Joe Carter's homer won the 1993 World Series for Toronto.
"I think they need to forget about it and move forward," said Greg Luzinski, the starting left fielder for the 1980 team.
After combining for 23 runs and 37 hits in the first two games of the series, the Phillies were held in check by Adam Wainwright (8-7). He threw seven shutout innings against the highest-scoring team in the National League.
Philadelphia, with a 46-45 record this year, fell five games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
The Phillies blew their chance to push back No. 10,000 until their seven-game West Coast road trip when even the die-hards would have trouble staying awake to watch it.
Pujols hit a two-run shot in the fifth off Adam Eaton (8-6) that was followed by Chris Duncan's 17th of the year for a 6-0 lead. Pujols, Juan Encarnacion and Adam Kennedy each homered in the seventh. Ryan Ludwick added a solo shot in the eighth to make it 10-0.
Philadelphia broke up the shutout in the ninth when Michael Bourn hit his first major league homer.
The players were at least glad they no longer have to answer questions about 10,000.
"Oh, we were so stressed about it," Eaton cracked.
Every true fan knows of the infamous 1964 collapse when the Phillies held a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play, only to blow the NL title by losing 10 straight. The Cardinals won the pennant by one game.
The Phillies had a big head start in earning this ignominious mark: They played their first game on May 1, 1883, against the Providence Grays. Of course, the Quakers lost 4-3 to Old Hoss Radbourn and started 0-8. They went on to lose 81 of 98 games in their inaugural season.
"I've been involved in over 2,900 of them, but I've also seen a lot of wins during that time," Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas said.