Philadelphia is currently in a lull. With the Flyers looking less and less like a playoff squad, the Phillies expected to lose possibly 100 games and the Eagles seemingly in chaos, it’s an interesting time to be a fan in area.
So it’s bad. No one would argue otherwise. But would a fan rather experience heart break and a close call than a rebuild?
The four current teams are looking toward the future, challenging fans to ponder who will write the next meaningful chapter in our historic sports ledger.
But there were several titles that almost were, and then suddenly weren’t. There were also teams that are ingrained in our collective sports memory but have no banner in the Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field or Citizen’s Bank Park.
While suffering through these lean times, lets pause to look back at some of the city’s best teams never to win a championship.
(Note: our list focuses on teams that didn’t eventually win a title, for example, the 2009 Phillies do not make the list since the 2008 team won the World Series)
The skinny: 97-65, lost World Series in 6 games to Blue Jays
The most memorable players: Curt Schilling, Tommy Greene, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Darren Daulton
The story: They were picked to finish last, and they finished first. The 1993 Phillies held the NL East lead every single day of the season and earned Philly’s affection thanks to their shaggy appearance and hard-nosed style of play.
The Phillies beat the Braves in six games to reach the World Series but fell into a 3-1 deficit in games to the Blue Jays. In a memorable Game 5, the Phillies made it a series again when Schilling shut down the Toronto offense allowing just five hits in a 2-0 shutout win.
Two days later, with confidence and a one-run lead, Mitch Williams took the mound and relented a three-run homer to Joe Carter that broke Philly’s heart and gave the Blue Jays the first of back-to-back championships. The Phillies wouldn’t return to the playoffs for 14 seasons.
The skinny: 45-24-13, Swept in Stanley Cup Final by Red Wings
The most memorable players: Paul Coffey, John LeClair, Eric Lindros, Eric Desjardins, Shion Podein, Mikael Renberg
The story: This team, boasting the Legion of Doom line (which scored 16 points on Feb 6, 1997) deserved a better fate.
Led by 50 goals and 47 assists from LeClair and 31 wins fromveteran goalie RonHextall, the Flyers’ high-powered offense tore through NHL defenses.
They appeared like they would tear through the playoffs as well, beating the Penguins, Sabres and Rangers in succession by margins of 4-games-to-1 respectively.
But the Red Wings awaited in the Stanley Cup Finals, and dominated Philadelphia in nearly every aspect of the game. They would return next to the finals in 2010 when they lost to the Blackhawks in six games.
The Skinny: 13-3, lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots
The most memorable players: Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Jevon Kearse, Terrell Owens
The story: It was the climax of the Andy Reid and McNabb era, one of the best periods of football in Philadelphia history. After three straight NFC title game losses, the Birds inked Owens and Kearse and breezed through the regular season and fist two rounds of the playoffs. They beat the Vikings and Michael Vick’s Falcons in the NFC title game en route to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville where they would face a budding dynasty in the Patriots, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
As everyone recalls, Philly cut a 24-14 deficit to just three points on an urgency-lacking drive that saw McNabb find Greg Lewis for a 30-yard touchdown, but with 46 seconds left they weren’t able to go the length of the field to get a game-tying field goal.
The skinny: 46-26-8, lost Stanley Cup Finals in 7 games to Oilers
The most memorable players: Ron Hextall, Dave Poulin, Mark Howe, Peter Zezel, Tim Kerr
The story: The Flyers of the mid 80’s were a solid contender nearly every season of the decade. The team lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1980, 1985 and 1987 and won their division four out of five years from 1984-85 through 1986-87.
The reason the team in 1987 gets the nod for our list is that it truly was a near miss. After losing to the Oilers in five games in 1985, rookie goalie Hextall helped lead the team to a rematch two years later. They closed a 2-0 gap to eventually tie the playoff series at 3-games apiece and had a 1-0 lead after Murray Craven scored an early power play goal. But the team would relent three straight scores to Edmonton, and despite 40 saves from Hextall they fell 3-1.
The skinny: 12-4, lost Super Bowl XV to the Raiders
The most memorable players: Ron Jaworski, Wilbert Montgomery, Harold Carmichael
The story: The Eagles have only played in two of 50 Super Bowls, both losses. The first came in 1980, when the Dick Vermeil-led Birds won their first NFC East title and dismantled the Vikings and Cowboys en route to the big game. The Dallas win is particularly memorable, as it came at Veterans Stadium with a wind chill of -3 degrees on that good ole’ rock-solid AstroTurf.
In the Super Bowl, the Eagles fell behind by two touchdowns early and never recovered as Jim Plunkett tossed three touchdown passes at the Superdome.
The skinny: 56-26, Lost NBA Finals in five games to the Lakers
The most memorable players: Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, Aaron Mckie
The story: The 76ers ran away with the Eastern Conference and also nearly swept the season-ending awards, with Iverson taking MVP honors, Mckie Sixth Man of the Year, Larry Brown coach of the year and Mutombo Defensive player of the year.
Individual accolades aside, this Sixers team had the city electrified, led by AI who averaged 31.1 points per game. They stole Game 1 in LA in overtime (Iverson scored 48 points) before returning home with the series tied at one-apiece. But they were unable to use their home court advantage or solve Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant as the Lakers won four games in a row to clinch a title. The 76ers would not return to the finals again.