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Depending on the situation, Philadelphia fans can either embrace or vilify their pro athletes.

Maybe the key to figuring out Philadelphia sports fans is to understand that it's not personal.

Nearly every high-profile sports figure in this 326-year-old city - from Charles Barkley to Randall Cunningham to Eric Lindros to Donovan McNabb to Allen Iverson - has spent time being vilified. But that's what happens when you expect the most out of your athletes.

The early morning talk usually has to do with the back page headline of the Daily News, and they flood the phone lines of the talk-radio stations on the drive home. They are always heard - one way or another.

They threw D batteries at J.D. Drew, who still hasn't been forgiven for snubbing the Phillies after they drafted him. They loved Scott Rolen. But when he said he didn't want to play in Philly anymore, he was dead to them. And most Phillies fans believed they could do a better job than former general manager Ed Wade.

As the World Series shifts to Citizens Bank Park for Game 3, we talked to some who know firsthand what it is like playing in the City of Brotherly Love.

Sarge made fans forget Bull after boos

When Gary Matthews arrived from Atlanta in 1981, he replaced fan favorite Greg Luzinski. And Luzinski he was not. Luzinski, nicknamed "The Bull," was a 255-pound slugger who was adored in Philly, and Matthews, nicknamed "Sarge," was a new face after the team won its only World Series in 1980.

He didn't get much fan support early on.

"I got the boos for the first week and a half," said Matthews, now a Phillies broadcaster. "But I just said, 'Sooner or later, they'll come on my side.'"

When did he know he had won them over?

"When you start hitting that ball," said Matthews, who would play for one NL champion in three years in Philly. "They are very tough fans, but they are very appreciative fans.

"(Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins) made a comment earlier that they're front-runners. They're not front-runners because they come out. Front-runners are fans that only come out when you win. They come out whether you win or lose, but they will boo if you're not doing your job."

Pitch to pitch

Philly fans have forgiven Mitch Williams. The closer offered up Joe Carter's homer that won the 1993 World Series. But Thursday before Game 2, Phillies fans behind the Trop's visiting dugout yelled, "We love you, Mitch!"

Williams, the fastballer dubbed "Wild Thing," fit the Phillies' long-haired, gruff-faced, outlaw mentality of the 1993 NL title team. He was sometime erratic with his control, and his nutty persona fit Philadelphia well.

But for Williams, acceptance wavered.

"I got booed on a pitch-to-pitch basis in that town," said Williams, now a Phillies analyst. "Ball 1: Boo. Strike 1: Yay. When you give them something to cheer about, they are the loudest fans in the country. But if go out there and you don't perform well and you expect to get cheered for it, you're definitely in the wrong city."

And if the Phillies win the Series?

"There would be national footage of how many people show up," Williams said. "There will be over a million people at that parade. It will be shocking to people."

Front and center

For left-hander Jamie Moyer, playing in his first Series at age 45, it is coming full circle.

He grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Souderton and as a teenager watched fans fill downtown streets and climb trees and light poles to watch the 1980 World Series victory parade.

But even Moyer, asked if he has an internal understanding of Phillies fans, said, picking his words thoughtfully: "I don't know if you can really understand the Philly fans, and I don't mean that in a disrespectful way. They all kind of go in the wrong direction with things sometimes, but it's all good. Right now, it's an exciting time for everybody."

Trying to understand

Rays TV in-game reporter Todd Kalas grew up in Philadelphia as the son of legendary Phillies radio announcer Harry Kalas.

"It took me a little while as a kid growing up to understand what the Philly fan was about," Kalas said. "I remember Mike Schmidt was one of my two favorite players growing up. And his rookie year, he's hitting .196 and striking out a lot, and the fans were killing him.

"And the next year, he got better and better and better. And I'm like, 'You shouldn't be cheering for him. You just booed him when he was a rookie.' But that's what they are. They love their team. They expect a lot of your team. And if you give them an effort, they're with you 100 percent.

"It's a group of fans that on occasion will get on their players, but they love them to death. And if another team wants to get on their players, they'll defend them to the hill."