Phillies, fans celebrate Howard in his last game

100216_ryan-howard_1200
Ryan Howard acknowledges the cheers of the fans raining down on him at Citizens Bank Park.

They handed Ryan Howard a microphone, and he scanned the ballpark full of standing people. "Ladies and gentlemen," Dan Baker said, "number six, Ryan Howard!" The first baseman held the microphone in his right hand before a 5-2 Phillies win over New York ended the season.

"Oh man," Howard said. He could not speak yet. "This is crazy," he said, and it sure was something. Howard is not retiring. He, technically, is under contract for 2017 until the Phillies pay him $10 million to leave. He did not want this ceremony at Citizens Bank Park; in recent weeks Howard shunned sentimentality because he does not view this as the end. He wants to play next season. But it will not be in Philadelphia, so that had to be recognized.

"Looking at the video and having all of those memories coming back can hit you all at once," Howard said after the game, with his young daughter, Ariana, on his lap during a news conference. "It's crazy."

Howard, during the emotional 15-minute ceremony, held back tears. His 15-year-old son, Darian, stood in Section 145 to unveil a plaque commemorating where his father's team-record 58th homer landed in 2006. John Middleton and David Montgomery presented Howard with a hand-painted glove. A video of highlights played to a Mariah Carey soundtrack.

And, then, he spoke.

Howard, 36, thanked the fans. "We had some good runs, didn't we?" he said. He thanked the Phillies for drafting him in the fifth round out of a small college. The words became harder and harder.

Poll

Should the Phillies retire Ryan Howard's number?

"This city as a whole, man," Howard said. "I want to thank you because I've grown with all of you."

His voice cracked. His eyes filled with tears. The people in blue seats cheered some more.

"My family," Howard said, "has grown with all of you."

He batted four times, each one marked with a standing ovation as people hoisted cardboard Howard heads on a stick. Even Mets fans stood. Howard struck out in the second inning. He grounded to first in the third and bounced into a double play in the sixth. He hit .196 in 2016 and clobbered 25 home runs.

"He feels the love from all the fans and everybody around," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

"It's hard to see him leaving," said Freddy Galvis, now the longest-tenured Phillies player.

The Phillies won Game 162 with three runs in the seventh inning on two singles, a walk, a passed ball, two errors and a sacrifice fly. They snapped a six-game losing streak by beating the Mets' reserves, as New York rested its regulars in preparation of its one-game playoff Wednesday at Citi Field. Jerad Eickhoff struck out eight in six innings to finish with a 3.65 ERA in his first full season.

But this day, the last one for a 91-loss team stuck in its rebuilding phase, was for Howard. At 5:28 p.m., he stepped toward home plate in the eighth inning while a cameraman trailed him. He swung at the first pitch, a 92-mph fastball from Jim Henderson, and popped it to shortstop. The 36,935 in attendance yelled and clapped. Howard ambled into the dugout, and the cheers continued. He tipped his helmet.

The ninth inning was delayed by two minutes. After Hector Neris finished his warm-up tosses, Tommy Joseph emerged from the dugout. He hugged Howard at first base. "Thank you, Ryan," the scoreboard said. The Mets players clapped. It was 5:39 p.m. on an overcast October evening when, with a curtain call, Howard's Phillies career concluded.

"Congratulations, enjoy it," Joseph told Howard. "The crowd, you don't hear them that loud very often. At least we haven't this year."

After the game, Howard lingered. The Phillies showed another tribute video. "Philadelphia is always going to be home," Howard said to the crowd. He put his left arm around his son and received the first-base bag from a grounds-crew member. Ryan Howard walked off the field for the last time. It was 5:56 p.m.

"Ryan, on countless occasions, put us on his back and carried us to the finish line," Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley said in a statement. "He was such an important part of our success, and I hope Philadelphia recognizes that."

In time, fresher wounds will fade. That started Sunday with a ceremony and a game.

mgelb@philly.com

@MattGelb