Red October 2022

It’s official ‘protocol’: Philadelphia greases the poles as Phillies look to advance past NLCS

It’s possible fans may see this as a challenge.

Tracy Buchholz / Twitter

With the Phillies closing in on a pennant and their first championship appearance in 13 years, Philadelphia is getting ready.

Fans are making watch party arrangements, bars and restaurants are exploding with business, retail stores are selling out of Phils gear, and city officials are…greasing the poles.

Slathering lamp posts with lard is a time-honored tradition when Philly sports teams do well. It happened back in 2009 when the Fightins made their most recent World Series run. It became a viral meme in 2018 in the leadup to the Eagles Super Bowl victory. And it’s happening again.

As city spokesperson Kevin Lessard explained it, it’s just part of the plan.

“As is protocol, the city is putting into motion initial preparations and precautions in the event of the Phillies potentially winning the NLCS​,” Lessard said. He added that the action is a public safety measure “based on prior experience in these situations.”

As far as general safety goes, Lessard said, Philly police captains are in ongoing contact with local businesses, spreading word about tips to protect their properties in case of a blowout celebration.

It’s usually Philly police officers who apply the grease pole coating, though officials haven’t confirmed that this year. In 2018, they started out using actual Crisco — the company actually sent cookies to the PPD as a thank you — but then reportedly switched to something more effective, possibly gear oil, like what’s used in cars.

The slippery stuff didn’t fully stop folks from shimmying up the streetlight shafts last time around. During the party in the streets after the Eagles Super Bowl victory, several intrepid climbers clambered up.

It’s not an easy feat, but Philadelphia does have the opportunity to practice each year.

At the annual 9th Street Italian Market Festival grease pole contest, prizes like cheese, olive oil, and sausage await any team that makes it to the top. Plus bragging rights — and training for moments like this.

As one observer noted on Twitter, “They do realize at this point they’re just setting the fans a challenge?”

Philly doesn’t have the exclusive on pole greasing. In New Orleans it forms the basis for a popular Mardi Gras event, complete with costumed performers. The Italian Market event is likely based on a contest in Malta, Italy that dates back centuries.

City officials didn’t answer questions about how many poles were greased and where.

Previously the concentration has been up and down South Broad Street (where the action was spotted on Saturday), as well as at the intersection Frankford and Cottman avenues in the Northeast, a traditional sports celebration spot.

Barricades have also been placed at “key locations,” per spokesperson Lessard, and “other type[s] of public safety measures for this weekend are still being discussed.”

Want some more? Explore other Red October 2022 stories.

Mornings are for coffee and local news

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter gives you a daily roundup of the top Philly stories you need to start your day.

You finished another Billy Penn article — keep it up!

We hope you found it useful, fun, or maybe even both. If you want more stories like this, will you join us as a member today?

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Your donation brought this story to life

Billy Penn only exists because of supporters like you. If you find our work valuable, consider making a sustaining donation today.

Being informed looks good on you

Thanks for reading another article, made possible by members like you. Want to share BP with a friend?