The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

She put a stranger on her shoulders at a Phillies rally. Now fans want them to marry.

She hoisted him above the sea of revelers until he found his friends. People far and wide are hoping for a fairy tale ending.

Seconds after they met, Erin Sweeney hoisted Jim Lindrooth atop her shoulders so he could find his friends in a crowd of Phillies fans outside City Hall in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Erin Sweeney)
7 min

It was an improbable pennant win for the Phillies, and swarms of fans met the moment as they realized their long-suffering team was going to the World Series for the first time in 13 years. They converged near City Hall, whooping and hugging strangers in the crowd.

“I would call myself an average Philly fan,” said Jim Lindrooth, 29, who was there with a group of friends that night, Oct. 23. “But the average Philly fan is a mega fan.” His band even recorded a song about Philly sports.

Lindrooth and his friend Laird Frazier, 30, became separated from their group in the crowd. As they searched for their buddies, they waded through the throng, tossing cans of beer to partygoers. This caught the eye of a woman who gestured for a drink.

As Lindrooth gave her a beer, she overheard their conversation about looking for their friends. The woman responded as any self-respecting Phillies fan would: “Do you want to get on my shoulders?” she asked, then hoisted Lindrooth up above the sea of revelers.

It worked. His buddies spotted him atop her shoulders and made their way over.

The interaction was fleeting but hilarious, leaving Lindrooth wishing he’d taken more time to talk with the quick-thinking stranger who came to his rescue.

This reminded Frazier of “missed connections,” a Craigslist-era tradition in which romantic hopefuls would create a listing that described a chance encounter and ask the object of affection to reach out if they’re interested. The next day, Frazier penned a witty blurb and shared the plea to a Phillies fan club on Facebook.

“It was the last that Jim saw of the heroine who literally lifted us up when we were down and helped us salvage our celebratory evening,” Frazier wrote. “This is where we need your help. We believe that this woman very well could be my friend Jim’s future wife. We don’t know her name, just that she was hot, thirsty, kind, and sturdy — which checks all the boxes for Jim’s ideal mate. Please help us find her so that we can let this fateful interaction blossom into the love story that all Phils fans deserve.”

He later admitted that he wrote the post as a goof, assuming only a few dozen people would notice it.

The blurb also featured a long-winded endorsement, including: “He’s a real one-of-a-kind catch. With Swedish genes and an unmistakable fashion sense (he was wearing a Phillies jacket and a Pokémon hat at City Hall if that helps), you’ll never want to look away. Jim is above average height and only 29 years young. He works in Finance and can easily fund his future wife’s lifestyle, like whenever she wants to buy a new pair of Crocs.”

“There’s a lot of references to James that I don’t think anyone actually understands outside of our friend group,” Frazier said.

It’s true, Martin Luther King Jr. paid the hospital bill when actress Julia Roberts was born

The inside jokes didn’t deter supporters. Thousands flocked to the post to share it, then took to the comments to join in exaggerating the lore of Lindrooth, creating fictitious tales of Philadelphia-themed valor.

“​​Jim once saved me and my entire family from a Delco Bear attack. We owe him our lives. #TEAMJIM, wrote a fan.

Others claimed he’d delivered a baby on Broad Street, rescued a man from drowning on the flooded expressway, and accomplished other herculean feats.

Within hours, Erin Sweeney, 27, stumbled upon the story in a group for Delaware County residents, where she grew up. She recognized a photo of Jim’s hat — a backward Pokémon cap that stood out in a sea of Phillies red and maroon.

She revealed herself as the Cinderella of the night and dropped in a picture of Jim perched atop her shoulders. She wrote in all caps, “JIM I’M SO GLAD YOU FOUND YOUR FRIENDS!”

By this time, their brief meet-and-hoist had taken on a greater meaning, inspiring Philly fans across the city who became invested in their story. Some people were shocked Sweeney had surfaced and responded with, “WAIT THEY FOUND HER?!”

Fans advocated for the pair to see each other again, and a radio host suggested on air that a sponsor should send Lindrooth and Sweeney to a World Series game.

This woman bakes recipes she finds on gravestone epitaphs: ‘They’re to die for’

Martha Agnew, who had been following the story on Facebook since the beginning, decided she could play a small role in the citywide fairy tale. She was moved by the wholesome effort to find Sweeney.

“We want to root for the underdog and believe in something positive,” said Agnew, 38.

She contacted her boss, James J. McHugh Jr. of the law firm Lopez McHugh, who agreed to donate his own tickets to the pair for Game 4 of the series, which was played on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

“Defying the odds, that’s a part of Philly’s DNA,” said Frazier, who explained that the city’s people and its teams feel perpetually underappreciated and underrecognized. “For people growing up in the Philly area, it really shapes their identity.”

Frazier said the could-be love story captured the attention of people who appreciated Sweeney’s moment of brawn and kindness, as well as his amusing friendship gesture.

Lindrooth and Sweeney, who met for drinks after work last week to discuss the saga, gratefully accepted the tickets for Wednesday night. They each brought a group of friends to a local bar before the game.

“It was totally not awkward or forced at all,” said Sweeney, adding that both friend groups enjoyed spending time together. “We were all super friendly and chatty.”

At Citizens Bank Park, Sweeney and Lindrooth re-created the shoulder-sit that made them local celebrities.

They also did a reverse one, where Sweeney got on Lindrooth’s shoulders. Then they received complimentary merch from the team.

Despite the game’s disappointing outcome for Philly fans — they lost 5-0, tying the series at 2 wins apiece — Sweeney said she appreciated the camaraderie of the crowd.

“It was high energy and good vibes throughout the game — exactly like it was that night on Broad Street,” she said. “Even when we were well into the eighth inning and knew it wasn’t going to end well, people were standing up and cheering.”

Fans did not recognize them at the game, but onlookers continue to comment on the post, fantasizing about who would officiate a parade-day wedding. Still, the pair aren’t rushing into romance.

“I’d be thrilled if I end up with an awesome new friendship because of this,” said Lindrooth. “And if it became something more in a natural way, that would be fine too.”

Sweeney, who agrees with that perspective, said, “It’s a crazy shared experience that will tie us together forever.”

They both recognized that meeting again wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of other Philadelphians. Both Lindrooth and Sweeney described Philly fans as having a passion and authenticity that’s misperceived by outsiders as brash. Sweeney said she believes Philadelphians are always ready to show support for their teams and each other.

Frazier, whose playful Facebook post started the episode, said the negative reputation is a force that makes Philadelphians feel closer to each other.

“We know that’s not true and we got each other’s backs,” he said.

Sweeney wholeheartedly agreed — with a caveat.

“The dating scene in Philly is not as promising as the fan base,” she said with a laugh.