Explaining the near-impossible 25 years later

Explaining the near-impossible 25 years later

By Eric Becker

Sports Extra

PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 9, 2018) – As a baseball fan, the summer of 1993 will go down as the most improbable summer of my life.

My team I had rooted for through thick and thin, mostly thin, since 1981, the Phillies, had been cellar dwellers for the better part of five years, including last place in 1992.

Then something magical happened, like out of a fairy tale. The 1993 Phillies showed up for spring training, and didn’t stop playing until Game 6 of the 1993 World Series some seven months later.

It was the last year of the four-division format. Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies were new to the baseball world.

In fact, Florida was picked by some to finish ahead of Philadelphia by preseason predictors.

From that opening win at the Astrodome to that fateful Joe Carter home run in Toronto, the 1993 Phils were a team full of misfits, castoffs and wild moments.

There was Incy, Krukker, Dutch, The Dude, Wild Thing, D.J. and others.

That wacky cast of characters charged out of the gates to a 17-5 record in April, and never looked back.

It looked bad in late July, while in St. Louis. I was at that Thursday afternoon game sitting in the bleachers, as Curt Schilling got completely  lambasted by the Cardinals, and the lead in the National League East appeared grim.

The next night, after losing game one of a doubleheader with San Diego at a rain-infested Veterans Stadium, game two didn’t start until around 1 a.m. local time.

At around 4:41 a.m. local time, Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, yes, the relief pitcher, ended game two with a walkoff hit in the bottom of the 10th inning.

A week or so later, the Phils swept the Cardinals at the Vet, and St. Louis was virtually buried.

Montreal gave the Phillies their best shot in September, getting within four games, but the Phils got their first division title in a decade on a Monday night in Pittsburgh.

So, it was a good season, as nobody thought they could actually beat the high-powered Atlanta Braves in the playoffs.

The Braves had to win 102 games just to make the playoffs by a game over San Francisco. Perhaps that pennant race caused them to be a bit tired come October.

Kim Batiste had a walkoff hit in the first game of the National League Championship Series for a win, and Williams eloquently won the pennant by striking out Bill Pecota in Game Six.

It was off to the World Series. The defending champion Toronto Blue Jays stood in the way. They had an equally awesome a team, including a loaded lineup.

In game four, with Toronto leading two games to one, the Phils and Blue Jays played one for the ages.

The Phils took a 14-8 lead to the eighth inning of that fateful Wednesday night, only to see Toronto score seven runs in the eighth and take a 15-14 win, and command of the World Series.

It was a definite blow to the Phils, but Curt Schilling responded with a two-hit complete-game shutout the next night, keeping Philly’s season alive.

Toronto led 5-2 in the seventh inning of game six, only to see the Fightin Phils again nearly do the impossible. They got four runs in the seventh to take a 6-5 lead.

It went to the bottom of the ninth, and Williams came on to pitch. With two on base, Carter “touched them all” with a walkoff home run to win the World Series, everybody’s dream as a child playing in the backyard.

I sat in my dorm room at Eastern Illinois University that Saturday evening a bit shocked and in a complete state of disbelief as to what I had just witnessed.  It can’t be 25 years since that team, could it? I was a 20-year-old junior at EIU, trying to find my way in journalism.

Although the Phillies would win division titles in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, and a World Series title in 2008, none of those teams had that mystique of the 1993 team.

It’s by far the most favorite and entertaining sports team I have ever followed. Nothing really compares to that group of misfits, who could have been mistaken for truck drivers or over-the-hill church league softball players.

All who played that year on that team contributed something. The starting pitching was outstanding, using just five main starters most of the season. Williams had over 40 saves, albeit as one of the most unconventional relief pitchers you would ever come across in your life.

The offense, spearheaded by Lenny Dykstra, who should have been league MVP, Darren Daulton, Dave Hollins, John Kruk and many others, had as solid a year as you could possibly get from an unconventional cast of characters.

I’d like to know of a more unlikely pennant-winning team in the history of baseball. With the way that team was assembled, it is hard to see something like that ever happening again in my lifetime.

But we do have the cherished memories to look back on and realize, it wasn’t a dream. The 1993 Phillies were that team that shouldn’t have, but almost did, have its day.