“Hide the women and children …”
So warned an Atlanta newspaper when the 1993 Phillies headed into town. As that motley crew of players recalls nearly 20 years later, there was a reason for that.
The helplessness was beginning to fester. By 1993, Philadelphians hadn’t cheered a professional sports champion in a full decade—and that had been the Sixers, the stepchild of the city’s sports heart. We longed to be swept off our feet, while the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers discovered new and not-so-exciting ways to lose. Then, whoomp, there it was: baseball’s divine intervention.
The Phillies had assembled a misfit militia, with names to match. The Dude scored runs and spat tobacco; women fawned over Dutch, the team’s backstop and de facto leader. The Wild Thing grew his hair and kept the city in search of crash paddles through every twitching performance. And John Kruk drank beer, ate pizza … and batted .316.
It began with a bench-clearing brawl at spring training. Then, over the course of 103 total wins, 49 extra innings, 12 playoff games and some late nights (or, more accurately, early mornings), the 1993 Phillies seduced the city. Fans spent the summer flocking to the Vet to watch their appropriately nicknamed “Animal House,” both captivated and agog as the Phillies stampeded through the National League and then marched through Atlanta to earn a date with the defending-champion Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.
It turned colder, and that’s where it ends—with a final fastball on the inner part of the plate. We held our collective breath, then watched it clear the fence, suddenly realizing our affair was nothing more than a summer fling. Damn you, Joe Carter.
It was a hurt that would linger for 15 years. The Phillies had managed to discover yet another new and, at least this time, exciting way to lose—Philly’s summer dreams, ripped at the seams. But oh, those summer nights.