Fat, Drunk and Endearing: A Look Back at the ’93 Phillies Season

Even though Joe Carter dashed their hopes of a World Series victory some 20 years ago, Philly still loves the 1993 Phillies—and there’s a reason for that.

 

“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.

Larry Andersen, relief pitcher: The best way to describe that team is “schizophrenic.”

John Kruk, first baseman: I’ve never seen guys that could be playing grab-ass two minutes before the game and then as soon as the National Anthem is done be ready to kick some ass.

Curt Schilling, starting pitcher: Fregosi had a bunch of hard-partying, hard-drinking children, really. But no one was better come 7:05.

Jim Fregosi, manager: If you took a look at Dave Hollins in his locker before a game, you’d know all about it.

Mickey Morandini, second baseman: In spring training we were picked to finish last, so that was motivation right there. That kind of irritated us right out of the gate.

Dave Hollins, third baseman: That stems back to the previous season. We’d had a rough year, finished in last place, and I led the league in getting hit by pitches. I had to have a sit-down with a few of our starters to let ’em know that going forward, they would have to take care of business if guys were gonna be knockin’ us down like that. They got right on it in spring training.

John Kruk: Our pitchers would think, If I don’t hit him, Dave Hollins will kick the crap out of me. So I should probably hit him.

Tommy Greene, starting pitcher: It started early, with a little brouhaha with the Cardinals down at spring training.

Dave Hollins: I think I got hit first. Then they hit somebody else, and then Ricky [Jordan] got hit and it was on from there. It kind of let teams know that that wasn’t gonna happen this year.

Tommy Greene: Hollins got dusted back. ... It started there. The guy who did it led off the next inning, so it was easy to come back at him. Ricky Jordan ended up getting hit later, and both benches cleared. After that, you could feel the type of crew we had.

John Kruk: When Ricky Jordan charged the mound, you really got a sense of what we were. After that game, I looked around the clubhouse and realized: There are some pissed-off people in this room.

Mickey Morandini: The perception was that we were a bunch of unathletic fat people with long hair.

Jayson Stark, Inquirer sportswriter: I wasn't shocked when they swept the Astros [to open the season], because they had that look.

John Kruk: Terry Mulholland pitched a complete game on Opening Day, and I remember it wasn’t like, “Can we compete?” It was, “We can kick people’s asses.”

Larry Andersen: We wanted to beat everyone by 10 runs every game.

Tommy Greene: We were in Houston on April 6th. It was my birthday. I was at the ballpark early, and I’m down in the dugout, watching the Astros take batting practice. Fregosi stuck his head out of the tunnel and called me back. As I’m walking back, I’m worrying that I might be getting traded. I get to the clubhouse and everyone’s there—[team president] Bill Giles, the G.M., the whole team. There’s a chair in the middle of the room. Fregosi told me to sit down, and a clubhouse guy opened the door. In walked a … “nurse.” She did her thing—it was classy—and put on a little show. A fitting beginning to the season.

Tom Burgoyne, the “backup” Phanatic: That season started out with the Phanatic parachuting in. We used a stunt Phanatic—one of the Navy Leap Frog guys actually wore the costume.

A.J. Daulerio, former editor-in-chief of Deadspin: I was at La Salle then. I remember a team that pretty much came out of nowhere. The Pirates were dominating, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion.

John Kruk: I hear guys now, these analysts and experts, say they picked us to do well. That’s bullshit.

Curt Schilling: Mickey Morandini hit that home run off of Doug Jones, and we came back and won the third game of the Astros series. I think we honestly felt like we weren’t going to lose another game.

After the team’s wildly successful spring training and sweep of the Astros, on April 9th the Inquirer ran a headline: THE PHILLIES ARE WINNING, AND THEIR FANS ARE IN A FRENZY.

Larry Andersen: There are teams that go out and think they’re going to win. We went out knowing we were going to win. It was my favorite team that I ever played with.

Frank Coppenbarger, equipment manager: They didn’t necessarily like a lot of other people, but they sure liked each other. They’d talk about baseball until all hours of the night. When they were on the road, they wore out more than one visiting-clubhouse manager. They definitely stayed late and found their own way home.

John Kruk: If they had put beds in, we never would have left.

Mickey Morandini: We’d ice our bodies and have a few cocktails.

Mike Missanelli, 97.5 the Fanatic host, then a WIP host: They weren’t an act-up-off-the-field kind of team. They were a bunch of simple guys who just worshiped baseball.

Larry Andersen: We were on a bus ride home after [Darren] Daulton signed his big contract when Kruky said, “With all the money you just got, you should just build a big mansion and party all night and play baseball every day.” The words hadn’t even left his tongue yet when [Pete] Incaviglia said, “If you build it, we will come.”

Howard Eskin, WIP radio host: Back then, they could drink in the clubhouse. If they didn’t want to talk to the media, they could hang out in the video room and drink.

Tommy Greene: That was our space.

Jayson Stark: They started complaining that as the phenomenon of that team grew, too many members of the media were loitering in the clubhouse. So Dutch made a deal that he’d come out and talk to us if we agreed not to loiter. He was willing to take on that role to make everyone else’s lives easier. John Kruk is an exceptionally entertaining man, but he’d be the first to tell you that he didn’t enjoy talking to the media. And he wasn’t alone there.

Tommy Greene: One of Mitch’s shirts said, “Shut Up and Play.”

Mike Missanelli: They were just a nasty bunch of guys. When I think about it, I think that was a reflection of insecurity, because none of them were stars. They had to create a niche to be a good team. And one of those was this “us vs. them” mentality. They were loved by the fans, so they didn’t care what the media thought of them.

Jayson Stark: I didn't pester them with the stuff they didn’t want to be pestered with. I imagine not all of my fellow sportswriters would agree they were the most fun team to be around.

Mike Missanelli: The king rat, and I don’t really mean that affectionately, was Jim Fregosi.

Howard Eskin: Fregosi and I didn’t see eye-to-eye. If there’s anyone on that team that held a grudge, it was Fregosi. He didn’t like the media, and he let us know it.

Jim Fregosi: I really never had any problem whatsoever with the print media. A lot of the writers are still my very good friends. As for the other media, I don’t think there’s anyone that hasn’t had a fucking problem with the other media in Philadelphia. I don’t think anyone has to put up with that type of aggravation.

John Kruk: He managed the people, not the team.

Mitch Williams, closer: The credit Fregosi should get is that he put his guys in a position to have success. Because he took the time to get to know all of his players.

Jim Fregosi: I could tell Daulton something, and he would take it into the clubhouse. I was hands-off, but completely hands-on.

Dave Hollins:Jim Fregosi’s only two rules were show up on time and hustle.

Mike Missanelli: Jim Fregosi was this hard-school baseball guy who gave you the impression that he invented the game and no one knew more than him. He was like a nastier Tony La Russa.

John Kruk: If he had disciplined one of us, he’d have had to discipline all 25 of us. I couldn’t imagine a curfew with that team. A lot of managers now wouldn’t put up with the stuff we did.

A.J. Daulerio: You always hear about the beer in the clubhouse and stuff. I don’t think it made them any more endearing. I think people just loved that John Kruk was fat.

Randy Miller, author, Harry the K: The Remarkable Life of Harry Kalas: Harry really related to that 1993 team. It was basically the only team ring he wore. There were times when John Kruk wouldn’t take the bus back with the team. They’d be in New York, and Harry and Kruk would have a limo for the trip home. Harry would ask Kruk if he’d “packed the gear”—meaning beer and cigarettes.

Larry Andersen: Sometimes we’d spend the night in the clubhouse. We’d get up, strap ’em on, and go get ’em the next day. That is, if you could avoid Kruky playing wiffle ball until five in the morning.

John Kruk: I love wiffle ball. There was a day game, and I was supposed to have the day off. One of our guys came in with an injury, and they told me I was playing. I had finished my last adult beverage at 7 a.m. after pitching 45 innings of wiffle ball with the clubhouse guys. I think Curt Schilling was pitching that day. I told him, “If you want to win this game, you don’t want them to hit it to me.”

Mike Missanelli: Lenny Dykstra would walk around in his underwear with a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a bat. He’d ask some clubhouse guy to go out and throw BP.

John Kruk: The bullpen guys ate a lot and watched interesting television in the video room. I went back there after a particularly bad at-bat and they had seven or eight TVs; they had everything on except our game. They had pizzas and cheesesteaks. That’s the way they were.

Kevin Stocker, shortstop: Larry Andersen would be in the bullpen in the third inning completely covered in ketchup.

Larry Andersen: I befriended a seven- or eight-year-old in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium. His dad was a police officer, and for my 40th birthday they sent me a can of Instant Hair. Mitch Williams might have gone a little overboard with it, but I went out there and took batting practice without a hat for probably the first time ever. People were asking if I’d gotten a wig.

Mitch Williams: Every team needs some guys around to remind them the game is supposed to be fun. But maybe I gave him more hair than he needed.

John Kruk: We could be goofy and do whatever we wanted up until five minutes before the game. And after the game, we could do whatever we wanted up until five minutes before the next game.

Ed Rendell, then-mayor of Philadelphia: The 1980 team was clearly the best in baseball. They were a Cadillac. The ’93 team was a scrappy bunch of retreads that nobody thought had a chance to win.

By the end of June, the team had seen the gap between them and the rest of the NL East—once 11.5 games wide—shrink to 5.5 games. After the team’s 14-5 loss to the Cardinals on July 1st, Darren Daulton told reporters, “This is the most embarrassing game I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been on some bad teams, and I’ve been a very, very, very bad player before. But that’s the most embarrassed I’ve ever been.” The team rallied—winning the second half of a doubleheader that ended at 4:41 a.m. on July 3rd, then beating the Dodgers in a 20-inning marathon less than a week later. Mitch Williams had already earned his “Wild Thing” moniker, but that week was his symposium on late-inning dramatics.

Brian Hastings, stadium concessions manager: By July, we were seeing 30,000 or 40,000 during the week and 50,000 or 60,000 on the weekends. I remember having to scramble around to convert some of the merchandise stands to food and beverage stands because we couldn’t satisfy all of the demand.

Jayson Stark: It was a stupid, insane, hilarious ride. When I look back on that team, I don’t just remember a crazy team that won a lot of games—I remember a team that won a lot of crazy games. No one in the history of America has been responsible for the death of more journalism than Mitch Williams. Whatever you had written was irrelevant after 10 pitches. Whether he saved it or not, you ended up writing about what happened while he was on the mound.

Larry Andersen: That doubleheader is one that you can’t forget. We started that second game after 1 a.m. If we could have worked it out that we took games later like that, it probably would have been in our favor—because that was really the shank of the evening for us.

Tom Burgoyne: We had close to six hours of rain delays; they had to shut the scoreboards down because the weather was so bad. I thought, I guess I have to keep playing music to keep the people in it. We played TV theme songs, The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.

Jayson Stark: That week summed up that team. Of course, they won the 4:41 a.m. game.

Jim Fregosi: My wife and family had just driven up from Florida, and she was waiting for me to come home. She called the bar downstairs at the hotel we were staying at, and then she called the ballpark, like, “Where is that sonofabitch?”

John Kruk: People look at those games as the type that can hurt you or kill your team. We looked at it like, “Screw you. We’re winning the games, and our pitching will bounce back. We just played 20 innings and we just kicked some ass, now let’s go play some more.”

Brian Hastings: At 2 a.m., all of the bars were emptying, and everyone was coming into the stadium afterward.

Curt Schilling: Mitch Williams comes in and hits that walk-off into the gap. We’d been playing for so long, and then our closer comes in to deliver the game-winning knock.

Howard Eskin: I was there for the end of the doubleheader. I have no idea why I stayed. They still shot off the fireworks after the game. Four in the morning and they’re shooting off fireworks.

Frank Coppenbarger: The 20-inning game was actually Kevin Stocker’s first game in The Bigs.

Kevin Stocker: After the game ended, everyone was in the clubhouse celebrating, and I got called into the office and got chewed out by Fregosi. It was my first Major League game, and I had a chance to win the game a couple of times with runners in scoring position and hadn’t swung the bat very well.

John Kruk: That was an interesting run of games. After the [20-inning] game, the first thing Kevin Stocker asked was, “Is it like this every day?” We said, “Absolutely not … sometimes it’s worse.”

On September 28th, the Phillies defeated the Pirates 10-7, clinching the National League East for the first time since 1983.

Randy Miller: It wasn’t official until Harry Kalas came down. They were in the trainer’s room at Three Rivers Stadium, and that was the crowning moment of that season—when Harry went in there and sang “High Hopes” and all the guys sang along with him.

Frank Coppenbarger: We weren’t accustomed to having a celebration. It had been 10 years since the Phillies won anything. The night we won the division, there was enough champagne and beer on the floor of the clubhouse that you could have floated a canoe.

Dave Hollins: A lot of guys felt they’d rather play the Braves than the Giants. The Giants were the other team in the playoff race, and we had more trouble with them.

The Braves edged out San Francisco to make the playoffs. On October 8th, as the Phils headed South with the series tied 1-1, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution ran the headline: HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN ATLANTA: AMERICA’S OTHER TEAM IS COMING TO TOWN. The Phillies lost Game 3, but won Games 4, 5 and 6 to advance to face the defending-champion Blue Jays in the World Series.

A.J. Daulerio: I remember watching the playoff game where Schilling came out and fanned six batters. One of the greatest sports nights of my life.

Ed Rendell: I went on the field to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra for the National Anthem before one of the games. It’s the only time I can remember appearing at a sporting event and being cheered.

A.J. Daulerio: I went to the airport after one of the games to welcome the team home. I just remember this array of homemade signs. One said, “Kruk off,” and another said “A Schilling Performance.”

The Phillies fell behind in the World Series 2-1 before the infamous final three games. A five-run lead dissolved as the Phils lost Game 4, 15-14. Then Schilling took over Game 5 to extend the Series.

Tom Burgoyne: The weather stunk for Game 4. It was raining. It set an ominous tone. There was literally a dark cloud hanging over the game, and the bullpen was shot. You can’t blame Fregosi, because they didn’t have any bullets left down there.

Jim Fregosi: Their pitchers got big hits in Game 4 because the Blue Jays were just strolling it in. They thought they had lost the game. That was the game that really hurt us.

Tommy Greene: After the 15-14 loss, Schilling came out and threw a gem in Game 5.

Dave Hollins:
We came out a little flat. I don’t know what would have happened if Schilling wasn’t pitching. For that guy to come out and shut out that team … his shit was electric that night.

Curt Schilling: I remember going out there for the start of the top of the ninth and I could literally feel the stadium moving because 60,000 people were on their feet screaming.

Jim Fregosi: He threw 147 pitches and was going to stay out there for as long as it took to finish the game. And he was okay with that. He was a big-game pitcher.

Jayson Stark:The day before Game 6, the team had an optional workout in the SkyDome. They all showed up, and when the workout was over, they all just hung around. They all just wanted to hang around to soak it all in.

Dave Hollins told reporters that Mitch Williams had received death threats after he gave up five runs in the Game 4 loss; Williams had stayed up that night with a gun nearby for protection. In the final frame of Game 6, the Wild Thing found himself on the mound with a one-run lead as the Phillies faced elimination. Joe Carter launched a fastball over the left-field fence for a three-run walk-off home run. Game over. Series over.

A.J. Daulerio: I was bussing tables at some God-awful restaurant. I remember feeling as though someone had just been assassinated.

Howard Eskin: That’s the one thing Lenny remembers about that. He’s called Mitch Williams a barrel-finder. Lenny’s still pissed about that. But you can’t just blame Mitch. You have to blame Fregosi, too. And I’ll blame things on Fregosi any chance I get.

Jim Fregosi: Most of my bullpen had never been in the playoffs and had never pitched that long or that late in the season. Guys were just flat-out exhausted.

John Kruk:
After Game 6, we all did the media stuff and then we were all just sitting there and it was really quiet.

Howard Eskin: Mitch didn’t tell the PR people he wasn’t talking to the media. In baseball, you can blow the media off. But Mitch stood up like a man.

“There are no excuses,” Williams told the Daily News after the game. “There’s nobody on the face of the Earth who feels worse than I do about what happened in this game.”


Jayson Stark:
He lives here, and people love him because he took all of the heat. He stood there and blamed himself. For 19 years since, he’s had the ability to laugh at himself. You can be a Bill Buckner and be mad at the world and hide, or you can be Mitch and stand up, be a man, take the hit.

Mike Missanelli: The candle was lit for one season. I don’t think the Philly fan base thought that team would ever win again.

Jayson Stark: Two or three days later, they were in the clubhouse, and they realized that at some point they’d have to go home. They were half packing, half joking around and drinking beer, when someone strolled through the clubhouse with a rough cut of the [season] video and asked if the guys wanted to see it. They said, “Hell yeah!” and grabbed some beers.

Larry Andersen: We’ve got an uncut version, with bad language and guys flipping each other off. It’s like the deleted scenes of DVDs.

Jayson Stark: The whole phenomenon about that team runs counter to the traditional M.O. of Philadelphia. As difficult as it was that they lost, and as difficult as it was that they lost the way they did, people came away from that season with the same love affair that had brought them to the park all year.

Frank coppenbarger:
The old Oakland Raiders were known for being a rough-and-rumble-type group. This team was that for their era.

A.J. Daulerio:
The ’93 Phillies were the embodiment of what everyone loved about Buddy Ryan’s Eagles teams. There were a lot more women into that team than seems reasonable.

Jayson Stark: It was one of those seasons that, as a fan, is just a gift. It comes out of nowhere, no one expects it, and the ride is such a gift that it’s possible to ignore the ending.

John Kruk: The good-looking catcher, the fat first baseman, the spitting center fielder, the 102-year-old setup guy, and the hairy left fielder. Philadelphians looked at us and said, “Hey, that’s us. That’s our Sunday beer-league team out there.” And by the end of the season, we were.

  • Mike

    This is a great read. I was at game 6 against the Braves in the NLCS. I was 8, almost 9 years old. It was the greatest baseball experience of my life. I love that team. I still have the VHS tape they speak of…Narrated by Harry Kalas, “Whatever it takes Dude’” Needs to be moved to DVD and Blu Ray IMMEDIATELY. RIP Harry.

    Good game, let’s go eat!

  • Bill

    What a great way to start the 2012 season and get everyone excited. Reading this artcle was really fun I laughed out loud several times at some of the quotes. Great Read thanks.