Until March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years. This is 50 of 50.
And this is No. 43.
THE DATE: Aug. 15, 1990
THE GAME: Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pa.
THE STAKES: None. The 1990 Phillies? Come on.
THE GREAT: I don’t remember much, but here’s what I remember.
We sat in the 600 level … maybe the 500 level … right along the third base line. It was a hot, sticky August night at the Vet, but there must’ve been a promotion that evening, because the seats were relatively filled. The Phillies weren’t good in 1990 (54-60 at the time) and transitioning from the Mike Schmidt era to whatever was next.
I remember the “Thank You” sign to Schmidt out in right-center field. Schmidt retired the year before as the greatest player in franchise history.
And remnants of the 1980s were sprinkled throughout the Vet that night. The Phils’ cleanup hitter was Dale Murphy, arguably the second-best slugger in the National League during Schmidt’s peak. The Giants employed Gary Carter, a Hall of Fame talent nearing the end of his career. And on the mound for the Giants was Don Robinson, who surrendered Schmidt’s 500th home run in Pittsburgh in 1987.
The Giants were good, the reigning National League champions with heavy hitters like Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and young Matt Williams. They were well behind the streaking Reds by this point in the season, so there wasn’t much at stake on this night. Just a warm night at the Vet, a pitching matchup between Robinson and Terry Mulholland.
It was me and my dad that night. I sort of remember where we sat, the Schmidt sign, and I remember when Charlie Hayes made that throwing error in the seventh off a Rick Parker grounder, pulling John Kruk off the bag just enough. At that point the stadium was buzzing about Mulholland throwing a perfect game, but the error killed that.
I remember keeping score, and being happy that the Phils had scored a bunch of runs. Darren Daulton homered in the fifth, and Hayes and Mulholland both helped out with singles. The Phils were up 6-0. It was a great night.
The next thing I remember is Carter. I grew nervous when he took to the on-deck circle in the ninth. Even in 1990, at age 36 and much slower, the guy was imposing. He was going to get a hit, wasn’t he?
I remember the moments after Hayes snared Carter’s liner to secure the no-hitter. The celebration on the mound. The cheering. I remember high-fiving my dad. I remember racing to the car so we could hear Harry Kalas’ radio call in the game recap.
But that’s it. Unlike games I’d attend 20 years later, with the Phils in a new home and in the thick of postseason success, the Terry Mulholland no-hitter is a blur with a couple snapshots onto which I can grab. But I love that I was there. I love that, of all the games that I remember, that’s the first. Yes my dad took me to games before 1990, but the Mulholland no-hitter is first in my brain. And of course it is. I wouldn’t remember some random game in 1986 I attended as a toddler. I was five on this night, just old enough to understand baseball, but just young enough for the memories to twinkle deep in the universe of my mind.
We remember these things, and recall them often, because they keep us young. We rank the greatest games in Phillies history because we want to remember what it was like on that night – the way we jumped into someone’s arms, the elation we felt in the moments after the victory, the people we were around, what we were doing, and how we were celebrating.
When Joe Blanton socked a home run in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, I high-fived my dad in the very same way I did that night in 1990. In between we felt heartbreak, disappointment and just a little elation.
They say the little things compose who we are, and I think there’s real truth to it, but there’s a reason we remember those high points. There’s a reason a no-hitter by a decent left-hander with a sterling pickoff move will always register for me. I can always reach back and find it, revel in the memory, and remember just why I love the Phillies the way I do.