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. 50.
THE DATE: April 27, 2003
THE GAME: Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants, Veterans Stadium
THE STAKES: A typical Sunday afternoon during the last season at the Vet
THE GREAT: The end of the fourth inning. That was the first time my buddy Dan, sitting between my brother Mark and I in the 600 Level behind home plate, elbowed us without saying anything. I didn’t budge. I knew what he was doing.
Mark took the bait. “I know, I know.”
The three of us had a Sunday season ticket plan in 2001, but I backed out in 2002 because I got promoted to a job that required Sunday work. They kept the tickets for three more years, and this was the first time in the 2003 season I could get down from Scranton for a Sunday game with them.
It always had been on all of our bucket lists to see a no-hitter, but Dan’s more so. Mark and I had been in attendance for two near misses with our dad: Mike Jackson’s Phillies debut in 1987 through eight innings, and John Smoltz in 1990 against the Phils through 8.1 innings. During that game I can still see my father stopping everyone who was walking up the aisles to beat the traffic after the eighth. “So, you’ve seen a no-hitter before?”
On Millwood’s day, we noticed no hits through four. And five. But as we started to do the math, we realized something interesting. Because he allowed just one base runner, Millwood only had to face one of the five most dangerous hitters in baseball history, Barry Bonds, only one more time. He was coming up in the seventh. Get by that, we thought, and we’re golden. That’s right, I said “we.” Who cares about Millwood?!?!?! We were ABOUT TO SEE A NO-HITTER!!!
Apparently we didn’t even need to worry about Bonds. Millwood ferociously attacked him in a way that screamed, “I know exactly what you represent,” and sneaked in a 1-2 pitch that caught him looking. It was one of only 58 times Bonds struck out all season, this time to end the seventh and prompt the second-loudest cheer of the day.
From there it was all good. Millwood rolled through the rest of the lineup, walking one, leaving Bonds in the hole to end the game and delivering the final no-hitter at the Vet. And it allowed the three of us to check off a baseball bucket list item.