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50 of 50

50 Greatest Phillies Games: 7. The night Joe Carter broke our hearts

CARTER31.jpgUntil March 27, we’ll be counting down the 50 greatest Phillies games of the last 50 years (and yes, some of them are losses). This is 50 of 50.

And this is No. 7.

THE DATE: Oct. 23, 1993

THE GAME: Phillies vs. Toronto Blue Jays, SkyDome, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

THE STAKES: Game 6, World Series

THE GREAT: For the first time in 10 years the Phillies were in the World Series. The upstart, patient and extra-base-hit-bashing Phils had to get past the powerful Toronto Blue Jays, the defending world champion, to win their first crown since 1980. And heading into Game 6 the Phils faced a 3-2 series deficit. The Blue Jays had Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, John Olerud, Pat Hentgen and Juan Guzman. But we had dreamers, damnit. 

The Dreamers

TIM MALCOLM: Oct. 19, 1993, was my ninth birthday. It was also the day the Phillies returned home to play Game 3 of the World Series.

In school we were permitted to wear Phillies hats. In the middle of the day we received word that Action News cameras were coming into our school … into our class … and we should be ready to cheer and scream. Already my birthday was incredible. Upon returning home, mom made a big dinner and cake, Dad raced home early, and we ate and watched the 5 p.m. newscast as all of Philadelphia was buzzing about the crazy, ridiculous, incredible 1993 Phils.

But typically Dad got home at 6. And they were telling us to eat quickly. It was weird, but I didn’t think twice about it.

Then I opened my presents, including tickets to that night’s Game 3 of the World Series.

Best birthday ever.

I was nine. My favorite baseball team with my favorite players (specifically Lenny Dykstra, Mickey Morandini and John Kruk) was in the World Series. The eyes of the world were on Philadelphia, on us, and because I was nine, on me. October of 1993 was the coolest time of my entire life.

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: In 1993, the Phillies were my life. I was a graduating senior from high school, on my way to college. But aside from all of the craziness that comes from that, all I cared about was the Phillies. I was hooked in spring training when they brawled with the Cardinals, Pete Incaviglia’s jersey ripped and his face bloodied. Or at least that’s how I remember it. This was going to be the year.

So of all the parties I went to that summer, around graduation, at Senior Week in Wildwood, all the hours I worked scraping together enough money to get to college, my full commitment was to the Phillies. I vividly remember watching or listening to part of every game that season. No lie.

I watched the last month of the season on a fuzzy antenna connection in my freshman dorm room in the olden days of having no cable in those dorms. But it was an event for me when they won the NL East in Pittsburgh. And it brought great joy to be the underdog against the Braves, “America’s Team.” They were a bastardized version of the Cowboys, a team I was already conditioned to hate, so it didn’t take much to hate the Braves, the Tomahawk Chop, and everything they and Ted Turner stood for. I’ve already wrote here what an incredibly personal and important moment it was for me to watch Game 6 of the NLCS in my new college digs.

Unless you lived through it, you don’t know what it was like to be a fan of those ’93 Phils. They grabbed you and made you feel like you were a part of that team, no matter how inconsequential you might be.

BRIAN MICHAEL: My friends and family followed the 1993 team like they were rock stars – we went to spring training games, home games, away games, playoff games. I remember banging pots and pans in the street when Mitchie-poo sealed the NLCS.

DANIEL WALSH: I was 5 years old.

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: When it comes to favorite Philadelphia teams for my generation (I’m 42), the 1993 Phillies rank in the top-three of any list with the 2001 Sixers and whatever other team you want to throw in there. Perhaps the 1991 or 2004 Eagles. Regardless, no team Philadelphia has ever produced brings up the kind of feelings and emotions that the 1993 Phillies do. They were incredible. You hear the adjectives – throwbacks, dirtbags, whatever – and they were all true. All this team did was win, and they did it in a way that every Philadelphia fan – not Phillies fan, but every Philadelphia fan – could get behind, appreciate and adore. I adored the 1993 Phillies.

And that’s what makes Game 6 of the World Series so damn brutal.

BRIAN MICHAEL: Although I was born in 1981, I was too young to remember the glory days of Philly sports in the early 1980s. But I remember Game 6 of the 1993 World Series vividly, since this was my first real taste of championship sports.

TIM MALCOLM: My life went into a bunch of directions after 1993, and I can actually point to that Phillies team, and the time before Game 6, as the last moments of pure innocence in my life. No hyperbole, of course.

DANIEL WALSH: The 1993 World Series is how I learned that losing sucks.

The Game

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: I spent much of the postseason going home on weekends so I could watch with my dad and my brothers, but during Game 6, I locked myself in my Elizabethtown College dorm room to watch by myself. I didn’t want to be around the crowds, I didn’t want to hear the posers talk about how they knew that Mikey (misspelling intentional) Moran-something-or-other would be the hero in the NLCS. If you didn’t live through it, you don’t remember this, but everyone in the whole region, many of whom couldn’t find their way to the Vet with a map and a tour guide, suddenly became the biggest Phillies fans in the world. It was lovely and wildly jarring at the same time. Thus I chose knowledgeable solitude over frustrating companionship for Game 6.

TIM MALCOLM: I still remember sitting in the outfield during Game 3 and thinking “Wow! There are a lot of Phillies fans now!” By that point I’d already been to a few dozen games at the Vet, often being one of maybe 10,000 on a sticky summer day, if we’re being charitable. Even at age nine I knew the crowds came out for only a handful of games – the home opener, Phanatic’s birthday, Kodak Photo Night (one of my favorites), the two fireworks nights and fan appreciation day. But this was different … they were … cheering … for the Phillies?

Being nine I didn’t have as many choices as to where I was hanging out that night, so I was home watching the game with my dad and brothers.

DANIEL WALSH: I remember nothing from the game itself, if I watched it live at all.

What made my experience different is that I relived it so many times. The year it came out, I watched the 1993 Phillies video yearbook, Whatever it Takes, Dude, every day. Every morning, I went back through the carefree optimism of spring, the growing belief in a plucky team, the terrible voiceover work of Lenny Dykstra, and the ultimate heartbreak of losing the World Series.

The editors try to end the video on a positive note – with fans giving the team a well-deserved warm welcome home after the loss – but it’s tough to shake what comes before that.

TIM MALCOLM: Same here. Because I was nine, most of my memories are of the big moments themselves. So the game itself was a blur.

And I loved Whatever It Takes, Dude, watched it all the time (thanks to it I learned to love the Hooters’ 1985 album Nervous Night, as well). That helped me refresh my memories through the mid-1990s.

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: It’s a blur now. A horrific, intoxicating blur that defines everything baseball could be in its greatest, purest form.

Here is what I remember. Roger Mason bailing out Terry Mulholland for more than two innings of scoreless relief. David West and Larry Andersen mucking up Mason’s masterpiece, making everyone wonder why Jim Fregosi didn’t keep Mason in (WHY THE EFF DIDN’T THEY KEEP HIM IN?!?!?!). Lenny Dykstra playing perhaps the most Lenny Dykstra game of his Phillies career.

The seventh inning. Good lord, the seventh inning (in which the Phils score five runs, including a Dykstra three-run shot, to take a 6-5 lead). I remember feeling absolutely, positively, for however many fleeting moments, that if the Phillies could somehow hold on and win this game with a 6-5 lead, that they would definitely, unequivocally and undisputedly, win Game 7. It was destiny. It was a lock.

The members of that team would say the same thing later in what is unarguably the greatest rain delay Phillies seasonal highlights film that has ever been made … you know … Whatever It Takes, Dude.

TIM MALCOLM: We really should just play Whatever It Takes, Dude.

The Ninth Inning

BRIAN MICHAEL: After watching most of the game with my family, I finished by watching in my room since it was close to bedtime.

TIM MALCOLM: I was definitely in the living room with Dad when the bottom of the ninth began. Henderson walked on four pitches. (Seriously, at that point I don’t care if “he’s the horse that got us there.” Williams had blown too many leads too many times, and a four-pitch walk to the guy with the most steals in baseball history? Nope. Bring in Jeff Juden.) Then Devon White flew out.

BRIAN MICHAEL: For that entire final inning, I stood on my bed (I suppose that’s the kid-equivalent to sitting on the edge of your seat).

TIM MALCOLM: Then Molitor singled.

Now, the Phils still had a 66 percent win probability at the time, but I was nine. I didn’t understand win probabilities. Also, win probabilities didn’t exist.

Also, I was nine, and the Jays were feeling it. The fans were feeling it. And my stomach turned something gnarly. All at once I knew it.

And here’s why I remember that I was in the living room watching the bottom of the ninth. Because the moment Molitor singled to push Henderson to second, I ran upstairs, tears forming at my face. I threw myself onto the bed and covered my head in my pillow. And I wailed.

I knew it. It was over. Williams was about to blow the damn series.

BRIAN MICHAEL: I felt my heart beating as Joe Carter approached the plate, everyone knowing the gravity of the situation.

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

BRIAN MICHAEL: I collapsed and sobbed.

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: I walked – nay, stormed – out of my dorm room and slammed the door behind me. So did others. We cursed, we stomped, we threw stuff around, because that’s what college kids do. It was the coping mechanism for both the posers and the real fans.

BRIAN MICHAEL: I recall vividly how quickly that ball went from Joe’s bat to over the wall; it all happened so fast.

DANIEL WALSH: That home run had no business leaving the yard.

TIM MALCOLM: I didn’t even watch the home run until years later. It was a gimme. But then, if it falls short of the fence, Henderson scores easily, and Molitor is probably running the whole way. So it’s either ripping the bandage off, or suffering through a long peel. Either way, I want to cry again.

BRIAN MICHAEL: I’m still not over it.

The Aftermath

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: I’ve learned to forgive Joe Carter. I forgave Mitch Williams. I forgave Jim Fregosi.

After the game, I flipped over to Saturday Night Live to see Chris Farley impersonating John Kruk on “Weekend Update,” with Kevin Nealon telling him that the Phillies lost, and Farley/Kruk saying, “I should have been there.”

Ba ha, really funny, numbnuts. Even though they thought they were being funny, they put another dagger into my heart. This was confirmation that this was real. The Phillies just lost the World Series.

They were destined to win, but they lost.

DANIEL WALSH: The only thing worse than losing is not knowing how long it’ll take to get another shot. It could take decades to get back to the World Series, if it happens at all.

TIM MALCOLM: I was sad for a little while, but then I became excited for 1994. The Phillies were still a favorite to contend, and much of America just loved them. They were my team. Our team.

Sigh. 1994.

MICHAEL SADOWSKI: When I think of the 1993 Phillies, I think of the greatest summer of my life. Maybe that’s why I still hold that team in such glory, because it was a confluence of my lifelong love affair with baseball and the Phillies, and the partying I did that summer when a few Phillies fans friends and I would still sneak away to catch a few innings on a car radio or on TV when we should have been chatting up the lady folk.

I’m finally done with thinking about how the Phillies should have won Game 6 – and Game 7 – and just willing to accept that this was my favorite Phillies team ever. And it always will be.

Box score from Baseball Reference

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