While not thought of first in the mind of today’s Phillies fan, the Phillies and Braves have a long history and a very storied rivalry.
The Braves were founded in Boston in 1871 and joined the National League in 1876. Between 1871 and 1940, the Boston “baseball team” changed their name a grand total of eight times until finally settling with the name “Braves” before the 1941 season. The Braves would stick around in Boston until the end of the 1952 season. Before the 1953 season, the Braves would settle into their new home in Milwaukee. The Braves would start strong in Milwaukee with a 92-62 record, third best in the major leagues. They posted a 13-9 record against the Phillies. The Braves success in Milwaukee would continue as a young kid named Henry Louis Aaron (more affectionately known as “Hank”) arrived on April 3, 1954 and swung his way into the history books.
The Milwaukee Braves would go on to handle the Phillies quite easily from 1954-1964, losing only one season series against the Phillies. During this time period, the Phillies were in a rebuild as aging stars like Richie Ashburn, Del Ennis and all of the core pieces from the great 1950 team were all coming to the end of their careers. Meanwhile, the Braves had a superstar in Aaron providing them with 366 home runs, 1216 RBIs and a .320 batting average. In 1957, the Braves would win the World Series behind Aaron’s MVP season and a Cy Young Award winning season from 36-year-old Warren Spahn; who in his 16th season held a 21-11 record with a 2.69 ERA over 271 innings.
After a second consecutive World Series trip in 1958, the Braves would begin to fall into the middle of the pack. During their time in the middle, the Phillies built up a solid squad and climbed the standings. After a promising season in 1963, things appeared to being trending in an upward trajectory. Throughout most of 1964, the Phillies looked like World Series contenders. Then the rest is history…
In 1966, the Milwaukee Braves once again relocated, looking for a fresh start and possibly one more championship run with the aging Aaron. After three average seasons to open their new Atlanta home, the MLB would go through expansion and it would realign both the American League and National League into an East and West division. For some odd reason that will never be explained, the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds would be in the western division with the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and one of four new organizations, the San Diego Padres. Elsewhere, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals would be in the eastern division with the Phillies, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates and the brand new Montreal Expos. But regardless of the senseless divisional alignment, the Atlanta Braves would thrive in their new division and end up in the playoffs against the National League East Division winning Mets. The Braves would go on to get swept by the Mets in a series that totaled 42 runs over three games.
In 1973, a struggling Phillies team would give the controls over to a 23-year-old Mike Schmidt, and within three years, the Phillies rebuild had paid dividends. With the Aaron Era coming to an end (1976 would be Aaron’s final season); the Braves would go through a brief rebuild. During this rebuild Schmidt, would become the marquee slugger in baseball. Behind Schmidt, the Phillies would make the playoffs from 1976-1978. In 1976, the Phillies would get swept by the “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds. In 1977 and 1978, they would find themselves struggling with the Dodgers.
In 1979, the Phillies would miss the playoffs and Schmidt would have a down season. But in 1980, he would start the first of two straight MVP seasons with a World Series victory over the Kansas City Royals. Schmidt would have the backing of Pete Rose and, at the time, three-time Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton. Together, they would get back to the playoffs in 1981 and miss out on the opportunity to face off against a surprise Braves team in the 1982 playoffs, despite Carlton winning another Cy Young. In 1983, the Phillies would build one final run with their 1980 core. The Phillies would reach the 1983 World Series, but would not be able to overcome the Baltimore Orioles.
While Schmidt would have one more MVP season in him in 1986, the Phillies were starting the cycle again and heading in to a rebuild as Rose left after the 1983 season. Carlton had father time chasing him down and would be traded during the 1986 season. In the late 1980s, the Braves were putting the pieces together of a dynasty that would rule over the National League for almost 15 years.
This Braves dynasty was led by a pitching staff that one would struggle to put together in a video game. This staff featured future Hall of Famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz,which helped the team to reach the World Series in 1991 and 1992. As if the rotation wasn’t already unfair, they added another future Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux, to the mix in 1993.
In a season full of surprises, the 1993 Braves would do exactly what was expected of them during the regular season. The Braves posted a 104-58 record behind four 15+ win starters all throwing over 200 innings (Steve Avery being the fourth). On the other side, there was the 1993 Phillies. Led by Darren Daulton and Curt Schilling, this Phillies team was a collection of “scrapped” players who didn’t make the cut in other places. They weren’t even supposed to be good in 1993, as they were 22 games below .500 in 1992. In 1993, they would win 97 games and advance to the playoffs.
The Braves and Phillies would meet in the 1993 NLCS. Game 1’s matchup between Schilling and Avery was a stalemate throughout the first nine innings. Then with one out in the bottom of the 10th, pinch-hitter Kim Batiste drove home the winning run on an RBI double. Game 2 saw Maddux and the Braves beat up on Tommy Greene and the Phillies 14-3. Game 3 looked like it was going to be a pitcher’s duel between Glavine and Terry Muholland, as the Phils’ were up 2-0 after the top of the sixth. The Braves responded with nine unanswered in the sixth and seventh and won the game 9-4.
Heading into Game 4, the Phillies were in a must-win situation with Smoltz taking the mound for the Braves. The Braves would strike early, but thanks to two key fourth inning RBIs by Kevin Stocker and starting pitcher Danny Jackson, the Phillies would win the game 2-1. In Game 5, Schilling took the mound again and it was another 4-3 thriller because of some late-game issues with Mitch Williams. While they were nothing out of the ordinary for Williams, there was not a Phillies fan on earth that wanted to see the Braves score three in the ninth.
For Game 6, the Phillies, thanks to some top-of-the-order hitting, took the lead early and never gave it up. Heading in to the ninth inning, they had a 6-3 lead over the Braves and Mitch Williams had to take the mound again. Here’s how it ended…
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