Last Sunday was a cloudy, breezy day with intermittent rain, an all too appropriate setting to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1993 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.
A sunny day wouldn’t have seemed quite right for the team that achieved so much yet left the field unfulfilled when Toronto’s Joe Carter’s crushed a three-run World Series Game 6 walk-off homer off Mitch Williams. The same Joe Carter, whom fellow Kansas City native Jim Eisenreich still sees frequently at card shows, where he has to relive that fateful moment over and over again.
Indeed the ’93 Phils went from a 70-92 record worst in 1992 to a 97-65 first in the N.L. East, then knocked off the heavily favored Braves to win the pennant, before the defending champion Jays shattered their World Series dreams.
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With a bunch of talented but unruly characters like Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Dave Hollins, Pete Incaviglia, and Darren Daulton paving the way, Jim Fregosi’s club would not be denied until the very end.
That’s what made them so beloved then—and now-as 21 members of that team, among them then rookie Ruben Amaro Jr., Kruk, Hollins, Eisenreich and hard-throwing right-hander Curt Schilling returned for the occasion. But it was also a bittersweet occasion, with so many integral pieces of that team missing.
Daulton, the undisputed leader of the clubhouse, died last year after a long battle with brain cancer. Fiery manager Fregosi passed away in 2014, while popular coaches John Vukovich, Johnny Podres and Mel Roberts are also gone.
Dykstra, meanwhile, has faced so many embarrassing personal and legal problems he wasn’t even invited, while for various reasons others like Williams, Incaviglia, pitcher Terry Mulholland and infielder Mariano Duncan just didn’t come.
Their absence, especially Daulton and Dykstra, was keenly felt. “It’s tough not to have everybody here,” said Schilling, who credits pitching coach Podres for shaping his career, going 16-7 with a 4.02 E.R.A. in 1993.
“Not to have Dutch, and the coaches, and Lenny’s struggling. It’s unfortunate, but it’s more proof that we’re not really different than anybody else other than what our day jobs were.”
In many ways, though, that’s what made them connect so well with their fans. “This was a hard-nosed team that played hard and did lots of crazy stuff off the field,” said left-hander Danny Jackson, whose signature move was ripping open his shirt and screaming in Incredible Hulk mold.
“The chemistry we had as a team spilled over into the city. The city saw we were a bunch of guys who had that special camaraderie. Getting back together it’s like it never left.”
No matter how long it’s been.
“It’s hard to believe it’s 25 years,” said right fielder Eisenreich, who came over from the American League at 34 years old and hit a career-best .318. “We had a unique team that did it the old-fashioned way.”
“Get on base. Move ‘em over. Drive ‘em in. Play defense and throw to the right base. Just fundamental stuff,” he said. “But the lasting memory is just how much we were together –and still are.”
Eisenreich continued to expound on the special camaraderie that the players on ‘93 team had with each other.
“We get together. We tell stories. It was emotional watching the videos of those who are here. At the same time, we appreciate the time we had together remembered the guys who are not here.”
“But it’s almost like they’d be saying, you guys better be there and have fun.”
So that's what they did on a cloudy Sunday in their own inimitable way, a far different cry from how Gabe Kapler’s 2018 Phillies operate.
“That team today we’d have to play our home games at Leavenworth and wear ankle bracelets on the road,” laughed Schilling, whom many consider Hall of Fame worthy with his 216-146 record, 3.46 E.R.A, and three world championships.
“That was as politically incorrect a group of human beings that’s ever existed in the game. And it was fun.”
Not even Joe Carter can ever change that.