Game Six of the NLCS was the last time we had something to truly celebrate as Phillies fans. It was the first time in ten years that the city of Philadelphia and its baseball fans were sniffing a World Championship; what made it sweeter was that the Phillies of 1993 were so beloved. They embraced Phillies fans and respected their devotion and passion, and they looked and acted like the kind of guys that Philadelphia fans would have a beer with.
The moment was golden, it was euphoria...and it made no sense that it was even happening.
There were many things that the Atlanta Braves did wrong that helped the Phillies to win Game Six, and one incident early in the game which perhaps helped them out the most. It was a must win for Atlanta. If the Phillies won the game they would advance to the World Series; the Braves were just trying to stay alive and force a Game Seven.
The Phillies would have to beat a Braves lineup that included David Justice and Ron Gant. Justice was the Braves homerun leader that year with 40 and he drove in 120 runs to tie with Ron Gant. Gant was consistent in getting on base that year, with a .345 average.
Among National League teams the Braves ranked first in homeruns in 1993 and their pitching staff, which included Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, carried the lowest overall ERA in the league. The Phillies by contrast were fifth in homeruns and carried the sixth lowest ERA in the league.
Mathematically it didn't make sense that the NLCS series was three games to two with the Phillies in the lead. The Braves outscored the Phillies by 13 runs, they outhit the Phillies 54-40, their overall batting average was .290 over the Phillies .227, and amazingly the Braves team ERA was 2.72 in comparison to the Phillies team ERA of 5.09.
It should be noted of course that the statistical advantage came from the Braves two victories being absolute blowouts.
Game One was a Curt Schilling tour de force; he pitched eight innings and gave up three runs, two of them earned. Mitch Williams would give up one run, but in typical heart attack-inducing form, he got the Phillies out of a jam and got the save; the Phillies won it 4-3. Williams would get the win.
Game Two was a laugher, as the Braves offense exploded with fourteen runs and Greg Maddux, Mike Stanton and Mark Wohlers held the Phillies to only three runs. Young Tommy Greene had started that game and Game Six would be his chance to redeem himself.
The Braves won Game Three, but the sky finally opened for the Phillies and they won the next two.
The real challenge of Game Six would be beating starting pitcher Greg Maddux, who led the team with 20 wins that season and led the National League with a 2.72 ERA.
Greene was fueled by the pounding he took in Game Two, when he gave up seven earned runs in two and a third innings pitched.
Phillies fans were not confident in Greene after that performance, and Greene knew he had something to prove. His Mother, Grandmother and Wife being in the crowd must have been initiative enough. It was his Grandmother who used to pitch balls to him in the backyard of her house.
The right-hander was more aggressive this time out, gaining confidence with each pitch and going after hitters with less fear. Though he walked a few more than the fans were comfortable with, Greene was known to do that and this time it didn't come back to haunt him. When he walked Fred McGriff three times in the game it was a well planned strategy to keep the bat out of McGriff's hands, and it worked well.
"I was not going to let him hurt me," Greene said of McGriff.
Mickey Morandini would contribute in the first inning, albeit unintentionally, when he hit the ball straight at Greg Maddux' leg; it has been said the injury threw him off the rest of the game. At the end of that inning Greene threw seven straight fastballs and put McGriff on for the first of those three times.
In the second inning Mickey Morandini contributed on the field, when he made an incredible leaping catch of a hard drive hit by David Justice. It would be a defining factor in the game defensively, keeping the Braves from getting anything going in that inning.
McGriff then got walked again. Terry Pendleton got a base hit, and McGriff went to second base. In a spectacular 4-6-3 double play, Greene was saved and the inning was over.
The Braves stellar line-up was not at its best in the postseason, with Justice going 3 for 18 and Gant 1 for 12. McGriff in cleanup was the only one putting up the same numbers in the post season that he did all year long. The Braves were a sleeping giant though and the Phillies would have to take advantage of the Braves sluggishness in this crucial game.
The Phillies would not do so in the bottom of the second even when a ball hit by Milt Thompson was misplayed by David Justice, giving Thompson a double. It looked like something would come of it, but shortstop Kevin Stocker struck out to end the inning.
All the while, Phillies manager Jim Fregosi was seen in the dugout keeping a calm and cool expression. If he was nervous at that point it didn't show. But in the Braves dugout, Bobby Cox was seen cursing profusely as he watched Maddux, knowing he had not been at his best since taking that groundball off his knee.
The third inning began with another Braves threat. Maddux successfully bunted and Damon Berryhill doubled. But Greene was not having the same problems on that day that he had in Game Two. There was much more fluent movement on his split finger pitch and on his breaking balls, and he got out of the inning striking out Jeff Blauser.
And while Maddux may not have been his most effective, it wasn't until the third inning that the Phillies scored. Greene drew a walk, Lenny Dykstra singled and Dave Hollins also walked to load the bases. Darren Daulton came to the plate and hit a line drive that bounced into the stands, making it a ground rule double and Hollins and Dykstra scored.
With Kevin Stocker at second and two outs, in stepped "The Dude", Lenny Dykstra. The look of intimidation on his face, the lips curled and the cheeks full from the mouthful of tobacco he endlessly chewed. He talked to himself a little at the plate, but that was Lenny figuring things out, trying to get a read on the pitcher. He got a great 2-2 pitch to hit and it sure looked like a homerun as it hooked to the left...and went foul. He swung through the next pitch to strike out, then hit himself with his helmet and threw it. Lenny was asked about his World Series appearance with the Mets in 1986, but said that this meant more.
"I'm the guy here, they need me," he told the press before the game and it was an absolutely accurate statement. Dykstra was the hero of Game Five when he hit a walk-off homerun in the tenth; he was also the toughest two strike hitter in the National League that year. Two strikes did not deter or frighten him.
In the fifth inning Greene seemed to struggle a little trying to get the Braves out.
Darren Daulton called for a curve ball but Greene threw a fastball to Otis Nixon, and though Nixon swung through it, the ball went a little wild and hit Daulton's knee; it was a passed ball, but Daulton gave Greene a few choice words and a grin from the plate. Greene once said "All Bubba [Daulton] had to do was look at you and you knew you messed up." It was obvious in that moment.
The fans kept on Greene after he walked his second straight batter of the inning. Jeff Blauser stepped up and hit a single up the middle and Mark Lemke scored.
In the bottom half of that inning, third baseman Dave "Mikey" Hollins did his pure-power hitting best, launching a 422 foot homerun to centerfield. The score was then 4-1; the Phillies weren't done yet.
In the sixth inning Mickey Morandini tomahawk-chopped the Braves even further, when he tripled to the right field corner, after Thompson singled and Dykstra was intentionally walked. The lead was comfortable for a short time. Jeff Blauser hit a two-run homerun to left field. The crowd got a little quieter...but they were still on their feet as they had been since the very first pitch of the game.
Greene was getting tired and Fregosi knew it. He put David West in for the eighth inning; West struck out the Braves in order. Why was West taken out when he was pitching so well? Because that's the way Fregosi did things. People were put in their roles and everyone knew what that role was. For better or for worse he stuck to that doctrine.
It was the ninth inning and in came Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, the man who set the record that year for most saves by a Phillie with 43, blew many saves in the ninth and the man who could load the bases and somehow get out of it over and over again. The weak hearts of Philadelphia cheese steak lovers all over the city were pounding away as Williams trotted to the mound to be the hero and end the game with the Phillies taking their first trip to the World Series in 10 years.
Williams command was fantastic, his fastballs moving fluidly, and his follow through was as mind boggling as ever; he didn't just pitch, he flung himself at the hitter and threw a fastball with violent force. I wonder if anyone remembers the Miller Lite Beer commercial in which he was playing darts and the dart wound up on the ceiling.
Game Six was Williams's moment to shine and take the city and his teammates to the big dance.
The crowd at the Vet was like listening to the stampede of thousands of elephants and the noise was deafening. Williams appeared fearless. The Phillies were three outs away from going to the World Series. And the Braves were about to become only the third team in this century to have won more than 104 games and not make it to the World Series. If they lost they'd join the 1909 Cubs and the 1942 Dodgers.
Everyone in the Phillies dugout was on their feet, Pete Incaviglia was screaming, Tommy Greene was jumping up and down.
Berryhill was the first batter Williams had to face. Williams dispatched Berryhill on four pitches, striking him out for the first out of the inning. Lemke was next and also struck out. The next batter was pinch-hitter Bill Pecota. There was a nervous moment...Williams threw two balls, then a strike. Then he threw another ball. Finally, Williams ran a full count and then...that was it. Number 99 Mitch Williams leapt in the air, everyone in the Phillies dugout poured on the field, Darren Daulton ripped his mask off and sprinted for the mound to pick Williams up, as the team attacked them and the emotion overflowed.
Afterwards Bill Giles was quoted as saying, "The Braves are the best team on paper. But there's a difference between stats and rising to the occasion. We beat them with heart." The stats told one story. But the Phillies of 1993 rewrote it.
In looking back on that last great and glorious Phillies moment I'd like to say thank you to that "buncha throwbacks", Curt Schilling, Tommy Greene, Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Hollins...and Mitch Williams. All of whom we would not have made it to the World Series without.