By the time I was 11 in 1992 my love of the Phillies had already begun. They may have had the ugliest uniforms and one of the worst records in baseball, but they were my team. My dad would take me to the Vet to see them growing up and sometimes my grandparents would take me to Wrigley to see them play the cubs. Mike Schmidt was my favorite player growing up, he was the first player that I remember liking. They also have the best mascot in all of sports the Phillie Phanatic, what kid wouldn't be a fan. But in 1993 I fell in love with a team. They got new uniforms that year too. To this day it's one of only 3 teams I can name all the players from. The other 2 are the current roster and the 08 Phillies.
The 93 Phillies are why, even years after leaving the Philly area, I'll never be a fan of another team. Sure I enjoy going to Nats games, but I still get the urge to boo Werth, even when they are not playing the Phillies. Plus you can't replace all of those memories. My favorite player on that team was Kevin Stocker the SS. After a few years in the league we never heard from him again. Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams was my favorite pitcher. He was run out of town after surrender ing the series winning homerun to Joe effing Carter. He was traded to Houston and last I saw was working at the MLB network. Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to a guy on my softball team about these guys and their stories. They were his favorite team too. Their were bigger names on the team. John Kruk, during spring training he caught a ball in his privates so as most 6th graders would we nicknamed him one nut Kruk. He is now one of the announcers for the Phillies. There was Lenny Dykstra, our All Star. The called him Nails cause he was tough as nails. Curt Schilling was on that team, it was with the Phillies that his post season dominance began. Long before the bloody sock. He ended up winning the 3 rings after leaving the team. There were other role players as well, Mickey Morandini, Dave Hollins, Jim Eisenreich, and Pete Incaviglia. Fun fact about Pete, he is still the only professional baseball players autograph I have ever been able to get. Lastly there was the leader, the man behind the mask, Darren "Dutch" Daulton. He was there for every pitch that season. I was so happy when he finally got his ring with the Marlins in 97.
These were the men that shaped my manhood of the Phillies. They were also the first team I watched as the got traded away, left in free agency, or retired. That summer I fell in love with a team. That fall was the beginning of what is now a diehard love of the Phillies.
1993 was the last season before the introduction of the wild card, when the playoffs last two ish weeks. The Phillies won the NL East and the Braves won the West. This was before realignment too. This was the series where I learned to hate the Braves. This was before they were the team of the 90s, but they did win the NL the year before and would go on to be one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball, even if they only won 1 World Series title. I remember laying on the bed in our playroom each night watching the games on tv. But the only real memory was in the final game when Mitch Williams was coming up in the 9th to face the heart of Braves lineup. After each out I would scream in my pillow until the final out when I couldn't hold it in anymore and probably woke up the house. It wouldn't have mattered much people were outside beating on pots and pans cheering the improbability of the Phillies being NL Champions ANF going to the World Series.
In the World Series they faced the defending champions Toronto Blue Jays. In the series Schilling would throw a complete game shutout. The only pitching outing better than that in a world series game was Don Drysdale's perfect game. Since then the only better playoff performance was Roy Halladay's No-hitter against the Reds in 2010. But the series came down to 1 at bat, in the 9th inning of Game 6. I was on a Boy Scouts camping trip. I don't remember the name but there were multiple troops from around the area and we spent the day learning to shoot and earning related merit badges. But that night almost every tent had snuck a battery powered radio on the trip. Even the leaders were up listening to the game. But like I said 9th inning 2 outs Joe effing Carter comes to the plate. If Mitch strikes him out we go to game 7. But that doesn't happen, Carter hits a homerun and the Blue Jays win the series and an entire camp of Boy Scouts all groan in disappointment.
After that game it wasn't until 2007 until I saw another Phillies team make the playoffs, so Nats fans I wouldn't complain too much about having a playoff contender year after year. In 2008 the Phillies finally ascended to the mountain top and won it all. I had never been so happy. But I may never had cared if not for this 93 Phillies and that's why they are still my favorite team and many are still my favorite players.
By the end of the 94 season the Phillies were back at the bottom of the division and I had moves to Virginia. At the time it was Braves territory. Luckily Inter-league play was introduced not long after I moved, I'll never forget going to Camden Yards with my buddy Jake to see the Phillies play. By then Schilling and Dykstra were the only notable guys left. Kruk had left for the White Sox and Daulton was with the Marlins. But I remembered being excited to see this new Catcher, Mike Lieberthal play. In that game he hit a home run.
I started writing this because I heard on the news this morning that Darren Daulton passed away. He had been battling brain cancer for a few years. Unlike many of the other Phillies I've kept tabs on since 93, Dutch had stayed pretty quiet. He won the World Series and rode off in the sunset. Today o. Twitter former teammates wrote about his leadership and his infectious smile. As I thought about the images in my head I remembered of him he was always smiling, he looked like he truly loved the game he was so fortunate to play. As I thought more, I think that is why fans connected with that 93 team so much, they were always smiling. They were having fun, just like my friends and I were when we played. Daulton was there leader. Rest In Peace and thank you for the memories.