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Mudville: February 21, 2024 8:46 pm PDT

Mickey Morandini

"What I can say is that we all loved each other in that clubhouse.”

Mickey Morandini

Time waits for no one and for those who know what “Touch ‘em all Joe!” means, it might be hard to believe that 30 years have passed since that moment.

That of course was the call from Blue Jays radio announcer Tom Cheek as he announced Joe Carter’s historic home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.

While the Blue Jays won the ultimate prize that fall, it doesn’t take anything away from the incredible accomplishments from their World Series opponents that year, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Mickey Morandini was the Phillies’ popular second baseman that season and he joins us for this week’s Spitballin’.

The ’93 Phillies embodied the underdog spirit of the entire city and to this day, remains one of the most revered professional sports teams to have captured Philadelphia’s heart.

A total of 40 players wore a uniform at one point in the season for the Phillies in ’93 and not a single one has been elected to the Hall of Fame—yet.

Instead, they had an entire roster of winners who embraced a “refuse to lose” attitude and were led by catcher Darren Daulton, the ultimate clubhouse steward.

Players like Morandini, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Hollins, John Kruk, Jim Eisenreich and Milt Thompson among others set the tone. A pitching staff of bulldogs led by Curt Schilling, Danny Jackson, Tommy Greene and Terry Mulholland made it tough for hitters and the white-knuckle back-end bullpen combination of David West and Mitch Williams got the job done more often than not.

When a team embodies the grittiness of a city the way the ’93 Phillies did, it makes things even more special.

It’s been 30 years since that magical season, so let’s relive the magic as we go Spitballin’ with Mickey Morandini.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. Morandini. Looking forward to talking about the 1993 Phillies but first let’s go back to your childhood. What was baseball like for you as a kid?

I grew up north of Pittsburgh and we were Pirates fans as a family. We’d listen to Pirates games on the radio because every game wasn’t on TV. I was real young for the Roberto Clemente years, but I remember where I was when he had that fatal crash. Where I really fell in love with the Pirates was the “We are Family” World Series champion team of 1979 with Willie Stargell and all those guys. We played a lot of basketball and baseball as kids and I was always outside with friends playing Wiffle Ball and fastpitch stickball with a tennis ball.

You were a member of the 1988 Olympic Baseball Team, one of the best amateur teams ever assembled. How did you get the chance to try out for that team?

In 1987 I was part of a group of 25 players who went to Cuba and played in the Intercontinental Cup. That team was coached by Mark Marquess, who was the Head Coach of Stanford at the time and he ended up being the coach of the 1988 Olympic team too. I played extremely well in the Intercontinental Cup. I was the shortstop on that team and hit about .400 and I think that caught the eye of Coach Marquess. The following summer I was invited as a group of about 50-60 players to try out for the United States Olympic Team and was fortunate to be one of the 20 players selected. I played outfield and we beat Japan for the Gold Medal. Actually before any of that took place, I had a big decision to make. Prior to the Olympics, I was drafted by the Pirates, the team I grew up rooting for. If I signed with them, I wasn’t going to be able to play on the Olympic team. I really thought about it a lot and went back and forth on my decision a number of times. In the end, the chance to play for my country outweighed signing with the Pirates and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

It all started with Darren Daulton, who I believe was the best team leader in baseball history. He commanded the clubhouse like nobody I ever saw.

What did it mean to you to represent the United States on the baseball diamond?

Playing for my country was the ultimate thing I have done on a baseball field. I played in a World Series, an All-Star Game and did a lot of things on a Major League field. However, nothing compares to winning a Gold medal for the United States. I don’t know why baseball and softball aren’t medal sports in the Olympics. There are many countries that have great programs. I look at some of the other sports that they have and just laugh. I really would love to see baseball and softball as medal sports in the Olympics for good; I don’t know why that’s not the case.

You were called up to the Majors in just your second year of minor league baseball. Can you tell us the story of your call up?

It was a nerve-wracking experience. I was in my first season of AAA in 1990 and I had a pretty good year, but wasn’t great. It was my first year switching over to second base. I played good defense and hit about .260. The rumor was that I wasn’t going to be part of the September call ups. Tommy Herr was the Phillies second basemen so they were pretty set there. We had a few games left and I was preparing to go home for the offseason to relax and our manager, Bill Dancy, called me into his office. I was like, “Oh man, what the hell is going on now?” He told me that the Phillies had just traded Tommy Herr to the Mets and I was going up to Philadelphia to replace him. He said the Phillies had a doubleheader that night and I was starting Game 2!

I got in my car in Scranton and drove two hours down to Philly and you can imagine all the things going through my head on that drive. By the time I got to The Vet, Game 1 had already started. They put me in the game as a pinch hitter around the seventh inning and my first at bat came against Eric Show. I worked a good at bat, got it to 3-2 and hit a hard line out to left. My next at bat I hit a single to right off Greg Harris, got bunted over to second and then John Kruk drove me home with a single for a walk off win. That was my first day in the Big Leagues. I started it in AAA in Scranton and by the end of the day I was scoring the winning run for the Phillies. It was a wild day.

Mickey Morandini makes a play leaping over Jason Kendall

Chicago Cubs Mickey Morandini (R) flies through the air as he avoids the sliding Pittsburgh Pirates Jason Kendall to complete a double play during the eighth inning of their game 10 September at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-2. (Photo by DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP via Getty Images)

Unbelievable! Jumping ahead to 1993. The Phillies really hadn’t been that great the previous three seasons. What were your expectations like going into 1993?

In 1992 we were a bad team. There’s no way around it. We needed better players and I give our GM Lee Thomas a lot of credit. Instead of going out and signing superstars, he went out and just signed good, solid, winning players. We signed guys like Pete Incaviglia, Milt Thompson, Danny Jackson and Jim Eisenreich. Every single publication picked us for last place, so there was no pressure on us whatsoever. We got off to a great start, winning eight of our first nine games and just went from there. The fans started getting behind us and it was a great time at The Vet. We went from having about 25,000 fans to sellouts every night. A lot of guys had career years and stayed pretty healthy all season. Darren Daulton was great. John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Hollins had great seasons. Unfortunately, it all came to an end in Game 6 of the World Series. Even so, I have had thousands of people come up to me over the years to tell me they just loved the ’93 Phillies.

You faced the Braves in the NLCS. The Braves had won 104 games and of course had Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. You guys had a lot of solid players, but as of yet, no Hall of Famers. What was the Phillies mindset going into that series?

We were underdogs against the Braves but everyone in our clubhouse thought we were going to win. It all started with Darren Daulton, who I believe was the best team leader in baseball history. He commanded the clubhouse like nobody I ever saw. If someone was moping or pouting, he would pull them aside and get them right. Our manager, Jim Fregosi, didn’t have to do much except fill out the lineup card and let us play. We had platoons in three positions — left field, right field and second base, and everyone bought into it. We had righties who would crush lefties and lefties who would crush righties. What I can say is that we all loved each other in that clubhouse. We all cared about each other and wanted to win.

The Braves had a stacked lineup and their pitching was off the charts. We were definitely underdogs, but we had been underdogs all year. It didn’t matter to us. We felt like we could beat them. We were division winners and had a balanced team. All of our starting pitchers won at least 12 games. We all ran the bases pretty well. We played great defense at almost every position. We had three guys who drew over 100 walks that year, so we knew how to work pitchers. To be honest, I think the Braves took us lightly and we ended up beating them in six games.

Mickey Morandini flips his batting helmet

The Philadelphia Phillies' Mickey Morandini (R) tosses his batting helmet in frustration to base coach Brad Mills after hitting a long fly ball that was caught for an out during game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)

In the clinching Game 6, your two-run triple turned a 4-1 lead into a 6-1 game and knocked Greg Maddux out of the game. Can you talk about that hit?

That was probably the biggest hit of my career. It’s always great to come through with a big hit in the playoffs. I always hit Greg Maddux and the Braves well. In fact, of all the visiting players who played at Turner Field, I have the highest career batting average. In that inning, they walked Lenny Dykstra to get to me, which was the right move. Lenny had an MVP type of season. I knew Maddux liked to throw changeups to lefties and that’s what he did to me. The first pitch was a change in the dirt and I swung at it. He came back with another and I checked my swing. He threw me a third straight changeup and this time he left it up a little. I got good wood on it and pulled it into the right field corner. As I was rounding second and heading to third, I could hear the crowd roaring. Bobby Cox came out of the dugout to take out Maddux, so I had a chance to stand on third and take it all in. There were 60,000 people at The Vet and they were just going nuts. It was quite an experience.

Again, you guys were underdogs to the Blue Jays in the World Series. What was the feeling going into the World Series?

We felt like we matched up well against the Blue Jays. They had about four Hall of Famers in their lineup; their offense was off the charts. But we felt like we could beat them. That was our mentality all year. I really believe that if we won Game 4, we would have won the World Series. That would have tied things up at two games apiece. Instead, we went down 3-1 and it was going to be tough to win three straight from Toronto. We should have won Game 4. We were up 14-9 going to the eighth and gave up six runs.

Philadelphia Phillies team reps Mickey Morandini and Larry Bowa pose for a photo prior to the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft at Studio 42 at the MLB Network on Monday, June 4, 2018 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images)

I hate to bring it up, but can you reflect on Joe Carter’s home run? What was it like being out on the field on the other end of that?

Joe Carter’s home run was just a crushing blow. The pitch was low and inside, usually a really good pitch. It was a great pitch actually. But to Joe Carter, that was a bad pitch because he was a lowball hitter. Mitch wanted to go up and away, but it missed the spot. But that’s no fault to Mitch Williams. If it wasn’t for Mitch Williams, we don’t even get there in the first place. He had a great season for us, but Joe Carter just got the better of him on that pitch.

Can you talk about the bond the 1993 team had not only as teammates, but with the city of Philadelphia as well?

Our bond was incredible and still remains strong to this day. I just got back from fantasy camp a few weeks ago and we had about ten guys from the ’93 team there. Dave Hollins was there. Kevin Stocker, Wes Chamberlain, Tommy Greene, Ricky Jordan too. It’s always great to see those guys. We have a text chat with the group and we still shoot the shit every so often. The Phillies are planning a 1993 reunion this year at a game and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m especially looking forward to seeing guys I haven’t seen in such a long time like Terry Mulholland, Roger Mason, Ben Rivera and Pete Incaviglia.

You were selected to your first All-Star Game in 1995. What was it like being a Major League All-Star?

The All Star Game was an incredible experience. I had become a really good Major Leaguer by 1994, but the strike shortened that season. In 1995 it continued and I was honored to be selected for the All-Star Game. It was a lot of fun. The game was in Texas and it was hot as heck. I remember just coming through the tunnel to the field I was already sweating. I was out there with guys like Craig Biggio, Tony Gwynn and Barry Bonds. Hideo Nomo started the game for the National League and that was a really big deal at the time.

I actually had a better season in 1998, but I didn’t make the All-Star Game and that was a big disappointment. I was hitting about .327 at the All-Star break and probably would have made it, but the Brewers needed a representative, so they picked Fernando Viña. I was disappointed that I missed out on another All-Star Game because of the rule that every team needed to be represented. That and not winning a Gold Glove were my two biggest disappointments. Most people don’t realize, but I’m 14th all-time in fielding percentage among second basemen but I never won a Gold Glove. In 1998 I played 1,300 innings and made just five errors while playing second base at Wrigley. Not winning a Gold Glove that year was a bigger disappointment than missing the All-Star Game.

You mention that 1998 season with the Cubs, which of course was the year of Sosa and McGwire. What was it like having a front seat to the great home run chase of 1998?

In 1994 Major League Baseball lost a lot of fans to the strike and I really believe that 1998 home run chase brought them back. It was so much fun to be a part of. That year I batted in front of Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa, so I had a lot of fastballs to hit. That’s part of the reason why I had such a great season. Ken Griffey Jr. was involved in the race too, but he fell off as the season went on. Once Sammy hit 20 home runs in June, then it really set things up for the summer. McGwire and Sammy really went after each other. It was cool when they put their totals up on the scoreboard so everyone could keep track. We’d see McGwire’s number change and then Sammy would hit a homer and everyone would go nuts. McGwire kind of pulled away in the last ten games, but they missed the playoffs. We went on to win the one-game playoff with the Giants, but then lost to the Braves in the Division Series.

The one-game playoff was very exciting. Anytime the Cubs are having a great season, the fans really respond and it makes Wrigley Field such an awesome place to play. Gary Gaetti hit a two-run homer to give us the lead and we ended up winning 5-3. Then we had to face that stacked Braves team again and they beat us in three. I think if we could have won Game 2, it could have been a different series. Kevin Tapani pitched great that game, nine innings and just one run. But the Braves won it in the 10th and were up 2-0. That whole season was a blast though.

September 11 1999: Mickey Morandini #12 of the Chicago Cubs throws the ball to first base as Lance Berkman #22 of the Houston Astros slides into second base at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Ronald Martinez /Allsport)

You’re still involved with the Phillies as a team ambassador. We’re a few weeks away from Opening Day here now. What are your thoughts about the 2023 Phillies?

We had a great run last year and were a team that relied on power. That really showed in the playoffs. On paper, I feel like the Phillies are better in every aspect this year. Getting Trea Turner was a great pickup. I think we just have to hold the fort together until Bryce Harper comes back.

The division will be really tough this year. The Braves did things the right way, locking up all those young stars. Then you have the Mets buying all these great players. They’ll be really tough too. Any of those three teams can win it. It’s going to be a matter of who stays healthy. I like the changes that have been made to the schedule this year. If you’re going to have interleague play, you might as well play every team in baseball. That’s only fair. I thought playing 19 games against each divisional opponent was a lot, so I like that they reduced that down to 13. It makes those divisional games even more important. I’m looking forward to the season for sure.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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