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Mudville: July 22, 2024 9:48 pm PDT

One of Those Nights

I was awake at 4:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 3, 1993. Why? To listen to a baseball game.

At that moment, Phillies closer Mitch Williams came to bat – there were no pitchers left, so manager Jim Fregosi let him hit – and he lined a single to left-center field scoring Pete Incaviglia to give Philadelphia a 6-5 victory over the San Diego Padres, which set a record for the latest times a game ended in history. Williams’ hit came off a highly touted rookie whose career was getting off to a rough start, but he turned things around: Hall of Fame reliever Trevor Hoffman.

The game concluded a double header that was scheduled to start approximately 12 hours earlier at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. There was an advance sale of about 54,000 who bought tickets to see their NL East-leading team and watch a fireworks display between games.

So much for plans.

The first game was to start at 4:35 p.m. on July 2, 1993, but was delayed for an hour and 10 minutes by rain. There was another rain delay in the third inning that lasted nearly two hours. By that time, only a few thousand fans were on hand, and most of them had settled into the best seats in the park.

Right before the start of the sixth inning, it began to pour again, and the umps called for another delay. This one lasted about an hour.

The weather kept the teams off the field long enough for the first game to finally end a few minutes past 1 AM, with the Padres winning 5-2. Players headed to their locker rooms thinking the second game would be rescheduled. Then there was an announcement that the second game would start around 1:30 a.m.

Again, so much for plans.

“I was shocked,” Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini said when he learned he would have to play a second game. Some of his teammates had already taken off their uniforms when they were told they’d play another game.

Outfielder Jim Eisenreich said, “When I heard the announcement and said game two will start about 1:20 or whatever time it was, it’s like, wow. And then I guess, my position was as an extra outfielder. I had no doubt I was probably playing that too.”

It was the wackiest game this wacky team played that year, which saw them go worst-to-first in the National League East, with a record of 97-65.

Some of the characters on that squad included Lenny Dykstra, whose uniform was almost always dirty; John Kruk, a rotund first baseman who, after a fan said as an athlete he should watch what he ate, said “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a ballplayer.” Relief pitcher Larry Andersen played pranks in the clubhouse and did TV spots called Shallow Thoughts. “If he’s a good fastball hitter, should I throw him a bad fastball?” Andersen wondered.

After finishing last in 1992, General Manager Lee Thomas knew he had several holes to fill for his squad. But the Phillies were limited in how much they could spend on free agents.

Instead of trying to sign one superstar, Thomas signed several players who had done well at some point in their careers. In addition to Anderson and Eisenreich, he inked outfielders Milt Thompson and Pete Incaviglia. He traded for left-handed reliever David West, and swung a deal with the first-year Florida Marlins, who in the expansion draft selected pitcher Danny Jackson off the Pittsburgh Pirates roster, then traded him to the Phillies for minor league prospects. All of them essentially had a career year in 1993, or close to it.

John Kruk of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on from the field during batting practice before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in 1993 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

The Phils got off to a great start – 45-17 – and were in first place in the NL East every day of the season save for one. Then they upset the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS in six games. The fairy tale season ended with the Phils losing the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays, when Joe Carter hit a three-run, walk-off home run to clinch it for Toronto in game six.

The team was led by catcher Darren Daulton, who tragically died from brain cancer in 2017 at the age of 55.

“Darren was the rock in every aspect for that team,” said starting pitcher Tommy Greene, who won 16 games that year. “Middle of [the] order consistent hitter that walked a lot and could really run the bases even though he had all those knee surgeries. As a catcher, he really helped keep the running game for opposing teams down because he had a cannon for an arm, but his ability to call a game and adjust on the fly to what we had stuff-wise was amazing and we trusted him. He played the game the right way and he challenged us to play the same way. When he spoke, we listened. He was our leader!”

Added Morandini, “Darren was the best clubhouse leader I ever had. All he cared about was winning. Really handled any situation that came about during the year. Never really needed to get to the manager.”

Jim Fregosi recognized there were veterans who could “police” the squad by themselves: if someone didn’t hustle on a play, they’d talk to that player; if someone made a mental mistake, they’d point it out to him. The leaders were Daulton, Kruk, Dykstra, Williams, Incaviglia and third baseman Dave Hollins. Their spot in the locker room was dubbed “Macho Row,” because of their appearances: Incaviglia looked like a weight-lifting champion but with a droopy mustache; Hollins was legendary for his intense stare, Kruk looked like he should be playing in a beer league; Dykstra had the appearance of a prize-fighter who was slightly off kilter.

Mitch Williams of the Philadelphia Phillies before a 1993 World Series game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

In the book, Beards, Bellies and Biceps: the story of the 1993 Phillies by Tom Burgoyne and Robert Gordon, that group was “the heart and soul of the clubhouse. These guys formed the hard core that gave the Phillies their hard edge. They hated pitchers, for instance, which begs the question, ‘How did Mitch Williams get in?'”

Kruk said, “We weren’t gonna let Mitch in, but we figured he’s not a pitcher. Mitch is just a thrower.”

After games, several of the players would go into the trainer’s room – which was off-limits to the press and anyone else – and drink beer and talk about baseball for hours on end.

“(Macho Row)” could make life miserable for newcomers till they proved themselves,” wrote Burgoyne and Gordon. But when a player proved himself, they wrote, by putting the team first and doing whatever it took to win, the newcomers were accepted.

A number of players said it was the most fun they had in their careers. “When you win, plus with [that] cast of characters in the clubhouse there wasn’t never a dull moment,” said Greene.

Pitcher Terry Mulholland told Burgoyne and Gordon, “We had a lot of fun in that clubhouse, but the whole atmosphere changed about an hour before the game. Everybody put their game faces on and got set to kick butt. We all knew that’s what we were there for. We had lots of fun when we got to the clubhouse before and after the game.”

“We respected each other and we disrespected each other. But we disrespected each other out of respect, because we knew nobody’s feelings were going to get hurt. That crazy clubhouse atmosphere really helped bring the team together,” Mulholland added. “We’d work through problems, help each other out, talk strategy, learn from one another and straighten out how we’d handle different game situations.”

Terry Mulholland, 1993. (Getty)

Morandini said, “Yes, most fun I had in one season. Obviously, winning does that. Just a great group of guys.“

And the city embraced them. The club drew more than three million for the first time in its history.

Long-time fan Chuck Darrow recalled, “As for the 4:40 game, (my wife and I) were watching, and about 3 or 3:15, I decided I wanted to be there and actually started to get dressed. But then I figured there was a good chance that the game would end while I was en route or – worst-case scenario – it would end as I was walking into the Vet. So, I passed.“Despite the denouement, this was my all-time favorite Phils season,” said Darrow. (There are) too many memories to list, he said, but they include:

“My wife and I were watching pretty much every inning of every game – even the West Coasters. The season-opening sweep in Houston and their terrific first 40 or so games.

Mariano Duncan’s game-winning grand slam against (the Cardinals); there was a different hero seemingly every game. If it wasn’t Duncan or Eisenreich, it was Dave Hollins or Incaviglia.” Darrow said.

“The single greatest moment I ever experienced at a game (was) Game 6 of the NLCS. The Phillies take an eighth-inning lead, (Atlanta) Braves bat in the ninth as all 62,000 of us mock them with the Tomahawk chant,” he recalled.

Before the second game, manager Fregosi told pitcher Greene to be prepared to pinch-hit or pinch-run.

“I wasn’t surprised because he told me during the game to have my spikes on,” said Greene. “He would use me from time to time to pinch hit or something of that sort.”

In the bottom of the ninth of game two, he pinch-ran for Mario Duncan. With two outs, Greene was on second, when there was a wild pitch and Greene rounded third and headed home. Padres catcher Kevin Higgins threw to Hoffman who tagged Greene out at the plate. Then came Williams’ heroics.

Bruce Becker, a retired minister and serious baseball fan, said the year was “a huge surprise.”

“The free-agent market that year was tremendous — Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds,” said Becker. “What does (general Manager) Lee Thomas come up with? Milt Thompson. Pete Incaviglia.”

Becker noted that of the 14 teams in the league, 10 had future Hall of Famers playing for them. “Who have we got: Wes Chamberlain, Milt Thompson, Rickey Jordan,” said Becker.

That season, he got to witness many of those surprises at Veterans Stadium, even on a man of the cloth’s salary: “Tickets in the upper deck were $5, and kids were free,” he recalled. “I saw more games that year than any other season.”

The Phillies were not expected to do much better than their last place finish the year before. But a few things went their way. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who had won the division three straight years, were decimated by free agency. Plus, the Phils would play two expansion teams 25 times that season. Yet when the season opened, they were facing the possibility of being swept by the Houston Astros.

In the first two games, Houston presented their big free-agent signees Doug Drabek and Greg Swindell to start, with Pete Harnisch slated to pitch in the third game.

The Phils won all three games, with Mulholland and Curt Schilling out-dueling Drabek and Swindell. There were other improbable victories: The Phillies were trailing the San Francisco Giants 8-0, when an inning ended with a Giants pitcher spiking the ball. This made the Phillies angry, and they came back to win. In the bottom of the ninth inning at San Diego, left-fielder Milt Thompson leaped over a fence in San Diego to prevent a grand slam and save the game.

On Mother’s Day, another one of Chuck Darrow’s memorable moments happened. The team went into the bottom of the eighth inning trailing St. Louis 5-2. The Cardinals got the first two outs, then the Phillies loaded the bases. The Cards made a pitching change; who did they bring in? “Lee Arthur Smith, arguably the best closer of his time,” said Darrow. “Certainly the scariest.”

Smith had dominated the Phils in his career. But Duncan, signed as a free agent the year before, was 7-14 lifetime against Smith. He swung at the first pitch and launched it into the stands in leftfield for a grand slam, leading to a 6-5 victory. That win, and manner in which the team won, led many Phillies fans to think this season would be something special. And it was.”

That year, said Becker, “was a huge surprise.”

Darren Daulton #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies during batting practice prior to the start of a game against the Chicago Cubs circa 1993 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Daulton played for the Phillies in 1983 and from 1985-97. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Broaddus “Brody” Toliver Jr had been working for the Phillies for seven years as a part-time clubhouse attendant when he reported to work on July 2, 1993. He was a clubhouse attendant and now, in his 36th year of employment with the team, is a command center officer at Citizens Bank Park.

“Everyone was really tired that night. The staff and the players. That second game felt like it was going back and forth really long until Mitch Williams hit that crucial base hit to end the game -and that’s when everybody had a burst of energy to clean up to leave the ballpark to try to get some form of sleep,” said Toliver.

“That morning after that second game it was the first time ever that I had left the ballpark and the sun was actually shining! It was around 5 a.m. I live in the city, so I rushed home from the ballpark in 15 minutes. I think I slept for about four hours,” he added.

But there was no rest for the weary.

“It was already a day game scheduled that following day and I had to be back that morning around 9:30 AM,” said Toliver.

One of the quirks about the second game of the July 2-3 double header was how Philadelphia’s laws on serving alcohol affected the crowd. The city’s bars close at 2 a.m.

A little past that hour, people noticed the crowd was bigger than at the start of the second game. After patrons had their last drink at the bars, some went to the stadium, where they found the gates open.

The Phillies were in a slump when the doubleheader began. Eisenreich said he felt the team had squandered the first game, but when they were down 5-0 to Andy Benes in the second game, he said the club was not downbeat.

“We knew we could win every game,” he said. “We knew we could do it.”

Philadelphia Phillies manager Jim Fregosi (11) before a television interview before game vs Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Chicago, IL 4/18/1993 (Photo by John Biever /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Following the second game, Fregosi told the players they could skip batting practice. Phillies employees were told they could come in later than usual.

After the second game of the double header, the mood in the Phillies clubhouse “was pretty upbeat for being dead shot tired like everybody was,” said Eisenreich, who added many of his teammates were usually awake at four o’clock in the morning.

Greene said, “With the way that the game ended, we were all jacked up and riding high, but we didn’t change our routine. A bunch of us ended up in the training room as usual and had a couple of pops and talked about the games and had some laughs.

“The sun was up when we left the park to go home. That is what we did pretty much every night home or away after games leaving at dawn,” he added. (Eisenreich’s wife and daughter were at the ballpark for game one, but left around 1 AM. When he got home in the daylight his wife asked, “You’re just getting home now?”)

No ballplayer will ever play a game starting at 1:30 a.m. again.

Major League Baseball adopted a rule that no game can begin past midnight. A game suspended can be continued after midnight, starting one is prohibited.

Next month, the Phillies will hold a reunion for that team, 30 years after winning the 1993 pennant.

Three decades later, Morandini said fans will bring up that game when discussing the ’93 season.

As if that season wasn’t crazy enough, four days after the double header began, the Phillies faced the Dodgers at Veterans Stadium in a game that ended with the Phillies winning in the bottom of the 20th inning.

“It was one of those seasons,” said Eisenreich.

Jon Caroulis has been writing about baseball for more than 20 years. Many of his articles have been about "unusual" events or players. He is a graduate of Temple University.

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