Where it all began…
When you are 6 years old, sports are a magical thing. When you are 6 years old, one instance, one play, and one moment can define your future and how your view the magical sports world. The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies were a collection of ordinary baseball players coming together and saving a city from the defeats of rivals across the country. Whether that be the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, or even the Toronto Blue Jays. What could go wrong, the good guys always win right?
We were hardnosed, less athletic, less functional, but a team. Everything about the 1993 Phillies resonated with this town. To a 6 year old, this was the embodiment of everything you want out of sports. We were not the best athletes, but that did not matter. Dykstra, Hollins, Eisenreich, Duncan, Morandini, Incaviglia, Kruk, Schilling, Williams, Greene, and the rest of the roster were not Hall of Famers – they were barely even all-stars. But for Philadelphia they were enough. Enough to make it. Enough to prove to the world what Philadelphia stands for.
With Veterans Stadium rocking, and Philly fans showing why we are the greatest. this team went on to win 97 games that season, coast through the playoffs – did Atlanta ever even stand a chance – and move on to play the Toronto Blue Jays. Yeah they were good, but the Phillies were better. Curt Schilling proved to be unhittable and Lenny Dykstra powered us through the first 5 games with 3 three homeruns. Even with all this going in our favor, we were still down 3-2 in the series. Typical Philadelphia, always the best but somehow finds a way to make us all sweat.
The game itself…
As a 6 year old, what could go wrong? We are up 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning. And then Mitch “The Wild Thing” Williams takes the mound. As I sat in my basement, praying my parents don’t come down and yell at me for sneaking out of my room after bedtime, I was all smiles. This young fan will already get a chance to witness a championship. The era of Philadelphia will be beginning momentarily. Get ready world…and then it happened. Ricky Henderson walks. Mitch Williams decides now is the right time to try a slide step for the first time. Paul Molitor singles. Joe Carter comes up to bat. One out, runners on first and second, 2-2 count. The next pitch, defined my past, present, and future life of a Philadelphia sports fan. A 6-5 lead turned into an 8-6 World Series defeat.
Disappointment, we know what it’s like
This disappointment is nothing new for Philadelphia fans and sports fans alike. Aaron Boone off of Tim Wakefield, Adam Wainwright shutting down the Mets, David Tyree and his helmet, Mario Manningham and his twinkle toes, the list can go on and on. The illusion of victory taken from you can have an everlasting effect on the city. The demons of the past resurfacing every moment you have in the spotlight. What we expect to happen morphs into reality, and it becomes a vicious cycle. You become accustomed to defeat. This misery molds you into the fan you never wanted to be.
Mitch Williams created the most passionate, knowledgeable, and defeated 6 year old with one pitch. Philadelphia went onto to be defined by the losses and misery over the next decade. Our passion, our knowledge, our empathy, and our emotional well-being was tested every day of every season. Every sports prognosticator challenged our fan hood. Yeah, other cities have experienced this, but for Philadelphia this is life. You may not like it; you may not understand it. This is who we are. We are proud of it; we accept it; we relish every moment of it. Why you may ask?
As the 6-year-old fan found out in 1993, we are Philadelphia and the misery makes us stronger.