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1993 Phillies Spring Training brawl against the Cardinals: 20 Years Later


The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. 


If you were a fan back then as you are now, that’s really all I need to say to elicit a smile from almost everyone who lived through that magical summer 20 years ago.


And here’s the crazy part of it all, and it’s something ONLY Philadelphians can appreciate.....


As much as this team is loved and worshipped in this town, we didn’t even win the World Series!!


Yes, despite a tragic ending that only a work of Shakespeare could duplicate, they remain my favorite sports team of all-time. And as a gangly, awkward 15-year old high school freshman, I had the pleasure of being a batboy for them on some occasions.


As the season progresses (pending on the future of Philly2Philly), I’ll recall some of the great moments this team provided the Delaware Valley from my perspective.


Oddly enough, it just so happens that it was 20 years ago today that one particular incident brought this team even closer, and I remember it well.


Following yet another disappointing season in 1992 that saw the team finish at 70-92, the Philadelphia Phillies were not exactly considered baseball's elite going into 1993. In fact, many baseball experts picked the team to finish seventh, behind the expansion Florida Marlins!


After the first few weeks of Spring Training, It became obvious to all that with its cast of characters, castoffs, and misfits that this Phillies team had formed an instant bond. One that, believe it or not, has arguably failed to be duplicated in the one hundred plus years of the history of the ball club. While Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Terry Mulholland and some of the other faces stayed the same, Phillies GM Lee Thomas rounded out the missing pieces. Reacquiring Milt Thompson and Larry Andersen, signing free agents Jim Eisenreich and Pete Incaviglia, and landing left-hander Danny Jackson in a trade with the Marlins in late November 1992.


The locals went nuts...and not in a good way. After all, Andersen would turn 40 that year, Incaviglia was coming off two subpar seasons with the Tigers and Astros, and Jackson’s last pitching performance as a Pirate in the 1992 NLCS didn’t see him get past the second inning.  Keep in mind this was also a winter that featured such superstars as Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett, David Cone, and Doug Drabek on the free agent market.


Yep. Same old cheap Phillies.


I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I called them a World Series contender from the start.


And yes, everybody thought I was crazy.

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Now granted, there were a lot of “ifs” that came along with that prediction, and luckily they all worked out. If Tommy Greene was healthy and pitched like he did in 1991 before his injury, IF Curt Schilling could top his 1992 season, IF we had a healthy bullpen, IF Jackson complemented Mulholland as the other lefty in the rotation, IF Incaviglia hit like he did with the Rangers. And most importantly, IF Dysktra could stay on the field for once, I thought this team had a true shot.


Moreover, these players, regardless of their past successes or failures, reputations and accolades, had something to prove. Not just to themselves, but to all of Major League Baseball. Players who may not have had anything in common in the realm of everyday life on this squad now bonded together in a quest for baseball supremacy. This "Renegade Team" (as once referred to by former Phillies All-Star Ozzie Virgil) immediately came together during Spring Training and proved that it was indeed all for one, and one for all.


Don’t believe me? Read on.


The Phillies’ batters were hit a league-leading 52 times in 1992. In fact, Cubs’ starter Greg Maddux drilled Lenny Dykstra on the wrist with his second pitch of the first game of the season. That would be a harbinger of things to come for Dykstra in 1992, and for the second straight year his season ended prematurely due to injury. Third baseman Dave Hollins was hit a major league leading 19 times. He only charged the mound on the final time he was plunked that season when it was apparent the Cubs’ Bob Scanlan was throwing at his head. Hollins, who was never one to mince words, warned Phillies pitchers that retaliation was in order going into the next season, or else he personally was going after them if Phillies’ batters got drilled with no consequences for the other team. Trust me,  NOBODY wanted that happening. I was in the dugout when Hollins smashed a toilet- and all he did was fly out........


Well, this pattern with Hollins seemed to drag into Spring Training 1993, when he was drilled by Cardinals’ starter Donovan Osborne during a Sunday afternoon game. The Phillies soon retaliated when Tommy Greene hit Osborne, causing him to leave the game. Cardinals relievers then proceeded to throw at Greene, Wes Chamberlain, and then Greene again. Then Cardinals’ pitcher Paul Kilgus made the dreadful mistake of hitting first baseman Ricky Jordan with a pitch after a Mariano Duncan home run.


And that was the final straw.Photo: Bleacher Report


Perhaps the quietest, if not nicest player on this 1993 squad, the normally mild mannered Jordan (with bat in hand) slowly gestured toward Kilgus. That was all Cardinals’ backup catcher Eric Pappas needed to see as he attempt to tackle Jordan when he approached the mound.


Then out of nowhere, the ferocious Hollins dropped Pappas with his shoulder, setting the stage for a classic battle royale between the two soon-to-be bitter rivals. Hollins may have gotten the best of Pappas, but when several Cardinals “jumped” the even more beyond- massive Pete Incaviglia (right) (who intervened on Hollins' behalf), the odds didn’t exactly seem to be in our beloved heroes favor. That is, until Incaviglia single-handedly tossed off all four Cardinals with a move that would have made Bill Bixby AND Lou Ferrigno proud. It was indeed a classic bruhaha. It seemed everybody wanted a piece of the action, and they most likely got it.


When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the Cardinals won the game, 6-5. However, the Phillies made a statement that they were no longer going to be the perennial punching bags of the National League East. Instead, they were the ones that would be doing the punching. And in the process, they made 1993 perhaps the most memorable season in the history of the franchise.


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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