Philadelphia Phillies: The 7 Most Shocking Moments in Team History
There are some moments in sports that are so unexpected, so shocking that we can all remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. The Philadelphia Phillies' signing of pitcher Cliff Lee this past off-season was certainly one of them. It caught Phillies fans, even the Phillies manager, by surprise and was the talk of the baseball world.
We can all remember where we were for that one. I was watching ESPN reading the crawl on the bottom of the screen. When I saw those words go by I thought I must have misread it so, thanks to the magic of modern technology, I rewound the crawl and read it again. Then I woke my entire household as I screamed over and over, "We got Cliff Lee! We got Cliff Lee!"
(Feel free to insert your own story here.)
But there are other, perhaps lesser known, but even more shocking events in Phillies history. More shocking you ask?
Let's just say that they include an unthinkable shooting, a home run that destroyed a city's dreams and a collapse of epic proportions.
Buckle your seat belts as we count down the 7 most shocking moments in Phillies history.
Warning: This is not for the faint of heart
7. What Wall?
On May 11, 2006, Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand hit the wall...literally.
Young pitcher Gavin Floyd was on the mound for the Phillies. He was in a bases loaded, two out jam against the Mets when Xavier Nady blasted a ball to deep center field. Rowand thought if he could catch it maybe Floyd would settle down and give the Phillies a chance to win the game.
So he ran; he ran hard. Later he said that he remembered his feet hitting the warning track and he remembered his face slamming against the metal bar on the center field fence. He fell backward to the ground but somehow, amazingly managed to hold on to the ball.
He made the catch saving three runs. He also broke his nose and had several fractures around his left eye. He left the blood-stained field to a loud ovation holding a towel to his injured face.
The legend was complete when he was later asked the same questions Eagles running back Ricky Watters made famous but in his case it was for not catching a ball to avoid taking a hit. Watters said: "For who? For what?"
Rowand said: "For who? My teammates. For what? To win."
Now that's more like it!
6. Epic Collapse
Although Jim Bunning may be better known today as a former Senator, no defeat he suffered in the Senate could compare to the horrific losing streak he and the Phillies endured in 1964.
The Phillies were comfortably in first place. They had a six and a half game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds with 12 games left to play. All they needed was one or two wins to put it away. World Series tickets had been printed and the team's travel plans had been made. They were ready to go.
Except for one thing. They just couldn't get the win they needed. They lost 10 straight games in a nightmarish stretch where nothing seemed to go their way. Just one big hit or big out could have ended the losing streak but it wasn't meant to be.
The Phillies lost 10 of their final 12 games while the Cardinals went 10-3 to clinch the pennant. It seemed that the Phillies would not need those World Series tickets after all.
5. Now the Cleat Is on the Other Foot
Jimmy Rollins proclaimed his Phillies the "team to beat" in 2007 but as late as September 12th it didn't look like Jimmy's prediction would come true. The Phillies were a full seven games behind the New York Mets with only 17 games left to play. In fact, the Phillies had decided that the Mets most likely had the Division wrapped up and they should focus instead on the wild card.
But this time it was the team up the turnpike that suffered an epic collapse. The Mets went on to lose 12 of those last 17 games while the Phillies won 13. On the last day of the season a Phillies win coupled with a Mets loss would give the Phillies their first NL East Championship since 1993.
The Mets fell behind early and lost to the Florida Marlins 8-1. The Phillies, behind a strong performance from the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer, beat the Washington Nationals 6-1 and on the last day of the 2007 season they finally won the division.
Jimmy Rollins had been right after all and somewhere those 1964 Phillies are smiling.
4. Obsessed Fan
In 1949, the entire baseball world was horrified when Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus was shot by a deranged fan. Her name was Ruth Ann Steinhagen and she sent a note inviting Waitkus to her room. He figured she was a fan or another baseball groupie but when he entered her room the 19-year-old Steinhagen said, "For two years you've been bothering me, and now you're going to die."
She shot him in the chest nearly killing him. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to save his life. The bullet had just missed his heart. Steinhagen was arrested and charged but instead of jail time she spent three years in a mental institution. She had never met Waitkus but had been obsessed with him for years.
As for Waitkus he returned to baseball in 1954 and was named comeback player of the year.
3. The Home Run That Broke a City's Heart
They called him the "Wild Thing." And with good reason. Mitch Williams was the closer in 1993 when a ragtag bunch of Phillies surprisingly made it to the World Series. Although he saved 43 games that year, Williams always kept things interesting as his nickname implied. October 23 was no exception.
It was Game 6 of the World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays leading the series three games to two. But the Phils had a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth. A Phillies win would tie up the series and set the stage for a final game seven but Joe Carter had other ideas.
With a 2-2 count, the Toronto slugger crushed a Mitch Williams fastball for a game-winning three-run homer that clinched the Championship for the Blue Jays and broke the hearts of a city.
As for the "Wild Thing," although he left the city after reportedly receiving death threats, he later returned to Philadelphia where he is now well-liked and admired.
He currently is an analyst for the MLB Network but says of Philadelphia fans, "..they've been great. I couldn't ask to be treated any better than they treat me here."
2. The Day We Lost Our Voice
To most Phillies fans Harry Kalas was the Phillies. Hearing his voice every Spring meant that baseball was back and all was well with the world. It was Harry who called the greatest moments in Phillies history like Mike Schmidt's 500th career home run and the Phillies World Series victory in 2008.
And who hasn't repeated Harry's, "Chase Utley, you are the man."
But on April 13th Kalas collapsed in the Washington Nationals broadcast booth. He died hours later after being rushed to a nearby hospital. Phillies players and fans were shocked and saddened by Harry's loss.
Phillies president David Montgomery said, "We lost our voice today."
But Harry's voice will never really be lost. We hear it with every great play and every big Phillies win. And home runs forever more will echo with the call Harry made famous:
"That ball's outta here."
1. Stairs Stars
It was Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS between the Phillies and the Dodgers. The Phillies led the series 2-1 but the Dodgers were on the verge of tying it up. They had a two-run lead in the eighth at home with ace closer Jonathan Broxton on the mound.
After Shane Victorino tied the game with a two run shot, manager Charlie Manuel turned to his bench and called on journeyman pinch hitter Matt Stairs. He hadn't even joined the Phillies until August 30th but even in his short time with the team, Stairs had made his presence felt, never more so than on this night.
After working the count to 3-1, Stairs belted a Broxton fastball over the right-field fence for a game-winning pinch hit home run. The Phillies took a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and never looked back. They finished off the Dodgers then went on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays to capture their first World Series in 28 years.
Who knows what might have happened had a 40-year-old Canadian not come off the bench to hit a game-winning home run on that October night?