Hi, my name's Tom Holzerman, or TH if you will, and I've a Phillies fan since birth. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, because when I was born, all I did was eat, sleep, create waste product, and cry. But I grew up in a household of diehard, four-for-four Philadelphia sports fans. It's a learned behavior. I first became a cognizant sports fan in 1990, at nine years old. So, to say my time as a fan has been tumultuous is not hyperbole.
With that being said, my absolute favorite Phillies game of all-time happened in the 2008 playoffs, Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. I didn't get a chance to watch Game 1, because I was an adult who had just gotten back from his honeymoon and had to work during the day. Okay, okay, let's back the train up a little bit here. The year itself was a crazy-go-nuts year for me personally as I had gotten married, bought a house, got a dog, and saw my grandmother die all in the same year frame. It was a unique year altogether. The Phillies just happened to play their own role in it.
But yeah, after having listened to Cole Hamels' 8th inning and subsequently the hair-raising 9th by Brad Lidge on the crappy little radio in my kitchen, I was ready to watch playoff baseball on my freshly-purchased big screen TV and newly-installed cable television feed. After experiencing getting swept by the Rockies the year before, I would have been happy if the game was competitive. We got the win in Game 1. We got the split at least. Brett Myers on the hill against, say, Jeff Suppan, might have inspired supreme confidence. But against CC Sabathia? Yeah, I was a bit scared.
Sabathia had the rep of being a dominant regular season pitcher who faltered in the playoffs. Fans around me kept bringing that up, but again, I've been a fan since 1990. I saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ruin the Eagles' best shot at a Super Bowl by breaking a cold weather jinx. I saw the New Jersey Devils come back from 3-1 in a series to oust the Flyers. Nothing is certain.
But yet, there I was, watching Sabathia load the bases in the bottom of the second on back-to-back walks to Myers and Jimmy Rollins. He walked the pitcher. He friggin' walked the pitcher! That's the exact moment I knew this was going to be our year. See, talent only can take a team so far. In 2008, it was the Cubs who had the best record in the National League, but who faltered to the Dodgers. In 2011, well, you know what happened. You need a little bit of luck, that one moment where it all comes together and the best pitcher on the other team serves up a fat pitch across the plate with the bases loaded to Shane Victorino.
The rest of that game was a blur. I couldn't tell you what happened other than the fact the Phillies won, charging back to the Brew City with a commanding 2-0 lead in a five game series. But I can tell you that if there ever was a game I will tell my son about when he gets a little older about why I love the Phillies and baseball in general, it'll be that one. That World Championship was far from the best thing to happen to my life in 2008, but that doesn't mean it didn't add to my happiness that year immeasurably.
Sadly, as a Phillies fan, the gut punches are a bit more numerous to count than the happy moments. When you're a fan of a team that has lost 10,000 games in its history and won a shade under half as many pennants as the St. Louis Cardinals have won World Series, then you're going to have to get used to dealing with failure. I've seen enough tough losses in my relatively short period as a fan, but the worst had to be that game. For some, it means Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS. For others, it's Black Friday. For me, it's Game 6 of the 1993 World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
I honestly had no reason to believe that Philadelphia was a long-suffering town from personal experience in 1993. Just four years prior, I had no idea the magnitude that sports would have on my life. I belonged to an extended family full of males, both uncles and cousins. The greatest influence of cynicism in my life was my father. Whatever he said about sport, I believed. Why? Because he was my father, and I was 12 years old. That's what 12 year olds do. Still, I was a young, fresh-faced kid who thought he knew a lot more about sports than he did. I picked the Phils to win their division that year, much like I had both years before. What the heck did I know? I trusted my dad on a lot of things, but not on the Phillies. I knew they would win.
When they swept the Houston Astros in three games with former President George HW Bush sitting behind home plate, I took it as a sign. Everything broke our way that year. There was the Milt Thompson grand slam and the circus catch by Wes Chamberlain and the Mitch Williams walk-off single at 4:30 in the morning. Hell, we beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS in a series where we were outscored by ten runs. We won all the close games, which is amazing since the Braves had Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. Aren't dominant starting pitchers supposed to be the ones who won close games with very little run support?
So, going into the Series, I had high hopes. Sure, the Jays were defending Champions bringing back most of their core from last year, but we were a team of destiny. Then, a funny thing happened. The bounces started going more the way of the other team. The Jays kept the heat on, escaping getting split at home to start the Series before overcoming that home field advantage being taken away from them by taking two of three at the Vet. Curt Schilling heroically kept the series alive, and all of a sudden, it didn't matter if we had to win two in Toronto to take the Series. I believed we could do it.
If an antacid company had walked in the front door of my house during Game 6, he could have sold my parents all the product he wanted to. My stomach was in knots with every pitch, especially early, when the Jays had jumped out to a 5-1 lead. Lenny Dykstra, as he was wont to do in that series, jump-started the team with a three-run homer, and both Head Hollins and Pete Incaviglia batted a run in apiece for the Phils to take their lead. We were up 6-5. We were going to win.
Then, around the ninth inning, we moved across the street to a neighbor's house to watch the final frame. I couldn't tell you why; my memory's still too foggy about anything but that hit. But all I remember was seeing Williams deliver the pitch, Carter hit the fly ball, and 50,000+ Canadians in unison lose their collective mind. I didn't need to see the replay. As soon as I saw Carter rounding first with his fists pumping in the air, I ran out of that house, back to my own, up my stairs, and plopped onto my bed to cry myself to sleep.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was where I learned my Philadelphia cynicism. That's why, over everything else, Game 6 of the 1993 World Series will always remain my least favorite Phillies game ever.