For me, the games I remember and enjoy for years later are not about wins, they are about the weird. Now the 2008 World Series had enough weird in it to qualify, but my most vivid memories of it really had relatively little to do with baseball. Other than the last out, which to be honest I'm not actually sure I saw it in live time, I'm not sure I can recall an actual baseball play from the series. So that is out.
So what else constitutes weird or esoteric? I'm thinking things like Roy Oswalt in left field, walk off balks, triple plays, 3 Ks on 9 pitches by a journeyman whose name I sadly can't even remember but the game that I think laps the field in this respect was when Wilson Valdez was credited with the win. Now, when I first thought of this game, I only had a vague idea what year it happened and had no clue whatsoever what month it happened. But there wasn't any difficulty in locating the game, because all I had to do was look up Valdez's pitching stats. It was May 25, 2011 against Cincinnati.
Now first let me point out how craptastic the lineup looks. Everyone except the other 4 starting pitchers made an appearance so it is easy to see the entire roster at the time. The Phillies had Jimmy Rollins, Chooch, and a functional Ryan Howard. Roy Halladay started the game and was still in his superhuman phase though he had a bad game by his standards of the time though still a good game for anyone else. But the rest of the roster?
Raul Ibanez in LF, John Mayberry in CF, and Ben Francisco in RF. I don't remember if Ibanez was in one of his hot stretches or one of his ice cold stretches, but does it matter? Ben Francisco is apparently still in the majors playing for the Yankees, but that is news to me. It could not be said that he is playing well for the Yankees. Wilson Valdez is the hero of this piece, but that is for his pitching. He actually started the game playing a craptastic second base. Polanco was having a respectable year, but meh. The bench consisted of swoontastic Chase Utley who would only contribute one at bat. Dane Sardinha who I only vaguely remember. Ross Gload of the long line of people that can sort of hit, but are incapable of even pretending to play the field that the Phillies have carried on the roster. Though one or two of them they have tried to pretend that they could play the field. Domonic Brown invented a time machine to go back in time so he could participate in this most awesome of games. At least that is what I assume happened. And Anti-christ and erst-while rule 5 selection Michael Martinez also made an appearance.
I mention this because it is partly what gives me optimism for this year. If that team could win 102 games, why can't they make the playoffs this year?
Now I know I didn't watch the first 9 innings. Did I watch them trade homers in the 10th or was that the spark that caused me to become fascinated in this game as it progressed into the wee hours? Who knows. But I settled in to watch them play the last nine innings as my interest would just grow and grow. The Phillies had already used up the Phillies' good relievers in Stutes/Madson/Bastardo and had moved on to still enigmatic Kendrick for a 1/3 inning, and Romero for another 1/3 of an inning. Now when you are settling into a 19 inning game, it is perhaps not the best of strategies to employ your relievers for one out at a time, but I suppose they hoped that the game would be over quickly. It is what usually happens anyway. But then something funny happened, another erstwhile rule 5 pick in Herndon who I had a soft spot for managed to pitch 2.1 perfect innings. And then Hell froze over. Craptastic Danys Baez was the last real pitcher left in the pen, and I'm using the term real pitcher loosely. Not counting this game in 2011 he pitched 31 innings and gave up 42 hits, 13 walks, 3 HBP, 25 earned runs and 3 unearned runs, only 15 strikeouts and an ERA of 7.26. In case you are wondering, 7.26 isn't very good. As I watched Baez throw 5 masterful innings giving up only a walk and a single in different innings to go along with 3 strikeouts, I just grew more and more amazed. Would this game ever end? I suppose the Phillies were allowed to bat during this time, but nothing registers.
Eventually, I guess, they were concerned that Baez's arm might fall off having thrown 73 pitches. Now, I'm not sure it would have been any great loss if his arm had fallen off, but he is a human being and a professional baseball player so they pinch hit for him in the bottom of the 18th. Amazingly they still had a bench player left for this move; nowadays they would have been out of bench players by the bottom of the 10th. Wilson Valdez doubled trying to prevent his place in history. Sadly, he still was playing second at this point so you can't credit the double to a pitcher. Luckily the anti-christ was having none of that and so he harmlessly made the third out bringing us to the 19th inning.
If they had started a new game in the 11th, they'd now be entering the ninth inning of a scoreless game. Sardinha stays in the game to catch while Chooch moves to third base. I also have vivid memories of Chooch playing third base, though I am also using the word vivid loosely. He's actually played 3rd twice in his career. This game and 8/26/2008. But despite not realizing it was the same game, I am probably remembering this game, but I also want to say that he had a ball hit to him, but that didn't happen in either game. But all attention was on the mound. Valdez would throw 10 pitches, 5 for strikes. He would induce three harmless fly outs to the heart of the Reds order. 2 of them are credited as deep CF, but I don't remember a real threat of a HR on either of them and the last flyout to second base barely reached the outfield grass. He even threw one curveball which just stunned and flabberghasted me. This may actually be the pitch that hit Rolen though I don't really remember him allowing a base runner let alone hitting someone. I don't quite know if hitting Rolen makes the whole experience better or not, but I am going to lean towards better as I've never really liked Rolen since he demanded a trade. This is probably why I don't remember it. Hitting Rolen was a good thing, but hitting a batter and allowing the winning run to reach base is bad. Wilson did nothing that wasn't amazing in the 19th inning, ergo he couldn't have hit someone.
The bottom of the 19th was all but a formality. In my mind Ibanez's walk off RBI fell behind a draw in centerfielder. Apparently it was caught, but I certainly don't remember a play at the plate. Wilson Valdez was the first position player to start in the field and get the pitching win since Babe Ruth. And nothing is more amazing than being able to use Wilson Valdez and Babe Ruth in the same sentence. Twice no less; cause it is that awesome.
As for the worst game, the last loss. I initially intended this as a joke, but man that loss really, really sucked. Wasting 2nd/3rd with no outs and a perfectly awesome balk. And then wasting 1st and 3rd and 1 out. Only for Ben Revere to break his ankle playing long after the game by all rights should have been over.