For my choice of favorite and least favorite Phillies game, I have made an unorthodox choice: my least favorite game was one that the Phillies won, and my favorite game was one that they lost.
In 1993, I was six years old, and just discovering baseball. I began collecting baseball cards, and paying close enough attention to the games my family attended to remember bits and pieces. That summer, my dad brought me to my first night game, against the Mets.
All I remember about the game is sitting high, high up, on the 1st base side, and the brutal disappointment as, all in one play, all three Mets sprinted around the the bases and scored due to Phillies ineptitude. With the Phillies down two runs and my bed time long past, we left before the bottom of the 8th.
I fell asleep instantly in the car on the ride home, but awoke the next day to learn that Kim Batiste had hit a two out, bottom of the 9th, walk-off grand slam, giving the Phillies a thrilling 9-5 victory while I slumbered.
Through the pain and suffering of having missed one of the ultimate experiences of baseball joy, I learned to never leave a game early. This lesson has held me fast as I've hunkered beneath dripping overhangs, waiting out rain delays during deflating Phillies losses, but has yet to reward me with any more chances to see walk-off grand slams hit by role players (do you have another one in you, John Mayberry?)
And, unfortunately, this game failed to solidify a love for the Phillies. I developed into a John Olerud fan—why my parents allowed or encouraged this, I do not understand, as I only liked him for his last name and because my favorite color was blue—and to my eternal shame, I was rooting against the Phillies during their last playoff run for fourteen years.
Oh, Kim Batiste! Had you only come to the rescue sooner, I would have worshipped at the altar of you and your -4.4 career WAR.
In the fall of 2007, I went to study abroad for a semester in Mexico. When I left Philadelphia, the Phillies were already safely on their way to their annual 85 wins and second or third place finish, so I didn't worry about missing anything I hadn't already seen each of the past five or six years.
Thus, I was forced to follow them from quite as far away as possible as they rapidly approached, and finally overtook, the Mets. I was in a program studying social movements, that began deep in the Zapatista-controlled mountains of Chiapas. I learned the Phillies score each night by giving shoddy excuses to my hosts and wandering to the top of a very specific hill in pitch black darkness, to receive a a single text from my dad, as they cost us 35 cents a pop.
When I learned that the Phillies had made the playoffs, there was nothing that was going to stop me from catching a game. That weekend, a couple friends and I hitched a ride in the back of a pick up truck to the closest city, San Cristóbal de las Casas. We set out Saturday night to find a bar with a satellite dish so I could watch game three of the Phillies's first division playoff series in their history.
Despite being Saturday night in a tourist town, the streets were eerily empty; many of the establishments I'd scouted on previous trips to the city were closed. We found one that was open and had the right channel, and we were their only patrons—we learned that it was the weekend of an election, meaning that all alcohol was banned until the conclusion of the voting on Sunday.
The proprietor served us in defiance of the law, but urged us to keep our drinks hidden under the table. He remained a nervous wreck, pacing back and forth and fearfully eyeing the windows when we raised the bottles to our lips. Around the third inning, he told us he thought we had raised the suspicion of the police, and wanted to close up.
There was no where else to go, and with the Phillies down 2-0 in the series, I couldn't afford to risk missing this game. We begged and pleaded with him, and he relented—as long as we watched in the back.
He led us out of the front, with its fluorescent lighting and vinyl floors, to a dimly lit backroom speakeasy, where we sat in leather easy chairs around the TV while the owner and his wife fetched us food and drinks and occasionally asked us questions about baseball, a game they were mostly unfamiliar with (I did my best throughout to convey how insane it was that a 44 year old Jamie Moyer was shutting down the Rockies at Coors Field). We had also been joined by a fellow expatriate, a Rockies fan from Denver, which made the viewing experience even more complete. Watching that game, I experienced all the schmaltzy sentiment of baseball as grand unifier. The Phillies lost 2-1 when J.C. Romero's magic dried up in the 8th, but now armed with the knowledge that the Phillies would win it all just one year later, this remains my favorite Phillies viewing experience of all time.