PHILADELPHIA — It was 9 a.m. on Day 1 of spring training, a day often filled with moaning and groaning about the long weeks ahead that would be packed with monotonous fielding practice, sprints and base running 101.
"Jim Eisenreich threatened to shoot John Kruk with a bow," Curt Schilling said. "It was probably the tipping point for all of us.
"I didn't realize it at the time until I look back on it, but it was different and unique every day. As hard as it might be to believe, you had 25 guys who were dying to be at the park with each other. And that's special."
Twenty years later, as the 1993 Phillies gathered at Citizens Bank Park to mark the National League pennant they won, team members reminisced about the glory days in which they were called outcasts, misfits and outlaws.
Understandably so. They had finished last in the N.L. East the year before, going 70-92 and finishing 26 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their roster was jammed with players hardly associated with winning. Manager Jim Fregosi opted to go with platoons at multiple positions. And their closer, aptly nicknamed "The Wild Thing," made fans' hearts skip a beat far too frequently.
Yet two decades later, nobody really talked about Joe Carter's crushing their visions of wearing World Series rings. There are far too many fun and heart-warming moments to let that home-run swing dampen their celebration during Alumni Weekend.
Starting pitcher Danny Jackson, who was 12-11 with a 3.77 ERA in 1993, praised the devotion of that team, pointing to second baseman Mickey Morandini's playing with a hamstring that was as swollen and as big as a balloon.
"The damn thing was black and blue, the whole thing, halfway around," Jackson said. "He goes out there and plays that night. That was the type of team that we had."
Fregosi admitted he was going to start Schilling on short rest if there had been a Game 7 against Toronto. The right-hander, inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame on Friday, was 3-1 with a 2.59 ERA in his previous four postseason games, including a complete-game shutout in Game 5 of the World Series.
Although the Phillies, who became only the third team since 1990 to go from worst to first in a single season, had four .300 hitters in 1993 (Kruk, Kevin Stocker, Lenny Dykstra and Eisenreich), Fregosi acknowledged the importance of his bench, which got playing time because he wanted them to, not because guys were injured.
"How many times did [Mariano] Duncan or Ricky Jordan come off the bench and win a game for us?" asked Fregosi, now a scout for the Atlanta Braves. "That's how I feel about the National League. In the American League, the manager raises pom-poms and cheers, and in the National League you have something to do."
Reliever Larry Andersen, who now does color commentary for Phillies radio broadcasts, recalled the hours guys spent chatting about the game every single night long after the last out was recorded just because they loved being together.
He only wishes he could rewind the clock and do it all over again.
"That was the one year in my 25 years of playing baseball that it was really what I thought it was going to be, what it was supposed to be," Andersen said.
Jackson, who pitched for five teams from 1983-97, was candid when he compared that crew to all of the other clubs he played for.
"I hated leaving this team," he said. "I didn't have this type of relationship with any other team and I bounced around. This is the most special team that I've ever been on. Part of that is the community of Philadelphia. I love Philadelphia. It's just awesome."
The physical changes among many on that team are evident. Some players have gained weight. Others are trimmer than they were two decades ago. Quite a few have gray hair, and wrinkles are now more noticeable.
The emotional differences, though, are nowhere to be found. The bonds are just as strong as they were when the men filled the clubhouse at Veterans Stadium.
"I mean, in the lobby of the Four Seasons today, they were all taking pictures with the family," Fregosi said. "[Former general manager] Lee [Thomas] and I just sat back and watched. It's really a beautiful thing.