Twenty years ago today, this happened. Here's the story of how I experienced it:
During the Autumn '93 semester, my friend Tony Wilkes was doing an internship at the Hershey Company's R&D division. He had a small flat in town and access to the company perk of tickets to see the Hershey Bears, who at that time were the Flyers' minor-league affiliate. Tony scored a pair of front row seats and invited me up.
October 23, 1993 was a Saturday; I worked during the day, then made the drive west on 422 to the self-proclaimed "Sweetest Place on Earth." And if you've never actually been there — yes, parts of town actually smell like chocolate. And if you don't know the cultural geography of Pennsylvania as it pertains to sports — once you get west of Reading, people stop being Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, and Sixers fans and start being Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fans. (West of Reading, no one seems to care about basketball.)
But Phillies Phever had clearly spread during 1993's exciting season: people were jacked about the 'roided-up lunchbox-types on the Phils' roster, with their beer-swilling, beard-growing, balls out attitude. I can still name almost the entire roster from memory: Daulton, Kruk, Morandini, Stocker, Batiste and Hollins, Eisenrich and Incaviglia, Thompson and Chamberlin, the Dude, Duncan and Jordan and Pratt; Mulholland, Greene, Schilling, Jackson, Rivera; Andersen, West, Thigpen, Mike Williams, DeLeon, Mason, and, of course, Mitch Williams.
The Saturday for which Tony got Bears' tickets was also Game 6 of the World Series. The Phils were down three games to two, and only days before had suffered an incredible loss to Toronto, in which the Blue Jays, down 14-9, roared back to win 15-14. (And they did it without hitting a single homer.) When Tony and I got to HersheyPark Arena, people were buzzing about the World Series and wearing Phillies caps.
Now we actually went there to see a minor-league hockey game — and did we ever! We sat in the first row, right behind the glass, right behind the net that the Bears defended in periods 1 and 3. The visitors were the Rochester Americans, the farm club of the Buffalo Sabres, and their standout young buck was none other than Matthew Barnaby. The Bears won 8-4, in a typical minor-league match — sloppy defense, bad goals, and pointless brawls. Barnaby got three fighting majors, which is an automatic game misconduct; the final fight came when he tried to drop the gloves versus the Bears' goalie Scott LaGrand. Dan Kordic was having none of it, and flattened Barnaby for the offense.
The crowd was raucous and noisy. During every timeout and between periods, the PA announcer gave updates on the Phillies and Blue Jays. Just before the hockey game ended, the Phillies had a monster seventh inning and put up five runs to take a 6-5 lead. The tiny minor league arena was electric with all the excitement.
Tony and I split the second the hockey game ended, and in a rare scene, joined the other spectators in a full-on sprint to our cars. People already in their vehicles and waiting to exit the lot had put their windows down, despite the cold, and cranked up their radios, so passing pedestrians could hear Harry and Whitey's call of the Phils' game. We had taken my (then-brand new) 1993 Saturn SL2 to the game, and I lead-footed us back to Tony's flat.
We raced through the door and put on the TV. About ten minutes later, Joe Carter hit the shot heard around Rittenhouse Square, and the World Series was over. In the apartment next to Tony's, we heard his elderly female neighbor yell a single word; in Philadelphia Phillies parlance, it would be spelled, "Phuck!"
After a while, I left for home. It was a long, dark drive. I had 610 WIP on the whole way, and listened as the late Steve Fredericks - still one of the my favorite radio personalities ever - took calls from downcast Phillies fans. Men spoke with trembling lips, and women wept openly on the air. What a crushing end to what many still remember as a magic carpet ride of a season.