Monday, July 21, 2014

The last man in from a team not forgotten

Area Phillies fans can’t forget Mitch Williams and their beloved 1993 World Series team.

April 09. 2013 11:58PM

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PLAINS TWP. — Even after 20 years, Philadelphia Phillies fans speak with fondness about a beloved bunch of rag-tag players who went to the World Series.

And they seem to have forgiven, if not forgotten, the man who threw that season’s last pitch.

It was a nightmare back then for Mitch Williams, the Phillies high-wire act closer who surrendered Joe Carter’s Series-ending home run in Game 6 to give the Toronto Blue Jays the World Championship.

And for the longest time afterward, Williams was reviled in Philadelphia.

He endured property damage to his home and death threats from angry Phillies fans.

But they weren’t half as upset as Williams.

“There wasn’t anything they said that I didn’t say to myself walking off that mound,” Williams said, who signed autographs Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Casino as part of a promotion. “You know, people make a lot more of that than what it actually was. There were people that were upset. The people of Philly always wanted one thing — that was all you could give that day.”

To this day, some fans still see him as a goat.

Williams, now 48 and an analyst for the Major League Baseball Network, set a Phillies record of 43 saves (since broken by Jose Mesa) during that 1993 season and ranks third on the Phillies list of all-time saves leaders with 102.

But he’s perhaps best-known for his worst moment.

A couple guys passing by his autograph stand at Mohegan Sun referred to Williams as “The guy who blew the World Series.”

Yet, Williams, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and the cast of characters never blew out of the hearts of Phillies fans.

“From back in the good old days,” said Jack Miller from Wilkes-Barre. “That’s when the Phillies were fun to watch. They had lots of special people on it, a lot of characters.”

His daughter Julie Miller, a softball player for Coughlin, expressed lots of joy Tuesday — raising both hands in the air briefly when she secured an autograph from Williams.

“It really means a lot,” she said, acknowledging she wasn’t even born when Williams pitched for the Phillies, but heard plenty of stories about that season from her dad. “He told me all about it.”

Truth be told, Lorie Williams — no relation to Mitch — waited 20 years for this moment.

She said she tried, but failed, to secure an autograph from Williams on a colored picture of him and a handful of Phillies teammates after a game in 1993.

“I stopped him after a game in Philadelphia the year they went to the series and he was on his way to Texas,” said Lorie Williams, a Philadelphia native who now resides in Kingston. “He said he couldn’t do it, but it was a nice picture. Twenty years later, I got it.”

Phillies fan Shaun Moran of Hazleton gets a little nostalgic when he thinks back to Williams and that ‘93 group of Phillies.

“A lot of people still, to this day, heckle him for blowing the World Series,” Moran said. “I’m not going to heckle the guy, everybody has a bad day. Look who you had on that team — you had him, (Curt) Schilling, good pitching staff, good fielding. I’d like to see that team go against the Phillies team that won the World Series in ‘08.”

Williams said going back to Northeastern Pennsylvania — where he played in a couple exhibition games between the Phillies and old Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons in the early 1990s, was special for him because many of the region’s fans possess the passion he felt playing in Philadelphia.

“They’re the same, just a little farther north,” Williams said. “Love ‘em.”

And he believes he knows why his ‘93 Phillies remain beloved in the hearts of Phillies fans two decades later.

“It was a team that was perfectly built for the city,” Williams said. “Philadelphia’s a blue-collar town. We were just a bunch of hard-working players.

“That’s what the city of Philadelphia is.”

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