As you may or may not know, I’m a product of the University of South Carolina, home of the defending national champion Gamecock baseball team, which needs to take one of the next two games from the hated Florida Gators to earn that distinction for another year. Along the way, Carolina has engaged in two of the most exciting and harrowing College World Series runs in recent memory–if you heard a loud, high-pitched “meep”ing sound either in D.C. around 11 on Friday or at the same time in South Jersey last night, that was probably me.
I was going to recount the high points of both last year’s and this year’s CWS runs for Carolina, but that’d take a while, and I’m not sure you’d care. Let’s just say that last year, the Gamecocks had two extra-inning walkoff hits in five games, sandwiching a three-hit complete game by their left-handed relief specialist. This year, they’ve walked off twice, beaten the top two seeds a combined three straight games, including back-to-back wins where the Gamecocks got out of a bases loaded, no-out jam in extra innings before scoring the winning run on a throwing error the next frame. It’s been phenomenally exciting and positively unsettling, and since I’ve been so swept up in the college game for the past couple weeks so that I haven’t paid tremendously strict attention to the Phillies, if I’m honest. So for today’s post, I’ll solicit the help of the readership–in the spirit of the Gamecocks’ electrifying weekend, I pose the following question to you: what is the most exciting Phillies game you’ve ever seen? Maybe not the most memorable (otherwise everyone would say one of the two World Series titles), but the one that got you you not only to the edge of your seat, but leaving fingernail marks on the undersides of the armrests?
My top three answers are after the jump.
Not only was this a nail-biting pitchers’ duel, but it featured a Kirk Gibson moment from a young Ryan Howard that, just like the past two postseasons for Carolina, could not have been conceived by Hollywood. This game was important, at least for me, because it confirmed the value of two men who would end up being important parts of the Phillies’ World Series team: Howard and Brett Myers. I remember watching Myers (who had dazzled when his fastball was buzzing and his curveball was on, but had been shelled when they hadn’t) shut down the Reds over seven innings on 95 pitches with decidedly average stuff. It was a cunning performance, what I thought was the beginning of Myers’ transition into the franchise starter that Cole Hamels eventually became.
Of course, the real story was Howard, who didn’t start because he was sick with the flu, if memory serves. But Howard came in to pinch hit for Myers in the top of the eighth, rocking a solo homer to tie it, then winning it with another in the tenth. An ill Howard generated a .626 WPA in only two plate appearances, and on Mother’s Day, with a pink bat. You can’t make this up.
I know it’s sort of early to call this one an all-time classic, since it only happened six weeks ago, but because I was there for all six excruciating hours, and because of the sheer, bizarre surrealist nature of the event, I have to include it on the list. Y’all know how this one turned out, with the Herndon/Baez/Valdez back end slamming the door on Dusty Baker’s Flying Circus. This one is fairly recent, so I’ll spare you the play-by-play, but direct you back to my in-the-moment recounting of this game.
The Broxton Game. Since the Phillies were on the road and already had a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, the stakes weren’t tremendously high for a playoff game, as counter-intuitive as that might sound. That Monday night, I was running the sports desk for The Daily Gamecock as a college senior, and I showed up for production early and worked like a maniac so I would only have to miss a couple innings. By the time the eighth-inning rally of Wade and Broxton came around, I was still at the office, waiting for my page designer to finish up so I could write the headlines and go home to watch the end of the game. Well, I was alone in the newsroom when Victorino tied it, and I cheered. Three batters later, Matt Stairs put the Phillies up for good and I screamed so loud that the managing editor, down the hall, thought I had broken my leg.
It might not have been a white-knuckle game, or at least not the most white-knucklingy game, but that was the single in-game moment in which I was most excited as a Phillies fan.