|Jack McDowell won AL Cy Young in 1993.|
The Philadelphia Phillies surprised the baseball world by reaching the World Series in 1993, only to see the magical ride end in nightmarish fashion against the Toronto Blue Jays. The memories along the way, including a six game series victory against the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, are still vivid in the minds of many Phillies fans who lived through the Macho Row run, but we likely do not have much memory of how the Blue Jays got to that point as well. The Blue Jays advanced to the 1993 World Series by knocking out the AL West champion Chicago White Sox in six games. As a young Phillies fan who was rooting for a Phillies-White Sox match-up, I still wonder how things may have been different had the White Sox been able to oust the defending world champions.
It would have been a great World Series match-up with the White Sox having the American League Cy Young Award winner (Jack McDowell) and AL MVP (Frank Thomas) as well as names you may be familiar with today such as Robin Ventura, Tim Raines, Ozzie Guillen and, of course, Bo Jackson. Not that the Blue Jays didn't pack star power of their own, but going up a team with that kind of notoriety would have been pretty fun in itself.
Would the Phillies have won the '93 World Series, ending the city's championship drought 15 years earlier to save us from some of the torture of waiting so long for a title to celebrate? Just swapping out the American League opponent would not be enough to guarantee any sort of victory parade down Broad Street. The White Sox, at the time, were generally one of the better franchises in the American League, winning at least 86 games from 1990 through 1993 and were well on pace to do so again in 1994 before the strike (67-46). For the White Sox, the 1993 season was the season the franchise finally broke back in to the postseason, ten years after losing the ALCS in four games in 1983, with Tony LaRussa managing. But getting to their first World Series since 1959 proved to be too much to ask as they, like the Phillies, ran in to a stronger and more experienced Blue Jays team.
Back in the day when home field advantage was predetermined according to a year-by-year rotation between west and east divisions and leagues, the White Sox were given home field advantage in the American League Championship Series despite recording one fewer win than the AL East champion Blue Jays. The White Sox also sent their ace to the mound in game one at Comisky Park II with Jack McDowell fronting the rotation with a 22-10 record. McDowell was the American League Cy Young winner that season and he had won 20 games in 1992 as well, but the Blue Jays blistered him and the bullpen for 17 hits in a 7-3 victory. The Blue Jays would win game two as well, returning to Toronto thinking about a sweep on their road back to the World Series. But Chicago battled back in games three and four in the Sky Dome, evening the series at two games each.
|Frank Thomas won AL MVP in 1993.|
The Blue Jays picked up the victory in game five before returning to Chicago for game six, once again defeating McDowell to do so. Toronto scored one run in each of the first four innings and the bullpen held on for the 5-3 victory. Game six was a tight one, with the Blue Jays scoring two runs in the second inning off of Alex Fernandez but the White Sox tied it an inning later. Toronto retook the lead in the fourth inning and tacked on three deflating runs in the top of the ninth to take a 6-2 lead as the White Sox committed three errors in the game. Paul Molitor, who would go on to be the World Series MVP, hit a two-run triple in the ninth inning to take most of the air out of the Windy City and Toronto closer Duane Ward managed to hold on for the pennant-clinching victory despite letting up a solo home run.
Who knows what would have happened had the Phillies and White Sox crossed paths that year. In a way, the two franchises did cross paths in baseball history earlier in the season. Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk played his final season with the White Sox in 1993. Unfortunately, at age 45 Fisk was well beyond his prime and the White Sox may have been holding on to him to allow him to move up some of the baseball record books before cutting his career short.
Fisk broke the record for most career games caught with his 2,226th game on June 22, 1993. The previous record holder as longtime Phillies catcher Bob Boone. Less than a week later, the White Sox released Fisk. Former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi also managed Fisk with the White Sox.
"Pudge works harder than anyone I know, because he sets goals for himself and then follows through," Fregosi is quoted of saying by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "I think he's the ultimate professional."
Fisk obviously would not have been a part of that 1993 World Series, but the White Sox had a lineup capable of feasting on a tiring Phillies bullpen staff. The White Sox struck out the fewest times in the American League in 1993, doing so just 834 times. By contrast, the Phillies struck out the second most times in the National League, with 1,049 strikeouts. Only the expansion Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers struck out more times in all of baseball in 1993. It should be noted that this was before regular season interleague play and Phillies pitchers Curt Schilling, Terry Mulholland, Danny Jackson, Tommy Green and Ben Rivera combined to strike out 127 times. The Phillies also walked a lot of batters in 1993, issuing 573 free passes to batters (third most in the NL), and the White Sox walked 604 times in the AL. Taking in to account the designated hitter effect, perhaps this is a bit of a wash, but it might still be enough to give the White Sox an edge as well.
Like the Blue Jays, the White Sox may have had the overall edge in terms of head-to-head talent if they were to face the Phillies in the 1993 World Series. All we have to rely on today is simulations to see how things might have turned out. I went to What If Sports to simulate a best of seven series between the '93 Phillies and White Sox to see what the computer says would happen. I stayed true to the 1993 World Series home field advantage and gave the White Sox the first two games at home, just as it would have been if they got past the ALCS that year, and I made my best effort to stay true to the pitching match-ups that may have happened if the White Sox had won the ALCS in six games. Here are the game-by-game results...
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Needless to say, it is a rough World Series outing for Phillies ace Curt Schilling. Lenny Dykstra and Jim Eisenreich each go 2-for-4 for the Phillies but Jack McDowell is dominant over 8.2 innings, striking out five Phillies batters. Schilling is chased from the game early. After getting a quick double play early in the second inning, the White Sox get six straight hits to bring home five runs and Schilling is pulled after just 1.2 innings pitched. Robin Ventura is the player of the game, driving in four runs as the White Sox pick up the World Series opening victory, 8-4.
Game Two (White Sox lead 1-0)
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The Phillies jump out to the early lead when Lenny Dykstra scores on a fielder's choice in the first but the White Sox take the 2-1 lead off of Terry Mulholland when Frank Thomas crushes a two-run home run to left field. That score holds until the fifth inning when the Phillies retake the lead on a two-run shot off the bat of Dykstra but the White Sox take momentum with four runs over the next two innings. Three outs from a commanding 2-0 series lead, the White Sox hope for a complete game from a tiring Alex Fernandez, but two batters in to the ninth the Phillies have two runners aboard. Ricky Jordan gets the rally started with an RBI single off reliever Roberto Hernandez and a bloop single from Kevin Stocker loads the bases for game MVP Lenny Dykstra, who comes through in the clutch once again with a 2-RBI single to tie the ballgame, still with nobody out. Dave Hollins doubles to clear the bases, which were loaded after John Kruk walked, giving the Phillies an 8-6 lead and Mitch Williams picks up the save while allowing just one single in the ninth. The series shifts to Veterans Stadium tied at 1-1.
Game Three (Series Tied 1-1)
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Playing in front of a raucous Veterans Stadium crowd, the Phillies jump out to the early lead in the first inning when Dave Hollins just barely gets a two-run home run to fall over the wall in right field for a 2-0 lead off of White Sox starter Wilson Alvarez. With a lead to work with, Danny Jackson is in control on the mound for the Phillies. Jackson does run in to a jam in the third inning though, and the White Sox take advantage. With the bases loaded, Jackson avoids a disaster but issues a walk to Frank Thomas, forcing home a run. The White Sox are unable to capitalize too much on the bases loaded but do manage to tie the game at 2-2. The Phillies take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third when Jim Eisenreich singles home Kruk but the White Sox chase Jackson from the game after tying things up at 3-3 in the eighth inning. A double from Ellis Burks scores Robin Ventura and a massive collision at home between Darren Daulton and Frank Thomas sends a rumble throughout the Delaware Valley, but Dutch manages to hold on to the ball for the key out after a throw home from Pete Incaviglia. The game goes to extra innings, with Phillies reliever Larry Andersen getting a key double play and stranding Ozzie Guillen at third after a two-out triple. Kruk leads off the bottom of the tenth with a single and comes all the way home to score on a double by Hollins on the next at-bat. Hollins is your game MVP with three runs batted in as the Phillies take the 2-1 series lead.
Game Four (Phillies lead 2-1)
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There must be something about wild offense in Game Four in the 1993 World Series. Tommy Green gets the start for the Phillies but is wild in the first inning and Kevin Stocker is charged with a fielding error as the White Sox jump out to a quick 2-0 lead. The Phillies storm back in the bottom of the first with five runs off of White Sox starter Tim Belcher. The inning is keyed by a grand slam from catcher Darren Daulton, setting the tone for a crazy night of offense. The Phillies take a 7-2 lead in the third inning before the White Sox start chipping away. A two-run homer from White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice gets the rally started and the White Sox cut the lead to one run before the end of the fourth inning thanks to a Robin Ventura ground rule double scoring Ozzie Guillen and Lance Johnson. Daulton gives the Phillies a bit more cushion with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning but Ellis Burks hits a solo home run in the following inning to keep it a one-run ballgame. The Phillies re-build the two-run lead when Lenny Dykstra doubles home a run in the fifth but Frank Thomas ties the game at 9-9 with a double to right center in the sixth inning. Thomas gives the White Sox a lead with another RBI double in the eighth and scores on a single from Tim Raines for an 11-9 lead. The Phillies tie it up in the bottom of the inning with RBI singles from Dave Hollins and Jim Eisenreich but Phillies relievers Larry Andersen and Roger Mason are unable to keep the hot White Sox bats down. A Joey Cora triple in the ninth scores a run and Cora comes home for a two-run lead when pinch hitter George Bell comes through. Frank Thomas takes Game MVP honors with three runs driven in as the White Sox tie the series at 2-2.
Game Five (Series Tied 2-2)
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With the aces back on the mound for a pivotal Game Five, Curt Schilling redeems himself after a shaky Game One. However, White Sox Cy Young pitcher Jack McDowell is every bit as good, and more as the White Sox take a 4-1 decision at Veterans Stadium before returning to Chicago. The Phillies took the 1-0 lead in the fourth inning with a solo home run from Darren Daulton but Frank Thomas answers in the sixth inning with a two-run shot off Schilling. Jim Fregosi is quick to call on the bullpen as a result but in the eighth inning Larry Andersen serves up a two-run home run to Robin Ventura that gives the White Sox some late breathing room. Frustrations boil over in the ninth inning after Daulton is called out looking at strike three and Jim Eisenreich is ejected for arguing balls and strikes one batter later while two lead off batters are on base. McDowell pitches in to the ninth allowing just one run and picks up his second win in the series. The White Sox are one win away from a World Series championship.
Game Six (White Sox lead 3-2)
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The crowd in Chicago is rabid but Phillies starter Terry Mulholland is unrattled with the fate of the season on the line. Mulholland pitches seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, striking out four batters and walking just one before turning the game over to reliever David West for the final six outs. Designated hitter Ricky Jordan gives the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a bloop single off White Sox starter Alex Fernandez and does it again when he finds the hole between second and first to add another run in the fourth. Jordan would score a run as the Phillies tacked on three runs in the sixth inning, thanks to RBI doubles by Kevin Stocker and John Kruk to build a 5-0 lead. And who else but Jordan to cap the scoring in this one with a solo home run in the sixth inning. Mulholland gave the clutch performance on the mound but Jordan enters Phillies lore as the unsuspecting hero to push the World Series to a deciding Game Seven.
Game Seven (Series Tied 3-3)
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Everything started off well for the Phillies in the final game of the season. Pete Incaviglia and Game Six hero Ricky Jordan each notched two-run home runs in the second inning and the Phillies built a 6-1 lead in the top of the fourth on a 2 RBI double from John Kruk. It looked as though it would be smooth sailing for the Phillies but Danny Jackson started to crack in the following innings as the White Sox battled back. A two-run triple from Ozzie Guillen in the fifth cut the lead to 6-4 and Ellis Burks tripled home two runs in a three-run inning in the sixth to chase Jackson from the game. The White Sox had taken a 7-6 lead and never looked back. Three runs were added off of Phillies relievers David West and Larry Andersen in the seventh inning and another was tacked on in the eighth inning for an 11-6 lead. With the party already getting underway in the Windy City, Incaviglia hit a two-out RBI single with Dave Hollins beating a tag on what could have been the final out. But Jim Eisenreich grounded out to Guillen at short to end the World Series, with the White Sox winning in seven games.
What do computers know anyway?