I have often said that the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies season was the most fun single season of Phillies baseball that I have ever followed. With the 2020 season (should it every be played) as my 50th year following the club, that is a pretty significant statement.
With his 2017 book “Macho Row: The 1993 Phillies and Baseball’s Unwritten Code” (purchase through that link at Amazon), historian William C. Kashatus shines the spotlight once again on that wild, whacky, wonderful mixture of players. Under the masterful management of baseball lifer Jim Fregosi, that Phillies team maximized their individual and collective talents to go worst-to-first and capture the National League pennant.
Kashatus sets the stage by taking the time to explore the most interesting individual characters from that team in depth. Fregosi, Darren Daulton, John Kruk, Curt Schilling, Lenny Dykstra, Mitch Williams, Dave Hollins, Pete Incaviglia, and club president Bill Giles each have dedicated chapters.
His examination of Daulton opens the book and will make for a great read for every Phillies fan, the majority of whom rightly hold the late team captain and Wall of Famer in high regard. Kashatus give a brief bio on Daulton’s family life and formative years.
Daulton is one of just two players who appeared with both the 1983 and 1993 Phillies pennant winners (reliever and current radio color analyst Larry Andersen is the other.) Kashatus covers how Phillies icons Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton were influential on the young Daulton.
He also reviews the 1987 free agent signing of All-Star catcher Lance Parrish, which set back his own chance to becoming the Phillies starter at the position by a couple of years:
“Daulton took exception to the suggestion that he couldn’t hit for power. “Before I got hurt in June, I caught forty-nine games, and I hit eight homers and knocked in 21 runs,” he argued. “Only Schmitty had more at the time. If I hadn’t destroyed my knee, I would have had at least twenty homers and sixty-some RBI. And that was hitting in the bottom of the order. If I’d hit higher, I’d’ve had even more!”
Kashatus frames much of this work in the reliance of that special Phillies team on “the Code”, an old-time baseball framework not far removed from that of “omerta” with the traditional mafia culture:
“The ’93 Phillies also won because the played by the Code, baseball parlance for the unwritten rules of the game. The Code governs all aspects of baseball, from hitting, pitching, and base running to dealing with management, umpires, and the media. Designed to preserve the moral fabric of the game, the Code contains rules for individual and team behavior in common situations, punishments for ignoring the rules, and the understanding that those rules must never be discussed outside the clubhouse.”
Not shying away from the most sensitive issues of that time, Kashatus writes on Dykstra turning to steroids in order to re-make his body and elevate his performance:
“Nails claims that he began after the 1989 season when Phillies general manager Lee Thomas told him that he was going to give him the opportunity to “prove he could be an everyday center fielder in 1990.” Dykstra, realizing that he “wasn’t physically constructed to withstand the rigors of a grueling 162-game season,” turned to steroids.”
Kashatus takes us through that unforgettable season from “Spring Training” through the “Dog Days” and on to “The Series” (actual chapter names), including the rousing victory over the favored Atlanta Braves and their Hall of Fame pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz in the National League Championship Series:
“Phillies fans, in particular, despised the Braves, viewing them with the same contempt as the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees, organizations that were infamous for their elitism and arrogance. It was that same arrogance coupled with the belief that the Braves could dispatch the Phillies in four straight games that resulted in Atlanta’s downfall.”
Not leaving us with only a romanticized look back at that beloved Phillies ball club, Kashatus takes a critical but honest turn during his “Afterword” ending:
“In the final analysis, we really didn’t know the members of Macho Row. They kept their most unattractive behaviors hidden, leaving the sportswriters and fans to speculate on exactly how they went from worst to first in the span of just one season. We all knew they partied, leading the lives of protracted adolescents. But we excused their narcissistic behavior because Macho Row was entertaining, and, more important, they won. In fact, the only accountability those players knew was to the Code, and some of them even violated that by turning on teammates publicly after their careers ended.”
The book contains 267 well-written pages with just a few pictures to support the material. It is supported by dozens more filled with statistics, box scores, and reference notes.
An entertaining winner – that was the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. That also describes this book, which I would highly recommend to any fan of the team or of baseball in general. Whether you experienced the joy of living through that magical season first-hand, or have only heard about the legend through stories passed down, this is an insightful and enjoyable read.