It was long day's journey into night. And into the twilight zone and then on into the absurd.
It was a game that ended later than any other game in Major League history: 4:40 a.m. A game that didn't even start until almost 1:30 in the morning because it was the nightcap -- in this case, a most apt description -- of a doubleheader, Padres vs. Phillies at Veterans Stadium beginning on July 2, 1993, in which the first contest was interrupted three times by rain -- causing a total of five hours and 54 minutes of delay. It was a game that, naturally, went to extra innings.
It was one of the games that became emblematic of that enchanted Phillies season, and the roster of reprobates who won the hearts of the populace and rode their magic carpet all the way to Game 6 of the World Series.
It ended, as it probably had to, with closer Mitch Williams stroking an opposite-field single to left in the bottom of the 10th and Pete Incaviglia chugging across the plate and late, great Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas nearly beside himself in the booth. "The game is over! On an RBI hit by Mitchy Pooh!" Halas bellowed into the microphone after the improbable 6-5 win.
Phillies fans of a certain age know the outlines of the story by heart. On the 20th anniversary of that preposterous just-when-you-think-you've-seen-it-all chapter in franchise history, here are a few stories that might not be as familiar.
* * * * *
Chris Wheeler was the PRISM announcer that fateful evening. In those simpler times, the broadcasters didn't get a break. Along with Jay Johnstone, he worked every inning. So when the second game ended 12 hours and five minutes after the first game started, Wheeler was pretty beat.
The worst part was that Wheeler had just bought a new house. And as he was trudging up to the front door, he could only think of one thing.
"I'm walking up the driveway about 10 until six in the morning, with the tie down, looking like hell and my neighbors had to think, 'We've got a real roustabout. Look at this rummy coming home at 6 o'clock in the morning,'" he recalled with a laugh.
When the first game ended, nobody was really certain whether the second game would be played that night.
"My mind was going, 'We're not really going to play this thing, are we? There's no chance we're going to play,'" Wheeler said. "And then the announcement came. We weren't happy. Jay was a guy with great energy. It didn't bother him at all; he was fine. The only good thing was that we sent it back [to the studio] during the delays. We didn't have to fill. There were years before when we had to fill.
"I remember never having felt so absolutely exhausted. I'm not a coffee guy, but I drank a lot of Diet Coke. Caffeinated. We did every ... single ... inning. And I was pretty proud of what we did that night, because I thought we hung in there pretty well considering."
* * * * *
With another game coming up in a few hours, some of the Phillies' players decided not to go home at all. They just slept in the clubhouse and then got ready to play again. Third baseman Dave Hollins, now a special assignments scout for the Phillies, was mindful of the Vet's reputation.
"I went home. I'd rather sleep there than with the rats," he said with a laugh. "It was just a crazy night."
* * * * *
Reliever Roger Mason pitched in both ends of the doubleheader for San Diego. Not long before, manager Jim Riggleman had talked to him about possibly signing a long-term contract with the team.
"I actually expected to stay in San Diego for awhile," he said.
Instead, after Mason got to the Vet before the next game, he was told he had been traded to the Phillies.
"It happened so fast. I got called into [Riggleman's] office like an hour before the game," Mason said. "I thought that was really an odd time to be called into the manager's office. I walked in and the GM [Randy Smith] was in there and I was like, 'OK, what's going on?' And they told me I'd been traded.
"That was really bizarre. I really wanted to pitch in that game that night, because I think I would have been one of two players in history to play for different teams on the same day. But I pitched in both games of the doubleheader, so they said there was no way."
It was actually the second time in the series Mason had been disappointed. He had been hoping the second game wouldn't end as soon as it did.
"It had gotten to be so ridiculous," he explained. "I think if we had played 20 more minutes, we would have played until the sun came up. And I really kind of thought that would have been kind of cool. I mean, once you've gotten that far, what the heck? Why not really do it up right?"
* * * * *
Sometime after 3 a.m., manager Jim Fregosi's wife, Joni, woke up and realized her husband wasn't home. Concerned, she called the clubhouse and was told that he couldn't come to the phone because he was in the dugout and the game was still going on.
She didn't fully believe it until she turned on the television to see for herself.
* * * * *
Everybody remembers that part of the mystique of the game was that as the night dragged on, the crowd actually started getting bigger. As the bars closed, people realized the Phillies were playing and came down to the park. And that just played into the rabble-rousing persona that this team embraced. Fregosi, 51 at the time, joked afterwards that it was past his bedtime. Others looked at it differently.
"No matter what happened, I figured there was no way that '93 team could lose a game starting at 1:30. That was really the peak of our evening. That was when we were at our best. So I kind of figured we had that one in the bag," said reliever Larry Andersen, now the Phillies' radio analyst.
"The stadium was emptying out, and then all of a sudden the crowd was getting bigger. You could hear everybody. It kind of took me back to a pick-up high school game to where you were just out there having fun. It was hard to put yourself in a position of [thinking] that this was a real big league game. But it was. Everybody knew it. But it just had more of a playful feel to it," he said. "There's not really a way to describe it."
Added first baseman John Kruk, now an ESPN analyst: "We knew we had the advantage. One, two, three in the morning, we were in our prime. The Padres team back then, they had a lot of guys who went to church a lot. They were done."
The Phillies trailed 5-0 going into the bottom of the fourth. They came back to tie the score in the bottom of the eighth after Andersen pitched a scoreless top of the inning and missed a chance to win in regulation when pitcher Tommy Greene, in as a pinch-runner, was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch.
"Pitching at that hour was odd," Andersen said. "But 3 o'clock was probably when I felt I was the greatest pitcher that ever lived. It was much easier to convince myself of that at that hour of the night."
The fans who were there at the end chanted for a curtain call from Williams, who pitched two innings of shutout relief to get the win. After a few minutes, Wild Thing came out and waved his cap.
"I stayed because I had to," he said at the time, adding that his family was in town but left after the first game and that his father went to sleep in his truck in the parking lot. "I do some of my best work at 4:30 in the morning."
The Phillies said they offered to postpone the second game until the following day but that the umpires, who had the final call, were determined to play. That led to a rules change, limiting how late a game can start.
Said Dewitt Hobbs, the 73-year-old security guard in the visitors' clubhouse: "It's been 50 years since I stayed out all night."
The Phillies' leadoff hitter for Game 2 was Ruben Amaro Jr., now the team's general manager.
"My memories are of people coming back from the bars. I think they came from the bars. They came from somewhere. Fairly inebriated," he said. "But being right over the dugouts and screaming and really getting into it. It was kind of bizarre. Kind of surreal. But it was neat running out there and high-fiving everybody after the game. It was hilarious, but that's the kind of stuff that makes baseball so amazing."
But there haven't been many days -- and nights -- of baseball that were more amazing than this one.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.