1993 Phillies ‘s on the scene lockerroom meeting with baseball’s wild bunch

North County 6/16/93


Last weekend the first-place Philadelphia Phillies, the team with the best record in baseball, invaded Shea Stadium. I’d been hearing tall tales about this wild bunch; but as often happens in sports, a team is straddled with an animal image by the media that falls far short of its bite. It is always incumbent on beat writers to manipulate that vision of an animated bunch and turn them into a maniacal clan of loons crashing through the league like a band of pirates out of control. But although it sells newspapers and makes for interesting headlines, it is far from anything resembling the truth. So I decided to stop by the visitor’s clubhouse at Shea Stadium before a game to see for myself.

When I approached the door of the place I could already hear music blaring from within. The security guard leaning back on his chair skipped me as a look as if to say, “Are you sure you want to go in there?” But I’d heard loud rock music emanating from a winning clubhouses before, in fact, last year’s Braves locker room could have doubled for the set of Saturday Night Fever. Never mind the inner sanctum of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds when the Nasty Boys were romping their way to a title.

On cue, Kruk leapt to his feet, grabbed a ball, wound up and hurled an out-of-control pitch across the crowded clubhouse. This sent players, reporters and shocked witnesses scurrying for safety.

Once inside I was quickly, if not painfully, able to ascertain that this was no ordinary sound system; unless, of course, I wandered on stage at a Mettalica show. But even though the volume was close to excruciating, I had little trouble picking up the booming voice of catcher, Darren Daulton with amazing clarity.

“How many people are coming tonight?” he asked an unsuspecting clubhouse boy.

“About fifteen, sixteen thousand; I think,” the shaken young man answered meekly. Daulton then stood on a stool in front of his messy locker, a hulking man of 6’2 and 220 pounds, and bellowed. “That’s all that’s showing to see the battlin’ Phils?!”

Suddenly, a breeze blew by my ear. When I tuned to notice, Mickey Morandini, the pesky little second baseman sporting the ugliest goat-tee since Robin Hood, was swinging the biggest bat I’d ever seen just inches from my head. Above the din I could hear him mumbling, “Stay down on the ball” over and over with each swing.

Things were getting dangerous, so I moved to the corner lockers of feisty, Lenny Dyksra and burly, John Kruk; both in different stages of undress. The man they call “Nails”, back when he was patrolling centerfield for the New York Mets, was preoccupied with throwing his clothes in a feverish search for his lucky batting gloves. Where are my batting gloves?” Dykstra began to scream, his face getting more red with anger. “Don’t tell me I made this trip without my gloves?!”

Meanwhile, Kruk was busy entertaining Philly beat writers, who collectively seemed oblivious to this chaos, and spitting what I believed to be huge wads of tobacco from his gruff, portly face anywhere he deemed appropriate. The gregarious first baseman is not your basic finally tuned major leaguer, but a man born to play the lead role in a caveman flick. Yet he leads the National League in just about every offensive category, looking right at home with this biker gang masquerading as a baseball team.

Just then, former Phillies shortstop, and present third base coach Larry Bowa stormed in the scene to address Kruk’s pitching prowess. “Johnny,” he cracked. “Show us that backdoor slider.” On cue, Kruk leapt to his feet, grabbed a ball, wound up and hurled an out-of-control pitch across the crowded clubhouse. This sent players, reporters and shocked witnesses scurrying for safety.

This was about all I needed to see, when out of the back room sauntered Mitch Williams, the man who carries the moniker of “Wild Thing” like a badge of courage. He is an expert closer and a big reason this team is where it’s at in the standings. He also looked as though he’d just escaped from a mental institution. Just like everyone in this room, he has wild flowing hair, a ragged beard and what looked like a headband right out of Rambo wrapped around his sweaty forehead.

“Everybody shut-up!” he shouted. “Let’s play this game already, I’m gonna explode!”

As I was running out of there I could still hear him scream in that high-pitched squeal. “Take no prisoners!” And I couldn’t help thinking of three words of advice for the rest of the National League: Give up now.

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