PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies have earned the right to thumb their noses at the rest of the baseball world, not that they haven't been doing that for most of the 1993 season anyway.
In the aftermath of their impressive, six-game victory over the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, they indulged in one of the most enduring of sports traditions -- the I-told-you-sos.
"Maybe with this win, we'll get a little respect," said third baseman Dave Hollins, whose two-run homer into the outer reaches of Veterans Stadium helped assure victory in the decisive sixth game on Wednesday night. "It's not easy beating a team like Atlanta. They're a great team. I wish people would concentrate on what we do as a team on the field and not just on our personalities."
Fat chance. People are having too much fun focusing on those eccentricities that have made the Phillies so fascinating. And don't kid yourself. For all of the insincere talk about respect uttered during Wednesday's celebration, the Phillies don't want anyone to look at them as just another great baseball team.
If that was all they were, they might be watching the start of the World Series on television. The Atlanta Braves are a great baseball team in the traditional sense -- perhaps greater than their conquerors -- but they lacked that intangible something that carried the Phillies home in the playoffs.
The Phillies were defiant from Day One. They came to spring training to wipe away the sting of a last-place finish the year before and they proceeded to blow away the rest of the division. They are the kind of team that just stands around waiting for you to look at them funny.
"I think that our club's attitude coming out of spring training was that we weren't concerned with what people thought of us," said former Orioles pitcher Curt Schilling, who also set convention on its ear when he was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player without recording a victory. "To pass the test here, you need to get the approval of the players, not the media, press or anyone else. People were quick to jump to conclusions, but this team has busted butt 162 games and all of the postseason."
The Phillies have confounded their critics all year, and they did it again in the playoffs. The Phillies were outscored 33-23 in the six games, but registered three one-run victories to win their first pennant since 1983. The Braves were supposed to have all the pitching, but it was the Phillies who won all the close ones. Go figure.
"We had just one goal, to prove to everyone that we could win," said reliever Mitch Williams, who added to the intrigue with a series of suspenseful performances that only embellished his reputation as baseball's "Wild Thing."
It all must have seemed so improbable when the season began, but no one in the Phillies locker room ever even got near the word surprise. They have strutted their stuff around the National League for the past seven months as if they knew it all along, so there was no reason to change their tune as they prepared for the World Series.
"We all thought we had done things right [during the off-season]," said manager Jim Fregosi. "When it turns out like this, it's just marvelous. I just have to give credit to Lee Thomas and Bill Giles and all our players. This is such an excellent organization. But the thing is, you still have to do it and get it done on the field. We've been together all year."
OK, OK. So the manager has to be gracious and low-key in victory, but Fregosi played the game in the 1960s with the same hard style that Len Dykstra and John Kruk and the rest are Phillies play it today.
If the Toronto Blue Jays are the Cadillac of the American League, the Phillies are the Harley Davidson of the NL. They will have to fight and scratch like never before to get to the final rung of the ladder, but no one is discounting the possibility.
Not after the way they handled a Braves team that many felt would match up very well against the Blue Jays in the World Series.
The Braves won't be there. Instead, the United States will be represented in Canada by America's anti-team. The Phillies are an international incident waiting to happen.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES vs. ATLANTA BRAVES
Phillies win series, 4-2
Gm. ... ... ... ... ... ... Result
1. ... ... .. .. .. ... ... Phillies 4, Braves 3 (10 inn.)
2. ... ... .. ... ... .. .. Braves 14, Phillies 3
3. ... ... .. ... ... .. .. Braves 9, Phillies 4
4. ... ... ... .. ... .. .. Phillies 2, Braves 1
5. ... ... ... .. ... .. .. Phillies 4, Braves 3 (10 inn.)
6. ... ... ... .. ... .. .. Phillies 6, Braves 3
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES vs. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Gm. ... ... ... ... Date ... ... Site ... ... ... Time
1. ... ... .. .. .. Saturday ... Toronto .. .. .. 8:29
2. ... ... .. .. .. Sunday .. .. Toronto .. .. .. 8:29
3. ... ... .. .. .. Tuesday .. .. Phila. .. .. .. 8:12
4. ... ... .. .. .. Wednesday ... Phila. .. .. .. 8:12
5.* .. ... .. .. .. Thursday .. .. Phila. ... ... 8:12
6.* .. ... .. .. .. Oct. 23 ... .. Toronto .. ... 8:12
7.* .. ... .. .. .. Oct. 24 ... .. Toronto .. ... 8:29
* - If necessary
TV: All games on channels 11, 9