The 2000 Philadelphia Phillies: The night the lights went out in Georgia

Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport /

Today marks the anniversary of April 18, 2000, when the Philadelphia Phillies suffered one of their many losses to the Atlanta Braves.

Today holds special meaning for me, as on this exact day 20 years ago, I was on hand to see the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. It was my first ever trip to that ballpark (first time in the state of Georgia too), and I’ll never forget being there and keeping score.

As such, worlds are now colliding, as this column marks not only an entry into my season-long anniversary “celebration” of the awful 2000 Phillies, but it is a psudeo-entry in my popular Retro Scorecard Recap feature that I’ve been writing since last season. At least, I assume it’s popular, literally tens of you read it.

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At any rate, let’s dive into Phils/Braves, 20 years ago today

It’s a brisk evening in Atlanta as these two teams clash for the first time during the 2000 season. Turner Field is all decked out as it prepares to host that year’s All-Star Game, and it’s hard to believe that this park in just its fourth year of existence will only last the Braves for 16 more before they open yet another new stadium.

The pitching matchup is lopsided, with Greg Maddux taking on Robert Person. But the Phils score single runs in three straight innings, including a home run by Ron Gant, to build a 3-1 lead through four frames. Person goes six strong innings and departs with the lead, but the bullpen blows it in the seventh with Amaury Telemaco doing the honors. Telemaco, who must have had it written into his contract to appear in every Phillies game I attended between approximately 1997 and 2005, gives up a two-run single to Chipper Jones, which evens the score at 3-3 after seven innings of play.

With Maddux now out of the game, the Phils can’t touch the Braves’ bullpen. In the top of the ninth, Braves closer John Rocker enters the game, making his first appearance of the year after being suspended following a litany of horrendous comments that he made over the offseason. The home crowd embraces him with a standing ovation, though, and he has little trouble retiring the side. But the Phillies’ relievers get the job done as well. We’re going to extras.

The Phillies threaten immediately, loading the bases with one out in the top of the tenth, but Mike Lieberthal strikes out (at least he didn’t hit into a double play), and then Mickey Morandini is retired to end the crisis. More zeroes get thrown up, and the game stretches all the way to the 12th inning. I have now set a major league record by becoming the first teenager to actually watch a game and keep score for this long, which is the kind of thing that happens before you can legally consume alcohol. Nowadays, forget about it.

In the top of the 12th, Doug Glanville draws a 2-out walk, but that’s all the Phils can muster. On we go to the bottom half of the inning, and up to the plate steps pinch hitter Brian Hunter, a journeyman in his 9th MLB season and second stint with Atlanta.

On the first pitch delivered by the Phils’ Carlos Reyes (no remembrance of this guy whatsoever), Hunter drives one deep to left field, clearing everything and securing a 4-3 win for the home team and disappointing me immensely. I also go to the game the following night, and thankfully do not keep score as Randy Wolf and the Phils take it on the chin in a 10-1 loss to Tom Glavine and company.

So, there you have it, a random game that I happened to be at and which celebrates a big anniversary today. But in true 2000 Phillies fashion (which is to say, terrible in every aspect), they must have been really impressed by the way that Brian Hunter beat them. Because when the Braves activated Brian Jordan (don’t get these guys confused) from the DL the following day, they designated Hunter for assignment. Apparently, it was expected he would clear waivers and head down to AAA, but guess who scooped him up.

2000 Phillies: Michael Jackson (not that one). dark. Next

That’s right, Brian Hunter’s final appearance for the Braves came in the form of a pinch-hit, walk-off home run to beat the Phils, and he found himself pulling on a Phillies uniform just four days later. He’d go on to appear in 85 games for the team in 2000, mostly at first base, hitting .210 with 7 home runs and 22 RBI. The Phillies signed him again that offseason, but they released him in spring training of the following year. Hunter would go on to sign with Toronto and Tampa in subsequent years, but never made it back to the bigs after 2000. Yet another casualty of our “beloved” 2000 Philadelphia Phillies. And, in case you remembered Hunter’s stint with the Phils being longer than one season (you don’t), that was a DIFFERENT BRIAN HUNTER who played for them in 2001. Only in Philadephia.