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What fueled the wild ride?

Steroids report puts the '93 Phils in a new light.

Pitcher Danny Jackson pumped it up for the fans after the Phillies clinched the NL pennant.
Pitcher Danny Jackson pumped it up for the fans after the Phillies clinched the NL pennant.Read moreJERRY LODRIGUSS

Remember Danny Jackson's growling, scowling "pump-it-up" routine, in which the crouching pitcher would violently rend the T-shirt he was wearing with a vigorous flex of biceps and chest muscles?

Remember the moody mystique of Macho Row?

Remember Dave Hollins' occasional rages?

Remember Pete Incaviglia's bulging biceps?

Remember Wes Chamberlain's physique? Or Darren Daulton's? Or Mariano Duncan's? Or Terry Mulholland's?

It doesn't all seem quite so quirky and lovable now, does it?

On Thursday, 14-plus years after they burst briefly across baseball's skies like an impossible-to-ignore meteor, the 1993 Phillies officially lost their innocence.

Baseball's Mitchell Report confirmed longtime whispers, linking that pennant-winning team's centerfielder/centerpiece, Lenny Dykstra, as well as backup catcher Todd Pratt, to steroid use.

Even though the report suggests both men's involvement with the drug commenced in New York, it's now fair to ask what role, if any, steroids played in the success, reputation and short-lived stature of the '93 Phillies, perhaps the single most popular team in franchise history.

We're not likely to ever know the whole story.

That's because it's unlikely that Dykstra, Pratt or anyone else on that extremely close-knit group would break the baseball players' code of omerta and expose what went on behind closed doors at Veterans Stadium.

All these years later, it's easy for me - who as this paper's beat writer virtually lived with that team from the February day it arrived in Clearwater to the chaotic aftermath of Joe Carter's home run in Toronto - to say that I had serious suspicions.

That hardly makes me Bob Woodward. Anyone who spent time with that muscle-bound bunch wondered about steroids. Some of us ignored the issue. Some tried to get at it and failed. Some wished the talk would go away.

So, as George Mitchell noted Thursday, we are in some way guilty, too, for baseball's shame.

"There will be no shortage of media opinions, castigating, berating and blaming all the names involved," Curt Schilling, a pitcher on that team, wrote in his blog on Thursday. "Just remember that this will be coming from the very same people who, like many, turned a blind eye to what many of us believed when we were smack dab in the middle of all the things the Mitchell Report will say."

Why didn't we pursue it then?

Well, there probably were a number of reasons.

I guess it was all so much fun that, as it was for most everyone else in Philadelphia, it was easier not to believe it. The Phillies were on an amazing journey, and I liked my front-row seat.

First, they were a rare collection of roguish characters, and whether it was what went on in the spirited clubhouse or on the field, there was never a shortage of things to write about.

Second, it now appears that most of the baseball players using steroids were so discreet that even suspecting teammates didn't know for sure.

"I had opinions like many other people," Schilling wrote. "But I also had a closer view of what was happening. I can say with a very clear conscience, to this day I still have never seen anyone inject or ingest HGH or steroids. Do I think I know former teammates that may have been? Sure I do. Can I tell you with no uncertainty who that was? No."

Plus, and this is important to recall in the rush to condemn the players named in the free-swinging Mitchell Report: Baseball didn't test for steroids - or anything else - in 1993.

Technically, if some of those Phillies were taking the performance-enhancing substances, and if they'd obtained them legally, they were doing nothing wrong.

If they were using, considering the evidence in the Mitchell Report and the bulked-up behemoths who then populated virtually every team in baseball, they certainly weren't alone.

That's not an excuse. Just an attempt at explanation.

Here in Philadelphia, most of the contemporary speculation centered on Dykstra, who finished second to Barry Bonds in the MVP voting and whose '93 physique was considerably bulkier than even the '92 version.

Oftentimes, the playful California native seemed to invite scrutiny.

Asked about the body change, he would winkingly attribute it to "good vitamins."

Once, when in a private conversation I point-blank asked him about the rumors, he gave me a goofy smile and said absolutely nothing.

That's not to suggest that I - or anyone else - was doggedly pursuing the steroid angle with those Phillies.

There was too much else to occupy our attention.

A pennant race. An unfathomable rebound from their last-place finish in '92. Behavior that while frequently childish and churlish could also be compelling.

The estimable Jim Eisenreich's battles with Tourette's syndrome was a great story. As was Schilling's emergence as a quality starter and Kevin Stocker's solidifying presence at shortstop in the second half.

There was the midseason series in St. Louis when Daulton questioned the courage of Schilling and Tommy Greene. There was Duncan's Mother's Day grand slam. And game-saving catches by Milt Thompson in San Diego and Mickey Morandini in Los Angeles.

Those Phillies were wild, whacky, loud, bellicose, outspoken, gritty, unkempt, profane.

They fought with umpires, opponents and the media.

They partied as hard as they played.

They were, for opponents, fans and sportswriters everywhere, an addictively intriguing bunch. The three million fans who jammed the Vet were drawn by more than their ability to execute the cutoff play.

And, for that one year anyway, they were very good.

The Phillies were in first place from the moment they swept the Astros in Houston until they clinched the NL East on a chilly night in Pittsburgh.

They had a decent rotation with Mulholland, Jackson, Schilling, Greene and Ben Rivera. Manager Jim Fregosi managed the bullpen well, piecing together a respectable unit that included Larry Andersen, David West, Roger Mason and Mitch Williams.

They defended well and knew how to play the game. Dykstra, Duncan and Morandini got on base, and Hollins, Daulton, John Kruk and Incaviglia drove them in.

And the platoons - Incaviglia and Thompson in left, Chamberlain and Eisenreich in right, Duncan and Morandini at second - worked wonderfully.

Even if several of them were on steroids, it wasn't the reason they won. They won because they were better than anyone else in the National League that year.

Still, looking back, it's tempting to reassess.

If Dykstra, Pratt and others did use steroids, it might explain:

Why they could be so congenial one moment and so cantankerous the next.

Why they seemed able to maintain chiseled physiques without lengthy workout sessions.

Why they projected such a nasty demeanor to opponents.

"We've got a lot of mean and intimidating guys on this team," Dykstra said that spring. "I don't think too many teams are going to be eager to mess with us."

Fourteen years later, though, history is messing with their reputation.

From now on, whenever the '93 Phillies are recalled, steroids will be the asterisk attached to their accomplishment."