When most people think of the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies their thoughts go to the position players. That group, led by the late Wall of Famer Darren Daulton, included such colorful personalities as John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra.
Often overlooked is the work of the pitching staff. That is a shame, because it was just as much a result of their outstanding collective performance as the offensive heroics that brought a National League pennant to Philadelphia that summer.
One pitcher who took the mound with the team that season did not have much of an impact, however. I’m talking about right-hander Paul Fletcher, who actually appeared in two different seasons with the Phillies. He would go on to make 10 appearances with the club in 1995 as well.
But in 1993, Fletcher was a 26-year-old who appeared in just one-third of an inning in just one single game.
Born and raised in central Ohio, Fletcher and his family moved to West Virginia where he played high school ball. He was chosen by the Phillies in the 40th round of the 1988 MLB Amateur Draft out of West Virginia State University.
In 1991, Fletcher got his first taste of spring training with the big club. There he got to meet one of the best players of the 1980’s, former Atlanta Braves two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, who had been dealt to the Phillies the prior season.
“I was able to spend the day with Dale,” said Fletcher per Phil Perry of Jackson Newspapers. “He was so genuine and shared a lot of knowledge. He wanted to know where I was from and what I threw. He taught me a few things about tipping pitches and what hitters look for. It was an experience I will never forget.”
Rising through the club’s minor league system, he enjoyed a very successful year in 1992. That season split between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Fletcher went 12-4 with a 2.83 ERA over 26 games, 24 of those as a starter. He allowed just 120 hits over 149.2 innings while striking out 129 opposing batters.
Just prior to the 1993 MLB All-Star break the Phillies had welcomed in Barry Bonds and the talented San Francisco Giants for a long four-game weekend series. In the first two games the Giants rocked the Phillies pitching for 28 runs. Manager Jim Fregosi called on his bullpen for 10 appearances over the first three games.
So, with the break looming and his bullpen weary, the Phillies reached down to Triple-A and called up Fletcher for the Sunday afternoon series finale on July 11, 1993.
That afternoon at Veterans Stadium the Phillies ace Curt Schilling became the latest victim of the red-hot San Francisco offensive attack. The Giants got to him for six earned runs on 11 hits over just 3.2 innings.
In the top of the 4th inning a two-out, two-run double by Bonds was followed by an RBI single off the bat of Dave Martinez to score the Giants’ slugging left fielder, pushing their lead out to 6-1. Fregosi had seen enough and lifted his top starter on the hot afternoon, bringing in Fletcher for his big-league debut.
With Royce Clayton at the plate, Fletcher uncorked a wild pitch on his first-ever offering in Major League Baseball. That allowed Martinez to move over to third base. Fletcher and Clayton battled to a full count before the Phillies rookie hurler got the Giants shortstop to line out to center fielder Dykstra for the final out.
And that was it, Fletcher’s only appearance in a game with the eventual National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.
“It was a feeling I can’t describe,” Fletcher told Perry. “Curt Schilling had started the game. The energy of 42,000 fans is pretty amazing.”
As an interesting post-script, the Phillies won 97 games and finished in first place in the NL East that year, three games ahead of a talented Montreal Expos squad. The Giants, despite winning 103 games, missed the playoffs in those pre-Wildcard days when they ended up one game behind a 104-win Atlanta Braves squad.
Fletcher would spend the rest of 1993, all of 1994, and most of the 1995 season back with Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He made those 10 more appearances with the Phillies in 1995, including earning what would prove to be his only win on August 17, 1995 at the Astrodome during a 3-2 Phillies victory over the host Houston Astros.
A free agent following that 1995 campaign, Fletcher signed on with the Oakland Athletics. He would appear in just one game in 1996 with the A’s, pitching most of that season with their Triple-A Edmonton affiliate.
Fletcher pitched in two more seasons of Triple-A ball, in 1997 with the Chicago Cubs and 1998 with the Toronto Blue Jays organizations. During that stint with the Jays’ Syracuse affiliate, Fletcher suffered a tear of his UCL which required Tommy John surgery. He recovered, but was never able to return to pitching effectiveness and decided to finally call it a career.
In 2012, Fletcher was inducted into the Mid Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. “To be honest, it was really a nice surprise to be selected and I am honored and humbled by it,” he told Perry. “I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.”
Fletcher developed a problem after leaving the Phillies in that he became an alcoholic: “His wife divorced him, he attempted suicide and he was spiraling out of control until his sister stepped in and called the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.).”
With help, Fletcher recovered, and has since gone on to become a Certified Addiction Recovery Coach at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches. He now dedicates his life to helping others succeed in their own recovery.