Kim Batiste, the popular Phillies infielder who overcame a brutal throwing error to stroke the game-winning hit in the first game of the 1993 National League Championship Series, died Wednesday. He was 52.
Batiste played four seasons with the Phillies after being drafted in 1987 and was a key member of the 1993 team that won the pennant after finishing in last place the season before. He hit .282 that season, but his biggest contributions came with his glove as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Batiste also played two seasons for the Atlantic City Surf (1999, 2003) in the Atlantic League, where he spent the rest of his career with four different teams until 2003.
Batiste entered Game 1 of the NLCS against Atlanta in the ninth inning to replace Dave Hollins at third base. He fielded the first ball hit his way — a sharp grounder by Mark Lemke — and threw it into right field as he tried to start a double play. Two batters later, the game was tied at 3.
“They all talked to me, encouraged me. They had me feeling relaxed, putting what I did behind me,” Batiste said that night of his teammates. “Guys were saying, ‘You’re going to win this game.’”
An inning later, he did. Batiste slapped a grounder down the left-field line with one out, and John Kruk scored the winning run from second base. Batiste went from goat to hero, and his teammates lifted him on their shoulders to carry him off the turf at Veterans Stadium.
“I see them coming at me and I’m thinking, ‘I’m glad they’re running out to pick me up to celebrate with me, instead of coming out there to kill me,’” he said.
Batiste played just two more major-league seasons — 1994 with the Phillies and 1995 with the Giants — before spending the final years of his career in China and in the independent Atlantic League. He was on the inaugural Camden Riversharks in 2001 and retired in 2003 after playing 12 games with the Surf.
Batiste started the 1993 season as part of the team’s shortstop rotation, a job eventually claimed by rookie Kevin Stocker. Hollins’ wrist surgery in June gave Batiste the chance to play every day at third base for two weeks. When Hollins returned, Batiste regularly replaced him in the ninth inning as defensive insurance.
Two days before Game 1, Batiste huddled with reliever Larry Andersen during batting practice at Veterans Stadium as the Phillies prepared for their first postseason game in a decade. Andersen, now a team broadcaster, told Batiste that he could play every day for another team but he respected the way Batiste bought into his role with the Phillies.
“We started talking and goofing off and one thing led to another,” Batiste said. “And then we were talking about how if you make a mistake, you sometimes get a chance to make up for it. So when I came up to bat, I kept hearing him in my mind, repeating over and over, that sometimes you get a chance to make up for it.”
Batiste’s walk-off double gave the Phillies a series-opening win. A week later, they were heading to the World Series. But none of that may have been possible if Batiste didn’t first pick himself up off the turf. When he did, his teammates lifted him off the field.
“It was just an emotional thing. We all felt so good for him coming back after the error the way he did,” Milt Thompson said that night. “I just looked over and Danny Jackson was holding him up there, trying to carry him by himself. And I said, ‘I better give him a hand. He has to pitch in this series.’”
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