It was obvious that J.T. Realmuto was going to wind up with an inside-the-park home run as soon as his third-inning liner hit the wall. If Michael Harris didn’t catch the shot, the ball was going to carom off the wall back past him. Ronald Acuña Jr. was still in right field, watching the play develop with a strangely detached curiosity. It all happened just that way, and while Realmuto had to hustle, he slid in well before the throw arrived. That inside-the-park home run gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead that they would never surrender in Saturday’s series-clinching NLDS win over the Braves. The crowd went wild for Realmuto’s scamper around the bases, although to be fair they were going wild for everything. It was great. Indeed, it was pretty much what the stadium was built for.
Before moving into their current home, the Phillies played in Veterans Stadium. The dimensions of that ballpark were uniform, with a 12-foot high fence curving around the outfield. When the Phillies began work on their new ballpark, that Nixon-era municipal anti-aesthetic was out and retro-style ballpark design was in. Places like the Vet were derided as “cookie-cutter,” although it's probably more accurate to say that they just weren't built with anything in particular in mind.
The Phillies wanted to give their new ballpark some quirks. “If there’s anything about this ballpark that's retro, it's the idea that the outfield is unique,” architect Don Jones said at a new stadium press tour in 2003, the Phillies’ last in the Vet. And longtime Phillies president David Montgomery promised action if the ball ever hit the outfield wall in a certain way: “One of the most exciting plays in the game is a triple, an inside-the-park home run. I’m not saying it’s going to happen frequently in our place, but there are enough angles that stuff could happen to create that.”
Montgomery died in 2019, but his vision has borne out. Jimmy Rollins hit 20 triples in 2007; his 20-20-20-20 season helped him win MVP. He also hit the Phillies’ very first inside-the-parker in the stadium. During the first season of the park Larry Bowa, the Phillies manager, and John Vukovich, the third-base coach, were quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how nobody could hit an inside-the-park home run in Philly nowadays unless they hit it off "the Angle" in left-center field.
Rollins did just that, and almost every inside-the-park home run hit in Philly since has been off the Angle. One man to hit an inside-the-parker there, even before yesterday? J.T. Realmuto, in 2017, back when he was with the Florida Marlins. It might look familiar.
About the only thing that hasn’t worked out as hoped, here, is that nobody calls that area of the outfield wall The Angle. Even if they haven’t put a name on it, the players know that’s where you hit it for an inside-the-park homer. After Saturday, this should be easy to remember.