10th anniversary: Jack Cust’s face plantby Chris Jaffe
August 16, 2013
10 years ago today, one of the most comically incompetent plays of the 21st century happened. It’s the game that made Jack Cust infamous.
For years, Jack Cust was a sabermetric darling. At 19, he tore up Rookie ball, hitting .345 with power and 86 walks in just 73 games. From 1999-2002, he kept raising in the minors, drawing tons of walks, hitting 20-30 homers, and posting an on base percentage consistently over .400 with an OPS a tad under 1000.
He was offensive force, but he couldn’t field and he couldn’t run, so Arizona kept him in the minors through 2001, and so did Colorado in 2002. He made some cup-of-coffee appearances but nothing really. It wouldn’t be until 2007 that the A’s gave him a shot. By that time he was 28, but he posted three solid years at the plate.
But his heyday in Oakland came later. 10 years ago today, he made a play that highlighted his weaknesses, not his strengths.
On Aug. 16, 2003, Jack Cust was in the Orioles organization. They’d traded for him back in March. He began the year in the minors, but in early August got his call to play with the big club.
Cust homered in his first full game as an Oriole on Aug. 7, driving in three runs. He did it again three days later. He started most games and often came in off the bench in the other games.
Aug. 16, 2013 would be one of the other games. Baltimore gave Cust a rest today. Though Cust homered off legendary closer Mariano Rivera the day before, on this day Baltimore faced Yankee southpaw Sterling Hitchcock, and lefty Cust would be at a platoon disadvantage.
It was a nice, tight, back-and-forth game, where neither team was ever really out of it. New York took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Orioles tied it on a Luis Matos home run. (It was the second straight day with an Oriole homering off Rivera in the ninth).
It stayed 4-4 until the 12th inning, when Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi went deep for a go-ahead homer in the top of the 12th. That put all the pressure on the Orioles to score in the bottom of the frame to keep the game alive.
It started out poorly, with Tony Batista lining out and B.J. Surhoff fanning. Down to their last out, Orioles skipper Mike Hargrove needed someone who could get on base. He called on Cust to pinch hit.
If he’d just made an out, he would’ve been spared the infamy in store for him, but Cust being Cust—he drew a walk to keep the inning alive.
Now left fielder Larry Bigbie came to the plate to begin the play that brought tears to the eyes of Orioles fans—and tears of laughter to the eyes of everyone else. Bigbie hit one over second base into center/right. Cust took off as best he could and headed toward third full steam ahead—it looked pretty clear that he would turn for home. More than that, it looked like he could make it easily.
Here is where the fun began. Cust moved past third, and was given the breaks sign by the third base coach. He wasn’t expecting it, and fell on his butt. By this time, the ball was to the relay man. The ball got to third behind Cust, so he tentatively took off for the plate, and got caught in a run down.
Now things looked bleak, but the fun wasn’t over yet. The third baseman threw to the catcher, who chased Cust back to third. Then the catcher threw back to third—causing Cust to break for home. Normally, this would just lead to another relay throw—but someone on the Baltimore team had fallen asleep on the job. No one covered home. There was nothing standing between Cust and the tying run. However ugly it looked with his earlier slip, it didn’t matter anymore. All Cust had to do was run 50 feet before the man behind him could run 65 feet. That’s it. Even Cust had speed enough for that.
But he didn’t have the footwork. He made it most of the way and then just plain fell over. It was a nice old belly flop. It looked like he was sliding into the plate—except he was still 10-15 feet from home. He fell over, and was tagged out while still splayed across the field. Third out—game over, Baltimore loses, on one of the most embarrassing looking fielding plays of recent times. So naturally you can view it on Youtube.
It was a moment Jack Cust would like to have back – and it was 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
2,000 days since Atlanta signs free agent outfielder Garret Anderson.
3,000 days since Jamie Moyer wins his 131st game with the Mariners, passing Randy Johnson as franchise leader.
4,000 days since Detroit’s Andy Van Hekken becomes the first American Leaguer pitcher to throw a complete game shutout in his debut since Mike Norris in 1975.
4,000 days since Korean first baseman Hee Seop Choi makes his North American major league debut.
4,000 days since the Mets lose their 15th straight home game, tying a 91-year-old major league mark.
7,000 days since Bobby Cox wins his 1,000th decision as manager.
7,000 days since Orel Hershiser suffers his 100th loss. He’s 131-100 on his career so far.
10,000 days since Montreal trades Norm Charlton to the Reds.
15,000 days since Reds catcher Johnny Bench and teammate Wayne Simpson get a call from someone calling himself “Louie” who offers them $2,000 to let Pittsburgh’s Bob Robertson hit a home run in today’s game.
15,000 days since Tony Cloninger appears in his last game.
15,000 days since the Yankees retire No. 8 for former catchers Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, both of who wore the number.
20,000 days since Tigers pitcher Dan Petry is born.
25,000 days since Harry O’Neill, who caught one game for the A’s, dies fighting in Iwo Jima at age 27.
30.000 days since Freddie Fitzsimmons wins his 100th decision. He has over 100 more wins in his arm.
30,000 days since an A’s-Tigers doubleheader features 43 putouts by outfielders.
1855 Hick Carpenter, solid hitting infielder, is born.
1880 Pitcher Fred Goldsmith demonstrates to leading sportswriter Henry Chadwick that a baseball does in fact curve.
1886 Bob Caruthers, star St. Louis pitcher, belts two home runs in one game.
1890 Baby Doll Jacobson, star outfielder for the Browns, is born.
1890 For the only time in his long Hall of Fame career, Reds second baseman Bid McPhee hits a leadoff home run.
1890 Two Chicago Cubs hit grand slams in the fifth inning: Tom Burns and Malachi Kittedge.
1893 Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bill Hawk no-hits Washington. It’s the first no-hitter from 60 feet and six inches.
1895 Tommy Dowd hits for the cycle.
1897 Bob "Fats" Fothergill is born. He can hit, but is also one of the most overweight players in history.
1909 Pirates batter Ham Hyatt hits his third pinch-hit triple of the year. No one else does this until 1970.
1910 For the second time in his career, Ty Cobb steals home.
1911 The Indians release Cy Young, whose career is just about over.
1911 Pirates star shortstop Honus Wagner suffers a serious ankle injury. He’ll play in just one of the next 26 games.
1911 Cubs batter Wildfire Schulte hits his fourth grand slam of the year. Someone forgot to tell him it’s the Deadball Era.
1913 Tiny Bonham, pitcher, is born.
1915 Federal League pitcher Alex Main no-hits the Buffalo franchise. He pitches for the KC club.
1915 Ouch. Not only does Detroit rookie pitcher Bernie Boland fall just one out short of a no-hitter, but the guy getting the hit has no other hits on the entire season (Ben Paschal of the Indians).
1915 Russ Ford, godfather of the emery ball, appears in his final game.
1920 Indians shortstop Ray Chapman is beaned by a fastball by pitcher Carl Mays. Chapman will die the next morning, the only major league beanball fatality.
1921 Boston Brave batter Walton Cruise hits the second ball ever out of Braves Field. He also hit the first one, back in 1917. It’s a big place. This one comes off legendary pitcher Pete Alexander.
1922 Gene Woodling, leftfielder, is born.
1925 Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones of the 1950 Whiz Kids Phillies, is born.
1927 Babe Ruth becomes the first player to homer over the roof of Comiskey Park in Chicago.
1927 Jerry Denny, the last man to play without a glove when he retired in the mid-1890s, dies.
1930 Super fielding shortstop Rabbit Maranville plays his first game at third base. He’ll play there three more times this week, but that’s it for his career.
1931 Mel Ott suffers a concussion from a beaning by Burleigh Grimes of the Cardinals.
1933 Paul Derringer loses his 20th game of the year, already. He actually pitches well, but has no offensive support. In fact, this will be the first of four straight games his team (the Reds) is shutout when he pitches. In all, his batters score zero runs in eight of his starts in 1933. That’s why he goes 7-27 despite an above average ERA.
1935 Charlie Root, 200 game winner and still the all-time winningest Cubs pitcher ever, allows the only walk-off home run of his career. It’s a solo shot for a 2-1 complete game loss for him against Brooklyn.
1935 Larry Benton, pitcher, appears in his last game.
1938 Buck Rodgers, manager, is born.
1940 Bob Feller completes his 15th straight start. He’s 13-2 with a 2.08 ERA.
1940 Jimmie Foxx enjoys the 55th and final multi-home run game of his career.
1944 Eddie Yost makes his big league debut.
1947 Hank Greenberg, now a Pirate in the last season of his career, hits the last of his 35 career multi-home run games. In that same game, teammate Ralph Kiner hits three homers.
1948 Babe Ruth dies at age 53 of throat cancer.
1950 Hank Thompson hits two inside the park home runs for the Giants in a 16-7 win over the Dodgers.
1951 Stan Musial legs out his ninth and final career inside the park home run.
1951 Awwww, that’s sweet: young Don Zimmer (yes, he was young once) marries Jean Carol Bauerle at home plate in Elmira, New York.
1954 Willie Mays and Jimmy Piersall stage a pre-game throwing contest for charity—and Piersall injures his arm in the process. He’s never as good throwing the ball again.
1955 For the only time in his career, Jackie Robinson strikes out at the plate in the last play of a game. Well, it’s the only time he ever does that in a regular season game. He also does it in Game Seven of the 1956 World Series – which is the final game of his career.
1956 Phil Rizzuto appears in his final game.
1957 The Tigers release longtime journeyman swingman pitcher Steve Gromek.
1958 The White Sox beat the Indians 7-6 in 14 inning on a walk-off error. Ouch.
1958 Pirates slugger Frank Thomas hits three home runs in one game.
1960 Ted Williams draws his 2,000th walk. He’s the second person in the club, joining Babe Ruth.
1961 Washington beats fellow expansion club the Angels 3-2 thanks to a bottom of the ninth error that lets the tying and winning run score. Most walk-off errors just let the winning run score, not tying and winning runs.
1962 For the second straight game, Frank Robinson blasts two home runs in a game.
1963 Baltimore signs amateur free agent pitcher Jim Palmer.
1964 St. Louis center fielder Curt Flood has quite the day for himself, collecting hits in eight straight at bats in a doubleheader.
1964 Rick Reed, control specialist starting pitcher, is born.
1964 Sandy Koufax throws a complete game shutout, but will miss the rest of the year with a sore elbow. He first injured it on a slide eight days previously.
1967 Cincinnati star pitcher Jim Maloney is working for history before he has the rug jerked out from underneath him. He retires the first 19 batters he faces, but has to leave the game when he takes a wrong step and injures his ankle.
1967 Joe Torre belts the last of his four career walk-off home run. It comes in the bottom of the 16th for a 6-5 win over Houston.
1968 Tigers catcher Bill Freehan is hit by a pitch in three straight trips to the plate in today’s 4-0 Tigers win over Boston. Tigers ace Denny McLain is now 16-0 on the road so far this season.
1968 Dangerous Dick Allen draws five walks in five plate appearances. Three of the walks are intentional.
1969 Somehow, someway, big Boog Powell – 250 pound Boog Powell – is able to lumber his way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run versus the Pilots. It comes in the ninth inning of a 15-3 win.
1969 The Phillies post their fourth straight shutout win. Rick Wise throws a four-hitter and belts a home run.
1970 40 days ago, Milwaukee mascot Bernie the Brewer vowed to stay on his perch until the team’s attendance tops 40,000 in a game. With today’s announced crowd of 44,387 in County Stadium, he finally takes a trip down the slide.
1974 Ralph Houk wins his 1,000th game as manager. His record is 1,000-869.
1974 Former Yankee ace Mel Stottlemyre appears in his final game.
1975 The Tigers finally end a 19-game losing streak with an 8-0 win over California.
1976 Aging slugger Sweet Swinging Billy Williams refuses to enter the batter’s box and is called out on strikes and ejected. . .. Uh, Ohhh-kaay.
1978 Luis Tiant posts his 200th career win, for a record of 200-145 and counting.
1979 John Tudor makes his big league debut on the mound. He’s the last pitcher to post 10 complete game shutouts in a season. Win a few bar bets for yourself with that trivia tidbit.
1980 Robin Yount collects his 1,000th hit. It takes him 948 games to do it. He picks up the pace and makes the 3,000 hit club.
1981 George Brett hits his 100th home run.
1982 The Pirates purchase Richie Hebner from the Tigers.
1983 Jim Slaton has the best relief stint in Brewers history, according to WPA at any rate. His line: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, and 5 K for a 0.884 WPA.
1983 Hall of Fame center fielder Earl Averill dies.
1984 The Expos trade aging first baseman Pete Rose to the town he belongs in – Cincinnati.
1985 Dick Drott, briefly a Cubs phenom pitcher in the late 1950s, dies.
1985 Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph draws a walk-off walk against Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley.
1986 Longtime knuckleball pitcher Charlie Hough has the worst Game Score of his life: 4. His line: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 12 R, 8 ER, 6 BB, and 2 K. Oh, and he also had four wild pitches. Only three of the 10 hits he surrendered were single. The others were two homers and five doubles.
1987 Just three days after his only career game with five runs in five plate appearances, Tim Raines has his only career 5-for-5 games. He’s having quite the week for himself. Added bonus – he hits for the cycle, with a pair of doubles.
1987 Mike LaCoss of the Giants pitches 10 full innings. To date, it’s the last time any starter has gone more than nine innings for them.
1988 The Dodgers trade Pedro Guerrero to the Cardinals for John Tudor.
1989 Yankees player Luis Polonia is arrested in his hotel room for having sex with a 15-year-old. He gets 60 days in jail in the off-season.
1989 Larry Walker makes his big league debut.
1989 Tom Drees, of the Triple-A minor league team in Vancouver, throws his third no-hitter of the year. His big league career will be less than 10 innings long for the White Sox in 1991.
1990 For some reason, in today’s Indians-Twins game, Kirby Puckett plays right field, shortstop, third base, and second base in the eighth inning.
1994 The Yankees sign amateur free agent pitcher Tony Armas Jr.
1995 Ken Griffey Jr. collects his 1,000th career hit.
1995 Andre Dawson connects for the last of his seven career grand slams. It’s also the last of 39 career games with more than one home runs in it for Dawson.
1995 Robin Ventura knocks out his 100th home run.
1995 For the fourth and final time, Kenny Lofton legs out two triples in one game. He did it once earlier his month and another time previously this season.
1996 For the first time ever, a sanctioned major league game takes place in Mexico. The Padres top the Mets, 15-10 before 23,669 fans in Monterrey, Mexico. That’s the first game of a doubleheader. In the night cap, the Mets triumph, 7-3 before 20,873.
1996 Andruw Jones hits his first major league home run.
1997 Kevin Brown has possibly the best game of his career, fanning 11 in a complete game shutout one-hitter with just two walks. Jeromy Burnitz singles in the seventh, spoiling Brown’s chances for a second no-hitter of the year.
1999 It’s an odd one: Cincinnati’s Jose Guzman has to leave the game after seven innings because his shoes are too small. They gave him blisters and that’s why he had to leave. He just joined the team after a trade and thus had to wear 9.5 sized shoes, instead of his normal 10.5.
1999 The Mets sign amateur free agent infielder Jose Reyes. Good move.
2000 Anaheim selects David Eckstein off of waivers from the Red Sox.
2001 The Red Sox fire manager Jimy Williams.
2002 Former Dodgers catcher John Roseboro dies.
2002 The Players Association’s executive board votes 57-0 to set Aug. 30 as a possible strike date.
2002 Pedro Martinez’s scoreless inning streak ends at 35 frames and he and the Red Sox lose 5-0 to the Twins.
2003 The longest hitting streak of Albert Pujols’ career peaks at 30 games.
2004 Chipper Jones smashes his 300th home run.
2004 Barry Bonds, age 40 years and 23 days old, steals third base.
2005 Dusty Baker pilots his 2,000th game. His record is 1,075-924 with one tie.
2006 Longtime umpire Bruce Froemming works his 5,000th game. Only Bill Klem and he have done that.
2010 Bobby Thompson, who hit maybe the most famous home run in history, dies at age 86. His homer against Ralph Branca won the pennant for the 1951 Giants.
2011 Terry Collins manages his 1,000th game. His record is 503-497.
2011 For the first time since 1920, the White Sox hit five triples in one game. They top the Indians, 8-7 in 14 innings. Juan Pierre, of all people, homers in it. This is probably the greatest game I’ve ever seen in person.
2011 The Astros top the Cubs 6-5 on a walk-off grand slam by Brian Bogusevic. Carlos Marmol surrenders four runs while getting one out in the ninth.
2011 Roy Halladay sets a personal best by fanning 14 batters in one game.
2012 Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz strikes out the side on the bare minimum nine pitches versus the Orioles in the sixth inning.
2012 Here is an odd note. Longtime pitcher Jamey Wright becomes No. 2 on the all-time list for most pickoffs by a right handed pitcher. His 57th pickoff allows him to pass Rick Sutcliffe. No. 1, by a mile, is knuckler Charlie Hough. Lefties dominate the all-time pick-off-er list, though. And we only have this stat for the game’s more recent decades, not all history.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.