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Saturday, June 16, 2012
Thirty years ago today, one of the game’s All-Stars pulled of a nightmare play. It’s the sort of thing that could’ve—and nearly did—cost him the worst kind of lasting infamy in the game.
June 16, 1982 was the day Brewers catcher Ted Simmons nearly became the Fred Merkle of his generation.
On that day, the Brewers played the Baltimore Orioles. In the third inning Simmons made one of the worst mistakes you can commit—he lost track of the outs. With runners on first and second and one out, Simmons caught strike three for the inning’s second out and promptly rolled the ball back to the mound because he thought the inning was over.
No, it wasn’t. And both runners advanced a base, and immediately scored when the next Baltimore batter singled. Oops. Well, one of those runs would’ve come home anyway, but not both. Making it even worse, due to rain the game ended in a 2-2 tie after nine innings. Thus, if Simmons hadn’t made his bonehead play, Milwaukee would’ve won.
Let’s look at some history for a second. There is a precedent for a play like this. In 1908, young Giants first baseman Merkle didn’t advance to second when a teammate scored a walk-off run against the Cubs. Due to his play, the game ended in a tie, and the season ended in a tie between the Giants and Cubs necessitating a replay of the Merkle game, which the Cubs won to take the pennant. Merkle’s gaffe cost the Giants a win and the pennant, and earned him the nickname “Bonehead.” Now, Simmons had made a screw-up that turned a win into a tie.
Still, it didn’t look very important at the time. On June 16, both Milwaukee and Baltimore were scuffling, barely over .500. So a game had been cost, but it didn’t look like a pennant was up for grabs.
Yeah, but then the season kept going on. The Brewers immediately got hot, winning 22 of their next 28 and landing safely in first place. By late August, it looked like they had the pennant sewed up with a 6.5 game lead.
Then Baltimore got hot. Suddenly, that big lead wasn’t so big anymore. Oh, and the season was going to end with a four-game Brewers-Orioles series in Baltimore. It was originally going to be a three-game series, but they had to schedule a fourth one to make up for the Bonehead Simmons game that ended in a tie. Making things perfect, heading into the series, Milwaukee had a three-game lead, so Baltimore could win the division with a sweep.
Ted Simmons' nightmare scenario had a very serious chance to become a reality.
The Brewers came to town on Oct. 1 and in barely over 24 hours proceeded to lose three games, evening the AL East division race. Milwaukee lost one game on the first day and then a doubleheader the next day—and one game in that doubleheader was the Simmons makeup.
Fortunately for Simmons, reality doesn’t always like to follow the dramatic story lines, and the Brewers won the last game in a 10-2 laugher to take the division. Simmons’ screw-up could be forgiven and forgotten about. But no one knew that 30 years ago today when Simmons first thoughtlessly rolled the ball to the pitcher’s mound after the second out in the inning.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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