May 23, 2013
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
10,000 days ago, the Padres and Pirates fought in a really close, back-and-forth game that is most notable for one rather bizarre play. It’s a play that rarely happens, but even by that standard, it was an odd one.
In the bottom of the seventh on July 6, 1985, Pittsburgh’s Steve Kemp became one of the few players to hit into the rare 9-3 ground out. Yeah—he hit the ball out of the infield and was still thrown out at first base.
Oh, it happens—a few times a year maybe, but no more than that. Also, when it happens, the runner usually is a pitcher or someone who has no idea what he’s doing at the plate, let alone running to first.
Kemp? He was a veteran hitter playing in nearly his 1,100th game. Sure, he was always slow-footed, but even slow-footed guys can leg one out to first on a ball hit to the outfielder.
Except that this play wasn’t on Kemp. The 9-3 ground out rarely happens, but when it does, how often do you have a runner on first base who fails to advance?
That’s what happened here. When Kemp hit his shot into right, Jason Thompson was on first base, and when the play was over, Kemp was still on first base.
Wait a second. How could neither man make it to the next base on what the play-by-play account lists as a grounder? Simple, it was a grounder only in the sense that it touched the ground.
Kemp hit a flier to shallow right and Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn dove to try to catch it – and didn’t. It hit the ground before hopping into his glove. Thompson, however, missed the hopped-into part. He saw it go into Gwynn's glove and then retreated back to first. I can only assume that Kemp actually made it to first base before the throw, but by rule the person with previous possession of the bag has the right to it. So when Gwynn threw the ball to first, the guy who didn’t screw up was called out.
You can imagine the confusion. There were two guys on first. One had to be out. The umpires ruled it was a trap and called out Kemp. I’m no expert on the rules, and I’m probably wrong about this, but you can make a case they should’ve called out Thompson. Since the ball wasn’t caught, there is a force play on second and Thompson was clearly out there.
Either way, the Pirates had two men on first and one of them had to be out. So the umps said it was the guy who got there second. Kemp did nothing wrong but a cursory glance at the play-by-play makes it look like he didn’t hustle.
Aside from that, it was a really nice game. Thompson scored a few minutes later to give the Pirates a 6-4 lead. In the bottom of the eighth he drove home a run for a 7-4 lead. Then the Padres stormed back, scoring three times in the top of the ninth to tie it, 7-7. In the bottom of the ninth, the first two Pirates recorded outs, but that just made the ensuing game-winning rally that much more dramatic. Three straight singles gave the Pirates the win, the last a walk-off RBI single by Marvell Wynne.
Thus Pirates fans could leave the game feeling happy—and so could Jason Thompson. The odd play in the seventh hadn’t made any difference in the outcome, but it was the strangest play of the game, a game that took place 10,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their “day-versary” or anniversary. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
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