Wednesday, February 06, 2013
5,000 days since Frank Pulli checks the filmPosted by Chris Jaffe
5,000 days ago, baseball entered the replay era. Okay, so it didn’t intend to do so, but nevertheless that’s what happened. League offices had issued no directives or orders to umpires to use replay. However, they hadn’t strictly banned umps from doing so. And that’s all one umpire needed when he decided to do things his way.
It was May 31, 1999 and the Marlins hosted the Cardinals. In the bottom of the fifth, the home fish trailed 4-1 with two outs and a runner on second with left fielder Cliff Floyd at the plate.
After swinging and missing at the first offering from St. Louis hurler Kent Bottenfield, Floyd connected on the next pitch. It went to the wall in left field and over—but there was some uncertainty. Was it a clean home run or did it hit the top of the fence first and then bounce over?
The man with the call to make was third base umpire Frank Pulli. A crew chief and veteran of nearly 30 years, Pulli was nearing the end of his umping career. Going by his instincts, he initially called it a home run. After all, it did go over the wall and when it doubt, call it a homer.
But Pulli had some doubt. He wasn’t sure if it clipped the top of the wall, but he also wasn’t sure he got the call right. And this call was a big deal— homers are the biggest play in the game. Pulli didn’t like the look he had of it and so ….
Ah, hell with it—why not? Pulli had 27 years under his belt so there wasn’t much the league could do about it. He went to the dugout camera and had the TV people run him a series of replays to determine if the ball really was a home run or not.
Turns out it wasn’t. Pulli was right to not trust himself. Instead of a two-run homer, Floyd had a one-run double, and soon died at second base. I’m sure the Marlins weren’t happy about that outcome. I’m sure the fans in Miami (21,943 paid, but who knows how many actually attending) weren’t happy. Heck, major league baseball’s offices weren’t happy. But there was nothing anyone could do about it. The game was going on and Pulli was crew chief—and he decided to personally begin instant replay review in baseball.
It ultimately made no difference. The Cardinals won easily, 5-2. The league offices chastised Pulli, but he was on the way out anyway. And in the long run, the powers that be decided Pulli was on to something. It took the better part of a decade, but eventually major league baseball did institute instant replay—a very limited form. League officials limited it to judging home run balls, just as Pulli had done – and he did it 5,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other 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.
1,000 days since pitcher Mat Latos has a memorable day. Not only does he drive in the only run in a 1-0 victory, but he nearly throws a no-hitter. A sixth inning infield single that the runner narrowly beats out is the only hit against him.
2,000 days since the Red Sox trade Wily Mo Pena to the Nationals.
2,000 days since Brandon Webb throws his third consecutive complete game shutout, something no pitcher had done in nine years.
8,000 days since the Angels trade Dante Bichette to the Brewers for Dave Parker.
15,000 days since Bernice Gera wins her lawsuit against organized baseball to become an umpire. However, she’ll quit after just one game in the New York-Penn League.
20,000 days since Turk Farrell throws 151 pitches in one relief stint, the highest known pitch count in a relief outing. He pitches 8.2 innings from the sixth to 14th frames, allowing just two runs (one unearned) but gets stuck with the loss.
Also, at some point today it’ll be a billion seconds since the birth of former Padres and current White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy.
1887 Chicago Cubs honcho Albert Spalding meets with his players and gets each to pledge a full year of abstinence from alcohol. I highly doubt this was perfectly observed by all his players that year.
1895 Babe Ruth is born.
1901 Glenn Wright, a standout defensive shortstop of the 1920s, is born.
1903 Hardie Henderson dies at age 40. He lost 30 games in a season twice, including a league-leading 35 in 1885.
1912 The White Sox purchase Jack Fournier from the Red Sox. He’s a hard-hitting first baseman.
1926 Dale Long is born. He’s one of the few lefties to play catcher and more famously set the since-tied record for most consecutive games with a homer, eight.
1926 The Yankees trade former star catcher Wally Schang to the Browns for George Mogridge and cash.
1927 Smoky Burgess is born. The catcher will make nine All-Star teams.
1934 The Reds receive one-time star pitcher Dazzy Vance off of waivers from the Reds.
1934 The NL names Ford Frick its new PR director.
1939 Ed Barrow assumes the presidency of the New York Yankees.
1946 Charlie Knepper, who went 4-22 for the 134-loss 1899 Cleveland Spiders, dies at age 74.
1948 The Yankees release rubber-armed Bobo Newsom.
1949 Richie Zisk, the Polish Prince, is born. He’ll have a great season with the 1977 South Side Hitmen (as fans called that season’s White Sox squad).
1950 Art Fletcher dies at age 65. He led the league in HBP five times while playing shortstop for John McGraw’s Giants in the 1910s.
1951 Gabby Street dies at age 68. He caught for Walter Johnson and famously caught a ball dropped from the top of the Washington Monument. He also managed the 1931 Cardinals to a world championship.
1958 Ted Williams signs the biggest contract in baseball history, $150,000, with Boston.
1960 Noodles Hahn dies at age 80. He was a fantastically talented pitcher in the 1900s but blew his arm out after a few years.
1968 King County (where Seattle is) voters okay a $40 million bond issue to build a domed, multipurpose stadium.
1969 Bob Wickman, long-lasting reliever, is born.
1976 The AL grants a new Seattle franchise to an investment group led by Stanley Golub, Walter Schoenfield, Lester Smith, James Stillwell Jr. and James Walsh.
1981 Fergie Jenkins learns he will not be suspended in the upcoming season for his drug conviction last year in Canada.
1987 The Indians sign free agent Rick Dempsey.
1995 MLB suspends Darryl Strawberry for 60 days for drug violations.
1998 The Twins trade second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees for Eric Milton, Cristian Guzman, two others and cash. This works out pretty darn well for Minnesota.
2001 Angels slugger Mo Vaughn has surgery to repair a ruptured bicep tendon in his left arm. He’ll miss the entire season.
2003 The Yankees sign Cuban defector Jose Contreras.
2004 The A’s sign aging first baseman Eric Karros.
2004 Detroit signs Florida’s 2003 postseason hero Ivan Rodriguez.
2006 Toronto signs free agent catcher Bengie Molina.
2007 Former 200-game winner Lew Burdette dies at age 80. His shutouts in Games Five and Seven of the 1957 World Series let the Braves upset the heavily favored Yankees.
2008 Cleveland signs free agent reliever Brendan Donnelly.
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.