20th anniversary: Baltimore base running fiasco

Twenty years ago today, the Orioles hit into an utterly preposterous double play. It was something so bizarre, it’s hard to believe it had ever happened before, though something close to it once had.

On April 17, 1993, the Orioles battled the Angels in Baltimore. It was a close game, with California nursing a narrow 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. In that frame, the Orioles threatened to rally for the victory, and by all rights they should have—but tripped themselves up in a memorable display of dumb baseball.

First, the good news. Baltimore loaded the bases with one out thanks to two hits, an intentional walk, and a fielder’s choice. The tying run was just 90 feet from scoring and a cleanly hit single could give Baltimore the lead.

At the plate stood veteran outfielder Mike Devereaux. Though not a feared hitter, Deveraux was solid, and sure enough he stroked the ball into shallow center field. Would this fall for a hit?

Angels outfielder Chad Curtis charged in to try to catch it. The runners dared not advance too far for fear of being doubled off the bag. Curtis dove and—the ball ended up in his glove. Was that a trap or a catch? Actually, it was a trap, so there was no chance to double anyone up. One run should come around and there should be only one out.

Only it didn’t end up with a tie score, bases loaded and one out. The inning would end on a double play.

The first problem was lead runner Jeff Tackett. He had no idea if Curtis caught it, but assumed it had been caught and went back to third. This is confounding because he could be forced at the plate for not advancing. Though it was a trap, it’s tough to really excuse Tackett here. After all, the other runners figured out what was going on. Baltimore star Brady Anderson knew, and advanced from second to third—just in time to greet the out of place Tackett.

But maybe the strangest base running came from Chito Martinez on first base. He recognized the ball had been trapped and so advanced, but he completely forgot there were runners ahead of him. Martinez went to second and, seeing a chance to gain an extra base, went on his way to third. This is just plain bad baseball. Really—couldn’t he have noticed not one, but two runners at third in front of him? Guess not.

So the Angels relayed the ball to the plate, where catcher John Orton had it. Instead of stepping on the plate, he advanced to third where he played it safe and tagged everyone.

Umpire Terry Craft had a fun situation to figure out: Three guys on one bag. Clearly two were out, but who? As a general rule, the lead runner has position, but in this case that wasn’t true. With the bases loaded and a live ball, Tackett needed to advance, but didn’t, so he was out.

As for the others, Anderson was safe and Martinez out. Anderson advanced to his base ashe was supposed to, but Martinez advanced to someone else’s base. Anderson was the guy who didn’t screw up. But it didn’t matter—the double play ended the inning. Baltimore would lose, 7-5. There’s no way that play should happen, but it did.

It harkened back to the 1930s Daffiness Boys Dodgers, when Babe Herman once doubled into a double play. He doubled with the bases loaded, and while the lead runner scored, the second runner pulled up at third, the trailing runner advanced to third, and Herman himself—not paying attention—slid into third. That bizarre play seemed impossible to duplicate, but danged if the bird-brained Birds hadn’t just done it.

It was baseball at its strangest in Baltimore—and it was 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happens X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Derek Jeter hits an inside the park home run. It’s the second of his career.

5,000 days since five grand slams are hit in one day, a record. The slammers are: Jay Buhner of Seattle, Bernie Williams with the Yankees, Mike Lowell on the Marlins, Jose Vidro of the Expos, and Fernando Tatis with the Cardinals.

5,000 days since the Angels release Jack McDowell, ending his career.

5,000 days since Colorado trades Brian McRae to Toronto.

5,000 days since umpire union chief Richie Phillips says he’s considering an injunction from the NLRB to stop the Sept. 2 firing of 22 umpires. (Never mind that the umpires resigned, acting on the advice of Phillips).

8,000 days since Kirby Puckett gets six hits in a game for the second time in his career. He’s the first since Doc Cramer in the 1930s to do this twice.

8,000 days since Johnny Oates manages his first big league game.

9,000 days since California releases reliever Donnie Moore.

50,000 days since the first tie in the NL: Philadelphia and Louisville end due to darkness after 14 innings with a 2-2 score.

Anniversaries

1820 Alexander Cartwright, in Cooperstown as the inventor of baseball, is born.

1863 Charlie Ferguson, a terrific pitcher who dies far too young, is born.

1864 Jersey Bakely, 19th century pitcher with horrible run support, is born.

1869 It’s the first openly professional baseball game in history. The Cincinnati Redlegs beat the Cincinnati Amateurs (that’s really their name), 24-15. As the team name of the loser implies, only one team consisted of professionals.

1884 Jake Daubert, first baseman, is born. He’ll win back-to-back batting titles with Brooklyn in 1913-14.

1886 Two notable players make their debut today: Lou Bierbauer, a second baseman from whom the Pittsburgh Pirates got their nickname (they pirated Bierbauer from another team), and Matt Kilroy, a pitcher who still technically owns the record for most strikeouts in a year. He fanned 513 in 583 innings in 1886, before the four-ball, three-strike count had been set up.

1889 Herman Long, one of the best-fielding shortstops of his generation, plays in his first game.

1892 The National League hosts its first-ever Sunday games. They’ve violated the Sabbath ever since.

1897 Baltimore releases former ace pitcher Sadie McMahon.

1898 Bobby Mathews, pitcher who won 297 games (including in the sorta big league National Association), dies.

1902 Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Tinker makes his big league debut.

1904 The Brooklyn Dodgers find a loophole in local Sunday laws. They let fans in for free but make them buy a program to enter the grandstand or box seats. This loophole soon will be closed.

1909 The Cubs sell center fielder Jimmy Slagle to the Braves.

1913 Seattle Seattle Bill James, later a star pitcher for the 1914 Miracle Braves, makes his big league debut.

1913 The Yankees play their first game at the Polo Grounds and lose 9-3 to the Washington Senators.

1914 Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber makes his debut. So does another pitcher of considerably less renown, Dave Davenport.

1923 The Cardinals wear uniform numbers for the first time in a regular-season game. They lose, 3-2 to Cincinnati.

1923 The Phillies tie the Dodgers, 5-5, in a 14-inning contest that sets a record as the longest Opening Day game in NL history.

1923 Jimmie Wilson, catcher, makes his big league debut. He’ll become a baseball lifer, playing in the 1920s/30s and managing in the 1930s/40s, before dying rather young.

1924 Senators star outfielder Baby Doll Jacobson hits for the cycle.

1925 Babe Ruth undergoes surgery for intestinal abscess in St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City for the “belly ache heard around the world.”

1926 Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt has his worst ever day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three whiffs.

1927 Hall of Fame outfielder Al Simmons legs out his only inside-the-park home run.

1929 Babe Ruth marries actress/model Claire Merritt Hodgson.

1932 Giants first baseman Bill Terry sets an NL record with 21 putouts as they beat the Braves, 5-0, behind pitcher Hal Schumacher.

1932 Hall of Famer Heinie Manush strikes out four times in a game for the only time in his career. He fans only 345 times in 8,416 plate appearances, but today he has four in five hitless at-bats.

1932 Arky Vaughan, Hall of Fame shortstop and one of the most underrated players in history, makes his big league debut. Also making their debuts today are pitcher Tex Carleton, and Paul Richards, a catcher who will later be a great manager.

1934 Casey Stengel manages his first big league game. So does Jimmie Wilson, but his career won’t have the success of Stengel’s.

1934 Lon Warneke carries an Opening Day no-hitter into the ninth versus the Reds. Adam Comorosky singles with one out, earning the boos of the 30,427 fans in attendance.

1934 Hard-hitting third baseman Harlond Clift debuts today. So do poor-fielding first baseman Zeke Bonura, outfielder Cookie Lavagetto and Frenchy Bordagaray.

1934 A rebuilt Fenway Park opens. The Red Sox lose, 6-5 in 11 innings, to Washington.

1936 Brooklyn releases long-lasting starting pitcher Tom Zachary.

1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visits the grave of supposed baseball founder Gen. Abner Doubleday in Washington, D.C. Roosevelt is supposed to throw out the first pitch in the season’s opener for Washington, but it’s rained out. Vice President John Nance Garner will do it four days later.

1945 Future Hall of Fame second baseman Red Schoendienst makes his debut. That’s not the debut that gets people’s attention at the time, though. That honor goes to one-armed outfielder Pete Gray, who plays his first game for the Browns.

1945 The Pirates lose their Opening Day game weirdly. A three-run homer is nullified because Frankie Zak, their runner on first, called time to tie his shoes just before the gopher ball pitch.

1946 Jack Quinn, 200-game winner who pitched until he was nearly 50 years old, dies at age 62.

1947 Jackie Robinson gets his first big league hit, a bunt single. In that same game, Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider makes his big league debut.

1951 One of the game’s most storied players makes his debut on this day: Mickey Mantle. Also debuting: Johnny Logan and Roy McMillan.

1951 It’s a first in major league baseball, an Opening Day night game. The Senators top the A’s, 6-1.

1951 Al Lopez manages his first big league game. In it, Lopez’s starting pitcher, Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, has his worst day at the plate. Normally one of the game’s best hitting pitchers, Lemon today is 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It’s his only four-K game. Lopez is not the only prominent manager debuting today; so does Paul Richards with the White Sox.

1951 Just before the home opener at Wrigley Field, golfer Sam Snead tees off from home plate and hits the center field scoreboard, something no batter has ever done.

1953 The Cubs top the Cardinals, 23-13, setting a record for the longest nine-inning game then played: three hours and 43 minutes. Yeah, that’s been broken a ton over the years.

1953 Mickey Mantle hits maybe his most famous home run, a towering shot off Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium estimated to have traveled 565 feet. The Yankees win that game, pushing Casey Stengel’s career record to 972-971. It will always be over .500 from here on out.

1953 Former Negro Leaguer Connie Johnson makes his debut. So does Bob Buhl, who will be one of the worst-hitting pitchers of all time. In one double header, pitchers Johnny Podres and Ruben Gomez also debut.

1954 Don Mossi, maybe the ugliest pitcher in baseball history, debuts.

1954 Charlie Grimm manages his 2,000th game. His record: 1,085-901.

1954 The Reds finally integrate, as first Nino Escalera and then Chuck Harmon play for them in one game. They are either the ninth or 10th team to integrate (the A’s also integrate around this time).

1955 Roberto Clemente, iconic right fielder, makes his big league debut. Also debuting is terrific pitcher Larry Jackson.

1956 Bill Rigney manages his first game. He’ll last more than 2,500 games.

1956 Billy Pierce walks the first batter of the game, something he last did 112 starts ago.

1956 Eddie Rommel becomes the first umpire to wear glasses on the field when he works today’s Senators-Yankees game. In that game, Mickey Mantle hits a pair of homers that are each estimated over 500 feet long.

1956 Four Hall of Famers debut in one day, a record. They are: Frank Robinson, Don Drysdale, Luis Aparicio, and Whitey Herzog. Okay, so Herzog is in as a manager, but April 17, 1956, is still the greatest one-day debut haul in baseball history. (Not that it matters too much, but Tito Francona and Jerry Lumpe also debut on this day.)

1958 Eddie Mathews is off to a terrific start. He’d already homered twice on Opening Day and today, in the second game on the season, he does it again.

1958 Mudcat Grant, future 20-game winner, makes his big league debut.

1959 Al Kaline belts his 100th home run.

1960 Eddie Mathews gets his 300th home run.

1960 It’s one of the most famous trades in history, as Detroit sends defending batting champion Harvey Kuenn to Cleveland for defending home run champion Rocky Colavito. Detroit gets the better of this one.

1962 Lou Brock hits an inside-the-park home run leading off the game for the Cubs against the Pirates.

1964 Dick Allen connects for his first career home run.

1964 Willie Stargell hits the first home run at Shea Stadium.

1965 Jim Palmer makes his big league debut.

1967 Marquis Grissom is born.

1968 Johnny Bench will end his career with only 11 sacrifice hits, but two of them come in this game.

1968 Here’s a weird one: The steel shell of a pitcher’s mound at Oakland’s Alameda County Stadium is exposed and has to be covered between innings. Why make a pitcher’s mound out of steel?

1968 Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda suffers through his worst game, according to WPA. He’s 0-for-5 with a walk and grounds into a double play for a –0.413 WPA as the Reds top his Cardinals, 4-3.

1968 Carl Yastrzemski, fresh off a Triple Crown MVP season in 1967, receives three intentional walks in one game for the only time in his career. Aside from them, he’s 1-for-1 with a solo homer on the day. That’s all Boston needs in it’s 2-0 win over the White Sox.

1969 Bill Stoneman pitches the first no-hitter in Montreal history, defeating the Phillies, 7-0, in Connie Mack Stadium. Just think—the other 1969 NL expansion team, the Padres, still haven’t thrown a no-hitter, but the Expos did it in their first month.

1970 Bud Harrelson belts his only home run at Shea Stadium. The longtime Met will hit six homers elsewhere in his 16-year career.

1970 California purchases weak-hitting infielder Ray Oyler from the A’s.

1970 Ron Santo receives his only career walk-off walk, allowing the Cubs to top the Expos, 8-7.

1973 Vic Aldridge, decent pitcher for the Cubs and Pirates in the 1920s, dies at age 79.

1974 Badly hung over Cubs backup catcher George Mitterwald has the game of his life, hitting three homers and a double while driving in eight.

1974 Cleveland’s Gaylord Perry becomes the last pitcher to throw 15 innings in a game. Unfortunately for him, he gets a no-decision as the Indian bullpen loses it in the 16th, 5-4, to Milwaukee. Perry’s line: 15 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 14 K for a Game Score of 95.

1974 Troubled pitcher Steve Blass plays in his last game. He was a good pitcher, but then he suddenly developed a weird mental block and couldn’t find the plate.

1976 It’s one of the wildest games in the history of Wrigley Field, or any field. The Cubs blow an 11-run lead, and the Phillies come back to win, 18-16, in 10 innings. Mike Schmidt is Philadelphia’s engine, hitting four homers and a single while driving in eight runs.

1976 The Yankees name Thurman Munson their first team captain since Lou Gehrig.

1977 When the Diamondvision at Atlanta shows a close play at the plate that indicates the umpires blew the call, the officials leave the field in protest of the scoreboard. They return only after Atlanta agrees not to show replays on close plays on the scoreboard again.

1981 Texas signs free agent Bobby Bonds.

1982 Keith Hernandez gets his 1,000th hit.

1982 Rickey Henderson steals his 200th base. He’s been in the majors fewer than three seasons (and one of those was strike-shortened).

1982 Eddie Murray enjoys his only five-hit game. All are singles.

1983 Former knuckleballer Dutch Leonard dies at age 74.

1983 Nolan Ryan fans his 3,500th batter.

1984 Dennis Eckersley records his 100th loss. His record: 120-100.

1984 The Yankees sign free agent Oscar Gamble, who in his prime had the game’s greatest afro.

1986 Jerry Reuss suffers through his worst start ever: 4 IP, 13 H (including three doubles and three homers), 11 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, and 2 K for a Game Score of –3. As it happens, his previous record for worst Game Score (-2) came exactly 12 years earlier, in 1974.

1986 Ryne Sandberg legs out his only inside-the-park home run.

1988 Atlanta finally wins a game, after starting the year 0-10.

1988 Barry Larkin hits the only inside-the-park home run that Nolan Ryan ever surrenders.

1988 Tony Gwynn is ejected—after asking for it. Sort of. After a call at the plate he disagrees with, he says, “It’s not a strike, and if you don’t like it, you can throw me out.” Yeah, that’s not a smart statement to make.

1993 For the second time this week, Detroit scores 20 runs in a game. In that game, Alan Trammell plays third base. It’s his first time on defense not at short.

1993 Mike Hampton makes his big league debut.

1994 Cory Snyder belts three homers in a game. It’s the second time he’s done that.

1995 Cincinnati signs free agent Benito Santiago.

1996 Kirby Puckett goes to the hospital for an eye problem he suddenly developed on March 28. It turns out his career is suddenly over.

1998 Chuck Finley wins his 14th straight game. His line in that span: 124 IP, 98 H, 30 R, 30 ER, 48 BB, and 116 K for a 2.18 ERA.

2000 Baseball team owners approve the sale of the Royals to David Glass for $96 million.

2001 22 days before his 40th birthday, Tony Gwynn gets his last triple. It’s his first one since 1997.

2001 Barry Bonds belts his 500th career home run.

2001 Ichiro Suzuki, still in his first month in North America, is caught stealing twice in one game. It hasn’t happened to him since then.

2002 Orioles starting pitcher Erik Bedard makes his debut. So does Cincinnati batter Austin Kearns.

2003 Toronto outfielder Reed Johnson makes his major league debut.

2004 After Cleveland’s starting pitcher is rocked—he allows all six batters he faces to reach base—the team brings in Jake Westbrook in relief. He retires all 21 batters he faces, tying for the longest perfect relief outing since 1920.

2006 Pedro Martinez becomes only the fourth pitcher since 1920 to record 200 wins before losing 100 games when he earns the victory today. Lefty Grove, Whitey Ford and Juan Marichal also did it. Martinez’s record at the moment: 200-84.

2007 Jorge Posada hits his 200th home run.

2008 Colorado tops the Padres, 2-1, in 22 innings in what’s the only known game where both teams throw more than 320 pitches (337 for San Diego, 321 for Colorado).

2008 Florida’s Ricky Nolasco allows nine hits, all for extra bases. It’s the most hits allowed without surrendering a single any pitcher has had since at least 1920, and probably ever. He allows four doubles, a triple, and four homers.

2009 Gary Sheffield has an interesting way to join the 500-home run club—he belts a pinch-hit homer. It’s the second pinch-hit shot of his career; the first was 15 years previous.

2009 Jason Kubel hits for the cycle, the third baseball has witnessed in the last five days.

2009 Catcher Michael Barrett plays in his last game.

2010 Albert Pujols sets a personal best by reaching base six times in one game. He’s 2-for-5 with four walks as the Cardinals lose, 2-1, in 20 innings to the Mets. The score was 0-0 after 18.

2010 Ubaldo Jimenez pitches the first no-hitter in Rockies history.

2012 The Indians sign veteran outfielder Johnny Damon as a free agent.

2012 Jamie Moyer, at age 49 years and 150 days, becomes the oldest pitcher to ever record a win when he get the decision for Colorado over San Diego.

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Comments

  1. Ron said...

    April 17,1955: Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers hits three home runs in Briggs Stadium, including a pair in the 6th inning, to drive in six runs. The Tigers rout the A’s 16 – 0 behind Steve Gromek’s strong pitching.
    Kaline becomes the first Tigers player to hit two homeruns in the same inning, a feat that will be matched by Magglio Ordonez.
    For Kaline’s 1955 season, the 20 year old will lead the league in batting average .340 hits with 200 and total bases with 321, and finish second in the MVP vote to Yogi Berra.

  2. robert said...

    first visit to this site,  as a baseball lover, and with a strong love for baseball history, i am ecstatic to have found this site.  pure heaven.  wonderful!  thank you!

  3. Jim said...

    Triple play?  I think the pitching mound was rubber and encased in a metal “shell” or holder for more stability.

  4. Chris Jaffe said...

    Jim – not a triple play; a double play.  Anderson was safe – he had right to be there.  The lead runner was out for not advancing home on a force & the trailing runner was out advancing to someone else’s base.

  5. Jim said...

    Your first sentence says triple play.  I was wondering where it was.  Not stating the rules.  I know even if all three base runners and the batter had been out, it still would have only been a double play.  They don’t allow 4 or more outs per half inning to count as such.

    That’s why my questions – where is the preposterous triple play.

    Thanks.

  6. Bill said...

    It’s a well known fact that Chito Martinez was about as smart as a box of rocks.  He did some of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen a baseball player do.  He always threw to the wrong base and missed cut off men.  He really wasn’t on base enough to make too many base running errors, but I remember when this play occurred, I wasn’t surprised. Devo was also an inexplicably stupid base runner.  Maybe it was a coaching issue, but this team played way over their heads, but lost way too many games because of stupid plays.

  7. Chris Jaffe said...

    D’OH!  OK – that’s a dumb error on my part.  I’ve contacted the editors to please fix that.  Thanks for the catch – and sorry for the mistake.

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