5,000 days since bizarre ending to Rockies-Angels game

5,000 days ago, the Rockies and Angels played a truly bizarre bottom of the ninth that featured several veterans fielding positions they never played before or since.

On June 7, 1998, at Angels Stadium, the Angels jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, only to see the visiting Rockies whittle away at their advantage all game long. In the top of the ninth, the Angels stood on the verge of victory, holding a 5-3 lead. They struck out Jeff Reed, pinch-hitting for starting catcher Kirt Manwaring and, after a double by pinch hitter Jason Bates, coaxed a pop-up from shortstop Neifi Perez.

The Angels stood just one out from victory but instead allowed a single to Ellis Burks, and then came the big blast: Dante Bichette hit a two-run double that tied the game. After a third out, the game entered the bottom of the frame still tied, 5-5.

For this final half-inning, Colorado removed starting pitcher Jamey Wright for Jerry Dipoto. It would prove to be a bad move as Dipoto didn’t have his stuff. His catcher was Reed, who stayed in the game after his unsuccessful pinch-hit attempt a few minutes earlier. This would also prove to be an important move. In the outfield, Larry Walker came in to replace the other pinch hitter, Bates. This would prove to be a verge strange inning for Walker, as well.

Dipoto walked leadoff hitter Dave Hollins on six pinches, and that brought up center fielder Jim Edmonds.

On the second pitch, Edmonds bashed one to the gap in right-center, and Hollins roared around the bases hoping to score. He blew past third base hoping to end the game right there, but the relay throw from shortstop Perez was in time and on the mark. Hollins was out at the plate.

However, the Rockies also paid a price on that play. Hollins was out at the plate, but Reed was now out of the game. The collision at the plate injured Reed, and he couldn’t continue.

Well now, this put the Rockies in quite the pickle. A little earlier, they had Kirt Manwaring in the game and Reed on the bench. Now both were out, and Colorado had no backup catcher. Hmmm. Well, time to improvise.

Colorado decided to make shortstop Perez their emergency catcher. Well, now they had a hole at short. That’s okay, just move third baseman Vinny Castilla over. But now they have a hole at third. Okay, put second baseman Mike Lansing at third. What about second? Well, put right fielder Walker there. Now you need a right fielder. All right, put DH Jon Vander Wal in right.

But, if you move the DH to a position slot, you lose the right to a DH for the rest of the game. True, but Vander Wal made the last out in the top of the ninth, so hopefully Colorado won’t need him. OK, so they’ve just changed their catcher, shortstop, second baseman, third baseman, right fielder, and sacrificed their DH, all due to one injury. Yikes.

I suppose it goes without saying, but Perez had never caught in a big league game before or since. For that matter, Walker had never played second base before and would never do so again. No matter, they’re both playing in those spots now.

One other thing: When Reed was injured at the plate, Edmonds took advantage of the situation to scamper to third base, so California might have one out, but they were only 90 feet from victory.

For Walker, it wouldn’t last long at all. Colorado decided to intentionally walk Tim Salmon, the next Angel at the plate. This was to set up the double play, but if you’re playing for the double play, do you really want Walker at the pivot? No, that’s silly. So Lansing moved back to second, and Walker shifted to third base. As was the case in his brief stay at second, this would be the only time Walker ever played third base.

Okay, so the latest round of musical fielders is over; now it’s time for Dipoto to throw the ball. He throws a first-pitch strike to California’s Cecil Fielder, and it was all downhill from there. Dipoto’s next pitch was a fateful one. Officially, it was a wild pitch. That’s how it was scored—not a passed ball, but a wild pitch. But you have to wonder if it was the sort of bad pitch a real catcher would’ve handled. Regardless, the Rockies didn’t have a real catcher back there. They had Neifi Perez.

Edmonds scampered home from third with the winning run in a 6-5 Angels win. With all the Colorado defensive maneuvers, they were done in by a pitcher who couldn’t get anyone out.

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

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Astros manager Cecil Cooper presents the incorrect lineup card, which results in Michael Bourn called out for batting out of turn in the game.

1,000 days since the wife of pitcher Scott Schoeneweis is found dead of a drug overdoes in their home, leaving him the sole guardian of four kids, all under the age of 16.

5,000 days since John Smoltz enjoys perhaps the greatest day he ever has at the plate. He goes 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.

6,000 days since the Yankees collectively have zero assists in their 4-0 win over the Indians.

6,000 days since the normally walk-evasive Kirby Puckett draws a quartert of bases on balls in one game. He never scores, though, while the Twins top the Mariners, 12-10.

7,000 days since Texas signs free agent closer Tom Henke.

7,000 days since the Yankees sign free agent third baseman Wade Boggs.

10,000 days since the birth of major leaguer Ryan Zimmerman.

15,000 days since Brian Giles is born.

Anniversaries

1858 Arthur Irwin, infielder, is born.

1870 Candy LaChance, infielder, is born.

1887 The Cubs sell star outfielder King Kelly to Boston for $10,000.

1887 The National Colored Base Ball League forms. It’s the first attempt at an organized professional Negro league.

1901 Nap Lajoie jumps teams, signing with the Philadelphia A’s.

1911 A cork-centered baseball is introduced.

1911 The Phillies introduce a new style of uniform to the big leagues. They debut a white flannel outfit with thin vertical stripes. This predates the Yankees’ famous pinstripes by four years.

1913 Mel Allen, longtime baseball announcer, is born.

1939 The Cubs sign free agent Earl Whitehill, an aging pitcher.

1945 Bob Quinn, the Braves GM for the last 21 years, leaves his post, letting his son John take over. The elder Quinn has been active in baseball since 1900.

1948 Mordecai Brown, Hall of Famer, dies.

1956 Dave Dravecky is born.

1957 Georgia’s state legislature unanimously approves a bill prohibiting blacks from playing baseball with whites, unless it’s at a religious gathering.

1976 The Atlanta Braves send Valentine’s Day cards to their limited number of season ticket holders and do likewise to members of the media.

1992 The Angels sign free agent first baseman Alvin Davis.

1992 The Florida Marlins sign 15-year-old amateur free agent Edgar Renteria.

1996 An investor group led by Kevin McClatchy purchases the Pirates.

1998 At a Valentine’s Day supper, longtime baseball announcer Harry Caray collapses. He’ll die four days later.

2001 The media reports that baseball will allow umps to eject pitchers without warning if they throw at a batter’s head.

2006 The Reds sign free agent first baseman Pickin’ Machine Scott Hatteberg.

2007 The Red Sox sign free agent J.D. Drew.

2009 The Mets sign free agent rubber-armed pitcher Livan Hernandez.

2011 The New York Yankees sign what’s left of Andruw Jones.

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Comments

  1. Bob Quinn said...

    Actually, I owned the Red Sox from 1924-32, then was Dodgers GM for a few years before joining the Bees in 1936.

  2. Geoff Young said...

    My favorite part of the story is that Perez called for a slider, despite the fact that he knew it would give him trouble, because he didn’t want his pitcher to serve up a meatball to Fielder.

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