On July 10, 1986, 25 years ago today, major league baseball witnessed quite possibly the most pathetic ending to a playing career ever. By big league standards, it wasn’t much of a playing career, but it was still a fate one would wish upon no player.
It came at the end of a great game between that season’s eventual ALCS combatants, the Red Sox and Angels. The teams ended regulation play tied at 4-4, and that remained the score until the 12th inning. In the top half of the frame, the Angels seemingly put the game away by scoring three runs for a commanding 7-4 lead.
Then came the bottom of the 12th. The Angels got off to a decent start, retiring two of the first three Red Sox batters, but that last out proved elusive.
First Jim Rice blasted a two-run homer to make it 7-6. Then veteran third baseman Rick Burleson, fumbled the ball, putting the tying run on. A walk pushed him into scoring position. A single to right tied the score, and when first baseman Wally Joyner made an error on the relay, the winning run made it to third base.
Then it happened. Manager Gene Mauch decided it was time for a new pitcher, and inserted rookie hurler Todd Fischer. This would be the ninth career appearance for Fischer, who had first appeared in a big league game just six weeks previously.
To be the hero, Fischer had to get Boston shortstop Rey Quinones out and send the game into the 14th inning. So what happened when Fischer faced Quinones?
Answer: nothing. Fischer never officially faced him. Fischer never got the chance. Or, more accurately, Fischer deprived himself of the chance. You see, the pressure of the situation and the need to check the runners apparently got to Fischer, and he screwed up. He balked.
And when he balked, runners of course advanced one base. So the runner on third scored the winning run. Boston 8, California 7. Game over—on a walk-off balk.
This is not the only walk-off balk in baseball history. The Royals had one against the White Sox just last week. But this one was special. Of the few, very few, walk-off balks in history, this one was unique in being a career-ending balk. The Angels never used Fischer again.
Fischer went down to the minors, and spent the next year and a half with the Angels’ Triple-A squad in Edmonton. After he posted a dismal 6.85 ERA there in 1987, his professional career was through.
Fischer has more athletic ability than anyone reading this post had, and pretty much all of us would kill to have our own page on Baseball-Reference.com, but nevertheless Fischer’s big league career ending in one of the most humbling ways imaginable: surrendering a walk-off balk.
Random fact from the game: it was Reggie Jackson’s 38th consecutive game without a home run, his longest ever drought. He homered in the next game.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim.
1,000 days since the Phillies beat the Dodgers 7-5 in Game 4 of the NLCS, thanks to a four-run explosion in the top of the eighth inning.
3,000 days since the major league debut of Brandon Webb.
4,000 days since Jim Fregosi wins his 1,000th game as manager (1,000-1,064).
1865 Bobby Lowe, infielder, born.
1884 major league debut: Tommy McCarthy, one of the worst Hall of Famers ever.
1901 Harry Davis hits the first cycle in the AL.
1903 The New York Giants have a rowdy day. They play the Cardinals and get into a fight in the 10th. Players, fans, and cops are on the field before order is restored. After the game, the Giants attack their driver on the way back to the hotel, beat him up and toss him off because they think he is driving too slowly.
1907 Tommy Corcoran, a long-lasting no-hit/good-glove infielder, plays his last game.
1910 Franklin P. Adams publishes his famous Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance poem.
1911 Sherry Magee punches umpire Bill Finneran, breaking his jaw. Magee will be suspended for 36 games as a result.
1914 Cocky Eddie Collins nabbed on a hidden ball trick in an A’s-Tigers game.
1917 Yankees pitcher Ray Caldwell comes out of bullpen and tosses 9.2 innings of hitless ball before the Yankees win in the 17th inning.
1919 Indians manager Lee Fohl loses his job in spectacular fashion. Babe Ruth hits a ninth inning grand slam for an 8-7 Red Sox win over the Indians. Fohl had just put the wrong reliever in. He normally let star center fielder Tris Speaker make pitching decisions for him, and when Speaker signaled to bring in Pitcher A, Fohl misread and put in Pitcher B.
1925 The A’s select veteran spitballer Jack Quinn on waivers from the Red Sox.
1926 Hack Wilson hits a walk-off home run just nine days after a previous walk-off. He only had three in his career.
1927 Miller Huggins loses his 1,000th game as manager: 1,176-1,000.
1928 Milt Gaston allows 14 hits in a complete game shutout.
1929 The Pirates and Phillies combine for nine home runs in one game, one in each inning. Pirates win, 15-9.
1932 One of the wildest games of all-time: A’s 18, Indians 17 (18 innings). Eddie Rommel pitches 17 innings in relief allowing 29 hits and 14 runs (13 earned). Connie Mack brought only two pitchers for a one-game trip to Cleveland (due to Sunday blue laws in Pennsylvania, if I recall correctly). Jimmie Foxx hits three homers in this game and has six hits in all. Johnny Burnett of the Indians has nine hits, the all-time record.
1935 The Tigers hit 10 doubles in a game, but lose 12-11 to the Senators.
1935 One of the best pitching duels in minor league history: Galveston 1, Tulsa 0. Galveston pitches a perfect game and scores the only run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on an inside the park home run.
1935 Paul Hines, star from the earliest days of the NL, dies.
1936 Lou Gehrig hits his 400th home urn.
1936 Bobo Newsom, who never pitched a no-hitter in his career, has one of five one-hitters.
1936 Chuck Klein hits four home runs in one game.
1945 Hal McRae born.
1945 All-Star Game cancelled at Fenway.
1947 Don Black throws a no-hitter: Indians 3, A’s 0.
1948 Jackie Robinson hits his only inside-the-park home run.
1954 Andre Dawson born.
1958 Milwaukee pitcher Lew Burdette homers twice, including his only grand slam.
1958 Major league debut: Dick Stuart.
1960 Whitey Ford surrenders his only grand slam.
1963 Major league debut: Jimmy Wynn.
1965 Joe Morgan hits two home runs in games, something he did two days ago. He won’t do it again for more than seven years.
1965 Roberto Clemente sees his longest hitting streak max at 20 games. He’s 33-for-87 with six doubles, four triples, and one home run.
1966 Roger Craig pitches in his last game.
1968 AL and NL agree on next year’s expansion format.
1968 The Orioles fire manager Hank Bauer. His replacement will be Earl Weaver.
1971 The Dodgers sign free agent Hoyt Wilhelm.
1971 Major league debut: Rennie Stennett.
1972 Hoyt Wilhelm plays his last game.
1974 Dave Winfield has the first of 30 multi-home run games. No. 2 will be exactly three years later.
1974 37-year-old Brooks Robinson steals two bases in one game. It’s the only time he does in his career.
1974 Major league debut: Art Howe.
1977 The Red Sox leave 20 on bases in 11 innings, but win 8-5 over the Brewers.
1980 Fergie Jenkins has his worst game; 0.1 IP, 5 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 0 K for a Game Score of 6.
1983 Atlanta signs amateur free agent Paul Assenmacher.
1987 Major league debut: Lance Johnson.
1988 Mike Aldrete hits the 10,000th home run in Giants franchise history.
1989 Major league debut: Greg Vaughn.
1990 AL 2, NL 0 as six AL pitchers combine for a two-hitter at Wrigley Field.
1993 Cal Ripken gets his 2,000th hit.
1999 Carlton Fisk’s Game Six home run ball sells for $112,273 in auction.
1999 Randy Johnson suffers through his fourth and final game in his Summer of Hell. He pitches great but loses when Arizona is shut out for the fourth consecutive time he starts. In all, the Diamondbacks got six—count ‘em, six—hits in those four games. That’s a total, not an average. What did Johnson do in those games? His combined numbers: 32 IP, 19 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 10 BB, 54 K for a 1.41 ERA—and an 0-4 record.
2002 Ted Williams’ daughter writes to President George W. Bush and Sen. John Glenn asking for their help to prevent her father from being cryogenetically frozen.
2003 Craig Biggio hits his 500th double.
2003 Paul Wilson allows eight runs without getting a single out as a staring pitcher. This has happened only five times since 1920—and Wilson is two of those five.
2007 Ichiro Suzuki hits the first ever All-Star Game inside the park home run. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs and no one on, the NL has a single, home run and three consecutive walks to put the tying run 90 feet from home plate and the winning run 180 feet. NL manger Tony LaRussa opts to not use Albert Pujols (who is available) as a pinch hitter. Instead, Aaron Rowand flies out to end the game.
2008 Seattle releases Richie Sexson.
2009 Jonathan Sanchez throws a no-hitter. It would’ve been a perfect game but there was an error in the eighth inning. Oops.
2010 On the one-year anniversary of his only triple in 2009, Albert Pujols hits his only triple in 2010.
2010 Travis Wood of Cincinnati takes a perfect game into the ninth inning, but doesn’t even get the win. Phillies 1, Reds 0 (11).