Wednesday, March 6, 2013

World Series Weirdness

I'd like to begin another series of blogs with one of my favorite topics: The World Series.Winning a Fall Classic is the crowning achievement of any given season. It's what players strive for--even in the today's age of dwindling loyalties and blockbuster contracts. Baseball's October Showcase has provided a fair share of unusual moments in over a century of competition. Here's a list of some of the strangest plays in World Series history.


Two's a Crowd

Red Faber was elected to the Hall of Fame on the strength of his pitching not his base running skills. The ultra-competitive Chicago  hurler committed an inexplicable blunder during Game 2 of the 1917 Fall Classic. In the fifth inning, Faber singled and advanced to second on a throw to third. Determined to bring home another insurance run to pad his 7-2 lead, he forgot that Buck Weaver was ahead of him on the base paths. On the first pitch to teammate Shano Collins, he took off for third running full tilt with his head down. Sportswriter Grantland Rice commented afterward: "It was a clean steal. The only drawback was the annoying presence of another Sox mate in charge of the same spot." Giants' third baseman Heinie Zimmerman tagged both men and Faber was called out, ending the inning. He was credited with a win that day, but would be razzed by teammates for years to come.

Doing It All By Himself

The 1920 World Series featured several odd moments, some of them occurring off the field. Before Game 4, Brooklyn's star hurler Rube Marquard was arrested for trying to scalp six box seat tickets for $350 (a pretty penny in those days). He claimed the offer had been a joke, but a judge disagreed, fining him $1 plus court fees before sending him on his way. Though Marquard made a relief appearance in Game 4, Brooklyn owner Charlie Ebbets was furious, benching the hurler for the rest of the series then trading him in the offseason.

Game 5 featured a number of unprecedented events, including the first grand slam in World Series history and the first Series homer by a pitcher. In the 5th inning, fans in Cleveland witnessed a play that has not been duplicated since. Brooklyn's Pete Kilduff singled to left and Otto Miller followed with another hit to center. Clarence Mitchell smashed a hard liner to Indians' second baseman Bill Wambsganss. It looked like a sure hit so both runners took off. The man referred to as "Wamby" (because his name contained so many consonants) made a lunging stab and came up with the ball. He stepped on second, doubling up Kilduff as Miller continued to lumber toward him. Wambganss reached out and tagged Miller for the only unassisted triple play in the history of the Fall Classic. Newspapers reported that it happened so quickly the crowd took several seconds to react. When they did, the field was littered with straw hats.

The One That Got Away

This series wasn't expected to go the distance. On the eve of Game 7 in Washington, tickets had not even been printed yet. Fans camped out all night at Griffith Stadium and, when the box offices opened on game day, there was mass confusion. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife were on hand to witness a marathon 12-inning encounter that was decided on the last play of the game.

With the score knotted at 3 in the bottom of the twelfth, Giants' pitcher Jack Bentley induced a popup near home plate off the bat of Muddy Ruel. Catcher Hank Gowdy settled under it, but stepped on his discarded mask in the process. It stuck to his foot and, despite repeated attempts, he could not shake it loose. The distraction was enough to allow the ball to drop in foul territory. Given a second chance, Ruel doubled to left field. Walter Johnson, who had tossed 4 scoreless innings in relief on less than two-days' rest, then reached on an error by shortstop Travis Jackson.Washington's Earl McNeely followed with what appeared to be an easy double play ball to Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom at third base. In an anticlimactic end to a fiercely contested Series, the ball took an improbable hop right over Lindstrom's head into left field. Ruel scored the series-clinching run on the play. It was the only world championship for the Senators of old.   


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