Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comical Deadball Moments (Part II)

Before the official rules required home teams to wear white, there were inevitable mix-ups. In a game between the Giants and Cubs at Chicago, both clubs were dressed in black.  With the bases loaded, a Chicago batter launched a deep drive to right field.  Mike Tiernan caught up with it quickly, but mistakenly fired the ball to Cubs’ first base coach Ad Gumbert. Fooled by the color of Gumbert’s sweater, Tiernan assumed he was throwing to teammate Roger Connor.  Three runs scored as Gumbert dodged the relay.  

Not all of Fred Clarke’s heroic deeds were intentional.  In fact, he once stole home without realizing it. Occupying third with the bases loaded in a tight contest, Pittsburgh’s popular player/manager strolled casually toward the plate following a 3-1 offering that appeared to be a bit outside. At that precise moment, the umpire found himself temporarily unable to speak. As the arbiter struggled to clear his throat, Clarke crossed the pan uncontested. He did so just as a second strike call was made. It was undoubtedly among the cheapest of his 1,622 career runs—a total that helped land him among the Cooperstown elite.

Pete Hotaling, a journeyman outfielder who played in both the National League and American Association during the late-1800's, had a reputation for being a slow-thinker despite his other assets. Against the Cubs one afternoon, Hotaling ended up at second on a botched throw by Hall of Famer King Kelly. He was held at that station by Fred Pfeffer, who slammed an empty hand on Hotaling’s back. “That’s right,” third baseman Ned Williamson conspired, “keep that ball and tag Pete if he edges off the bag.” “Nice slide, Pete,” Pfeffer added, “but that’s as far as you’ll get today.”  Unbeknownst to Hotaling, the ball had rolled to the deepest recesses of the ballpark and was still being pursued by Chicago outfielders. Hotaling’s teammates clamored for him to move up a base, but he stayed put as a throw finally did arrive. The next batter popped up, ending the inning, and players on the bench demanded to know why no advance had been made. “I thought the ball was on second,” Hotaling said naively, “Pfeffer and Williamson told me it was and I didn’t think they’d lie to a fellow.”

During one difficult stretch in 1911, Cardinals’ outfielder Steve Evans botched several fly balls, enduring a slew of taunts from fans. Ever the comedian, Evans manned his post one afternoon holding an over-sized umbrella. At the end of the inning, he trotted past umpire Hank O’Day, who grumbled: “What are you trying to do, make a joke out of this game?” “No, Mr. O’Day,” Evans shot back, “I’ll leave that to you.” Not known for his sunny temperament, an infuriated O’Day reportedly chased Evans all the way to the clubhouse.

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