Saturday, May 11, 2013

Comical Deadball Moments

During a 1904 exhibition game, Pirates’ third baseman Tommy Leach was involved in an embarrassing gaffe. Chasing a pop-up behind the bag, he was temporarily blinded by the sun. “I seemed to see two little specks of white up above the blinding rays, but I put up my hands as I ran and a few seconds later had the ball in my glove,” he told a Cleveland Press reporter. Immediately following the catch, the diminutive infielder was surprised to find teammate Honus Wagner standing near third with another ball in his possession. Wagner politely explained that the one Leach had caught was a foul thrown back onto the field by a fan. The other had dropped behind the bag for a double.

Red Munson, a sloppy-fielding catcher who made a brief major league appearance in 1905, provided a moment of hilarity for Charleston Seagulls fans that same year. While working behind the plate for the South Atlantic League ‘Gulls, Munson completely missed an offering from his battery mate. The ball split the wires on his mask just above the eyes and got stuck there. Assuming the pitch had sailed to the backstop, he wheeled around in hot pursuit with the ball still attached to his face. The crowd roared with laughter as a runner on third scored easily.

With his Pirates trailing the Cubs in the final frame of a nineteenth century game, Hall of Famer Jake Beckley took off from second on a hard-hit liner into the gap.  He came within a few feet of home plate when he heard someone shout: “He caught the ball, Jake! Get back to second!” Not the fleetest of runners, Beckley lumbered around third and headed back to his point of origin.  As the throw arrived from center field, the big first-sacker dove headfirst into the bag, slamming into his own teammate.  The force of the blow knocked the pair unconscious. Lying dazed on the infield, both players were tagged out by Chicago’s second baseman for a game-ending double play.  Much to his chagrin, Beckley later learned that it was a Cubs’ player who had instructed him to return to second. 

In a 1905 contest between the Athletics and White Sox at South Side Park in Chicago, a member of Connie Mack’s squad hammered a towering shot that got stuck on a high platform used by the scoreboard operator. Since there were no ground rules in effect to account for this occurrence, Sox outfielder Danny Green was forced to climb a wooden ladder in pursuit of the blast. As soon as he reached the top, the ball dropped back onto the field. By the time it was recovered, the Philly batter had circled the bases. “Funniest home run ever any peepers were laid on,”A’s center fielder Bris Lord remarked.

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