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|Friday, September 29|
|The wild, wacky side of baseball|
|Any time a catcher gets a win as a pitcher, a player gets injured watching TV and a baseball player wins a race against a horse, you know it's been a Week in Review kind of season. So let's look back at the highlights:
Box score lines of the year|
Mulder: 3 1/3 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 2 HR. They were the first teammates to give up 10 or more runs in back-to-back games since the Brewers tag team Jose Mercedes and Paul Wagner on May 4 and 5, 1998. And they were the first American League teammates since their Oakland forefathers, Kirk Dressendorfer and Bob Welch, did it on May 4 and 5, 1991.
In an obvious conspiracy to get Frank Robinson's name back into the headlines, this was a season that produced two of the wildest baseball brawls in recent memory.
It isn't as altitudinous as Coors Field. And you need a lot stronger pair of binoculars to see those snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. But one year into the life of Houston's thrill-a-minute new baseball palace, Enron Field, we now know that Enron is as action-packed as Coors. Entering the season's final three-game homestand, one team or other had scored 10 runs or more in a game 30 times at Enron already. And we've seen more home runs hit in Enron's first year (258) than were hit in Coors' first season, back in 1995 (241). For some reason, the hitters seemed to be bigger fans of Enron's tremendous panorama than the pitchers. And nobody better summed that feeling up better than Barry Bonds. Shortly after homering in his second Enron at-bat ever, Bonds had to leave the game with a hamstring cramp. But when he was asked if he thought he could play the next day, Bonds broke into uproarious laughter. "Here?" he replied. "Oh, yeah. I don't care if my leg is broken." Mile highness of the year
But let's not dethrone the champ too fast. Even in a season in which the Rockies tried to retool their team around speed and groundball pitchers, they merely proved that no man-made plan is a match for the sheer weightlessness of the one and only Coors Field. The final Coors Lite totals are in. And the Rockies and their grateful opponents scored 10 runs or more a ridiculous 41 times in 81 games. Of the 57 times this season that a team scored 15 runs or more in a game, 10 of them came at Coors, where the average game featured 14.4 runs. In one insane stretch this season, one team or both scored in double figures in 11 games in a row. "You know that old baseball game where you'd hit the ball and it would go ding and the little runners kept going round and round and round?" quipped Rockies coach-witticist Rich Donnelly. "That's Coors Field." Bugaboo of the year
You never know when you might go to a ballgame and have an Alfred Hitchcock movie break out. But there were a couple of days in Detroit and St. Louis this season when bug-spray sales might have been bigger than the hot dog sales.
The name of the game in baseball this year was -- what else? -- names. Our favorite name-game highlights:
In the Boston area, they're always looking for a good all-night programming alternative to infomercials. So on Aug. 1, the Red Sox were helpful enough to provide one -- by playing baseball until 3:42 a.m. It was actually only 12:42 a.m., Piniella Daylight Time, in Seattle, which was where the Sox were. But after 19 innings of baseball, after 5 hours and 34 minutes of rollicking entertainment, after 512 pitches thrown by 12 different pitchers to a parade of 143 hitters, it seemed way too late in just about any time zone. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek kept those shin guards buckled for all 19 innings and 271 pitches. And the two bullpens combined to throw an unbelievable 20 shutout innings. But even though the official hero was Mike Cameron, who homered in his third at-bat of a game he didn't even start, no one had a more memorable evening than Al Martin. Because he'd just hopped off a plane from San Diego, this was his first game with the Mariners. "It was a good way to get to know my new teammates," Martin told Week in Review. " When I got there, I didn't know anybody. By the 15th inning, I was calling everybody by their nicknames." Streaker of the year
He wasn't quite Cal Ripken. He wasn't quite Joe DiMaggio. But that's OK. Astros backup catcher Tony Eusebio still might have had the coolest streak ever this year. Eusebio had himself a hitting streak that lasted for an amazing 51 days in July and August. But if you're wondering how come you don't recall any camera crews following him around, that's because there was one slight oddity to this particular 51-day streak. It lasted just 24 games. Which means, in short, that Eusebio had more days in which he kept his streak alive by not playing than he did by playing. How sensational was that? You could tell this wasn't going to be your standard rendezvous with history, just by virtue of the fact that 16 days into this fabled roll, Eusebio's streak was exactly four games long. So by setting that kind of feverish pace, Eusebio was able to string this thing along for more days than two of the four longest streaks of the 20th century -- Pete Rose's 44-game run in 1978 (48 days) and Ty Cobb's 40-gamer in 1915 (49 days). Eusebio was still 12 short of DiMaggio when the Mets finally handed him an 0-for on Aug. 29. But for most of the seven weeks in between, the only people who even knew this streak was still in progress were several close relatives, a few CIA operatives and the Tony Eusebio Fan Club. Which, come to think of it, was sort of the charm of this feat. "It was one of those things that was dramatic in hindsight," said Astros broadcast witticist Jim Deshaies. "It was very dramatic. We just didn't know it at the time." Commuters of the year
Many people we know commute to New York to work from all kinds of places. But only the Baltimore Orioles commuted from Baltimore to New York just to play baseball. All this began when the Orioles had to play a June series in New York against the Mets that was extended a day by a rainout. Now you might think there are about a billion hotel-room vacancies in New York on any given day. But the Orioles couldn't locate them. So after the hotel they were in bounced them and a quick check turned up no other openings in the Big Apple, the Orioles decided to just fly back to Baltimore between games. But in one phone call, our little-used Week in Review travel bureau found them 53 rooms right in midtown Manhattan with no problem. Only one catch: They were at the YMCA. "We have 40,000 international and domestic tourists stay at our Y every year," said Rowena Daly, communications and community-relations director at New York's West Side Y. "It's a hot, happening place. ... If that ever happens again, tell them to just give our reservations department a ring. And we'll welcome them with open arms -- even Albert Belle." Rain delay of the year
How do you have a 54-minute rain delay inside an almost-new $517-million domed stadium? Easy. Start a game with the roof open, wait till it starts raining and then discover that your fabulous state-of-the-art retractable roof isn't in the mood to retract. This really happened to the Mariners at Safeco Field on July 22. It was Seattle's first official rain delay since Sept. 12, 1969, when a Seattle Pilots game at old Sicks Stadium stopped in its soggy tracks. "That's truly Seattle Pilot-onian," the ultimate Seattle Pilot, Jim Bouton, told Week in Review. "Their roof wouldn't close. Our toilets didn't flush. Very similar." Asked what he recalled about the roof at the late, great Sicks Stadium, Bouton reminisced: "It was very high -- very, very high. And mostly cloudy." Even trade of the year
So many players got traded around the trade deadline this year, it was tough to keep track of them all. But it was especially challenging to keep track of Phillies outfielder Rob Ducey. Because when all the deals had fallen into place, only Ducey had managed the neat trick of essentially being traded for himself. Technically, he wasn't, of course. On July 26, he was traded by the Phillies to Toronto for a player to be named later. And he did indeed spend nine days with the Blue Jays. But then the Phillies traded Mickey Morandini to Toronto for yet another player to be named later. And what do you know. That player to be named later turned out to be Rob Ducey. So after all that, there he was right back where he started. Same team. Same uniform. Same number. No matter how you reworked it, the bottom line here was Rob Ducey being traded for Rob Ducey. And trades don't get much more even than that. "It's value for value," said Phillies general manager Ed Wade. "Their tools are very similar. The guy we got in return is a little older. But he's got less left on his contract. So it's a good tradeoff." Uneven trade of the year
And then there was the deal that sent Jose Canseco from Tampa Bay to the Yankees last month. Actually, "deal" wouldn't be the proper word here. Because "deal" implies that the Devil Rays actually got somebody in return for Canseco. Whereas what they really did was wait for the Yankees to claim him, then announce they were holding a special free giveaway offer on 400-homer men this month. Needless to say, Jose had a tough time figuring out how a guy of his caliber could be heading for New York -- in exchange for, well, nothing. "I would have thought they could have gotten some Twix bars or something for the kitchen," Canseco said. Horseplay of the year
You know that old baseball saying about how you can't win if you don't have the horses? Only the International League's Rochester Red Wings took that expression literally this year. On Aug. 17, they scheduled a pregame race between their center fielder, Jose Herrera, and a horse. A real horse. Fortunately for Jose Herrera, though, this was the Anthony Young of horses -- the legendary Zippy Chippy, whose career record at the time was 0-86 (against horses). Zippy promptly proved he can lose against other species, too -- by getting blown out by Herrera in a 40-yard dash. But not surprisingly, Zippy's jockey, Pedro Castillo, came well-stocked with great alibis. Such as the one that Zippy was being penalized because he had to carry a jockey, whereas Herrera didn't. "He should have had to carry a jockey on his back, too," Castillo said. "If the horse weighs 1200 pounds and the baseball player weighs 120, then if the horse has to carry 120, the baseball player should carry 1200. That would be more fair." Right. Sure it would. But in case we weren't buying that excuse (good assumption), Castillo was ready with a backup. "He probably didn't want to win," Castillo said of Zippy. "He probably thinks it's better to keep losing. He gets more famous if he never wins a race. Millions of horses win one race, and they're never heard of again. "Zippy wins no races -- and he's more famous than Secretariat." Series of the year
If there were any two back-to-back games all year that summed up baseball in the year 2000, it was two played in Texas between the A's and Rangers on May 5 and 6. Score of the first: Rangers 17, A's 16. Score of the second, Rangers 11, A's 10. In the first game, the Rangers blew a five-run lead (5-0) and the A's blew an eight-run lead (15-7). In the second game, the Rangers won a game in which they gave up a home run in five straight innings and in which one of their relievers (Matt Perisho) gave up 10 runs. Hard to do. So when the line drives had settled to earth, the Rangers had somehow won two straight games in which they allowed 26 runs, 30 hits, seven home runs and let their opponents hit .366 (30 for 82). "I think all the guys in the pen had velcro attached to their rear ends," said Texas reliever Mike Venafro, "so we wouldn't have to go in there." Midnight special of the year
Perhaps you've been wondering how many people would attend a baseball game between midnight and 2 a.m. Well, we can all thank the Phillies and Marlins for answering that question June 12. They sloshed through 3 hours and 34 minutes worth of rain delays at Philadelphia's scenic Veterans Stadium. Then they joyously resumed play just after midnight -- and kept going until 2:06 a.m. We asked Phillies center fielder Doug Glanville if there was one word that described the atmosphere in the ballpark at 2 a.m. "I'm between two words -- 'delirium' and 'comatose,'" he said. "I know. It was comatose delirium." Fan friendliness of the year
In his two years with the Mets, Benny Agbayani has often proven he's a guy his team can count on. As long as the one thing they weren't counting on was him counting to three. As you might recall -- and if you don't, there will be many thousands of future blooper tapes to refresh your memory -- Agbayani gathered in a routine fly ball to left on Aug. 12. Then he trotted over to the box seats and handed the baseball over to a 7-year-old fan named Jake Burns. It was a heartwarming gesture. It just would have been a lot more heartwarming if there had been three outs in the inning instead of two. By the time the math majors delivered that big news and Agbayani had returned to yank the ball back out of Burns' hands, two runs had scored. And Agbayani, unbeknownst to him, had just sentenced himself to a lifetime of blooper-reel incarceration. But at least it made John Kruk and Larry Walker feel better. Those two guys, you see, had once done pretty much the same thing -- Walker in 1994, Kruk in 1989. "He let two runs score," Kruk said. "I only let in one run. So I was twice as smart as he was." But Kruk says he would be happy to provide a full complement of mathematical tips if Agbayani ever feels like consulting with him. "He should talk to me," Kruk said. "I'm sure we've got a lot in common. Me and him and Larry Walker can go to math class together -- and learn how to count to three." Rundown of the year
It isn't every game you see a 2-6-5-2-5-3-7 out at home plate. But it happened to the Twins and Royals April 19, after Twins catcher Marcus Jensen trapped a Hector Carrasco pitch in the dirt. That inspired Jermaine Dye to try to go from first to second. And what unfurled next was a crazed chase scene featuring rundowns between between first and second and third and the plate. And it all ultimately ended with the left fielder (Jacque Jones) tagging out the runner on third (Carlos Beltran) with a mad dive. "Jacque Jones made a heck of a play," said Twins manager Tom Kelly, "on one of the worst rundowns of the century." Nine spot of the year
One thing you have to say about Rangers utility wiz Scott Sheldon: He gets around. It's one thing to be a guy who can pretty much play everywhere. It's another thing to actually do it. But on Sept. 6, in a 13-1 blowout against the White Sox, Sheldon became the third big-leaguer in history to play all nine positions in one game. He caught an inning. He pitched to one hitter in the eighth (and struck him out). And outside of that, he somehow was able to play seven different positions in one game without having even one ball hit to him. But the record book doesn't ask how. It only asks how many. And if you can find a newspaper whose box-score formatter didn't explode, it will tell you all you need to know: Sheldon C-1B-2B-SS-RF-CF-LF-P-3B. That's nine, all right. Which, theoretically, would make this a record that couldn't be broken. Except that Tigers extra man Shane Halter has been plotting to play in 10 positions in one game -- by starting as a DH and then orbiting the field. If that happens, Scott Sheldon would have only one choice if he wants to get back in the record books: He'd have to go play for the Cowboys -- and play all 11 positions. "Nah, I don't want to do the Cowboys," he said. "I'll get killed. I think I'll stick with this. I know my limitations." Walkout of the year
There was no uglier game in baseball all season than an April 29 disaster involving the Astros and Brewers. The two pitching staffs combined to issue 23 walks. And that was just the beginning. The losing team (the Brewers) gave up 10 runs -- on five hits. The winning team (the Astros) threw more balls (70) than strikes (69). Brewers starter Everett Stull gave up seven runs on one hit. The Astros had more runs (three) than fair balls (two) in the first inning. The Astros also batted around in the fourth inning -- on one hit. The two starting pitchers, Stull and Scott Elarton, combined for 17 walks (most by any two starters in 25 years). Craig Biggio, incredibly, reached base five times without putting a ball in play (three walks, two HBPs). And the two teams combined for 630 yards worth of walks. "I've got one question," said Astros broadcast witticist Jim Deshaies. "If this was a walkathon, how much money would we have raised?" No. 2 starter of the year
He may have spent the last eight years as the No. 2 man in the White House rotation, but when Al Gore interrupted his busy presidential campaign Sept. 6 for a far more important responsibility -- i.e., throwing batting practice to the Tigers -- he had such good stuff, the Tigers were ready to add him to their free-agent shopping list this winter. "If he's out of a job," said assistant GM Steve Lubratich, "spring training begins in February. But I hear he's looking for a four-year deal with a four-year extension." But Gore was almost looking for something else during this session -- a doctor. About a half-dozen pitches into his outing, Robert Fick blasted a line drive back through the box that just missed altering the course of this campaign forever. Luckily, Gore dodged it successfully. "I'm sure," Fick joked, "he was thinking Bush hired me." Quote of the year
Finally, with his Mariners staggering through a scary 3-15 streak in late August and early September, Lou Piniella finally decided to hold his first team meeting of the year. You can't beat his classic rationale for why he hadn't held one before: "If it's not fixed," Piniella said, "don't break it." Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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