Friday, May 12, 2006

May 12th, 1978

Amos Otis Hits Inside-the-Park Home Run

Amos Otis, whose departure from the Mets I've written about before, was a speedy guy so his hitting an inside-the-park was, although remarkable, probably not unprecedented. That being said, even in his wildest dreams even "AO" probably didn't imagine an inside-the-park like this one.

Before explaining why, it is somewhat necessary to set the scene. The Royals were hosting the Yankees. At the time the teams had something of a fierce rivalry, with the Yankees have defeated the Royals in dramatic five-game (full length, in those days) ALCS the previous two years. On this day the Yankees appeared to once again have the upper hand, taking a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning behind starter Ed Figueroa. Figueroa was cruising entering the ninth and retired Hal McRae and Al Cowens for the first two outs. With the Royals in their death throes, Figueroa walked Darrell Porter to keep the inning alive. Yankee manager Billy Martin then went to Goose Gossage to close out the game.

Gossage appeared to have succeeded as Otis lifted a routine fly ball to right-center field. Reminiscent of Game Five of this year's ALDS however, a lack of communication among Yankee outfielders would cost them dearly, as centerfielder Paul Blair (filling in after pinch-running for regular Mickey Rivers) and Reggie Jackson collided, letting the ball fall untouched. Otis hustled around the bases and incredibly managed to score, thus having hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run; and doubtless unleashing bedlam among the more than thirty-thousand who had attended.

As so often happened in the history of baseball, the Yankees would have the last laugh, however, sending the Royals home in the ALCS for the third year in a row, with Gossage nailing down the save in the final game to preserve a 2-1 lead, despite Otis' leadoff double in the ninth. That was still to come, however, and on this day Otis and the Royals ruled supreme.

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