Thursday, August 24, 2006

August 24th, 1983

Blue Jays at Orioles

I've mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things to see is a guy playing out of position. My real favorite is position players pitching, but that doesn't happen very often, so sometimes I have to settle for an outfielder playing first base or something. (The best one this season, by the way, was Pudge Rodriguez being forced to play second base a couple of weeks ago.) Today's game provides an example that is so extreme, it very nearly made a mockery of the game itself.

Down two runs entering the bottom of the ninth, Earl Weaver pushed all the pedals on his organ, which ended with the Orioles tying the game. That was good. What also ended up was that Weaver, who had already pinch-hit for his catcher once, did it again, leaving the Orioles with no catchers. That was bad. In something of a pinch, Weaver called up infielder Lenn Sakata to catch. Tim Stoddard entered to pitch and--perhaps offput by having an infielder back there--promptly gave up a lead-off home run to Cliff Johnson and a single to Barry Bonnell.

At this point, Tippy Martinez entered the game to pitch. On first, Bonnell began to take a big lead, in anticipation of stealing off the presumably hapless Sakata. As it happen, he was anticipating that a trifle much, as Martinez proceeded to pick him off. Dave Collins then walked, and also began to take a large lead in anticipation of stealing off of Sakata. Martinez, who evidently had the hang of this sort of thing, then picked him off, meaning the Blue Jays now had a homer, single and walk to start the inning and managed to turn it into two outs, no one on. Willie Upshaw then singled. Having learned from the previous two batters, Upshaw did not ta--actually no. I have that wrong. Upshaw had seemingly been paying no attention to the opening part of the inning and, amazingly, got himself picked off by Martinez.

After Johnson's HR, the Jays had singled, walked and singled, only to see all three erased on pick offs on account of their desire to steal off Sakata. Despite that, they still went into the bottom of the tenth holding a one-run lead. That was soon gone, as Cal Ripken led off the tenth with a game-tying home run. The O's then put two on with two out for--who else?--Lenn Sakata. The once-and-future-infielder, but current catcher, doubtless had no desire to put back on the tools of ignorance. And in grand style, he made sure that he wouldn't, launching a game-winning three-run walk-off home run.

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