Wednesday, October 18, 2006

October 18th, 1972

Reds at A's

As you can probably guess from the timing, this was a World Series game, a Game Three as a of matter fact and like yesterday's NLCS game, it was a rescheduled rainout. The Reds would end up taking the victory 1-0 with the only run scoring on a Cesar Geronimo RBI single, scoring Tony Perez. The victory kept the Reds from going down 3-0 in the series, and although they would manage to push it to Game Seven, the A's won a 3-2 nail biter with Catfish Hunter pitching two and a two-thirds in relief on one day's rest to get the win.

What drew my attention to this game wasn't the end result of the game or the series, but rather a play that occurred in the eighth inning. After Pete Rose lined out, Joe Morgan drew a walk and Bobby Tolan singled, sending Morgan to third and bringing Rollie Fingers into the game. Tolan promptly stole second, putting two runners in scoring position with one out. At this point the game play-by-play records only note that Johnny Bench struck out swinging, Tony Perez was walked intentionally and Denis Menke popped out to end the threat. Those last two entries give you most of the story, but the bit on Bench requires more detail.

Given the situation, it is little surprise that Fingers wanted to work carefully to Bench who had already hit forty home runs in '72 and would soon be named NL MVP. With the count 3-2, the A's apparently decided to cut their losses and walk Bench to load the bases, set-up the double play, and see what Fingers could do with Perez. A's catcher Gene Tenace stood up and Bench, one assumes, began to zone out slightly in anticipation of taking his base. Of course, it didn't quite work out that way as instead of throwing one high-and-outside for ball four, Fingers instead poured one down the middle as Tenace leapt back to catch it. Bench was caught napping as home plate umpire Mel Steiner rang him up.

One final note on this play: it is still tried, every now-and-then, to this day. The most recent example I can remember came against the Yankees, when the Orioles attempted to pull it on Derek Jeter. Of course, one of the many possible flaws of the play was revealed as the O's pitcher was unable to throw a 3-2 strike, meaning Jeter watched go by the rarely seen unintentionally-thrown-intentional-ball-four. As I said, this doesn't happen much, but it's something when it does and another of the many small elements of the game worth watching for.

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