Friday, April 4, 2014

Pick off triple play.

                             This year marks sixty years of Baltimore Orioles baseball. The franchise started in 1901 as the Milwaukee Brewers (not to be confused with the current Brewers team which started as the Seattle Pilots in 1969), then became the St. Louis Browns the next year.  The Browns won only one pennant (1944) in their 53 year history, and often finished in the second division. When Baltimore took over the franchise in 1954, they weren't immediately successful, but a dozen years later, they won their first championship, in 1966. A few years later- under manage Earl Weaver- they won three straight pennants from '69-'71, as well as having one of the best records in baseball during the 1970s, ending that decade with yet another pennant.

                 Earl's last year as manager- not including a brief comeback in 1985- was 1982, when he came within one game of taking yet another division title, losing it to Milwaukee on the final day of the season.  The next year, the Orioles won their third World championship, this time under manager Joe Altobelli.  And while there's not that much difference between the Weaver teams of the early '80s and that '83 team, there was something that happened that year that had never happened before, and will probably never happen again.

            On August 24th, 1983, Baltimore was playing the Toronto Blue Jays, when the game went into extra innings.  Having run out of catchers, Altobelli was forced to put utility infielder Lenn Sakata  at catcher, a position he had never played before in the majors.  On the mound was lefty  Tippy Martinez, a reliever enjoying his best season in the big leagues, having been voted to his only All Star appearance the month before.  The Blue Jays Barry Bonnell reached first on a single, and couldn't wait to steal second, and take advantage of the inexperienced Sakata behind the plate.

             However, Tippy suspected as much, and threw a pick off move to first, as Bonnell took off for second, eventually getting caught in a rundown. One out.  Then speedster Dave Collins-who had stolen 79 bases with the Reds a few years earlier, and 31 that year- walked. He then took a big lead, and was also picked off by Martinez... two outs.  Finally, Willie Upshaw, a power hitter with not much of a stolen base resume, reached first on a single. You'd figure he'd just stand on first with what he had just happened to his team mates, but apparently, the temptation was just too much. He also was picked off...three men on, three men picked off...Andy Petitte, eat your heart out.

                     After watching the tape of the feat, I'm not sure if those were balks or not (or even what the hell a balk is, seems the rule keeps changing), but it still seems funny that after the first guy tried, that anyone else would.  The Orioles were a blessed team that year; when stuff like that starts happening, you KNOW you're on the way to winning it all. I'm sure the '68 Cardinals tried to hit everything to Tigers "shortstop" Mickey Stanley, an outfielder placed there in the World series to add more offense to the team, which reminds me: Sakata wasn't the only one out of position in the 10th for Baltimore; outfielders John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke were playing 2nd base and 3rd base, respectively (if not respectably). Luckily, nothing was hit to either of them...

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