El Mago
May 27, 2021 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Why did the first baseman have such a brain cramp?
posted by Keith Talent at 12:47 PM on May 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

*manager pours bourbon into his coffee cup*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2021 [33 favorites]

I think the throw was off and pulled him off the bag. 999/1000 the baserunner is going to just run into the first baseman running hard to beat the throw and will get tagged, inning over. That was some heads up baserunning on the part of Baez. In fact, it's hard to believe this wasn't just an accident.

Of course, it was idiotic once he started giving chase.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:52 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

As a lifelong "fan" of the Pirates, that has to be most Pirates that the Pirates have ever Pirated.
posted by dforemsky at 12:55 PM on May 27, 2021 [62 favorites]

That was delightful - that goes right past Little League and straight to Yakety Sax.
posted by Gray Duck at 12:59 PM on May 27, 2021 [16 favorites]

Big oof. I've probably told this story before:
Little league. I'm catcher. My best friend is third base. One out. Runner on first. Ground ball to third. My friend fields it and starts his throw to first base (for those not aware, the play is to throw to second and then to first for the double play). Halfway through my friend's throw to first base he hears his dad yelling SEEECCCOOOOONDDDD BAAAAAASSSSEEEEE and tries to do this mid-throw correction and just SAILS the ball out to right field. Right fielder not paying attention, because hey, ball was hit to third, why the fuck would it be coming to right field? Everyone is like WTF as what what should have been the end of an inning turns into a two-run home run.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:59 PM on May 27, 2021 [27 favorites]

This was delightful and I was delighted and shouting with amazement.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:03 PM on May 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

That was highly entertaining, thanks for posting!

One of the disadvantages of mlb.tv is that, because you can watch all or almost all of your team's games, you tend to not watch much in the other league and end up not really aware of half the sport. I really need to watch more NL games.
posted by JanetLand at 1:05 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Holy shit, that was little league levels of infield incompetence. Players falling over laughing on the video got me laughing.

But come on, opening the article with Bill Buckner? That guy hosed the entire city of Boston for decades. So much worse.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:05 PM on May 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh my, I just realized there were TWO OUTS when the play started.
posted by a complicated history at 1:07 PM on May 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

I especially love that the first baseman (sort of?) gave chase to the runner who was RUNNING BACK TO HOME PLATE. I have to imagine that as a first baseman, you don't do a lot of chasing runners back whence they came.
posted by Mayor West at 1:07 PM on May 27, 2021 [12 favorites]

The GIF of laughing players in the Chicago Sun-Times article juuuuuust might be going into my back pocket for future back-channel, mid-meeting IMs
posted by wenestvedt at 1:08 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

Craig's boner?
posted by john m at 1:08 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Unbidden I hear Mel Allen on "This Week in Baseball". Awesome.
posted by riverlife at 1:08 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

So my kids has been out of baseball for a while - but the first baseman should have just gone and touched the base right? That would have ended everything? Or it only counts of you make the catch while on the base?
posted by GuyZero at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

but the first baseman should have just gone and touched the base right

Yes, that would have ended the inning.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Anyone else remember when it was the Cubbies who were cursed? [Does the Leo DiCaprio toast with a martini glass full of goat milk in the general direction of Wrigley Field]
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:17 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

This is what a TOOTBLAN in the anti-matter universe looks like.
posted by delfin at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

And Jomboy, unsurprisingly, has a breakdown of the play.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

I have to imagine that as a first baseman, you don't do a lot of chasing runners back whence they came.
I might have this backwards, but I don't want to look it up and find out that I do.

From the movie Moneyball:

"We want to hire you as our first baseman."
"I've always played third base"
"Don't worry, it's not that different."
posted by Hatashran at 1:35 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

“Scott. It’s not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.”
“It’s incredibly hard.”

posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2021 [21 favorites]

That was like the exact opposite of an unassisted triple play!
posted by TedW at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

I was surprised and delighted when the runner from second slid home because, like the entire Pirates team, I'd forgotten about him.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:42 PM on May 27, 2021 [27 favorites]

He is going to think about this every day for the rest of his life, I promise.

I know because:
Ninth grade basketball game against hated City High. I steal a pass midcourt, race to the basket, and outjump the defender to execute the most beautiful finger-roll ever.

Into the opponent's goal.

The looooooooong pause after that, when everyone kinda stood there looking around in disbelief, and my mind is groping its way toward the stunning reality of my fuck-up, is basically the feeling I spend a lot of my adult life trying to avoid.

Note also that I was guarded, and strenuously, by the poor guy from the other team, and if to this day he hates me for dragging him into my Wrong Way Corrigan fiasco, well, I understand.
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:51 AM on May 25, 2018 [21 favorites +] [!]
That was...1985? I turn 50 in July.

This scenario, with extra sauce, is on a loop in my mind at least monthly. I have tried to exorcise it so many times and in so many ways, e.g. using it as a metaphor to a junior colleague who committed a minor, haunting faux pas. That it works in that capacity turns out to be no real solace.

My very real sympathies, Will Craig.
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:44 PM on May 27, 2021 [40 favorites]

Anyone else remember when it was the Cubbies who were cursed?

The Pirates have been cursed for years.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 1:49 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

And I can hear my Pirates-baseball-loving-who-paid-for-a-box-for-the-whole-family-one-year-BIL screaming in agony as I watch that play.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 1:51 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

According to USA Today (linked above), "the play was ruled as a fielder's choice, with a throwing error given to Pérez for his throw to first."

I mean, unless it was ruled as an incredibly stupid fielder's choice, that seems unfair to the catcher.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:54 PM on May 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


Weirdest play I remember was have a hazy memory of a late 1980s Jays game (I don't remember the other team). First at bat of the game, Tony Fernandez bunts. The pitcher(?) overthrows and the first baseman miscatches, so Fernandez goes to second. The first baseman overthrows as well, and Fernandez ends up getting a home run. Off a bunt.
posted by giltay at 1:56 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

Shit, how can I forget my own best:
Middle school basketball. I suck, but the coach keeps me on the team because "unlike all you slackers that can ease by on natural skill and talent, this kid doesn't have any of that, but he has heart." Every minute I played my mantra was "don't pass it to me...don't pass it to me".

1) Other team shooting a free throw. I notice nobody is hanging back to guard our goal so I casually wander over to it, trying not to draw attention. We get the rebound, see me standing unguarded under the goal, and huck the ball to the other side of the court. I catch it and immediately miss two unguarded layups until someone from the other team comes over and steals the ball back. Great job.

2) Ball is passed to me. I've got a shot, but I don't want to take it, but nobody else is open. I go for the jump shot and this 9-foot tall dude jumps with me, arm back, poised to just send the ball into the cheap seats as soon as it leaves my fingers. What do I do? I outsmart him. If I can just wait until my jump hits its apex, and then I start coming down, this dude will get his timing way off, swipe at the ball and miss, and then I can release my shot. Except now I'm coming back down to the floor and if my toes touch the floor without me releasing this ball, that's traveling. So gravity is doing its thing, and the ground is rushing up at me, so to buy myself time I suck my legs up to my chest, and at the last minute release the ball. It sails over the backboard and gets wedged in the rafters. In my mind, this played out across a solid minute of slow motion time. To everyone else, it looks like I jumped up in the air, immediately supermanned myself flat, and hucked the ball over my head before I faceplanted on the floor.

Everyone, the ref, the opposing team, my team, my parents, everyone just sorta stopped in confusion and wondered what my thought process was.

I was much better at individual sports.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:01 PM on May 27, 2021 [50 favorites]

I love it when the professionals fuck up badly enough to invite tales of little league and middle school disasters
posted by ook at 2:12 PM on May 27, 2021 [27 favorites]

As a not-very-good little league baseball player and Chicago Cub fan this has me shouting for joy.
posted by grimjeer at 2:20 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Someone needs to set up this video with Keystone Kops music. It is so 1920s slapstick.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 2:28 PM on May 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another ok little leaguer. Good at left field, short stop, bunting and the best base slider. I went to Don Lunds baseball camp. Mickey Stanley taught me a mean Short to first throw. Ted Mahan taught me to slide.

doesn't do alot if you can't hit, like .210. but fun. thanks for this dude, it made my day.
posted by clavdivs at 2:33 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

My quarterback once threw a perfect spiral to me while I was not in the play. Just standing on the sideline close to where my route from the last play would have ended up.

This is worse than that.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:33 PM on May 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

I am laughing too hard right now.

My little league story is somewhat opposite to much of this. It was the year I'd moved to a new suburb and for (various complex and stupid adult) reasons never got the chance for a decent tryout, so I ended up on a "minors" team (ie: kids that were younger, just getting started, kids that just weren't that good). Problem was, I was actually a pretty okay baseball player with at least three years experience. I didn't belong in that league but for whatever (various complex and stupid adult) reasons, I never got moved up, I was stuck in stupidville.

Anyway, at some point, I just decided fuck it, every time I hit the ball, if I got as far as first without being called out, I'd just round the bag, keep going. Invariably, the throw to second would go wild and I'd make it at least to third. Sometimes if there was a kid on base in front of me, things would get particularly chaotic, all kinds of unearned bases (and runs) being earned.

At some point, the dad managing the team told me I had to stop it, show a little more respect for the game, which I did. Until a key game late in the season (might have been the playoffs), we were running out of time and needed runs desperately. He pulled me aside as I stepped up for my at-bat, said, "If you get to first, do your thing, just keep going." I did and we ended up winning the game. I even got an extra hotdog at the celebratory bbq afterword.
posted by philip-random at 2:46 PM on May 27, 2021 [28 favorites]

Absolutely fabulous! Baseball should find a way to slip Craig some extra money just for all the buzz this is generating -- Báez now has the clip they'll play when he's inducted into the hall of fame, so he doesn't really need anything more.

As the little league pitcher who threw a pitch which hit the slightly raised front edge of home plate and bounced over the backstop, allowing the runner on second that I'd hit with a pitch earlier in the inning to score, tying a game which would have been my second no hitter in the city championship playoffs if I could have gotten one final out, a game we proceeded to lose in extra innings in which I couldn't pitch because I'd reached the innings limit pitchers were allowed to pitch on consecutive days, and in which the winning hit was a line drive that got past me at third base where because of my bat I'd displaced our regular third baseman who probably would have made the play and who ended our friendship and never forgave me because of the insult to his pride, I sympathize.
posted by jamjam at 2:49 PM on May 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

This is what a TOOTBLAN in the anti-matter universe looks like.

It's a FARTSLAM. Fielder Allows Runner To Score Like A Moron.
posted by azpenguin at 2:56 PM on May 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

Shit, how can I forget my own best:
Middle school basketball. I suck, but

I also sucked butt but in High School. Lunch intra-mural I was on a team with a bunch of my new wave friend for larks. None us had ever really played basketball but assumed we all assumed the others had. Our offensive strategy was basically "hot potato". I get the ball after the other team scores. I pass the ball to my friend Chris and turn and head up court very satisfied with my "I don't want it. here you have it" approach. Chris similarly rejected possession and returned it to me. More accurately he returned it to the back of my unsuspecting head. I was figuratively and literally floored by his reciprocity.

Aside the public humiliation there were other consequences. I was wearing a watch and it smacked against the floor. It was a watch my older brother was given for being the Mississauga Times carrier of month. The impact knocked the second hand off so it was loose inside the watch face. So this is the story of how I became liberated from the oppression of living second to second because my Ronald MacDonald basic Timex watch lost the second hand function. I wore that watch all the way to graduate school.
posted by srboisvert at 2:58 PM on May 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

For those non-baseball fans, understand how weird this is: Even after the runner crossed the plate, the run doesn't officially count until Baez safely touches first base. That's why the catcher gets an error on the throw to first - *that's* the part of the play where the mistake is made. Complete that routine throw to the fielder covering first, inning is over and the run doesn't score.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:08 PM on May 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

I love it when the professionals fuck up badly enough to invite tales of little league and middle school disasters

The pros love it when other pros fuck up like this, too, because, deep at heart, they’re all still little leaguers*. That’s kind of the charm of baseball.

Best laugh I’ve had all week! Thanks!

* Millionaire little leaguers, but still...
posted by Thorzdad at 3:11 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

Little League. Tee-Ball, in fact. I knew nothing about baseball, never watched baseball, never asked to play, just utterly did not care one iota about the sport.

I was playing shortstop...the ball was hit, a screamer right to me. I, of course, had my glove on my head and was facing the outfield at the time.

That evening after the game, as family lore has it, I got my first library card.
posted by nevercalm at 3:37 PM on May 27, 2021 [22 favorites]

I played one season of city-league ball. Tee-ball. Our team was the worst. Like, after all the skilled kids got sent to the other teams, what was left was all of us kids who'd never set foot on a field, and on a good day maybe half of us knew which hand the glove went on. The only game we ever won was by forfeit, when the other team didn't show up. I still love watching baseball, though. MLB is fine, but minor league games are where the real fun is at!
posted by xedrik at 3:57 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best part is Rizzo falling over with laughter in the Cubs’ dugout. I love that guy.
posted by bookmammal at 4:07 PM on May 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

Freddie "Bonehead" Merkle

I read a book that compiled all the different newspaper reports at the time as to what exactly happened, so there are different versions available, some more boring. This is my composite of the news stories from that book.

1908. New York Giants played at home against the Chicago Cubs with the pennant at stake.

Two outs, bottom of the 9th, the Giants up to bat with a man on third and Merkle on first. Al Bridwell at the plate. Bridwell hit a cleaning looping single. The man on third ran home. Bridwell made it safely to first. Merkle, seeing the winning run score, stopped his run to second and ran home to celebrate. Already a bonehead move, but. . .

These were the days when running out of the base path did not constitute an out including running into the stands or into the locker rooms. The Cubs outfielder, realizing there was still a force out at second, fielded the ball, but instead of throwing it to Frank Evers at second, got overly enthusiastic and threw the ball over the second baseman and, with one hop it went into the stands. (Another version is that it was fielded by a New York Giants pitcher who threw it into the stands.) Fans were pouring over the field.

The Giants, not knowing what was going on, took their celebration into the locker room. The Cubs informed the umpires that the play was still active. The Cubs, needing to get that ball, sent several of their field players into the stands and got into a slugging match, retrieving the ball from a Giants fan and throwing it to second base for the third out. The New York fans had no idea what was going on.

Three outs, the game still tied and set to go into the tenth, the Giants could still return to the field and try for a win. However, the umpires, quite reasonably fearing a riot, didn't notify the Giants the game was still on. They waited for fifteen minutes and declared that the Giants had forfeited.

Naturally, the Giants went crazy when they heard the result and, when at the end of season the Giants and Cubs tied at 98-56 for the pennant, the game was replayed. New York lost.

Remarkably, with all this, the Pittsburgh Pirates were overlooked, having also ended at 98-56 and given no chance at a final game.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:09 PM on May 27, 2021 [17 favorites]

That's why the catcher gets an error on the throw to first - *that's* the part of the play where the mistake is made.

The catcher is mostly innocent in all of this. Sure, he screwed up that throw to first, but there shouldn't have been a throw to first.

The first baseman's first mistake was trying to chase down the batter, but he could have easily reversed this at any point by simply turning around and tagging the base. Inning over. Or, chase the batter all the way back to home plate, where he has nowhere left to go, and tag him. Inning over.

It was when he threw the ball to the catcher that he made the irredeemable error. Either he thought the catcher could tag the scoring runner, or he somehow expected the catcher to chase the batter in the opposite direction. The Keystone Kops routine that ensued was just his teammates desperately trying to salvage the play.
posted by neckro23 at 4:29 PM on May 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

It was when he threw the ball to the catcher that he made the irredeemable error.

No, when he threw the ball to the catcher he made a mistake. When the catcher made a bad throw to first he made an error. The throw to the catcher was a bad decision, but it was still possible to get the batter out. If the batter gets out at first, no matter how many bad decisions the fielders made beforehand, no official error is made.

There were so many better decisions to be made. The first baseman could have just stood there, holding on to the ball. Baez has to move to first, and he can't run around the fielder without leaving the base path.

Too much (dis)credit goes to the Pirates, and not enough credit to Baez for thoroughly confounding the defence even though he had absolutely no play. Genius.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:49 PM on May 27, 2021 [10 favorites]

The truly amazing thing is that--while this is the new pinnacle of the form--the "Javy Baez does something hilarious and impossible and delights the world with his baseball IQ, chutzpah, and badassery" genre is a regular thing for Cub fans. All the time, y'all. God, I hope they re-sign him.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:06 PM on May 27, 2021 [12 favorites]

Halfway through my friend's throw to first base he hears his dad yelling SEEECCCOOOOONDDDD BAAAAAASSSSEEEEE and tries to do this mid-throw correction and just SAILS the ball out to right field.

Y'know what? I blame that dad. Like every time your friend ever thinks about this story, I hope his father feels his share of the blame.

What no I wasn't a terrible little league player, why would you ask that?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:36 PM on May 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

I've watched this a bunch of times, and the point after the epic slide into first where he gets up and runs for second is the point where I fucking lose it.

It's like Baez is the cunning trickster and the first baseman is every cartoon meathead cop there's ever been, just waving his nightstick and yelling "Get back here, ya punk!"
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:37 PM on May 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

the play was ruled as a fielder's choice

That's funny, he never throws to first at home...
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:55 PM on May 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

"How could they be any worse than the 2020 team?" They said.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:52 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

“Anyway, at some point, I just decided fuck it, every time I hit the ball, if I got as far as first without being called out, I'd just round the bag, keep going. Invariably, the throw to second would go wild and I'd make it at least to third. Sometimes if there was a kid on base in front of me, things would get particularly chaotic, all kinds of unearned bases (and runs) being earned.”

That is basically how you play the UK game Rounders. I honestly wasn’t aware baseball was all that different. Rounders is a fun kids’ game, not too serious. Hit the ball into the nettles, or over the fence, and you could sometimes manage a double rounder.
posted by tinkletown at 7:03 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

I always sucked at team sports. I was so bad at baseball, or perhaps I just hated it so much, that I never went back after my first little league practice -- or I might have just made my mom take me home after 10 minutes, I don't really remember. Similarly went to one little league soccer game; all I remember is that they placed me at goalie, and I had no idea what soccer was. In middle school I was on the school basketball team for a couple years -- the "B-Team" as opposed to the "A-Team" of kids that could actually play -- but I tried to spend most games doing stats so I wouldn't have to go in. The few times I did play, I didn't do terribly; I could run back and forth and cover someone fairly well, despite being a bit chubby and out of shape, and I was going through a growth spurt that compensated a bit for that anyway. But I hated getting the ball, unless I was throwing the ball in from out of bounds. I could FEEL everyone's eyes watching me, the other kids' parents judging me... So, of course, the one time I ended up totally open and alone near the basket and someone passes me the ball, I turn and just toss it up without even taking a step to put myself into a better position, and it sailed over the basket, someone else got it, play went on for another few seconds and someone else made the basket.

But I think my worst sporting experience was when I was about 12 and we went to visit my family in India. Here's me, proven terrible at baseball, soccer, and basketball by empirical evidence, and my older cousin takes me out to play CRICKET with some kids from his neighborhood, who either didn't speak English or, more likely, were pretending not to just to fuck with the Stupid American Boy more, and I don't speak Hindi but it's not like I couldn't tell they were making fun of me because I had NO freakin' idea what cricket was, didn't have a clue how to do any of it, and wasn't very adept at learning on the fly.... Anyway, I've forgotten most of the details, but I'm pretty sure tears were involved.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:27 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Ok, I’ll tell my story. I was a pretty mediocre little leaguer. Terrible hitter, if I ever got on base it was because I walked or got hit by a pitch. At around ten I continued to get picked in the last round of tryouts. One year I found myself unexpectedly on one of the North Side Little League juggernauts, The Senators. Our coach was a chain smoking alcoholic mother of the second baseman who believed in only two things: winning at all costs, and being willing to cuss out ten year olds to get them to do so.

I’d get buried in right field and batted the bottom of the order to limit the damage I could do. Late in the season, with first place on the line we were in the sixth (last) inning of the game, score tied, something like one out and no one on when my turn came to bat.

“Ok Bartfast, have a good eye — a walk is as good as a hit!” she’d howl at me in the batter’s box, at least a case of beer in her by this time.

I dutifully took five straight pitches, four of which were balls and jogged down to first.

It must have been the alcohol that made her give me the sign to steal, and on the next pitch I took off. Miraculously, the pitch sailed over the catcher and I stood into second. My team, for the first time all season, actually cheered for me.

The batter ended up grounding out to first and I advanced to third, the go ahead run that would put us in first place. I’d never earned a game ball and this was sure to get me one.

All we need is a hit and I go running into the plate into the arms of my drunk coach and cheering teammates, I thought to myself. The sun was going down I remember. Just one hit.

The batter hits a dribbler down the first base line and is easily thrown out.

Aw man.

I take off my batting helmet and start shuffling from third base towards the dugout.

The next thing I know, the opposing team’s catcher plows over me, knocking me over and splitting my forehead open.

Because that had only been the second out. And now I was the third.

The worst part, at a time in history when “wuss” was a serious epithet to throw around, was not being able to stifle my tears. I’d cost the team the game, the season, because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to one little thing.

Baseball may or may not be boring, may or may not be “the thinking man’s game,” but it sure as fuck doesn’t forgive lapses in attention.

I feel for the Pirates here.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:52 PM on May 27, 2021 [10 favorites]

I love Baez calling the runner safe at hone and turning around and running back to first.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 9:07 PM on May 27, 2021 [10 favorites]

Bucs, I love you. Why you gotta test that?
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:37 PM on May 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

My daughter's nine and is a slugger in the local girls' softball 8U (eight and up) league. She and one of her besties have played together a couple of years, and their coach calls them The Bash Sisters.

At this stage it's an extreme rarity to see a complete play. If the pitcher fields the ball cleanly and then throws the ball over the fence past first base, we cheer the crap out of the good stop.

On one actually completed play my daughter was on first, someone fielded the ball cleanly, and made a good throw to first for the force out. My daughter made an awesome triumphal moment celebration and started running off the field.

It was the first out.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:24 PM on May 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

Ninth grade. Free throw. Over the backboard.
posted by Dokterrock at 11:09 PM on May 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

This is a great post and a great thread and I love all these stories.
posted by vrakatar at 11:39 PM on May 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

My little league story: I was laughed off the field on opening day because I was too fat. By bleachers full of parents. Walked away and never looked at sports again.
posted by SPrintF at 11:53 PM on May 27, 2021 [9 favorites]

“Anyway, at some point, I just decided fuck it, every time I hit the ball, if I got as far as first without being called out, I'd just round the bag, keep going. Invariably, the throw to second would go wild and I'd make it at least to third. Sometimes if there was a kid on base in front of me, things would get particularly chaotic, all kinds of unearned bases (and runs) being earned.”

Many lower leagues have a "one base on an overthrow" rule exactly to prevent that kind of thing.

Otherwise, you end up with a situation like what happened to my kid.

Having moved up from machine pitch (with the one base rule), they manged to dribble a bunt about 3 feet in front of home plate.
The catcher rips off his mask, grabs the ball, fires to first and proceeds to miss the first baseman by about 5 feet.

Waved on, the kid rounds first and is clearly not gonna make it to second, at which point the outfield, having retrieved the ball wings it over second base.

Full steam ahead for third, with the crowd going wild, surely the play will be at third when, yes, the throw from the fielder backing up second bounces in the dirt and past third base.

Touching third and on to home, can we beat the throw? Outfielder delivers a bullet to catcher. A perfect throw in plenty of time, if the fielder was 6 foot tall.

A triumphant slide into home, for the first and only time I've ever seen an inside-the-park home run on a bunt.
posted by madajb at 12:01 AM on May 28, 2021 [8 favorites]

I think my favorite moment is when the baserunner signals "safe" at home like he's an umpire before running back to first

if you did not catch this, please, for god's sake, rewatch it solely for this moment
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:17 AM on May 28, 2021 [8 favorites]

"Anyway, at some point, I just decided fuck it, every time I hit the ball, if I got as far as first without being called out, I'd just round the bag, keep going."

So (like some people upthread it looks like) I was a really terrible hitter and rarely ever got on base at all.

But one time I made it to first--maybe a walk or something. There's another base runner on third, so on the next pitch I trot on over to second base like all the jocks do.


There was somebody on second, too. I just hadn't realized he was there.

Anyway, in the ensuing confusion our guy on third advanced to home, the guy on second advanced to third, and I ended up on second.

That was one of two times*--in many, many years of little league--that I remember being responsible for an actual run scored.

I don't know why we didn't think of turning this into an actual strategy--it would have worked most of the time . . .

(*The other time was when I somehow managed to rob the best pitcher in the league of a no-hitter, with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, bases loaded by walks, in the pouring rain. I somehow managed to get a small piece of one of his super-fast fastballs, which slowly dribbled about halfway to the pitcher's mound. He was so surprised that I had managed to get a hit off of him that I managed to get to first base--and the winning run in to home--before he reacted to grab it and throw it to anywhere.)
posted by flug at 12:19 AM on May 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

Besides being a completely hapless hitter, of course I also specialized in playing right field, as that is where they like to plop people with absolutely no skills of any kind. Reserve right fielder--only allowed in the game, right towards the end, in situations where it is clearly already won or lost.

So, one of the things that absolutely amazes me about this play, is that when the first baseman leaves the base, that the right fielder, or the second baseman, or JUST SOMEBODY doesn't immediately go over there to cover that base.

Even hapless little-league-second-reserve-right-fielder me could have figured that one out.

You're hanging around behind first base anyway, backing up the first baseman etc, and for whatever reason the first baseman has left the area, so you come on up and cover for him. I mean, there ain't exactly going to be any flies to deep right field at this particularly moment in the game. What else are you doing?
posted by flug at 12:30 AM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

We're far down enough in the thread that hopefully this isn't a totally obnoxious request: is there anyone who enjoys explaining things about baseball and feels like explaining at a very basic level what's going on in that play?

(I didn't grow up around any baseball enthusiasts, and my understanding of the game is so utterly tenuous that I can barely differentiate what happened from what is typically supposed to happen, but I would love to improve on that.)
posted by eponym at 12:44 AM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

We're far down enough in the thread that hopefully this isn't a totally obnoxious request: is there anyone who enjoys explaining things about baseball and feels like explaining at a very basic level what's going on in that play?

When you hit the ball and no fielder makes a fair catch, you are forced to make it to first base before a fielder either tags you or first base with the ball. A fielder doing either will force the out, and no advancement from other players occurs. Furthermore, since there were two outs already, it would have been the third out, ending the half inning and retiring the Cubs from batting. This is all Fielding 101, mind you.

Somehow, Baez managed to get the Pirates' first baseman - a professional baseball player, for whom the rules of the game have been a part of his life for at least a decade and a half - to completely forget everything he knows about the game that is his profession, chase him down the basepath, then toss the ball to the catcher late, letting the run score and Baez to not just make it safely to first and making the run count, but to pick up second as well.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:22 AM on May 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'm not really a baseball lady, but here goes. This is a major league baseball game, the USA professional league that gets most of the attention, cuz it's the best of the best. Players who all make more money than I'll ever see in my life. And one causes such an utterly glorious meltdown in the opposing team that they make multiple almost unthinkable errors that it's legendary already.

Javier Báez, number nine, Chicago Cubs player, hits a utterly unremarkable ball towards third base (three of four, the fourth being home plate, where they bat from and have to get back on to score runs/points.) There is two outs already, so the other team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, only needs one more to stop the inning. The Pirates third base man gets the ball, makes a slightly sloppy throw to first, but in plenty of time for the first baseman to touch first base before Báez can get there, causing an out, and again, ending the inning.

Báez is magic, and starts jogging back to home plate. Insanity Ensues. The Pirates first baseman starts following him. Once more, because this is something a professional first baseman should have ingrained in them more than his wedding anniversary and wife's birthday, all the baseman has to do is touch the base he guards and it's all over. But no, he's following Báez leisurely back towards home plate. The Pirates first baseman can end this farce by touching Báez with the ball. He still doesn't do it! Which is problematic, because the Cubs player who started out on second base had made it to third and was rapidly approaching home. Everybody has forgotten him due to Báez hypnotizing the first baseman into the utterly unexpected chase, so the first baseman flips the ball to the Pirates catcher, trying to get the runner out before he can score. The runner makes it, and in a moment of pure beautiful pure beautiful chutzpah, Báez takes a moment to call his player safe, (the arm gesture) as if he's an umpire instead of a player.

However. There's still more. The run, because of baseball rules, apparently doesn't count if the magical Báez doesn't make it to first base. So he takes off running, still not having been tagged out at all. He's good, through the chaos he's still in play, somehow. So he takes off running to first. The first baseman is of course completely in the wrong spot at this time, so another Pirates fielder tries to get him out at first, but no, too slow, Báez has made it! The run is good!

There's more. The Pirates are in such chaos that Báez is running towards second. The Pirates player on second (I think) missed his catch or fumbles it enough that he doesn't have the ball when Báez arrived. Somehow, the man they already called the magician had turned what should have been an utterly routine out, ending the inning, into an extra run scored, and getting on second base, when absolutely none of this should have happened. At all. So much chaos, like Báez Jedi mind tricked a couple of professional sportsball players into little league level embarrassing mistakes. Truly, the reactions of the Cub's bench is the only appropriate one.
posted by Jacen at 1:59 AM on May 28, 2021 [37 favorites]

I am about nine, as is my friend L. We are both part of our local kids' softball league (this isn't even official Little League, think more like "small town that has a lot of kids so someone started a baseball and softball league so the kids have something to DO"). L and I are both in the outfield, and we both suck at sports.

One of the older girls on the opposing team hits a ball that comes screaming out to the outfield. Both L and I turn and run towards where it looks like it's going to land; we don't catch it, and it goes rolling towards the fence around the field, rolling to a stop just inches away from it. L beats me to the ball just as the batter is nearing second base. She picks it up. She braces herself against the fence, cocks her arm, preparing to hurl the ball back to the infield....

....and drops the ball. And since her arm is sticking OVER the fence, she has dropped the ball OVER the fence, resulting in a home run for the batter.

I see this all happen, and while I feel bad for L, deep deep down I am thinking "wow I am REALLY glad that wasn't me that did that".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 AM on May 28, 2021 [10 favorites]

Thank you for the context, NoxAeternum and Jacen! Sometimes explaining the joke actually does make it funnier.
posted by eponym at 5:01 AM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

One other note - the next batter got a hit and Baez scored. The Cubs went on to win the game by 1 run.

He really is magic.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 5:23 AM on May 28, 2021 [8 favorites]

I've mostly played first base because I'm tall with long arms and I can handle less than accurate throws from the other infielders. Rule 1 was always touch the bag. Always. Only then can you try throwing a runner out.
posted by tommasz at 6:03 AM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can't stop watching this.

When I looked more closely, I realized that the first baseman was deliberately choosing not to tag the runner in front of him right away - he was waiting until the runner coming from third was close to home so that he could throw to the catcher for the out.

Watch the first baseman's head: you can see him look to his right two or three times as he tracks the progress of the oncoming runner.

I need to know: is Will Craig (the Pirate first baseman who had this brain cramp) a descendant of Marv Throneberry? This sort of ineptitude is likely to have a hereditary component.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:06 AM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

The absolute topper of this play isn't shown. The next batter hit a bloop single, allowing Javi to score. He turned a routine inning-ending groundout into two runs.

I never played organized sports but I did once play a 1-on-1 basketball game against my best friend, which ended after half an hour with a final score of 4-2. I lost. Oh, and when I played baseball with the neighborhood kids, they'd give me 5 strikes. I still struck out routinely.
posted by rouftop at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

“You lollygag the ball to first! You lollygag the ball around the the infield! You lollygag out of the dugout! What does that make them, Larry?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2021 [8 favorites]

When the catcher made a bad throw to first he made an error.

I would dispute that scoring: I don't think they get Baez even if the throw is on the money because the fielder was so late to cover the base. To me, it's a fielder's choice and he advanced to second on the error.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 8:40 AM on May 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

posted by Windopaene at 8:56 AM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yeah, my understanding is Baez reached first safely on the fielder’s choice, and the error is that the throw got away and he advanced to second.

posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:14 AM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

I didn't believe it when I saw the headline but it is the strangest baseball play I've ever seen. The smart move is to dine out on this story as self-deprecation. "Oh you think you've screwed up at work..."
posted by East14thTaco at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

Huh. How about THAT, my Little League coach? We did SO deserve ice cream even though we lost.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:55 AM on May 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

On a lark, I looked up salaries (it seems like pro baseball has a much wider range between top and bottom than the basketball or football, or maybe just a lower floor)

Anyway, Will Craig, the Pirates' first baseman, has a base salary of $570,500

Javier Baez, OTOH, has a base salary of $11,650,000

I guess this play is the difference $11million makes.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:59 AM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

The first 3-4 years of a baseball player’s career, the old reserve clause is in effect and they essentially get paid as little as their team feels like paying them. Will Craig is a rookie so he probably makes league minimum. Still like 10X what a minor league salary is.

The next few years, they’re eligible for arbitration, so things can sort of reset to about where the market is. Javy Baez is here... for now.

After 6 years, they become free agents. This is when the big money happens. Javy Baez is a free agent after this season, along with 3 other star shortstops (but 2 of the other guys are hurt right now).

Teams sometimes will sign a player to a big contract sometime in his first few seasons, to buy out arbitration and the first couple of free agent years. They probably pay less than they would with full arbitration and free agent $, but pay more in the first few years than they otherwise would. Meanwhile, the player gets tens of millions of guaranteed dollars, which is the kind of thing you should usually go for if you ever get the chance (even if you do wind up leaving some money on the table in the long run).
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

My only little league story is that playing ball convinced my parents that I needed glasses. I kept getting beaned during my at-bats because I couldn’t see the ball until it was maybe two feet from me. Not funny, I know. Nonetheless, finally seeing the world clearly for the first time in my young life is kind of a positive thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

Oh, and when I played baseball with the neighborhood kids, they'd give me 5 strikes. I still struck out routinely.

I hadn't realized Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was an actual real life neighborhood!
posted by jamjam at 2:18 PM on May 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

My dad's dad was a Manly Sportsball type, and my dad just.... Did not get those genes. So his dad is trying to teach baseball, hitting fly balls that come down from above for my dad to catch. And of course the first rule of catching balls is 'always keep your eyes on the ball.' Unfortunately, my dad took that too literally... Yep, baseball directly to the eye.

And of course, his dad is the walk it off, get right back on the horse type, and yes, you guessed it, very next ball goes right into my dad's other eye.
posted by Jacen at 4:17 PM on May 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

I tried playing t-ball for two years around 6 years of age and failed miserably. My father, a sporting type, to his credit didn't try to make me stick with it. It turns out not really seeing in 3-D impedes your ability to play a fair number of sports, a fact that my father seemed surprised by when I mentioned it in my 20s. I was diagnosed with amblyopia at 5, so perhaps it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.
posted by mollweide at 4:24 PM on May 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

This happened to my son in his first year of little league and I can still remember every moment (he's 19 now).

Last inning, his team is down by 1. Bases loaded and my son comes up to the plate.

He wasn't a particularly good hitter, he was probably last in the batting order and this is year 1 of little league, so it's the opposing coaches who pitch, not the kids. And this coach was one of those WAY too intense dudes that one encounters in sports crazy American suburban towns. No sense of humor. No sense that this is supposed to be fun. No way was he going to LOSE.

So instead of pitching right away. He gathers his whole team together in a huddle. Myself and the rest of the parents groan, because honestly, we've been sitting here for hours and just want to get home. But this guy is acting like it's the world series.

So his strategy is to keep his entire outfield within the infield. So you have 7 players instead of the usual 4 who are now available to field the ball. All any player has to do is catch the ball or touch a base with the ball. Game over, we lose. Perfectly legal, and strategically sound in the sense that 90% of little league hits tend to dribble 10 or 20 feet from the plate.

However, you can hear the grumbling in the stands, because this is a little bit of bullshit and definitely shitty sportsmanship, just let the kids play normally.

So first pitch. Strike.

Second pitch. Strike. (Fuck this is going to end in a strike out, isn't it?).

Third pitch. CRRRACK!

My son hits a blazing line drive right between second and third base, somehow finding the gap between the 4 kids on that side. Of course Mr. Strategy took all his outfielders away, so there's no chance of getting that ball. Game over, we win. My son gets mobbed by his teammates. We parents of the winning team are cheering extra hard and Mr. Strategy is trying to hide his anger.

13 years ago that was, and the satisfaction is just as sweet.
posted by jeremias at 4:50 PM on May 28, 2021 [18 favorites]

I played town rec league t-ball and baseball and I sucked. I hit last, I played left field, my own team teased and bullied and even beat me up a few times. I hated it but had to do it because my dad was a three sport athlete in high school, played semi-pro basketball on the sly when he was in college (CIA back when it was in New Haven) and he almost never came to the games, yet made sure I knew he knew I sucked and it did not make him happy.

When I was in fifth grade, the last year of little league before one would move on to... Babe Ruth level I think they called it, where players ranged as old as 18, it was discovered I had a stigmatism in my right eye big time, slightly less in the left. I got glasses.

All of a sudden I could hit, and catch, the ball. I won most improved player that year and the coach tried to encourage me to go to the next level, keep playing, but I'd had it. I wanted nothing to do with those people who were so damn cruel to me.

But those first few times after getting glasses when I roped line drive doubles to deep center field, almost home runs, I'll never forget that feeling. As I grew older I came to love baseball, though now I am a very casual fan.
posted by vrakatar at 9:41 PM on May 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

and the coach tried to encourage me to go to the next level, keep playing, but I'd had it. I wanted nothing to do with those people who were so damn cruel to me.

someday I'll take the time to properly relate the dark saga of my better part of twelve years playing serious minor hockey (age 7-19). Lots of enabled psychopaths in that realm, particularly in the 1970s.
posted by philip-random at 9:59 PM on May 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

Oh jeez p-random, here where I live we have a robust youth hockey program, and when there are tournaments teams come from off island for long weekends and the hockey parents come out to the restaurants and behave very badly sometimes, after drinking 14 bud lights. I can only imagine.
posted by vrakatar at 10:09 PM on May 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Back in the olden days of online baseball fandom, before the internet when all was darkness and Usenet groups, some people got together to collect the box scores of every professional baseball game they could find in order to amass all the stats for MLB history. What's crazy was that this was actually very possible because for much of its history baseball was covered in incredible detail by multiple newspapers and radio stations. All you had to do was send a small army of volunteers into dozens of library microfiche archives to read through the game stories and extract all the stats. So this was done between about 1994 and the early 2000s.

So when you read every game story from thousands upon thousands of games you come across some weird stuff. Luckily these were pulled out and saved, and they are obviously online. Here are a few of my favorites:
How about a strikeout with the batter being retired 767? In the game of April 25, 1970, Tiger pitcher Earl Wilson struck out to end the seventh inning in the Twin Cities. Or so it appeared to everyone except Detroit third base coach Grover Resinger. He saw that Twins catcher Paul Ratliff trapped the pitch in the dirt, did not tag Wilson and rolled the ball to the mound. Resinger told Wilson to start running as most of the Twins entered the dugout. Earl got to first easily and headed for second. Since no one interfered with him, he started for third. By this time, Brant Alyea, who was trotting in from left field, heard Resinger shouting at Wilson. Alyea hustled to the mound but had trouble picking up the ball. Wilson headed for home where Twins Leo Cardenas and Ratliff had returned. Alyea finally picked up the ball and threw to Cardenas. Wilson turned back to third but was tagged out by Alyea for a K767. Rookie catcher Ratliff was charged with an error. After the game, Detroit catcher Bill Freehan said "If Alyea had been hustling, Earl might have made it [home]. Tell him [Alyea] to start coming in and off the field a little quicker." The aftermath of the story is that Wilson pulled a hamstring muscle running the bases and had to leave the game.

5-13-1915 PIT @ CHN - The Pirates, down 5-1 after 3.5 innings, started stalling with 2 out and Cub pitcher Pearce up. Buc hurler Cooper started delivering the ball so high the catcher could barely catch it. After a couple of pitches, manager Bresna han signaled Pearce to swing at anything which he did for a couple. Buc manager Clarke then came out to argue and HP ump Byron eventually ejected him. Cooper solved the problem of Pearce swinging at the pitches by throwing the next one at Pearce. Cooper again threw at Pearce who tried to swing at the pitch even as he dodged it and then threw his bat at Cooper. Byron called ball 4 and ejected Pearce. Cubs pinch runner Hippo Vaughn stole 2B and 3B (67% of his 1915 SB production). Vaughn was caught stealing home (slowing appreciably as he neared home) to end the inning. Pirate Costello was ejected for dilatory tactics despite the fact he wasn't in the game. Play was finally halted with 1 out in the home fifth when the umpires waited t he customary 30 minutes then called game.

7-26-1935 WS1 @ NYA - In the home second, there men on 1B and 2B with one out and the top of the lineup up. Hill lines a pitch off Linke's forehead back to the catcher in the air. He throws down to 2b to double up the runner there. Linke is carried off the field inconscious and taken to the hospital for X-rays.
posted by Cris E at 11:14 PM on May 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

The real cause of it all is that Báez running back toward home is such complete unexpected nonsense that it causes a short-circuit in the first baseman's brain. There's nowhere for Báez to go. He's not allowed to run around the first baseman. He's not safe if he can get back to home plate. He can't be stalling for time because nothing counts once he gets out.

Yes, the first baseman can just tag first base, but when he's between the batter and first base and holding the ball, it's common to just stand there and tag the batter out because there's nothing else the batter can do but run into his mitt and be out. When Báez stops, the first baseman takes an exasperated "c'mon dude, you're out" step toward him. And really, when Báez turns around and runs back toward home, he's kinda just being a dick. He's out! The inning is over. The first baseman doesn't need to scramble back and tag the base, he can just walk forward and tag him out.

But then when the first baseman sees the runner coming home, he panics. He thinks he's been tricked or missed something so he throws to the catcher and then hilarity ensues.
posted by straight at 12:44 AM on May 29, 2021 [7 favorites]

Báez invents Blernsball. This is my new official head canon. It's called Báezball at first until linguistic drift settles on Blernsball.
posted by Jacen at 5:46 AM on May 29, 2021 [6 favorites]

I think baseball would be greatly improved if one could run around the first baseman.
posted by dame at 6:29 AM on May 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

That was...1985? I turn 50 in July.

This scenario, with extra sauce, is on a loop in my mind at least monthly.
In kindergarten I asked to take off my sweater because I was hot, and as I walked to the closet while taking it off, I stopped in front of the class for a second to finish as I squeezed it over my head and realized I should have just waited to do this after I wasn't in front of the class. No one laughed, I guarantee no one remembers that I did this. I've thought of it at least once a week least for the last 35 years. Brains are neat.
posted by mincus at 7:28 AM on May 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

The real cause of it all is that Báez running back toward home is such complete unexpected nonsense that it causes a short-circuit in the first baseman's brain.

If I had to put together a quick workshop on the value of being "in the moment", I think I'd start with this play. Because Báez's particular genius was that he was there "in the moment" the entire time. He read the situation, saw he had no chance of making it to first without being tagged, but also noted the first baseman's momentum was carrying him away from the bag, so in order to get the "out", he would either have to check his momentum and step back to the bag or catch up to Báez and tag him. So Báez did what any annoying kid would do in a pickup game of scrub, he encouraged the momentum while eluding the tag, took the only legal path he could, which was back down the first baseline toward home plate ... at some point realizing that, holy shit, the first baseman was actually falling for it, this might lead to something. And so on. Báez kept improvising "in the moment" until a run had scored, an error had been committed, and he was safe on second base.

Meanwhile, if the first baseman had, at any moment actually been "in the moment", he could have ended things by simply checking his minor forward momentum, taking a few steps back and tagging the bag. But he wasn't ever "in the moment", just kept reacting to Báez's antics, like a dumb robot with poor programming. And now, because thousands were watching and broadcast camera's were present, he's a fool for all time. Poor guy.
posted by philip-random at 8:18 AM on May 29, 2021 [11 favorites]

And also courtesy of the Pirates, we have the inverse situation - by failing to step on first, a home run becomes an out.

There has to be something in the water in Pittsburgh.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:02 AM on June 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Travis Jankowski got caught stealing… by being tagged by the catcher… between second and third.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:44 AM on June 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh my god. Deer in the headlights.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:06 AM on June 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

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