CC Sabathia Falls Into A Balk (7/21/2016)
The balk rule, designed to protect baserunners from being tricked by pitchers, has always faced its share of scrutiny. It's often called arbitrarily and ambiguously, and save for the most egregious of violations, few pitchers accused of balking ever truly agree with the corresponding umpire.
Longtime Yankee stud SP CC Sabathia, however, made sure NOBODY could disagree with this particular balk called against him against the Orioles back in 2016. Even though falling down mid-delivery doesn't really trick or fool a baserunner, it still falls under the balk umbrella, and Sabathia's stumble cost him 90 feet on the basepaths.
Notes: A real butthead umpire could have charged Sabathia with delivering the pitch, sticking him with Ball Two on top of advancing baserunner Chris Davis (who reached on a Sabathia throwing error). But that didn't take place.
The catcher is Brian McCann. At the :23 mark, manager Joe Girardi is seen looking on with concern.
The Orioles batter is J.J. Hardy, who eventually grounded out and stranded Davis. Still, Baltimore went on to win 4-1 behind seven innings from Chris Tillman.
Curry Injured After Slipping In Sweat (4/24/2016)
There's bad luck and there's ridiculously bad luck.
I can say without a speck of research or evidence that at NO time in the 75 years of the NBA has one dude skidded across the entire court, left a pool of sweat behind him, and watched as one of his opponents injured himself slipping in said sweat.
That is exactly what happened during the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs. specifically Game 4. As the first half wound down, stumbling Rockets big man Donatas Motiejunas slid across the court like a hockey puck. His perspiration, obviously, could not be mopped up mid-play.
Warriors G Stephen Curry, obviously never expecting a small river near the three-point line, fell victim to the slick floor as he tried to defend Rockets F Trevor Ariza's heave. The result: a right MCL sprain and a four-game absence. (Note he'd just returned from a two-game sprained ankle layoff.)
Notes: Despite Curry's absence, Golden State took firm hold in the second half, turning a 56-56 tie into a 121-94 blowout. They'd win the series in five games and handle Portland and (eventually) Oklahoma City in the next two rounds.
But the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in a seven-game NBA Finals, with Curry—the 2016 NBA MVP—scoring a meager (for him) 22.6 PPG on 40% shooting. Though he'd put up great numbers against Portland and OKC, some felt Curry never fully recovered from his ankle/knee injuries, contributing to the Finals loss.
Curt Schilling Hit In Head While Running (5/4/1993)
13-year-old Skillz saw this play live, and is very grateful any film of it exists online to be dug up.
On a cold, blustery night at Candlestick Park, Giants RF Willie McGee was not willing to concede a single to Phillies P Curt Schilling, who smacked one into right field against San Francisco SP Trevor Wilson. McGee came up firing...late, and dangerously inaccurate.
Luckily (depending on your opinion of Schilling, I suppose), the Phillies ace was not injured. He would be erased on Mariano Duncan's double-play grounder within a few minutes, though.
Notes: The 8th-inning knock was Schilling's second of the day; he also notched an RBI single earlier. Schilling went nine innings and received no decision, but his Phillies still won 4-3 in 12 innings.
McGee was 0-for-5.
An Amazing Grab By Victor Cruz (10/9/2011)
Victor Cruz didn't have a long career, but he made sure to squeeze in as much amazement as he could during his seven years with the New York Giants.
Back in 2011, he was not yet a star, but an October clash against the soon-to-be-champion Seahawks helped put Cruz on the map. This particular play pitted Cruz against a future Hall-of-Fame CB in #25 Richard Sherman and a future perennial Pro Bowl S in #27 Kam Chancellor. The three converged on the ball...
...but somehow young Cruz came away with it and pranced to glory! The 68-yard score represented Cruz's third career TD and put the Giants ahead 21-19. They'd fall 36-25, however.
Notes: Cruz finished up with eight receptions and 161 receiving yards on the day, the most he'd ever had to that point. Still, Cruz didn't permanently crack the starting lineup for two more months! Hard to question the decision in hindsight since the Giants won the Super Bowl that year...but still.
Infield Fly Rule Called In OUTFIELD (10/5/2012)
Imagine playing poker, watching your opponent show a couple of pairs to your flush...only to lose the hand to said opponent because his two pairs COULD HAVE beaten your flush if poker's rules were different.
LOL. OMG? WTF?! (Insert further abbreviations as you see fit.)
That, in so many words, is what cost the 2012 Braves an important rally late in a POSTSEASON GAME, no less. (In fact, it was the first ever NL Wild Card Game.) You see, young SS Andrelton Simmons of the Braves—facing St. Louis RP Mitchell Boggs—had popped up to shallow LF with a couple of runners on.
Cardinals SS Pete Kozma and LF Matt Holliday miscommunicated and failed to make the play, putting runners on every base with just one out!
Except one thing: the umpires (specifically Sam Holbrook) called Simmons out.
Via the infield-fly rule.
On a ball some 200 feet from home plate.
If you're confused, you're not at all alone.
Notes: With their rally stifled, the Braves did not score and wound up losing 6-3 in legendary 3B Chipper Jones' final major league game.
While I'm in no way condoning the response by the Atlanta fans, I must also say IF there were ever a situation in which I'd fling stuff on the field, this would be it. The delay took nearly 20 minutes, and though Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez played the remainder of the game under protest, MLB denied said protest.
The Cardinals defeated Washington in the NLDS before falling to my Giants in the NLCS.
Will Rhymes Passes Out After Being Hit (5/16/2012)
If you scour the 2021 Dodgers' BaseballReference.com page, you'll see a "William Rhymes" listed as their scouting director. Okay, then.
Ten years prior, however, Will Rhymes was a young infielder trying to make it first with the Detroit Tigers, and later with the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the B8th of a May 2012 game against visiting Boston, Rhymes took a heater off his right arm courtesy of Sox RP Franklin Morales. He shook off the pain and took his base; no big deal, right? Batters get plunked in baseball. It happens.
What took place next does NOT happen in baseball. After initially staying in the game, Rhymes signaled for his removal, then lost consciousness—slowly collapsing into the arms of 1B coach George Hendrick. Rhymes left the field on a cart.
Notes: An "adrenaline rush" is what was later determined to have caused the lights to go out for Rhymes, who'd grown dizzy and nauseous upon reaching 1B. He left with Tampa ahead 2-1, and they'd win by that same score.
The infielder was back in action three days later, but as the months passed, hits became harder to come by, and Rhymes did not receive any more MLB opportunities after that season.
For his part, Morales apologized for the errant pitch and sought to contact Rhymes after the game.
James Harden's Dunk Waved Off (12/3/2019)
For those of you who've used vending machines, you know the frustration of having one reject your dollar bill and spit it back at you.
For those of you who've used libraries, you know the frustration of having the automated book drop fail to scan properly, sending the book right back to you.
For those of you who've played basketball, you know the frustration of sending home a vicious fast-break dunk, only to have the net and/or weird physics prevent the ball from clearing the hoop—thus costing your team two points.
Uhhh...what about that last one?
Just watch James Harden as he slams one through against the Spurs that did not count!
Notes: Officials denied the Rockets a replay review because the 30-second window to ask for one had passed while coach Mike D'Antoni and Harden argued. Houston led 102-89 in the 4Q at the time of the bizarre ruling, but lost 135-133 in overtime—so this was no minor blemish in an otherwise decided contest.
Harden's full line from that night: 50 points on 11-for-37 FG, 4-for-20 3-pt, and 24-of-24 FT. ONLY James Harden...
Johnny Damon Steals Two Bases At Once (11/1/2009)
Down 2-1 to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, the Phillies fought their way to a 4-4 tie in the T9th of Game 4, then turned to their closer Brad Lidge to hold the Yankees at bay.
Veteran leadoff man Johnny Damon had other ideas. After a prolonged at-bat, Damon singled, then showed the world why shifting with a fast runner on base isn't always the best course of action.
Notes: I'm not sure how Damon's advance to second base was scored, but I sincerely hope it didn't go down as a steal against Phils C Carlos Ruiz.
Phillies 3B Pedro Feliz, who'd been shifted WAAY over for lefty batter Mark Teixeira, fielded the throw to second base. Lidge shouldn't be blamed for not instantly covering third; NOBODY practiced this defense in 2009 and Lidge had all kinds of other problems that night.
All the credit belongs to Damon, who was eventually brought home by an Alex Rodriguez double. The Phillies went on to lose 7-4, as New York eventually won the entire series in six games.
Andre Johnson Vs. Cortland Finnegan (11/28/2010)
Last decade, that mantle probably belonged to Tennessee/St. Louis CB Cortland Finnegan. During his decade in the NFL, Finnegan mixed it up with enough dudes (including star WR Steve Smith) that the league sent him a warning letter.
That letter must have gone straight to the bottom of his birdcage, because within weeks, Finnegan had provoked Texans superstar WR Andre Johnson—not the provocable sort—into an on-field beatdown. To no one's shock, Finnegan seemed to be rather proud of himself after the fact.
Notes: When you factor in Johnson had nine catches, including one for a TD, for a Texans team up 17-0 in the 4Q at the time of the brawl, it really emphasizes how much of a jackass Finnegan had to be to trigger the cool-headed Johnson in such a way.
Both players were immediately ejected and eventually fined. Johnson later said in a podcast that the fight stemmed from a buildup of years of frustration with Finnegan, including earlier that game.
Houston won 20-0.
Dee Gordon Watches Strike Three (6/17/2015)
A Dee Gordon at-bat from 2016 left just about anyone who watched it reaching for Kleenex.
But this Dee Gordon at-bat from 2015 left just about anyone who watched it scratching their heads.
Leading off a June game against Yankees SP Michael Pineda, Gordon appeared to decide mid-windup that he would make no effort to swing at the incoming pitch, PERIOD.
Problem was, he had two strikes. Pineda's breaking pitch split the plate in half, but Gordon didn't even have both hands on the bat by that point...strike three.
Notes: Gordon finished 0-for-4 with two K as New York beat Miami 2-1 behind 6.2 strong innings from Pineda.
To this day, I've never seen a player strike out this way, though I did once see David Ortiz take ball four by tossing his bat and heading to 1B while the pitch was being delivered.