Eckersley And Gibson Reunite (10/15/2018)
As I age (2022 marks my 33rd season as a baseball fan), obviously the men I once called heroes during my youth age along with me. And though they can no longer throw baseballs at 90 MPH or hit baseballs 400 feet, I've found that many of them can still be as entertaining in other ways...sometimes moreso than when they played.
In 1988, OF Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers smoked one of the most famous MLB homers ever off RP Dennis Eckersley of the Athletics. 30 years later, the two men came together to revisit that timeless baseball moment, and I'll be damned if it didn't move me to tears.
Notes: If Gibson doesn't seem quite as animated as Eckersley, keep in mind he's a Parkinson's sufferer.
Twelve days after this interview, Eck and Gibby threw out the first pitch of Game 4 of the 2018 World Series between the Dodgers and Red Sox (for whom Eckersley also starred for a time and currently serves as a broadcaster).
The "Sparky" referred to is Tigers then-manager Sparky Anderson. Mike Davis stole second base during Gibson's famous at-bat.
Ginobili Accidentally Sinks A Free Throw (3/15/2017)
Yes, there are situations in basketball where scoring a point can be a bad thing, and will leave your coach shaking his head in frustration.
The situation: Manu Ginobili's Spurs trailed the Portland Trail Blazers by four points with just 1.7 seconds on the clock. Ginobili was fouled by Portland's Jusuf Nurkic in order to prevent him or any other Spur from sinking a game-tying three-pointer.
The Spurs' only shot to win? Ginobili had to make his first free throw and miss his second one, hoping his teammates could quickly corral the ball and sink a triple. Not likely, but not impossible.
Per league rules, in such late-game situations, the missed free throw must at least hit the rim. What you're about to see is Ginobili TRYING TO MISS from the line, but being too great for his own good.
Notes: Portland ultimately won 110-106. Ginobili finished with seven points and six assists in 20 minutes.
Canseco's 5th-Deck Home Run (10/7/1989)
This season, everyone was up in arms when Byron Buxton of Minnesota cranked a walk-off homer 469 feet from Target Field's home plate.
That's pretty impressive for a naturally-built human being. Oakland's Jose Canseco, who admitted to not being naturally built during his career, once hit a ball that soared a good 50 feet further.
The scene: the 1989 ALCS at Toronto's SkyDome. Canseco, who at the time could probably hit a baseball further with one arm than I could with two, got ahold of a Mike Flanagan fastball and sent a souvenir to somebody who certainly didn't expect one.
Notes: Canseco's bomb landed in Toronto's fifth deck, a place where in the 29-season history of the ballpark through 2017, only 11 Blue Jay homers have come to rest, according to CBC Canada.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Canseco's teammate Rickey Henderson estimated the bomb at 600 feet, while Canseco himself ranked it somewhere in his Top 20 distance-wise.
The home run put Oakland up 3-0 in the T3rd, and the A's held on to win 6-5 despite Toronto's late rally.
Trey Junkin's Bad Snap (1/5/2003)
"I would give anything, short of my family, to have stayed retired."
That quote was from New York Giants snapper Trey Junkin, who essentially retired from the NFL in 2002 but returned for the Giants first-round playoff game at San Francisco (as an injury sub).
New York was in full control early, but by the 4Q momentum had shifted dramatically—in fact, the 49ers led 39-38! New York still had a chance to salvage the win, needing a 41-yard FG with six seconds left in the game.
Junkin, however, snapped the ball like a man who hadn't played all season. Calamity ensued, but the Giants received no points and the 49ers escaped victorious.
If I were in Junkin's shoes at the time, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I probably would have just run out of the stadium. No way I face the media. So he at least deserves respect for owning up to his gaffe.
Notes: The Giants holder and kicker were Matt Allen and Matt Bryant, respectively. Junkin would not attempt to play a 20th season.
The other bad snap Joe Buck refers to took place with 3:01 left in the 4Q and contributed to a Bryant missed FG with New York clinging to a 38-33 lead.
In fact, the Giants had led 38-14 late in the 3Q before collapsing; at the time it was the second-largest NFL postseason lead to be blown—the 1992-93 Oilers blew a 35-3 lead to Buffalo—and now ranks as the third-largest ever, behind Atlanta's blown 28-3 lead over New England in Super Bowl LI (2016-17).
Tony Gwynn Jr. Applauded (6/24/2014)
Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn Sr. had no weakness with a bat in his hand, but unfortunately he did have at least one weakness unrelated to hitting—he enjoyed chew. Eventually, Gwynn developed oral cancer that killed him in June 2014 at age 54.
His son, fellow big leaguer Tony Jr., naturally took some time off to bury his father before returning to the Phillies lineup 6/24. Philadelphia fans aren't known for their warm hearts or sensitivity—especially toward .153 hitters— but when Gwynn Jr. took his first at-bat since Gwynn Sr.'s passing, the crowd showered him with love at a time he probably really needed it.
Notes: In this at-bat, Gwynn—who was pinch-hitting for RP Jake Diekman in the B8th—grounded out against Marlins RP A.J. Ramos. The Phillies led Miami 7-4 at the time and won by that score.
That's fellow second-generation major leaguer John Mayberry Jr. on first base.
Dee Gordon Goes From Safe To Out (6/3/2015)
Any major leaguer can be made to look foolish at any given time—they are human, after all, not just sprites on a PlayStation screen.
Dee Gordon, even as a second-generation major leaguer known to do some very special things on the basepaths, is not exempt from, or immune to, foolish moments on the diamond. One day in June 2015, Gordon slid safely into second base, as he's done about 1,000 times before.
Problem is, Gordon did not believe he was safe and rather than confirm his status with a nearby umpire, he trotted back towards his dugout. The dugout may be safe in some ways, but from a baserunning standpoint, it's about as unsafe as one can get.
Notes: Miami IF Martin Prado was the batter; he was credited with an infield single. That's #22 Addison Russell and #17 Kris Bryant of the Cubs teaming up to erase Gordon, all the while puzzled.
Gordon finished 2-for-5 and despite his mistake, the Marlins cruised to a 7-3 victory over Jon Lester and the Cubs.
Andre Drummond's Patience (1/7/2021)
This will be the only time in their lives that anyone will compare Andre Drummond, a solid-but-flawed player, to the great Charles Barkley.
Sir Charles was known to, if I may euphemize for a moment, take his time with the ball on the block. Against the Grizzlies one January day, Drummond—who is not a conventional offensive threat down low—channeled his inner Barkley as his coach and teammates wondered just what on Earth was happening.
Notes: Drummond held the ball for over eight seconds before unsuccessfully taking on Memphis defender #17 Jonas Valanciunas.
Despite this particular possession going awry, Cleveland held off the host Grizzlies 94-90. Drummond finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds in 37 minutes...but he also racked up five other turnovers besides this one.
Larry Walker Guns Tony Fernandez (7/4/1992)
There's been some great right fielders over the past 20 years, but nobody's arm has quite compared with Larry Walker, late of the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals.
Walker used to gun at least one runner at first base from right field annually (or so it seemed). Base hits in that area were no guarantee—there was no jogging up the line whenever Walker was on patrol.
And we're not just talking about big, slow, uninterested pitchers getting wiped away at first base—speedy, veteran position players such as Tony Fernandez (then of the Padres) were not safe from Walker's cannon, either, as you'll see here.
Notes: Thanks to Walker, San Diego leadoff man Fernandez finished with an ohfer, though he did execute a sac bunt.
The pitcher is Chris Nabholz, with Tim Wallach handling first base.
This play went down in the B1st with the game scoreless. Montreal went on to win 3-2; who knows how things turn out if Fernandez reaches base safely as the Padres' leadoff batter.
The Minneapolis Miracle (1/14/2018)
I watched this play live at my buddy Paul's house. We'd had a few beers during the game, and in the wake of the Vikings' miraculous game-winning touchdown with no time left, for a moment the two of us wondered if we'd hallucinated what we'd just seen.
No hallucination: down 24-23 to New Orleans with 10 seconds left in the 4Q, Minnesota star WR Stefon Diggs came away with Case Keenum's pass, watched as two Saints defenders ran into each other instead of him, then high-tailed it into the end zone for the walk-off Vikings victory.
You could set this play up 100 times, and 100 times Diggs gets tackled at the spot of the catch—if he even makes the catch.
Notes: This was the first walk-off touchdown in NFL playoff history, as hard as it might be to believe.
That's #43 Marcus Williams of the Saints accidentally taking out teammate #20 Ken Crawley, the only other defender with a chance to stop Diggs before he scored.
The final: Minnesota 29, New Orleans 24. The Vikings would lose to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, preventing them from becoming the first team in league history to participate in a Super Bowl at its home stadium (which has since been done twice).
(Diggs' emotional postgame interview is worth looking up and viewing, I must add.)
Bryce Harper Slips On First Base (8/12/2017)
The elbow injury currently plaguing Phillies superstar Bryce Harper is not his first notable physical setback since reaching MLB in 2012. While I'd stop short of describing him as injury-prone, Harper has been the victim of some freak incidents on the diamond, like the time Nationals Park gave him the "slip".
It was a wet night in the D.C. area, and Harper found himself stepping directly onto a slippery first base as he charged down the line trying to beat out a grounder up the first base line. The resulting knee injury looked catastrophic in real time, but luckily for the Nats slugger, he wound up sidelined just a few weeks, returning on 9/26.
Notes: How wet WAS it in D.C.? This game was delayed three hours. Harper was diagnosed with a hyperextension and was able to return to action in time for Washington's postseason run.
Jeff Samardzija was the Giants pitcher and Ryder Jones was the first baseman. Despite losing Harper in the very first inning, Washington was able to eke past the Giants 3-1.
The mind is a funny thing. I watched this play live, and would have SWORN it took place at AT&T Park in San Francisco. It was there that Harper had brawled with Giants RP Hunter Strickland just 2.5 months prior to this injury.