Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Extra Baseball Everywhere

Robin Ventura celebrated his game-winning HR,
preventing him from completing his trip around the bases.
If it seems like there are a lot extra-inning games this year, it's because there are. Baseball is on a pace to have 261 such games this season, which far surpass the pervious high.

Thank god MLB has not seen fit to change the rules like hockey has to make sure tied games don't take all night (sometimes they last to another day if curfews are reached). Even a sloppily played game can seem like a classic if it stretches on into bonus panels as my sports editor friend Jerry call them.

I've written about a couple of my favorite extra-inning games already: A Gaylord Perry gem (he lost) against the Milwaukee Brewers, and a wild game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves.

The most tense such game I ever witnessed in person was the "Robin Ventura Grand Slam Single" game. The setting was Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS. The Atlanta Braves were leading the series, 3-1. The Mets' season looked like it was coming to an end in the 15th inning when the visitors took a 3-2 lead.

But the Mets came back to ties on a bases loaded walk in the bottom half of the frame. Through a steady rain Ventura launched a 1-1 pitch over the right-field fence. The Mets and the fans began the celebration. After touching first, Ventura failed to round the bases. A walk-off grand slam became a single in the scorebook.

Turns out two other grand slams have met similar scoring fates. One was by Dalton Jones of the Detroit Tigers on July 9, 1970; the other when Tim McCarver passed a runner on July 4, 1976.

Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves lost his May 16, 1959, home run in a game in which his hit beat the greatest mound performance ever. His lost round-tripper happened during Harvey Haddix's 12-inning perfect game in May 1959. The game was scoreless until the 13th. Haddix still on the mound lost his perfect game when Felix Mantilla was safe on an error. A sacrifice and an intentional walk to Hank Aaron set the stage.

Remember, Haddix still hadn't allowed a hit. Adcock hit one out, but Aaron head to the clubhouse after touching second. An odd ending to an amazing night.

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