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April 15, 2015

The Lineup Card

Nine of Our Favorite #weirdbaseball Games

by Baseball Prospectus

1. July 29th, 2014: Cubs 4, Rockies 3
This was the game--the longest in Cubs franchise history—that convinced me I didn't want to be a beat writer. Don't get me wrong, I love covering games on a regular basis, but traveling with the team, sticking around during rainouts, not having any flexibility, it can get rough. The Cubs were nearing the end of a 10-game homestand, I hadn't slept much that week, and this game seemed like it would never end. I was exhausted and just wanted to go home and stay in bed for as long as possible (which isn't very long when you have two kids at home who have yet to discover the beauty of sleeping in).

But one man changed my demeanor that evening: John Baker. Baker, a well-spoken catcher with a future in managing, pitched a scoreless top of the 16th, walked in the bottom half of the inning, and came around to score the winning run, ending it with a pretty sweet fist pump.

But it was his postgame interview that really got me. It was around two in the morning at this point and all of us writers were in zombie mode. But Baker had us in stitches in the clubhouse. From CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney:

“I got beer,” Baker said. “I got chocolate milk. I got hair gel. I got shampoo. I got body wash. And then I got some more beer. It was great. Best shower I’ve ever taken.”

“I had to shake 'Wely' a couple times, because we just weren’t on the same page,” Baker said. “I trust my stuff.”

He hadn’t pitched since playing in the Cape Cod League during a summer away from Cal-Berkeley.

“I believe I had a 27 ERA, but I was getting squeezed, from what I remember,” Baker said. “In this game, I felt like the strike zone was a little more to my benefit, so I tried to exploit that.

“(But) no matter how hard or soft I tried to throw the ball, it ended up in that 76-79 (mph) range.”

I entered that clubhouse ready to curl up in a ball and collapse from exhaustion. But the smile plastered on Baker's face and the quips he delivered left me chuckling my entire ride home and ready for another 16 innings of baseball. Actually, that's not true. I went to the game the next day as a fan and left early so I could get to bed at a reasonable hour. But still, it turned out to be a pretty memorable evening thanks to the performance Baker delivered on and off the field. —Sahadev Sharma

2. October 9th, 2005: Astros 7, Braves 6
#weirdbaseball (should I be capitalizing that?) is like a fine wine in that it gets better with age, but only to a certain point. Game four of the 2005 National League Division Series between the Astros and Braves is one of those games that's recent enough in memory for the weirdness to really flow.

Brandon Backe started this game for the Astros, and Roger Clemens closed it. Backe was arguably better-known for dropping mad bombs during batting practice, as opposed to his pitching skills. Other guys who were relevant at the time of this game: Willy Taveras, Andruw Jones, and, uh, Jeff Francouer.

This game was not short on dramatics. The Braves took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but a grand slam by Lance Berkman made the score 6-5. That home run was caught by Shaun Dean of Porter, Texas.

The 10th through the 17th innings were scoreless. This was the postseason, so sorry, no position players pitching. In the bottom of the 18th, Chris Burke lined a home run into the Crawford Boxes in left field. It was a dinger that probably wouldn't have left the yard in any other MLB ballpark, and it was caught BY THE SAME DUDE. Yes, Dean snagged this one, too. He wound up donating both balls to the Hall of Fame.

Of course, the real #weirdbaseball part of this game was that it involved the Astros and took place in the postseason. —Ian Frazer

3. August 5th, 2014: Adam Dunn Toes the Rubber (Rangers 16, White Sox 0)

Somewhere out there, the godfather of #weirdbaseball is shaking his head as he sips orangina, quietly dismissing my entry as it doesn't strictly adhere to the rigorous rules set in stone by Otto's dad. But well, if we're playing it loose with the rules, there's nothing much weirder than seeing Adam Dunn pitch baseballs. The ludicrous factor is high here as a DH comes in and starts cranking 80 with some run on the mound. Dunn was a quarterback with mobility back in the day, so the donkey cannon shouldn't be that surprising but, well… look at it. Gaze upon the works of a pitching Dunn and despair.

Mauricio Rubio

4. May 17th, 2002: Yankees 13, Twins 12
On the fourth anniversary of David Wells’ perfect game and again facing the Twins, things again got weird in the Bronx. The Yankees had blown and 8-3 lead but also tied it with a home run in the bottom of the ninth. And with New York in need of another comeback after Minnesota’s three-run top of the 14th inning, first-year Yankee Jason Giambi filled out the rest of what you draw up when you draw up that bases-loaded, down-by-three situation. The rain only enhanced the weirdness, and even with the late hour and the terrible weather, the bleachers were remarkably well populated when Giambi’s ball landed there and gave the Yankees a 13-12 win.

Zachary Levine

5. April 12th, 2015: Lehigh Valley 7, Pawtucket 6 (16 innings)
Apologies to all for picking something that happened so recently and dubbing it a “favorite,” but that’s how the culture goes -- favorites change depending on the direction of the wind and phase of the moon. But it needs to be demonstrated how the Boston Red Sox didn’t even have the battiest game of the weekend in their own organization.

Down a run in the ninth, Pawtucket’s Luke Montz hammered a homer to tie the game and begin our ascent into mayhem. In the 13th, both teams scraped together a run each. It should be noted, for absolutely no foreshadowing reason whatsoever, Pawtucket’s run happened on a bases-loaded walk.

Once we hit the 16th inning, both teams ran out of pitchers, so IronPigs designated hitter Russ Canzler, who had an 0-for-7 day at the plate, took the mound playing the role of Chris Davis. Ultimately, he allowed two runs, with the go-ahead RBI at the behest of a Quintin Berry single. For reasons yet to be known to the public, the Red Sox countered their empty bullpen issue with Berry, America’s favorite major-league pinch-runner, to record a Triple-A save. He’s a pinch-runner for a reason: The other tools are dull and commonplace. Hence what happened next: walk, (wild pitch) walk, sac bunt, sac fly, walk, walk, walk. That final free pass was what we Internet goofballs call in the business a “walkoff walk,” or “shrimp.” And it was issued to none other than Mr. Canzler.

No, the game did not pass a midnight threshold, but position players turned into pitchers and allowed each other the go-ahead RBI, and what more do you jackals want from us? —Matt Sussman

6. July 10th, 1932, Athletics 18, Indians 17
If fantasy baseball had been invented 80 years ago, plenty of owners would’ve been very happy with their Philadelphia or Cleveland hitters on July 10th. In a game that lasted 18 innings—but just four hours, somehow—the Athletics outlasted Cleveland 18-17. Philadelphia’s Jimmie Foxx went 6-for-9 with three home runs and 8 RBI’s while he and Al Simmons—who went 5-for-9—each scored four runs apiece. On the Cleveland side, Earl Averill had five hits with two walks, a homer, three runs, and four RBI’s. The best line of the afternoon belonged to Johnny Burnett, a ho-hum shortstop who went 9-for-11 in a record-setting day.

While the offensive numbers are bananas, it’s what happened on the mound that makes this game so fascinating. First, a bit of backstory: Sunday baseball was outlawed in Philadelphia in the 1930’s, so the A’s were opening up their five-game series with the Indians in Cleveland. Their previous series had been at home and the next four games with Cleveland were also to be played in Philadelphia, so the A’s were on the road for just one day. In an ill-advised and probably financially motivated decision, Philadelphia manager Connie Mack—famous for his gentlemanly nature but considerably less well known for being a cheapskate who lost a lot of baseball games—decided to bring only two pitchers for the trip: Lew Krausse and aging Eddie Rommel.

Krausse was the starter and it was clear that he didn’t have his best stuff from the go. After allowing four hits, a walk, and three runs in the first, Mack went to his intentionally depleted bullpen in the second inning (yes, this is a decision that a Hall of Fame manager voluntarily undertook). Rommel was an old war horse from Mack’s World Series winning teams but this was the final season of his career and he wasn’t the same guy anymore.

Rommel started strong, holding Cleveland off of the board through the third. The A’s took a 5-3 lead in the top of the fourth before things really got out of hand. In the bottom half of the frame, Rommel allowed three runs, and then another run in the fifth. Each team scored a run in the sixth, before Philadelphia busted out for seven in the top of the seventh. That made the score 13-8, but again, Rommel couldn’t hold the advantage, allowing six Cleveland runners to score in the bottom of the seventh. No damage was done in the eighth, but the A’s took a 15-14 lead in the ninth after first basemen Ed Morgan bungled an easy grounder that would’ve won the contest for the home team.

Once again though, Rommel demonstrated a baffling inability to hold the lead, allowing a run to score in the bottom of the ninth. From there though, the beleaguered pitchers—Cleveland’s Wes Ferrell was in the midst of an 11.1 inning afternoon himself—caught a second wind, keeping everybody off the scoreboard until the sixteenth. The A’s plated two in the inning but an exhausted Rommel coughed up the lead for a fourth time, allowing two more runs in the home half. It wasn’t until Philadelphia scored again in the 18th that Rommel was finally able to hold a lead he’d been given.

It isn’t entirely clear why Mack never turned to a position player to relieve Rommel. While it wasn’t unheard of for a pitcher to work deep into extra innings, managers also had a much quicker hook with an ineffective pitcher back then; one would have to imagine that many of the spectators were in better shape to shut down the Indians than Rommel by the 16th inning. As it was, Rommel filled the stat sheet in a way no other pitcher has since: he faced 87 batters, allowing 29, 14 runs, and nine walks while striking out seven in a much-deserved win, his last in the major leagues. He also went 2-for-7 with an RBI and two runs scored. —Brendan Gawlowski

7. June 26th, 2011: "Rally Giant Stack of Cups" (see linked GIF)
It almost feels like this GIF has been around forever, coming to being through the sheer force of will that the internet exists on, finding its way into our hearts and SB Nation’s GIF Oracle because well, what else could there be?

Of course, if we dissect this GIF, we can find that it, appropriately, originates with #weirdbaseball.

From the score bug in the upper left-hand corner, we discover that this enterprising gentleman attended a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves, and that the Braves were the home team. Working from the date on the SB Nation post (created by the estimable Jeff Sullivan), we can find that this is the six-hour, 39-minute game that began at 7:11 p.m. on June 26th, 2011, with starting pitchers Jeff Karstens (PIT) and Tommy Hanson (ATL).

Additionally, if you squint and do a little extraneous googling, it becomes apparent that this is the 19th, or last, inning of this extremely long game, meaning it had been 12 innings since any beer sales occurred. Therefore, this cup-delighting gentleman was almost certainly sober, unless he'd brought his own refreshment in those delightful pre-metal detector days. That is, if someone who stays until the bitter end of what turns out to be a 19-inning game can be regarded as sober, regardless of alcohol consumption.

What makes a man decide to start collecting cups? Is it just so he can say he did? Is it that baseball itself lost all meaning to him throughout the six hours of his stay in Atlanta? Was it Atlanta itself that caused him to crave the rush of stacking cup upon cup upon cup? Was it some misguided sense of need, that the game would end if he could just collect all the cups? Was he making a political statement, or an artistic one? Did he intend to return the cups for a small percentage? We may only guess, looking back through the looking-glass of time, at this joyful man and his giant stack of cups, at what his motivations were. The only thing we know for certain is that it makes for a damn great gif.

Note: Also making an appearance in this game is the Cespedes BBQ boys’ favorite pitcher, Chris Resop. Resop pitched one inning, giving up one hit and recording one strikeout. Kate Morrison

8. July 2nd, 1993: Phillies 6, Padres 5
Nearly every game the 1993 Phillies played should count as #weirdbaseball. It was a crew of guys with beer guts, mullets, and addictions to illegal substances. Few teams have gotten along better or partied harder, and no team has ever been better prepared for what the Phillies and Padres happened to face one night just before the Fourth of July.

San Diego was in town for a four-game weekend series, set to begin with a twi-night doubleheader on Friday. Only, it was raining. A lot. The start of the first game was delayed by over an hour, and there would be two other, longer delays during the actual game. In total, the game was held up for nearly six hours, and the Phillies told the umpires they would be fine with canceling the second half of the twin bill and pushing it to Saturday night instead. The umps declined.

By the time the Padres won the first game, 5-2, it was past 1 a.m. The umpires were insistent, though, that now that the rain had abated, play would go on. So before about 1,000 fans, the teams played a new game, beginning at 1:28 a.m.. There had been no batting practice or infield practice because of the early rains. Friday was the eighth straight day on which the Phillies had played, and counting the game actually played that day, they had lost six of seven. Jim Fregosi sent out mostly shock troops for the second contest, and the Padres took advantage. A two-out error on shortstop Kim Batiste set up a three-run homer in the Padres’ half of the third. A throwing error by Ricky Jordan, playing first base instead of John Kruk, gave San Diego another run an inning later. In the middle of the fourth inning, it was 5-0 San Diego.

But the Phillies got a run back in the bottom of that inning, and three more (Jordan redeemed himself with a homer) in the fifth. In the bottom of the eighth inning (it’s well past 3 AM now), Darren Daulton pinch hit and delivered a game-tying RBI single. Mitch Williams came on and kept the game tied through the ninth and the top of the 10th. Then, the Phillies having run out of pinch-hitters, Williams batted for himself with two outs and two on in the bottom of the inning. He singled home the winning run, off of Trevor Hoffman, at 4:45 in the morning. —Matthew Trueblood


9. August 13th, 2000: Asheville 4, Hickory 3
It’s not often that you look at a box score and find the losing team committed nine errors and struck out 30 times, and only fell by one run. You’d probably figure there was an average of one error per inning, and the pitching staff did a hell of job battling its way out of jams all night. However, this was not your average nine-inning game. This was a 20-inning marathon between two Low-A South Atlantic clubs on a humid night in August in the furniture making capitol of America. The five-hour, 16-minute battle of Asheville’s middle-of-the-road prospects and Hickory’s somewhat-touted prospect lineup with the likes of Bobby Bradley, J.R. House, and Josh Bonifay, ended with Asheville catcher Jeff Winchester’s 16th home run of the year, which put Asheville up 4-3. Jake Kidd, a tall, lanky sinkerballer, pitching in his fourth scoreless frame, nailed down the bottom half of the 20th and the win.

Jeff Winchester, a supplemental first-round draft pick in ’98 by the Rockies, had squatted over 500 times in his catcher’s stance that night and decided enough was enough and it was time to go home. He broke the tie created by former Florida great Greg Catalanotte, who hit his 18th blast of the year back in the top of the ninth inning. Besides Winchester’s valiant effort, were the efforts of both teams’ bullpens that night, especially that of Asheville’s. After Asheville’s starter, Julio De Paula, later Jorge De Paula, exited the game, Tom Stepka worked two-thirds of an inning in relief to set up the 13-scoreless-inning streak the bullpen would provide for the win. Cuban Defector Yoel Monzon started the 13 scoreless frames off with a solid 1 1/3 innings, followed by Cameron Esslinger, Colin Young, Rick Cercy, and the final four innings by Kidd to close it out. Asheville really didn’t do themselves any favors, as they left 23 men on base and couldn’t cash in on the nine Hickory errors. —Colin Young

Related Content:  Extra Innings,  #weirdbaseball

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