Thursday, February 13, 2014

Do You Need Another Reason to BEAT LA!

It's one day before the 2014 San Francisco Giants report to Scottsdale, Arizona. And while it may be pitchers/catchers, when you speak of the orange and black, it's pretty much all about the pitchers and catchers.

Anyway, I am currently reading a book by Tim Wendel entitled, "Summer of '68." What a crazy bombastic year. The same year Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and weeks later Robert Kennedy joined the list of politicians/Civil rights leader shot in the light of day.

In baseball, this was the year of the pitcher. Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12 and it was the first time in major league history that pitchers threw back-to-back no-hitters in the same ballpark. Where was the ballpark? Candlestick Park. The pitchers were: Gaylord Perry of the Giants and Ray Washburn of the Cardinals. (I remember this vividly and I was 8 years old at the time!)

But perhaps the biggest record breaking event occurred on May 31, 1968 at Chavez Ravine between the Los Angeles Dodgers and their rivals the San Francisco Giants. At that point, Drysdale had thrown 5 consecutive shutouts. Not since Guy Harris "Doc" White threw five consecutive shutouts for the Chicago White Sox in 1904 had such a feat been accomplished.

The all-time scoreless innings steak was held by Walter "Big Train" Johnson who pitched 55 2/3 innings of shutout baseball in 1913. This is what Don Drysdale was up against on that memorable night at Dodger Stadium.

Against the Giants, Drysdale was sailing along, holding a 3-0 lead into the top of the ninth. That's when Willie McCovey led off with a walk, Jim Ray Hart singled and Dave Marshall walked to load the bases. Nobody out. (Note: Marshall would break up Drysdale's bid for a no-hitter later in the summer at Candlestick Park.) Up to bat came Dick Dietz. The count was two balls and two strikes. Double D's next pitch grazed Dietz to force in a run and the Giants still had the bases loaded with nobody out. But wait! I can't believe what just happened. Rookie umpire Harry Wendelstedt claimed that Dietz made no effort to get out of the way of the pitch therefore he was ordered back in the batter's box and the count went to 3-balls 2-strikes.

Did it ever occur to the rookie home plate ump that Dietz had been fooled by Drysdale the entire evening therefore he was locked up and couldn't get out of the way of an errant throw way off the inside corner? How can you make a judgment call of intent? Who are you to determine that a player purposely refused to get out of the way of a pitch that was too far inside to avoid?

Had Dietz pulled a Craig Biggio and leaned into the pitch then perhaps we could say that Wendelstedt had a legitimate reason for making such an observation. But to assume the guy just wanted to get hit to break up a record setting shutout streak is to well, make an ass out of you and me.

Let's face it, Harry Wendelstedt saw a golden opportunity to get his name in the baseball annals, forever to be remembered, and he belly-flopped into the shallow end of the Cooperstown pool for fear of sinking like a stone in the deeper end.

As an eight year old boy learning about the game of baseball I thought this was the worst call ever conceived of by an umpire. And as I sit here some 46 years later it still remains the worst call ever made.

Sure an umpire cost a pitcher a perfect game. But that particular umpire admitted he erred and for that he gets exonerated. This guy Wendelstedt was simply trying to get his name into the record books/Hall of Fame. No ifs, ands or buts.

"It took a lot of balls on Harry's part to make the call," Drysdale said, "but he was absolutely right. Dietz made no effort to avoid that pitch." Holy Suzy chapstick that's some serious ass-kissing by ole #53. He must've have bought the calorically challenged umpire the biggest steak money could buy after the game.

The 2014 season is beginning to unfold. Do you need another reason to beat LA?

Kevin J. Marquez

Note: In the 1968 season, the Giants had a right-hander from Hickory, North Carolina by the name of Bobby Bolin. That year he was 10-5 with a 1.99 ERA. In a season where he started 34 games and beat Bob Gibson head-on, it was by far his best individual season.