Monday, June 22, 2015

Can We Talk?

On May 31,1968, the San Francisco Giants were in Los Angeles to resume their rivalry with the Dodgers from their days of playing in the boroughs of New York. With the Giants in Coogan's Bluff, Upper Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn.

On this night Don Drysdale was embarking on setting the new major league record for consecutive innings without allowing a run as the shadow of Walter "Big Train" Johnson hovered as history might be re-written.

As the game entered the ninth inning, Drysdale was three outs away from accumulating enough innings to surpass Johnson's 56 consecutive scoreless innings. Hall of Famer Willie McCovey led off with a base on balls. Jimmy Ray Hart then singled him over to second base. Next to bat was Dave Marshall and he too walked to load the bases. Three runners on and nobody out. It would take a fortuitous act now to save Drysdale's bid to set the major league mark. (Note: Marshall would later be traded with Ray Sadecki to the New York Mets for Jim Gosger and Bobby Heise. Sadecki was the player the Giants acquired for Orlando Cepeda. Ouch, that trade still stings.)

Up came Dick Dietz. With a two ball and two strike count on him, Drysdale (who made a living of taking as much of the plate as he could feeling it was his and not the batter's)came inside to Dietz and the Giant's catcher was flummoxed as the ball plunked him. As he made his way to first base home plate umpire, Harry Wendelstedt told Dietz to get back in the batter's box. Dietz and the Giants argued but this was Wendelstedt's fifteen minutes of fame moment. No way Wendelstedt was missing this opportunity. He explained that Dietz made no attempt to get out of the way, as stated in rule 6.08 (b). (The rule 'if the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.'

Wendelstedt may have gotten the call right but much like an official scorer cannot assume how a play was made and rule an error due to degree of difficulty, Wendelstedt ruled on Dietz's intent not allowing for the fact that perhaps "the Mule" was fooled by the movement of the pitched ball.

Now, had Dietz leaned into the pitch then Wendelstedt would have had every right to order the batter back into the batter's box.

(Fast-forward forty-seven years)
Unfortunately, on June 20,2015, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski failed to do as much and Jose Tabada was allowed to take a base (first base) he most certainly did not deserve. Ending Max Scherzer's attempt at pitching a perfect game.

Kevin J. Marquez