Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lenny & George

I think I found the game where the guy threw the pitch onto the screen at Fenway. 4/16/1978. It was Len Barker, and it was when he was on Texas. (Thanks, heybluu and bluestateblogger.) From retrosheet's play-by-play:

Barker threw a wild pitch [Fisk scored, Scott to third, Carbo to second]; wild pitch over backstop screen into crowd; Evans walked; COMER REPLACED BARKER (PITCHING);

So my recollection of two runs scoring was wrong. In fact, the only runner to score was from third. This has to be the play I was thinking of, though. Then again, they say "over backstop screen into crowd," which doesn't make sense. It went above the vertical screen and rolled up, then down, the angled screen above that. I wonder if maybe as soon as the ball went up there, the play was dead and only one run was allowed to score. Because I feel like two guys crossed the plate--there definitely would've been enough time for it.

Not much about it on the web. This page shows a newspaper from the next day with a headline "Barker launches wild one." I can't read it without getting a subscription, though.

Another good win today, and the Yanks lost on George's birthday. You may have heard that spirits were high despite the weather for the famed Boston fireworks, and everyone stuck it out, their smiles and dancing willing the show to go on. Wrong! Wrong! Some of us got there, got sick of the rain, and just went home. I have to say, though, it was really cool watching on TV with the sound off, and hearing the sound of the fireworks come in the window exactly in time with the TV.

Every time I do this JPotG thing, I forget one aspect of it. Either the "J" or the underline, or, in this case, the little lines coming off the player. Sometimes I fix it, sometimes I don't. TJ by me.

4/10/03 S.F. Chron. C2
2003 WLNR 8256779

San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright 2003 The San Francisco Chronicle

April 10, 2003

Section: SPORTS


Tom FitzGerald

As pitches go, this one was the wildest of the wild. The Dodgers' Hideo Nomo uncorked one Saturday against the Padres that a catcher could have tracked only on a Global Positioning System.

"It went three-quarters of the way up the screen," Padres TV broadcaster Mark Grant, the former Giants pitcher, told Open Season.

"It was an all-timer," said Jerry Coleman, who has been broadcasting Padres games for 31 years and whose big-league career started in 1949. "I've never seen anything like it."

Grant's own wildest pitch, he said, was "a 42-foot curveball" for the Giants against Montreal in 1984. "It bounced over (catcher) Steve Nicosia's head, and he said, 'What was that?' "

-- Giants left-hander Chad Zerbe heard roughly the same comment from a batter when his personal-best wild pitch went halfway up the backstop in a Class A game for Great Falls, Mont., in 1992. "I had given up a hit on an 0-2 pitch, and my manager told me to never let it happen again," he said. "So I made sure it didn't happen."

-- At least nobody got hurt. Giants manager Felipe Alou said Giants pitcher Joe Shipley once heaved a fastball that went over the screen at Seals Stadium and clobbered a fan. "I heard he was ordered to hit somebody," says Alou.

Mission accomplished. (Legend has it that as a minor-leaguer Shipley hit a batter who was in the on-deck circle.)

-- One of Scott Eyre's pitches went in the other direction. "It was a hot, humid day in Memphis," the Giants' left-hander said. "I went to take the ball out of my glove, and the ball slid out of my fingers. It was on turf, so the ball rolled out to the shortstop. He just laughed and threw it back."

DOING THE SPLITS: Even for pitchers who are used to throwing split-finger fastballs, the ball can sometimes take on a life of its own -- as the Nomo pitch proved. The Giants' Jason Schmidt says he tried one for the first time in an exhibition game in Fresno this year. "It went halfway to the backstop," he said.

-- "Len Barker was pitching for Texas in 1978, and they wanted him to be the closer," Giants broadcaster Jon Miller said. "The game was at Fenway Park, and his first pitch went into the screen and rolled almost up to the broadcast booth."

-- Miller was working A's broadcasts in 1974 when the Angels' Nolan Ryan uncorked a whopper. "With a runner on third and, I think, Reggie Jackson batting," Miller said, "he threw a wild pitch -- while giving an intentional walk."

-- Ryan threw so hard that every pitch induced fear. Miller said the A's Joe Rudi hit the dirt on a head-high Ryan fastball and knelt in the batter's box for several moments. "I asked him later, 'What were you doing? It looked like you were praying.' And Rudi said, 'My knees were shaking. I thought I was going to throw up in the batter's box.' "

-- Another intimidator was Ryne Duren, the New York Yankees' fireballing reliever of the '50s and '60s. "He used to intentionally throw a ball into the screen in warm-ups," said veteran baseball writer Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times. "But the funniest wild pitch I ever saw was when the Angels in their early years were playing the Twins. Hank Foiles, the Angels' catcher, lunged for a backhand catch and couldn't find the ball. The Twins had the bases loaded, and I think all three runs scored before he found the ball. It was in his mitt."

GOT BILK: The Washington Wizards are offering a ticket to Michael Jordan's final home game, Monday against the New York Knicks, to fans who buy a 10-game package for next season. "In other words," says Barbara Barker of Newsday, "for as little as $390, you can see Jordan one last time, then get stuck with 10 worthless tickets to watch Kwame Brown and company."

-- "This just in," says Alex Kaseberg. "The Iraqi information minister has announced that the University of Baghdad won the NCAA Tournament."

E-mail Tom FitzGerald at


"First pitch"--he'd faced eight batters in the game before Evans came up.
I remember watching the Len Barker wild-pitch live, but I would have sworn that it happened a couple years later (say around '80-'81) and that it was a Saturday NBC Game of The Week. My memory fails me. So if it was a Sunday game, it must have been picked up by WTIC Hartford, and I probably watched it through snowy reception after rotating our roof antenna in Trumbull to the Northeast.

I still remember the astonished look on Dewey's face, though.
Yeah, I saw that highlight a hundred times, and it always looked 80s-ish. '78 seems early. Is it possible two different guys threw a pitch onto the screen? Both times with Evans involved?

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