This has probably never happened before, in decades of marriage: my wife was working the AM radio dial Sunday evening (trying to escape treacly classical music) and happened to pause on a Red Sox-Orioles game and realized it was in the 14th inning—and she left it on for me.
Usually I’m the one finding ball games on the car radio – harder these days because you cannot find crackling, fading games from distant cities in the rigid digital age. On the Bose radio in our living room, there it was, Orioles and Red Sox, both running out of pitchers, on Sunday, getaway day.
It was fun being in my own home – not being inconvenienced by extra innings on getaway day, been there, done that -- and hearing the Red Sox broadcasters speculate who would do the pitching if the game went any further.
Chris Davis, an infielder, pitched the 16th for the Orioles and the broadcasters marveled that he seemed to change speeds. Could he pitch from the stretch with a runner on base? The Orioles caught a runner at home, and the game lurched into the 17th. Darnell McDonald, a position player, gave up a three-run homer to Adam Jones in the top half of the inning and Davis induced a double play to end the 9-6 victory, just as normal as any top closer saving a game.
All of this was a delightful hour I never expected -- two positions, not just one. Baseball induces more surprises than any sport I know, with odd things happening as the game goes on and players and managers react to circumstances.
Casey Stengel used to say, “In baseball every day you see something you never saw before.” I believed him the day I saw a Met relief pitcher get hit square in the backside by a one-hopper, which I would have thought was impossible.
The sport is always surprising. I love to see pitchers play a position in an emergency or pinch-hit or pinch-run, forced to be athletes rather than specialists -- Don Newcombe or Don Drysdale pinch-hitting in old-fashioned, pre-designated-hitter baseball.
Why not have position players occasionally taking the mound, like in high school games?
Clearly, I was not the only person stimulated by the extra-inning improvisations up in Fenway. One reader, Tom Roberts of Lawrenceville, N.J., e-mailed me, raving about the game and adding, “Had Bud Selig allowed the ill-fated All-Star Game to continue with position players taking the pitching mound instead of cooking up the concept of a ‘tie,’ I have no doubt it would have been one of the most memorable games in baseball. I've never gotten over that decision.”
Roberts was talking about the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, when both teams ran short of pitchers and Commissioner Bud Selig ended the game as a tie in the 11th inning.
They could have decided that All-Star Game with a home-run derby, the way world soccer sometimes decides big games with penalty shootouts. Or they could have called for position players to volunteer to pitch, the way Davis and McDonald did in Boston on Sunday.
Managers don’t want to let their stars pitch – Jose Canseco’s arm was never the same after he pitched in Boston in 1993. But the image of two journeymen players doing their best was enough to captivate me on Sunday evening, keep me by the radio listening to a game I never would have followed if my wife had not discovered it. Casey was right: the game always comes up with something.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.