Another Rejection For Tyson Chandler (12/13/14)
Collectors of this year's NBA Hoops set will turn over Chandler's card and find the number 91 in the 2014-15 blocked shots column. His most talked-about swat of the season, howver, is not included in that total.
Chandler's Mavericks hosted the tough Warriors two weeks before Christmas 2014. In the third quarter, as part of a weird sequence that wound up featuring two jump balls and a reversed out-of-bounds call. Warriors F/C Marreese Speights ran right out of his shoe as he darted toward the paint; it was soon knocked near midcourt.
As the video shows, when Speights' teammate Stephen Curry tries for the assist on Golden State's next possession, Chandler's notorious defensive instincts kicked in. You just never know what you'll see at any given athletic competition.
Chandler violated no rule, and was not penalized, although he did have to endure a 28-point deficit and eventual 105-98 loss.
Notes: GS entered having won 14 straight and led this game 39-18 after one quarter. Speights finished with four points on 2-of-7 shooting; Chandler scored 11 with 12 rebounds...but no blocked SHOTS.
Punch A.J.! (5/20/06)
As a 2012 Men's Journal survey supports, the line of people who'd like to sock longtime Twins/White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski probably isn't a short one.
One day at U.S. Cellular Field, somebody actually did it.
The Chicago Cubs were visiting Pierzynski's defending champion Chicago White Sox in May 2006. Facing Cubs starter Rich Hill in the bottom of the 2nd and the bags full—all on walks—Brian Anderson hit a flyball to left, which is caught by Matt Murton. Pierzynski raced home, where counterpart Michael Barrett awaited him. See video for what happened next.
Barrett later admitted he should have only "shoved" the White Sox catcher for slapping home plate; his own GM Jim Henry admitted the collision itself was clean. Barrett and Pierzynski were ejected—as were Anderson and Cubs 1B John Mabry, who ended up in a fight of their own.
The Sox used the fight as a marketing tool for landing Pierzynski the online Final Vote for the American League All-Star team—their "Punch A.J." campaign worked perfectly.
Notes: Scott Podsednik is the on-deck batter going after Barrett post-punch.
Henry Blanco came in for Barrett, going 0-for-3. Chris Widger subbed in for A.J., also going hitless in three trips. Neifi Perez succeeded Mabry (2B Jerry Hairston Jr. slid over to 1B), and Rob Mackowiak replaced Anderson.
Barrett received 10 games off, while Anderson sat down for five. Pierzynski was fined $2K for "inciting the crowd" following the punch.
It is unclear why the runner on first, Juan Uribe, did not advance on the deflected throw. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because after Hill's fourth walk of the inning re-loaded the bases, Tad Iguchi ripped a grand slam. He added a two-run shot in the fifth to total six RBI on the day.
The White Sox went on to win 7-0 behind Freddy Garcia (8 IP, 8 hits, 3 K). All the runs were charged to Hill, who lasted four innings.
The Big Unit Goes Yard (9/19/03)
I saw Randy Johnson pitch in person twice: in 1992 for the Mariners and in 2009 for my Giants. The first instance was memorable because he was a young, wild, long-haired flamethrower who could just as soon decapitate batters with his fastball as he could humiliate them.
The second instance was memorable because that time, Johnson had to bat.
I don't dare disrespect the Big Unit, who in addition to being one of MLB's all-time great pitchers, was also a great Giant who, at almost 46 sacrificed his body and hurt his pitching shoulder just to record a routine out that season—then voluntarily went to the bullpen upon healing since San Francisco's starters were on fire by that time.
So I'll choose my words carefully and say this: proponents of a National League designated hitter are considering pitchers like Johnson when they push their argument. Johnson hit .125 and slugged .152 in his career, struck out in just under half of his official at-bats, and usually didn't look good in doing so.
Still, given his size, if he ever ran into one...
On September 19, 2003—the 30th birthday of my child's mother, not that it's relevant to this story at all—fellow lefty and future teammate Doug Davis of Milwaukee faced Johnson in a scoreless ballgame at Miller Park. With none on and one out in the 3rd, Johnson—almost by accident—deposited a 2-0 Davis fastball over the LF wall to break the tie!
Brewer fans were treated to the first...and last...career four-bagger for the Hall-of-Famer-to-be. You never know what's gonna happen when you come out to the ballpark.
Notes: The Diamondbacks, still in the Wild-Card hunt, ultimately beat the Brewers 3-2; Johnson's solo bomb was the first of four smoked by the two clubs—Brewers C Eddie Perez cleared the fence, as did Diamondbacks Matt Kata and Steve Finley (the latter a 9th-inning game winner off Shane Nance.)
Johnson spent much of 2003 injured and/or ineffective; he'd allowed 10 runs to these same Brewers in April but held them to two runs on 10 hits in six innings here. Davis threw 121 pitches in his 6.1 innings of work—neither received a decision. The two would be rotation-mates in 2007-08 for Arizona.
B.J. Upton & Evan Longoria Quarrel (6/27/10)
As he so memorably proved in the 2008 postseason, B.J. Upton has all the talent in the world—nobody doubts that.
His hustle and effort, conversely, have been questioned more than once over the years—including by his manager Joe Maddon, who had sat Upton for lack of hustle at least twice leading up to this particular night.
In the top of the 5th, Rusty Ryal of the visiting Diamondbacks drove a Wade Davis pitch deep to center that CF Upton couldn't run down. To the eyes of many, Upton's pursuit wasn't as spirited as it should have been. One of those many was Rays star 3B Evan Longoria, who let his feelings be known upon inning's conclusion.
As you might imagine, Upton disagreed vehemently with his teammate's opinion, and other Rays had to keep the two men apart before words escalated into more.
Notes: Superficially, Upton's supposed lackadaisical effort didn't hurt Tampa—the next hitter (Gerardo Parra) homered, meaning Ryal would have scored no matter what base he was on. (Of course, one could argue Davis would have pitched Parra differently with a man on 2nd rather than 3rd...that's why we said "superficially".)
Parra's homer held up, as the D'Backs held on for a 2-1 win behind Rodrigo Lopez. The Rays managed two hits all night—one by DH Hank Blalock. The two-time All-Star with Texas was designated for assignment after the game, released 10 days later, and never returned to MLB.
A.J. Hinch would last three more contests before losing his job as Arizona manager.
The first to get between the two feuding Rays is DH/OF Matt Joyce. Willy Aybar drags Upton away; Reid Brignac is driven backwards onto the bench, and Carl Crawford casually leans on the dugout rail watching the ongoings. In Upton's next PA, he walked...and was quickly picked off 1-3.
Ryal was previously known for drilling a liner off Hiroki Kuroda's head in August 2009.
Shaq's Three-Pointer (2/26/96)
Shaquille was my second-favorite player of all-time, behind Hakeem Olajuwon. I followed him fairly closely from beginning (1992) to end (2011), so I can say with total confidence that most of the time, Shaq could do whatever he wanted to do offensively...
...as long as he wanted to do it in the paint.
O'Neal was not a gifted shooter by any stretch of the imagination. Review of his lifetime 55% free-throw percentage causes a double-take—because it is that high. But when you're the inside force Shaq was, there's no reason to ever shoot from outside...
...unless the clock is expiring.
Hosting the struggling Bucks, the 4th-year Orlando Magic center received a 50-foot inbounds far from the basket. With all of two seconds left in the first quarter, Shaq heaved a prayer toward the hoop. He missed so badly that it banged off the glass and clean through the net. (Apologies for the foreign language commentary...this vid was tough to find.)
Notes:This was the first and only regular-season, postseason or All-Star triple O'Neal ever made. Career preseason stats weren't available.
Those were three of Shaq's 31 points on the night...although he also committed six turnovers and shot 4-for-12 from the line. Still, Orlando crushed the Bucks 121-91. They shot 60%, and Milwaukee committed 23 turnovers.
Attempting to defend the shot are #22 Johnny Newman; the leaping defender MIGHT be Glenn Robinson—we weren't able to clearly make out the jersey number. It seems to be 11, but 6'1" Lee Mayberry seems too short to be that guy.
Tony Saunders Breaks Arm (5/26/99)
It's not exactly uncommon for a hurler to break his arm thowing a pitch—veterans like Dave Dravecky, Tom Browning, John Smiley and Jay Powell all did it, and none ever fully rebounded.
Unlike that quartet, all of which had at least eight years in the majors before their injuries, Tampa Bay's Tony Saunders suffered a break that ended his career before it really got started.
A rookie starter for the Marlins in 1997 who started Game 4 of the World Series that year, Saunders was the first overall Expansion Draft pick by the Devil Rays that winter. In 1998 he led the league in walks but pitched well for the most part, finishing 9th in the league in K's.
Saunders' 1999 season—already off to a rough start—ended in May when his left arm snapped with a full-count pitch to Juan Gonzalez of the visiting Texas Rangers—audible throughout Tropicana Field. A comeback attempt the following year ended with a re-breaking of the same arm. Saunders tearfully retired at 26—his career all of 61 starts old.
Notes: The injury took place in the third inning; Texas trailed 3-2 with two outs and men on the corners. The fateful pitch went WAY wild and the tying run scored. Mike Duvall relieved Saunders, throwing two pitches to end the threat.
The Devil Rays went on to lose 8-6. Rick Helling went seven innings for the victory, and Roberto Kelly homered for Texas. Former Ranger Jose Canseco—who'd later opine in his infamous book that PED use caused Saunders' injury—homered for Tampa.
In 2005, Saunders attempted a comeback with Baltimore (he graduated from a nearby high school) but didn't make it. He did follow up with nine appearances with Mesa of the Independent League, ending his pro career on a positive note.
John Danks Is Tough (6/18/11)
Usually, when a pitcher is drilled above the shoulders with a line drive, he doesn't end up laughing about it.
During the 4th inning of an interleague clash between the White Sox and Diamondbacks, an already-difficult 2011 season for Sox lefty John Danks—he began 0-8, 5.25 but had won his past two starts—could have gotten loads worse when his head got in the way of a Stephen Drew shot up the middle.
Amazingly, Danks barely reacted to the blow, which caromed off the back of his head into the home dugout—an automatic double for Drew. Willie Bloomquist, who'd singled ahead of Drew, advanced to third base. See the video for more.
Notes: Though both runners scored soon after with the aid of a Ramon Castro passed ball, Danks went seven innings allowing only those runs for the win! Ironically, he'd be forced to leave his NEXT start with an oblique strain and miss about a month.
"Hermie" is Chicago trainer Herm Schneider; Joe West is the ump shown in the thumbnail. Fellow umpires Chad Fairchild (#75) and Angel Hernandez (#55) are also seen conferring with Danks, as is manager Ozzie Guillen.
The White Sox won 6-2; their 4-5-6 hitters Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios teamed to go 8-for-12 with two HR and all six RBI. Zach Duke took the loss.
Chris Sabo's Corked Bat (7/29/96)
1996 at Riverfront Stadium started off with unspeakable tragedy. Four months later, it was home to unspeakable tomfoolery.
Sabo, third baseman of the Cincinnati Reds for seven of his nine MLB seasons, stepped in against tough Mike Hampton of the Astros in the second inning of a scoreless game at Riverfront Stadium.
After breaking his bat fouling off a 3-2 pitch, Sabo receives replacement wood—and shatters that as well while popping out. Cork goes flying; see video for details.
Astros, Reds and even umpires are seen enjoying a laugh at "Spuds" expense—though he himself remained stoic. Understandable, as he likely sensed the ejection and seven-game suspension he would soon receive.
Notes: Though we cannot confirm conclusively, the third-base coach is likely Joel Youngblood. Ray Knight is the Reds manager. Tom Hallion—who left the Rockies/Athletics game after a foul off his mask the day before this post—umpired home and called for the bat inspection.
Years later, Sabo—who would only play three more major league games after this one—is still unrecognizable sans goggles.
Hampton (7 IP, ER, 4 BB, 5 K) and the Astros eventually won 2-1, defeating Mark Portugal (7.1 IP, 2 ER, K). Billy Spiers' pinch-HR in the 8th tied the game; Jeff Bagwell's RBI single four batters later won it. Billy Wagner earned the save.
For the record, Sabo finished 1996 .296 vs LHP and .204 vs RHP.
Big Mac Vs. Big Unit (6/24/97)
In the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, young USC Trojans Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson repped Team USA—here's proof!
13 years later, the two were major league superstars in Oakland and Seattle, respectively—their June 24, 1997 showdown at Seattle's Kingdome was probably, oh, the 100th or so between the division rivals. It is also the only one that anyone is still talking about 18 years later.
6'10" Johnson had long been the top mound intimidator in the game; only his triple-digit heat could thaw his icy glare. 6'5" McGwire was an anatomic marvel whose arm strength could be measured in horsepower.
When you combine a Johnson fastball with a perfectly-timed McGwire swing, then eliminate any weather influence, you get this video.
(Note the warm-and-fuzzy Bash Brothers moment afterward; if only Mac knew what Canseco had in store for him eight years later...)
Notes: McGwire's shot was a 5th-inning solo that was officially measured at 538 feet, though other credible folks disputed that. Oakland won 4-1 behind Steve Karsay; Johnson lost despite going the distance, walking none and whiffing 19. It was his second loss of the entire season!
Schierholtz Uses His Head (8/25/13)
There's bad at-bats, and there's bad at-bats. Short of a beaning, the veteran outfielder Nate Schierholtz will be hard-pressed to put together a worse sequence than this one.
With the bases loaded and zero out in the 13th inning of a scoreless game at Petco Park, the Cubs outfielder—facing Brad Boxberger—grounds to Padres 1B Jesus Guzman, who attempts to turn a 2-3-2 DP. Schierholtz tweaked his back charging from the box...the video completes the story.
Notes: Darnell McDonald, who led off the 13th with a pinch-hit, trotted home on the play and took over in right for Schierholtz—who returned to the lineup the next day—in the bottom half.
Chicago totaled two runs in the 13th and Kevin Gregg gave them both back in the home half; San Diego finally won in the 15th on a Nick Hundley walk-off single against Hector Rondon five hours and 13 minutes after the first pitch.
Chris Rusin (6.1 IP) and Andrew Cashner (7 IP) started for Chicago and San Diego, respectively.
Kuroda Knocked Down (8/15/09)
Before touching down at Dodger Stadium in 2008, Hiroki Kuroda won 103 games in Japan—a land where the players, while highly skilled and talented, are generally dwarfed physically by their American counterparts. From stars on down to backups, major leaguers do not lack for strength, and when they connect with the sweet spot...they connect HARD.
I don't know if Kuroda was ever creamed by a liner back home as he was here by Arizona's Rusty Ryal...but my money says no. Ryal—leading off the 6th with his team down 3-0—wound up with a ground rule double and soon came around to score.
Kuroda, who was relieved by James McDonald, wound up concussed and out for three weeks. That's better than the skull fracture suffered by his countryman (and ex-Dodger) Kaz Ishii in 2002.
Notes: The D'backs tied the score at 3 with back-to-back homers in the 9th off Jon Broxton; rookie Gerardo Parra singled home the winner in the 10th. Kuroda finished with the one run allowed in five innings (72 pitches).