Early Candidate for Baseball Play of the Year
Reds perform a little magic on the fieldMay 17th, 2010 | By Paul Moth | Category: Sports
On the old diamond last evening, the Cincinnati Reds pulled off what can only be described as a miracle play; a play so rare it has never occurred in major league history. Apropos, given that the Reds are baseball’s first professional franchise.
It was the top of the fifth inning at Great American Ball Park with the Reds in a rubber match against the Florida Marlins, the teams having split the first two games of the three-game set.
There were none out in that fateful inning, and with the score knotted at goose eggs, the Marlins had the bases drunk.
Reds starting pitcher Chad Pittman had given up a lead-off double to the Marlins Ramon Terrazzo. Then he’d plunked the Marlins star shortstop, Billy Barter, in the ribs. The benches tensed for trouble, but Barter signaled to his mates that he understood the pitch to be a mistake. “I lost my slider,” said Pittman after the game, “it just got away from me.” Two men on.
Clean-up hitter Lance Berm now approached the dish and Florida’s manager, Rick Ramarula, called for the sac bunt. “I’ve never bunted at this level of ball,” said Berm, “but anything coach says, I try to do.”
“Lance looked foolish on the first pitch,” admitted Ramarula, “and I’d put him in a tough position. I know he’s our run producer, but with none out, we needed Billy and Ramon to move up one sack. Pittman had been pitching well for the Reds. But Lance is the ultimate team player. I had faith in him.”
Berm’s second bunt attempt certainly bore all the earmarks of a little-practiced exercise – he squibbed the ball down the third base line. But the lack of his expertise played into Berm’s hand. The ball went almost nowhere. And although he was prepared for the sacrifice, Reds third basemen Alan Treelo was forced to make a bare-handed grab for the ball, did not get the handle, and bounced his throw to first baseman Brent Banbury. Banbury could not come up with the toss, E-5, all hands safe.
The stage was set.
Marlins fifth-place hitter is their much feared portly right fielder, Aberto “Bam-Bam” Endocino.
Through an interpreter, Endocino said “I relish these situations. Men on base; game on the line. I was looking for a first pitch fast ball.”
And that is exactly what Pittman and his battery mate, Edguardo Veet had decided to offer.
“The only problem was,” said Veet, “that Chad missed the spot.”
“I crushed it,” said Endocino in Spanish.
A screaming line drive down the third base line, destined for the deep corner of the right field fence. The runners were off with the crack of the bat, foreseeing a crooked number going up on the score board.
But one bounce in front of Treelo that shot up a spray of infield rubble rocketed the ball into his glove and almost knocked him over. “I wanted to make up for the embarrassing error on the previous play,” he said. “You never want to let your team down.”
Treelo came up gunning, wiring the ball to catcher Veet. Veet toed home plate. Terrazzo was a dead duck – one out. He fired the ball back to Treelo, who stood on third. Barter, approaching without a thought of sliding, gawked as the umpire threw his thumb into the air. Two out. Treelo relayed the ball to second baseman Herrerio Valdespina who had just reached second base, a step before the bewildered Berm. Three out. Without even thinking, Valdespina pirouetted and threw on to Banbury at first, his peg beating the lumbering Endocino down the line, four out.
And there it was, the rarest of the rare, a quadruple play.
“Man,” said Pittman, “I was pumped. Great play by the guys behind me. They’re always giving a hundred and ten percent.”
“I have not seen that play since the sandlots of my youth,” said Endocino. “It is a mythical play and I am lucky to have been involved.”
“The bonus for us,” said backstop Veet, “is that we started the top of the sixth with the Marlins down one out already.”
It was certainly the high point of the evening, perhaps even of the year, but the rest of the game proved pedestrian as the Reds eked out a 2-1 victory with the winning run scored in the seventh when Wally Furlong plated his brother Dick on a sacrifice fly.