Monday, August 29, 2011

The Dick Schofield Game 25th Anniversary

Posted by Chris Jaffe on The Hardball Times:

Twenty-five years ago today, baseball saw one of its most amazing rallies, capped by quite possibly its all-time least-likely walk-off grand slam.

On Aug. 29, 1986, the Tigers have a road victory seemingly in hand, as they led the hometown Angels by seven runs, 12-5, entering the bottom of the ninth. The game is all but wrapped up. All but.

Leading off is the least impressive bat in Anaheim, shortstop Dick Schofield. Playing in his 417th career game, he sports a lifetime batting average of .217 as he leads off the bottom of the ninth. Refuting the odds, Schofield beats out an infield single to shortstop.

That brings up the top of the order. First, veteran infielder Rick Burleson lines out to center. One away. Ah well, it ain’t like the Angels really have a chance anyway, right?

Rookie sensation Wally Joyner comes up next and draws a walk from reliever Randy O'Neal. Well, at least the Angels aren’t going to roll over before suffering the inevitable loss.

Next up, is the ageless wonder of the world, Brian Downing, who promptly cracks a single to load the bases. The heart of the order will be up next.

Batting clean up is Jack Howell, a mid-game replacement for normal third baseman Doug DeCinces. The team made the switch when it was clear Detroit would win. Someone forgot to tell Howell the game is over, because he belts a double to right, and two runs score. Now it’s 12-7. Better, but still badly out of reach.

With the best part of California’s order coming up, Tiger manager Sparky Anderson removes O’Neal. Time for Willie Hernandez, the Detroit closer who made his third straight All-Star team this year and won the Cy Young Award and MVP two years ago.

Despite Hernandez’s accomplishments, he has some problems here. George Hendrick greets Hernandez with an RBI single, scoring Downing, making the score 12-8. Bobby Grich follows that with another single, and it’s 12-9.

Suddenly, things don’t look so bad. Sure, the Angels are down by three, but, incredibly, the tying run is at the plate, and there is still only one out. You don’t think they could somehow win this sucker, do you?

Probably not, because just as soon as the fans can start thinking comeback win, Gary Pettis grounds to second, forcing Grich while Hendrick advances to third.

Sure, the tying run will still be at the plate, but now there’s only one out left, and we’re stuck in the depths of the batting order. Ah well, at least the Angels made the score look respectable. Can’t win them all.

Given the situation, the Angels call on veteran Ruppert Jones to pinch-hit for catcher Jerry Narron. Jones draws a walk to load the bases. Now the tying run is on and winning run at the plate.

And that man at the plate? Schofield, who led off the inning. While a lifetime .217 hitter, he has made some strides. After batting a sub-Mendoza .193 in his first full-year in 1984, and following that up with a barely improved .219 the next season, he’s nearly hitting .250 on the year so far in 1986. He also has a bit of power—not much, but he’s already belted 11 long balls on the season.

That said, Reggie Jackson sits on the California bench, available for duty. Do you really pass up using Reggie here to let Schofield take a lick? Manager Gene Mauch thinks so. Schofield has two hits today and has shown improvement over the year. Time to show some confidence in his progress.

And Schofield rewards the veteran manager. Boy, oh boy, does he ever reward him. Schofield belts it out of the park, scoring runs 10, 11, 12, and 13, for an amazing 13-12 Angels comeback win over the Tigers.

1 comment:

  1. I probably would have batted Jackson but that's why I'm not a Big League manager.