Run, Damn It!

Call it a case of amusing serendipity.

I’ve been doing a little research lately on inside-the-park home runs. Why, yes, it is related to the current novel-in-development. So if you like hints and gradual reveals, you can put that on your list.

Anyway, after spending a chunk of Friday learning that, for example, the number of inside-the-park home runs has been declining since the twenties, it was delightful just in time to turn on the Blue Jays/Indians game just in time to see this.

For those of you who refuse to give in to MLB’s annoying insistence on using Flash video, the Akron Beacon Journal’s Ryan Lewis describes it: “Behind 2-1 with an out in the bottom of the ninth inning against Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, one of the better closers in the league, Jose Ramirez slammed a solo home run to right field to tie it 2-2. To turn up the excitement to 11, Tyler Naquin followed by hitting a ball off the top of the wall in right field. It got away from Blue Jays right fielder Michael Saunders and was fielded by center fielder Melvin Upton, who slipped. It allowed Naquin, sans helmet, to make the turn home and slide head-first for a wild walk-off, inside-the-park home run.”

Despite their declining frequency, inside-the-park home runs aren’t what I’d call rare. says there are, on average, twenty per season. Walk-off inside-the-park home runs are rather rarer, though. As best I can tell, Tyler’s feat on Friday was the first one since Angel Pagan did it for the Giants in May of 2013–and before that, you have to go back to 2004 (Rey Sanchez of the then-Devil Rays).

Since Ramirez and Naquin went back-to-back, I found myself wondering if there has ever been a case of back-to-back inside-the-park home runs. It turns out it has. Twice, in fact.

The first was June 23, 1946. Marv Rickert and Eddie Waitkus pulled it off for the Cubs against the Giants. The second occasion was August 27, 1977 with the Rangers playing the Yankees. The heroes then were Toby Harrah and Bump Wills. Seems like we’re about due for it to happen again.

Amusing coincidences: both times a team has gone back-to-back inside the park, it was the visiting team in a game played in New York. So if you want to catch the third occurrence, you might want to tune into the Phillies/Mets game on Friday. Hey, this is baseball: you never know…

A final thought: Most of the decline in inside-the-park home runs can be attributed to the shrinkage of ballparks, making it easier to hit one out and harder for a ball to bounce out of the reach of the fielders. But I have to wonder how many have been lost to showboating. How many times have you seen a batter stand at the plate watching his shot–perhaps even flipping his bat–and then have to scramble to salvage a double? It might not be a huge number, but every time I see a batter trotting slowly toward first, I want to scream at him to run, at least until the ball actually clears the fence. Given the speed of many sluggers, it might not be the difference between a double and a home run, but there’s a lot to be said for a triple.

Home, Not Free

Major League Baseball has been around for well over a century, but it still finds new ways to entertain us.

This week, for example, we have two events, both involving two-run home runs, that cover the range from sublime to ridiculous–though opinions about which is which may legitimately vary.

First up, we’ve got Bartolo Colon.

Colon takes a lot of ridicule for his physique, but let’s not forget that he’s still playing professional baseball at age 42. That puts him in rare company. And on Saturday, he did something nobody has ever done before. He hit his first major league home run.

“But wait,” I hear somebody say, “haven’t baseball players been hitting home runs since forever?”

Well, yeah. But nobody has ever hit his first home run when he was 42.

Check it out.

Not bad for a guy who looks more like Jackie Gleason than Jackie Robinson.

Go Colon!

Then we’ve got J.T. Realmuto and Marcell Ozuna, who teamed up to turn a two-run home run into a one-run single.

“How?” you might ask.

Like this.

For those of you who lack the patience to watch the video, the short version is that Realmuto was too busy watching his home run leave the park* to pay attention to his teammate. Ozuna was on first when Realmuto bounced a ball off the kinetic sculpture behind the fence in left-center. Ozuna thought the ball had been caught–an easy mistake to make under the circumstances–so he went back to first. Realmuto touched first, took about two more steps, realized his mistake, and started doing his best impression of a man waiting for a bus.

* Or maybe he was distracted by sculpture doing its thing.

The rule is clear: if one runner passes another, he’s out. Since Realmuto made it to first before passing Ozuna, he was credited with a single. Once Ozuna realized the ball hadn’t been caught, he finished his trip around the bases and was credited with a run scored.

This does happen occasionally on a home run–apparently the Orioles turned the trick in 2006–but I’m quite sure that none of the 16,769 fans watching the game had seen it before.

Credit the Brewers for their alertness. They challenged the call before Ozuna even reached home. Clear proof that one can learn from experience. The exact same thing happened April 14: Randal Grichuk passed Brandon Moss on the basepath after hitting a home run. The Brewers missed it completely, and went on to lose the game 7-0, dropping their record to 4-5.

Even when they’re on the ball, though, it doesn’t help the Brewers much. The Marlins picked up three more runs and won the game 4-1.

For what it’s worth, the Brewers have thirty-nine home runs, tied for ninth in the majors. Maybe they should try instructing their home run hitters to pass the men on base. So far this season that seems to be a ticket to a victory; something the Brewers need far more than home runs.

Yer Outta Here!

This week, the San Francisco Giants have been involved in two plays in which fans were ejected from the stadium.

Last Tuesday, the Giants were playing in Colorado. In the sixth inning, Trevor Brown, their catcher, hit a home run*. The Rockies’ fan who caught the ball promptly threw it back onto the field.

* Brown may have wanted that ball. The home run was the second of his career, and it was also his second major league hit. He had another home run two innings later. That made him the first Giant since 1991 to have his first three hits of the season be home runs–and as far as I can tell, he’s the first Giant to start his career with three home runs.

Some ballparks allow that. In Chicago, for example, it’s not only allowed, it’s expected. Heaven forbid a loyal Cub fan should be contaminated by a home run ball from an opponent. Coors Field, however, does not. The fan and his two step-sons were escorted out.

Fast-forward to last night. Giants at home against Arizona.

Brandon Crawford sliced a ball to left field. It bounced a couple of feet inside the line, then rolled through the bullpen and up to the wall. Several fans reached over the wall, and one grabbed the ball.

Interference with a live ball is grounds for ejection in every park. The TV cameras not only caught the fan’s look of horror as he realized his mistake, but also the reaction of the woman sitting next to him. First she buried her face in her hands, her body language declaring, “I’ve never met this guy, and I hope I never do.” As he gathers his belongings, she pulls the hood of her sweatshirt over her face before following him out of the stadium.

Can you imagine the conversation they must have had on the way home? Is spectator interference a divorce-worthy offense? On the other hand, the ejection spared them the sight of the Giants blowing a 7-6 lead with two outs in the ninth inning and losing the game in the eleventh. Maybe she’ll forgive him if he buys her a ticket to tonight’s game, drives her to the park, and then stays outside, listening to the game on the radio…

In all seriousness, though, give the guy credit for class. He didn’t protest his ejection–he actually started packing up before Security arrived–and it doesn’t seem like he’s tried to capitalize on his notoriety. I haven’t found any news stories that identify him or suggest that he hung around to talk to reporters. It’ll be interesting to see who, if anyone, is in those seats tonight. Given the location, it’s entirely possible that the couple has season tickets.

Events played out somewhat differently in Colorado. The fan who threw the ball back onto the field, one Brandon Sanchez, hasn’t been shy about speaking to the press.

In fairness to Mr. Sanchez, let it be noted that he was acting from ignorance. The family arrived in the second inning*, so they missed the public address system announcement of the rule. Still, as the saying has it, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But apparently it’s worth rewarding.

* I’ve been saying for years that arriving late and leaving early destroys one’s enjoyment of the game. A shame the Sanchez family had to prove it.

The team invited them back, and they’re considering going to a game this week. Seems like a strange enforcement policy by the Rockies, but it does seem like the family has learned their lesson.

Hopefully, they’ll arrive before the game starts this time. If they show up in time for batting practice, they might even get a ball hit by one of the Rockies.