The day began with the awarding of the gold and brown ropes. I received another gold rope nomination for yesterday's win, which was really gratifying. Of course I was so excited about getting to pitch and being able to deliver under pressure felt great.
Stearns announced the various brown rope nominations, including one for a guy who was almost picked off second base on an infield fly rule play. It was in our game, and truth be told, the ump missed the call and the guy was out by a full step.
The brown rope went to Pat Zachry for pulling a hamstring -- while bowling. Zachry was nowhere to be found, so Stearns awarded the rope in absentia, which he pronounced "absent-ee-a," sending the room into a giggling frenzy. "Hey," said Stearns, "when I went to Colorado" (where he was on football scholarship) "I majored in eligibility."
Then Zachry walked in, and Stearns presented him with his noose. Zachry replied in his trademark west Texas deputy dog drawl without missing a beat, "I always wanted to be hung."
We went into the day 2-2 - respectable, but not great. In game one, Larry Gross pitched his heart out against a team that was 4-0, and which was frankly stacked with great players. We all battled like hell, and the turning point happened when the ump called a ball down the line fair, when it was clearly foul. Our manager Duffy Dyer, who was a, er, silent presence for much of the week, did a very good impersonation of Earl Weaver, the Baltimore Orioles manager who famously bedeviled umpires by, how shall I put it, pointedly disagreeing with their decision making skills.
So Duffy complained colorfully to the umpire, who for some reason neglected to throw him out of the game, and we took that as a sign that he really wanted us to win, which is what we proceeded to do. I went 2 for 3 with a double to right center and an RBI single, and we won something like 16-10.
We played against the team coached by Tim Bogar, who is one of the class acts in baseball. I was playing third, and he was coaching third, and as the game progressed, I'd ask questions about the game. Where should I play? What should I be thinking in this situation? Things like that. Some coaches take the game really seriously, and a few might be less than totally forthcoming, but not Bogie. He was really helpful, and it made the game a lot of fun. He's a AA manager for Akron in the Indians organization, and the talk is that he's on track to manage in the majors before long.
So our win over Bogie’s team put us into the playoff game to determine the third place finisher. Third in a field of ten is very respectable, since there was a pretty high level of play this week. (This doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination that players without a lot of experience can't contribute or have the time of their lives - more on that later.)
Duffy handed me the ball for the afternoon game. One of the trainers rubbed my arm out during lunch and I was feeling as well as I had in days. Those guys are miracle workers, I swear.
So I took the mound feeling confident that I could pitch effectively, even if I was running out of gas in general. After three days of solid baseball and five games, we were all completely wiped out. Nobody’s legs were working properly, most of our arms were really sore, and there were all sorts of bizarre and funky injuries – one guy had his toenail lanced, for example. Goldstein and his bad hammy had him crab running like some kind of creature out of Star Wars – funny to watch, and inspiring.
In the first inning, I threw about five pitches to get three quick outs, backed up by three terrific plays in the field. I think we scored two in our half of the inning, so I was staked to a nice little lead.
The second inning was the same. It might have taken ten pitches to work through the next three batters. We added a few more runs.
By the time I sat down in the dugout after the third, I asked my catcher John Brooks a question and he answered it, then said, “Oh I forgot, I’m not supposed to talk to you.” I had a perfect game going. Dugout etiquette dictates that if a pitcher has a no-hitter going, he is to be ignored. Perhaps it's superstition, or maybe it's to keep him focused on pitching, but I was having a ball being ignored.
The fourth was more of the same – I kept throwing sliders low and away, kept throwing strikes, and we were playing defense like crazy men. In the first four innings, shortstop Chris Berlingo came across to the second base side on a ball through the box that I couldn’t handle. Vic Bellavia stabbed a liner at second. I came off the mound to field a little dribbler off the plate and made a strong throw to first to get the runner. Ed Pecinka tracked down some well hit balls to left.
This was getting interesting.
I took the mound in the fifth and Lenny Randle, that class clown, decided he wanted to umpire, and gave the ump a rest and dug in behind the catcher. For some reason, I agreed to this insanity and proceeded throw three straight balls. When he called the forth pitch, which was close enough, a ball, I said enough and kicked him off the field.
The perfect game was gone, and I don't remember exactly how it went, but with first and second, I threw away a comebacker and the shutout was gone, but I did manage to get out of the inning without giving up any hits. The no-no was intact.
In the bottom of the fifth darkness was setting in, and when the other team's pitcher was hit with a line drive, the coaches called the game on account of darkness and I ended up with the weirdest of no-hitters - shortened by darkness and not a shoutout, but technically a no-hitter.
Heck, I'll take it.
My final numbers - 8 for 16 for a .500 batting average, 2-0 pitching record, with 12 innings pitched, 10 strikeouts, and one earned run for a .083 ERA. What an amazing week. We went 4-2, finished third, and really came together as a team.