Swamp fox 2012-07-07 06:22:31
There’s no better proof than baseball that truth is stranger than fiction,
stranger than a Steve Bartman Halloween costume, stranger even than Michael
Jackson. And the 2003 season provided us with about eight billion examples
Fortunately, we were somehow able to boil them down to just our favorites.
So as we check our 2003 rear-view mirror one last time, here they come —
the Strange But True Feats of the Year:
How old is Luis Sojo? He played for the Yankees in a regular-season game and
their Old Timers Game.
Rand McNally’s Player of the Year: Dan Miceli became the first pitcher in
history to pitch in four different divisions in the same season (NL West, AL
East, AL Central, NL Central).
Life begins on May Day for some people. Roy Halladay won zero games in
April — and still led the American League in wins.
Speaking of league leaders … Russ Ortiz led the National League in wins —
Slow Starters Dept.: Juan Pierre, Cristian Guzman and Cesar Izturis hit
exactly zero home runs in their first 500 at-bats of the year — and then
all of them homered in September.
Big EEE Dept.: In a Sept. 10 Tigers-Yankees game, both first baseman (Carlos
Pena and Nick Johnson) committed three errors in the same game.
How They Didn’t Score Dept.: In an Aug. 21 game in Milwaukee, the Phillies
managed to get five straight hits without scoring a run. (They had one
runner thrown out at the plate, another nailed at second trying to stretch a
single and a third turn the wrong way after crossing first base and get
Was it the Curse of Cy Young? Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson
combined to make the week of April 9-15 the first week in history in which
three Cy Young winners gave up 10 runs or more in one game.
A Tale of Two Baseball Cities: Alan Trammell had more losing streaks of six
games or more in his first 30 games as Tigers manager (three) than Joe Torre
had in his first 1,162 games as Yankees manager (two).
All wins are not created equal. In a 12-inning Sept. 2 game in which 11
pitchers threw a combined 380 pitches for the Orioles and A’s, the winning
pitcher (Ricardo Rincon) was a guy who threw exactly one pitch.
Strange But True Interleague Feats of the Year
Who says there was no allure to that much-awaited Tigers-Padres interleague
duel? In a June 4 game between those two juggernauts, they each sent a
pitcher (Adam Eaton and Steve Avery) to the plate to get two pitchers to get
a pinch hit — in the same inning.
It was bound to happen one of these years. In a June 20 Giants-A’s game,
Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada became the first reigning MVPs ever to homer
in the same game (regular season or postseason).
He was the Babe Ruth of the 21st Century. The sensational Brooks
Kieschnick’s first three homers of the year came as a pinch hitter, as a
pitcher and as a DH.
Babe Continued Dept: And in the same three-game series in Baltimore,
Kieschnick served as the Brewers’ DH in one game, and pitched in the other
Maybe the Indians should have gotten C.C. Sabathia more at-bats. In their
June 20-22 visit to Pittsburgh, Sabathia became the first American League
pitcher in the DH era to get a hit in two different games of the same
As we were saying … But Cubs reliever Kyle Farnsworth topped that feat. He
got a win July 2 in a game in which he threw one pitch — and never retired
a hitter. (Paul Bako threw out Bobby Abreu stealing to end the inning.)
Kevin Heaven it wasn’t: When Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants in April, it
meant the Giants’ last three no-hitters had all come at the hands of
pitchers named Kevin (Millwood, Brown, Gross). And they’re still trying to
figure out why no other team has ever been no-hit by a pitcher named Kevin.
They can call their book “Ball Forty”: On May 15, Jesse Orosco, age 46,
walked Julio Franco, age 41 (or thereabouts).
One thing you couldn’t call the Blue Jays was sacrificial. On their way to a
record for fewest sacrifice bunts, they made it all the way from Opening Day
to Memorial Day without laying down even one sacrifice.
Wish You Weren’t Here Dept.: In a May 21 start against the Brewers, San
Diego’s Jake Peavy gave up more home runs to Geoff Jenkins (three) than he
gave up hits to all the other Brewers (two).
At Least He Got the Hang of It Dept.: After hitting no grand slams in 2,999
consecutive at-bats, Boston’s Bill Mueller switch-hit grand slams from each
side of the plate in back-to-back innings, July 29 in Texas. The Rangers, of
course, had allowed no slams all year before that.
Look Ma, No Swings: In a June 20 game in Arizona, Reds closer Scott
Williamson blew a save without a bat touching a ball — on a walk, wild
pickoff and wild pitch.
Variety was obviously the spice of Johnny Damon’s life. In that crazy June
27 game in which the Red Sox scored 10 runs before the Marlins recorded an
out and put up 14 runs in the first inning, Damon became the first player in
history to get three different kinds of hits (single, double, triple) in one
Even in this age of specialization, this was a little ridiculous: In a June
11 start against the Braves, Oakland’s Ted Lilly gave up five homers — and
no other hits.
So much for the Dynamic Duo. In June and July, the Diamondbacks won 26
consecutive games (including 12 in a row at one point) in which the winning
pitcher wasn’t Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling.
Mr. Consistency: Over three straight starts in April, the Brewers’ Glendon
Rusch gave up 11 hits, then one hit, then 11 hits.
They should have just given the scoreboard guy the week off: From July
12-20, the Indians scored exactly four runs (never more, never less) in
seven straight games.
Nobody Claimed the Ball Was Juiced Dept.: In five straight games starting
July 24, the Dodgers played games in which the final scores were 1-0, 2-1,
1-0, 1-0 and 2-0. Last team to play five games in which that few runs were
scored: the 1906 Cubs.
The Dodgers Couldn’t Make It Dept.: The Expos won two games in which they
gave up exactly 17 hits in the same series (July 25-28, against the Braves
in San Juan).
Strange But True Sweepers
of the Year
Buy this team an electric broom: The Twins’ first seven series of the year
were all sweeps. They swept three of them, but got swept themselves in the
Sweep of the Year: Gotta love those Tigers. When they got swept in a May 1
doubleheader by the Orioles, the Game 1 winning pitcher (B.J. Ryan) never
threw a pitch. (He came in and picked off Omar Infante to end the seventh
inning). Then their own Mike Maroth took a no-hitter into the eighth inning
of Game 2 — but still found a way to become the losing pitcher.
Let’s Not Play Two Dept.: The Expos became the first team since the 1975
Twins to get swept in three different doubleheaders on the same road trip.
Somebody buy the Pirates a case of Mr. Clean. It took them 44 games and an
unbelievable 191 trips to the plate, but finally, on May 18, the Pirates
became the last team in baseball to get a home run from their cleanup
We bet Reds pitcher Jeff Austin doesn’t sing “Start Me Up” out loud in his
car. On May 23, he became the first pitcher since 1974 to get knocked out of
back-to-back starts in the first inning — without getting hurt. (It took
him 11 hitters, over two starts, just to get an out.)
Pitcher’s Very Best Friend Dept.: The Twins turned a bases-loaded double
play, on Aug. 21 against Kansas City, in which they got both outs at home.
(Doug Mientkiewicz caught a Brent Mayne ground ball and went home for the
force. A.J. Pierzynski’s throw back to first hit the runner. Luis Rivas
picked up the ball and threw out Ken Harvey at home.)
They Shop at K-Mart Dept. Those resourceful Twins also scored two runs on a
strikeout Aug. 12. (Strikeout, wild pitch, wild throw home by the first
Dr. Hank and Mr. Blalock: Texas third baseman Hank Blalock had maybe the
most bizarre game of the season May 16. He drove in six runs and struck out
four times — in the same game.
D j vu: Thanks to his midseason release by the Angels, Kevin Appier faced
the Yankees three times in four starts — in three different ballparks (in
Anaheim on July 29 in his final start as an Angel, in Kansas City on Aug. 13
and in Yankee Stadium on Aug. 19).
Who says the Rangers had no pitching? Texas’ R.A. Dickey had a save and a
complete-game shutout in the same series (Aug. 18-20 in Detroit).
I Don’t Love New York Dept.: In Tom Glavine’s last 282 starts as a Brave,
they never got blown out in a game he started by 13 runs or more. So
naturally, his first start as a Met was a 15-2 loss.
Why They Have Customs: Mike Bordick committed no errors in his final 110
games as an Oriole. So of course, he committed an error in his first game as
a Blue Jay.
Where’s the DH when you need one? Steve Trachsel threw a complete-game
one-hitter Aug. 18 in which the only hit was by the opposing pitcher
(Chin-Hui Tsao) — who, of course, had gotten no other hits in his career
Nice debut: The first two homers of Reds rookie Ryan Freel’s career came
against Randy Johnson and Billy Wagner. At the time, Wagner hadn’t allowed a
run in nearly six weeks.
Anybody have a full-moon chart? In the same game, Phillies pitcher Vicente
Padilla batted left-handed, then right-handed, then left-handed again in his
first three at-bats — all against the same pitcher (Carl Pavano).
Strange But True Minor League Feats of the Year
Strange But True Minor League Inning of the Year: On May 1, the
ever-innovative Trenton Thunder batted around against Norwich — without an
official at-bat. How? Easy. Seven straight walks, a hit batter and a
Minor League Coco-nuts of the Year: In a May 19 Indianapolis-Buffalo game,
Indianapolis pitcher Pasqual Coco was ejected for exchanging several angry,
unprintable words with (who else?) Buffalo outfielder Coco Crisp. Since we
never get tired of this line, we’ll fire it out one more time: That’ll be
two hot Cocos to go.
Strange But True Minor League Streak of the Year: Albuquerque’s legendary
Rob Stratton (175 strikeouts, 79 hits in 2003) struck out in 16 consecutive
trips to the plate from Aug. 11-16 — and then homered (of course).
Nah, they didn’t need any September call-ups: In a nine-inning game on Sept.
6, the Expos got pinch hits from two different relief pitchers (T.J. Tucker
and Joey Eischen) in the same game.
Rainout of the year: In a May 11 non-game at Wrigley, the Cubs’ Matt Clement
allowed 11 runs and the Cardinals’ Brett Tomko gave up nine in the same
game — only to have none of them count.
And their favorite station is WKRP: Twice in 2003, the Phillies scored at
least 10 runs in an inning — both in the same road park (April 13 and June
14, in Cincinnati).
You can’t say Blue Jays rookie Reed Johnson couldn’t finish what he started.
On June 21, he hit a leadoff and a walkoff home run in the same game (and
got so hot, he then hit a total of one homer in July and August).
The True Meaning of Stardom Dept.: Armando Benitez became the first player
in history to make an All-Star team, and then get traded twice in the next
It wasn’t enough for the Yankees to attempt to collect the entire American
League All-Star team. In July, they became the first American League team
ever to have two members of that year’s National League All-Star team on
their roster at the same time (Benitez and Aaron Boone).
Back To Back To Back To Back To Back To Back Dept.: Boston’s Jason Varitek
was part of back-to-back homers six times this year — with six different
When is a complete game the most misleading stat of the day? On Aug. 28,
Devil Rays pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez threw a complete game against the A’s —
and still got ejected from it (for grumbling about umpire Joe Brinkman on
the way to the dugout, then tossing a bunch of bags of sunflower seeds onto
Collect the Whole Set Dept.: In the same Yankees-Red Sox series in July,
Byung Hyun-Kim had a win, a loss, a save and a blown save.
Bobblehead of the Year: Torii Hunter got ejected on his own Bobblehead Night
Math Major of the Year: In his big-league debut, Diamondbacks rookie Oscar
Villareal threw one pitch — and racked up a strikeout. (He came in after an
injury to Bret Prinz, threw a third strike to Hideo Nomo and got a whiff out
Finally, nothing Jack McKeon did in October would have surprised you if
you’d seen this: In a Sept. 16 game in Philadelphia, McKeon pinch-hit-for
his Nos. 3-4-5 hitters in a row.