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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bizzarre Fielding Video: The Metrodome's First Triple Play May 29, 1982

  • Six men in a box. Nettles retreats to 1st as Gaetti
    is arriving with ball. Lenny Faedo (12) wonders just what his
    role is in the play, while Ron Washington points at Murcer.

  • For you kids at home, score this one as a 1-2-5-3-1 triple play. "Holy Cow!," as Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto exclaimed (though Twins oldies like to credit Halsey Hall (sound file) with originating the phrase).

    The crazy play as seen in the video occurred on May 29, 1982 at the brand new H.H.H. Metrodome (humorously cynical Deadspin review). Minnesota and the Yankees were scoreless in the 2nd inning, with righthander Terry Felton on the mound for Minnesota. The weekend series against New York was the fourth homestand for the Twins at the new facility. They were in the midst of an inglorious 14-game losing streak.

    Baserunning Comedy

    The Yankees had put runners on first (Graig Nettles) and second (Bobby Murcer) with no outs. Roy Smalley then struck out on a wide 3-2 pitch from Terry Felton, with Murcer attempting to steal third base. Rifle-armed Sal Butera (right photo) threw to Gary Gaetti so far ahead of baserunning Bobby that he tried returning to second. Problem was, former Twin Nettles was standing on the bag by then (ooops!) as part of the hit and run play. He retreated back to first. 

  • Gaetti uselessly tagged Murcer after the rundown before throwing to Kent Hrbek to catch Nettles...then, Murcer, the smart ballplayer of many great years, inexplicably went back to third! Hrbek threw to Felton at third to complete the triple play, with zany left fielder Mickey Hatcher backing up the bag. None of this would ultimately matter, as the Yankees pulled off a 6-4 win with two runs in the ninth.

Trivial Trivia

Felton (see Michael Rand 2010 story update) was 0-8 coming into the game, and got a no-decision after Brad Havens came in to blow the lead in the sixth inning. He would lose another 5 to finish his career with an 0-16 record.

Bobby Murcer (left, BD photo)was the last of the 1960’s Mickey Mantle New York Yankees remaining on the roster. He, in fact, had been tabbed as the heir apparent to the Mick - always a “great” thing that, heaping expectations on a young player. The Oklahoman was good enough to earn 3 straight top-ten MVP finishes early in his career. He had been traded even up to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in the 70’s, and had also been a Cub; New York brought him back in 1979 as a part-time player.

Craig Nettles, playing the role of Fred Astaire in his sashay back to first, would go on to several more fine seasons. He was profiled earlier at this blog (“The One That Got Away.”). Former Twin Roy Smalley had been a Yankee for less than two months, while Butch Wynegar was in pinstripes for just over two weeks after six seasons as a Twin. Of the three, only Roy would again know the joys of playing regularly on the Dome's carpeted cement pile, the lucky guy, after his 1985 trade back to the Twins.

The young Twins of 1982 represented a completely different era from the teams that had occupied Met Stadium from 1961 to 1981. Even in losing, they were thoroughly entertaining. One could see the talent in the young Gaettis, Brunanskys, Laudners, etc., and the smoke wafting out of the runway of the dugout (pregame heaters) but one knew that growing pains would be the rule for some time out. Kent Hrbek was already the star of the team, building a case (link to stats coming into that game) for inclusion on the '82 All-Star team.

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

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