I’m guessing that Reds and A’s fans — and other fans of a certain age — knew this already, but I had never heard this story about Rollie Fingers, Johnny Bench and the intentional walk that wasn’t from the 1972 World Series:
With Bench standing in the box expecting a wide pitchout, Fingers broke off a slider for called strike three.
“When (manager) Dick Williams came to the mound and told me, ‘We’re going to fake an intentional pass to Bench, but throw a strike. But don’t throw a fastball because he is a fastball hitter,’” Fingers said. “I said, ‘What? What are you talking about? Is this Little League or what?,” Fingers said he told Williams.
But being a good corporal, Fingers followed orders. “I threw probably the best slider I’d ever thrown in my life,” he said of the called strike three. “When I see Johnny Bench, I never mention it. But he usually brings it up and says, ‘That was the most embarrassing moment of my life.’”
If that happened today there would probably be a week’s worth of reports about the “unwritten rules.” Ethicists would be called in for talking head segments on SportsCenter. HardballTalk would probably devote 200 posts to it, all of which would begin by BC calling Fingers “a chipwich” and all of which would devolve into arguments about whether cake or pie is better.
Put differently, it would be glorious.
But now it’s just a footnote. One I had never heard of despite my baseball obsession. I had never heard of it because there is just so damn much baseball history, trivia, shenanigans and tomfoolery out there and no one person can possibly know it all. Or even a majority of it.
And that is glorious too.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.