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.