Mike Vaccaro has a column up today talking about Derek Jeter in twilight and he notes that the touchstone reference for an aging athlete is “Willie Mays falling down in the outfield” or “Willie Mays stumbling in the outfield” (as I’ve often heard it) during his final season with the New York Mets.
If you hear some people talk about it, you’d think he spent the entire 1973 season constantly stumbling out there, in need of help from paramedics and stuck in a half-dumbfounded state for months. As Vaccaro notes, however, this was actually a one-time deal. The meme springs from one play in the 1973 World Series. On a day when everyone was having trouble in the outfield due to the hazy sky.
History is tough like that, though. And, obviously, when you have a stumble like that during the World Series — back when everyone watched the World Series — it’s going to hold a little stronger. Still: kinda nuts that Mays has that hung on him so much. Surprising how strongly a single play resonates. And it says something — something not altogether flattering — about the person relating the story. About how it’s hard for them to watch athletes get old and how that discomfort is what should decide whether or not they hang it up.
I wonder what Willie Mays thought about the night after the game he stumbled. I wonder if he felt good and vital and dandy. Or if he thought “well, that sucked, but tomorrow is another day.” Or if he carried with him all the psychic weight that those who tell the tale seem to want him and other aging athletes to carry.
UPDATE: He’s perfect through eight! He has ten strikeouts on the night. One more inning to go. And, of course, the Dodgers need to give him at least one run or else this thing doesn’t end in nine. Note: No Dodgers pitcher has tossed a perfecto since Sandy Koufax did it against the Chicago Cubs on September 9, 1965.
9:09 PM: Dodgers starter Rich Hill is facing off against the Pirates in Pittsburgh tonight. And he’s not having any trouble with them: he’s absolutely perfect though seven innings. He’s needed 73 pitches to get that far, so if he can keep the perfection up he certainly has enough in the tank to finish it.
Thing is: he may not even get the win. That’s because Pirates starter Trevor Williams has blanked the Dodgers through eight, scattering seven hits and four walks yet, somehow, not allowing a run to score.
The Pirates are coming to bat in the bottom of the eighth. We’ll keep you posted.
On September 20, 2015, Zach Britton blew a save against the Rays. Little did he know that he wouldn’t blow another save until August 23, 2017, converting 60 consecutive save opportunities.
Britton took the mound with a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Athletics. He yielded a single to Jed Lowrie, a double to Boog Powell, an RBI single to Marcus Semien, and a sacrifice fly to Matt Joyce to allow the A’s to close the two-run deficit. In the next at-bat, he uncorked a wild pitch and then walked Khris Davis before being removed from the game. Miguel Castro relieved Britton, but walked Ryon Healy on four pitches to load the bases. Castro wriggled out of the jam by getting Matt Olson to pop up and striking out Matt Chapman, stranding two of Britton’s runners.
Britton entered Wednesday’s action 11-for-11 in save chances on the season with a 2.88 ERA and a 19/12 K/BB ratio in 25 innings. He missed two months earlier this season with a strained left forearm.