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.
On Sunday, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles spoke to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. Giles said, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston.” Giles won a World Series with the Astros last year, but talked about communication issues with the Astros and compared them unfavorably to the Blue Jays. Giles described the communication as having been “lost” and credited the Jays for staying patient with him.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch responded to Giles’ comments on Monday. Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Hinch said:
I think he’s wrong and I’m disappointed that he would go down that path given how much work and time and energy and communication that our front office, our coaching staff, me, we all went through this with him. And I understand, there was some disappointment in his tenure as an Astro because of the turbulent way things went about. We gave him every opportunity, we communicated with him effectively, we have an incredible culture where every single player will tell you it’s one of the best cultures they’ve had, one of the best communication envrionments they’ve had. They all know their roles. They all know their situations. To have one person out of all the guys in our clubhouse come out and claim otherwise is flat wrong.
While Giles certainly could be embellishing or deliberately misconstruing his time there, Hinch’s rebuttal doesn’t actually disqualify anything Giles said. Giles certainly could have had a negative experience in Houston even if everyone else was enjoying the “incredible culture” and “one of the best communication environments.”
Given how the Astros — including Hinch — responded to criticism about their acquiring an accused domestic abuser, they’re not in the best position to boast about an “incredible culture” anyway.
At any rate, this is a he-said, he-said situation. If anything more comes of it, it will be Giles further torching a bridge.