Quirkiest Baseball Failures II

Part two of Failure magazine's two-part series.

April 1, 1985: Sports Illustrated publishes an article by George Plimpton entitled “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” which chronicles the story of a 28-year-old New York Mets pitching prospect capable of throwing a 168 mph fastball. Equally notable, the gangly, six-foot-four hurler pitches wearing a heavy hiking boot on one foot while the other remains bare. The article also reveals that Finch (portrayed in photographs by Joe Berton, a junior high school art teacher from Illinois) is torn between making a living as a big league pitcher and a career playing the French horn. Countless SI readers, media types, and baseball insiders fall for the hoax before word spreads that the first letters of the article’s subhead—He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga, and his future in baseball—spell out “Happy April Fools Day.”

May 29, 2004: The Brockton (Mass.) Rox—a minor league baseball team based 25 miles south of Boston—schedules Grady Little Appreciation Night for this date and plans a promotion that includes the distribution of 1,000 Grady Little bobble-arm dolls. The doll’s right arm moves up and down (mimicking the signal a manager gives to summon a relief pitcher from the bullpen), something the former Boston Red Sox manager failed to do early enough in a year-earlier loss to the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. The promotion is canceled after the team is besieged by angry phone calls from Red Sox fans still frustrated by Little’s mistake.

September 7, 1974: After hitting a home run in his first at-bat in a game against the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees third baseman Craig Nettles connects for a broken-bat single, leaving Tigers catcher Bill Freehan to scramble for the super balls that come bouncing out of the splintered lumber. Nettles is called out on the play, but his home run is allowed to stand and the Yankees win 1-0.

April 17, 2009: Washington Nationals players Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman play part of a game against the Florida Marlins wearing jerseys with the team nickname spelled as “Natinals.” Later, the uniform company takes the blame for the errors: “All of us at Majestic Athletic want to apologize to both the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball for accidentally omitting the ‘o’ in two Nationals jerseys,” says Majestic Athletic president Jim Pisani in a statement.

July 16, 1990: Steve “Psycho” Lyons, a utility infielder for the Chicago White Sox, bunts the ball during a game against the Detroit Tigers and proceeds to dive headlong into first base, where he is called safe by umpire Jim Evans. Tigers pitcher Dan Petry argues the call, and Lyons, absorbed in the discussion, absent-mindedly pulls his pants down and casually brushes away the dirt that had lodged inside his uniform. The argument stops, and Lyons, realizing his blunder, flashes an I-can’t-believe-I-pulled-my-pants-down gape.

May 16, 2004: Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa suffers back spasms in the team’s clubhouse prior to a game against the San Diego Padres, the spasms brought on by a pair of violent sneezes. Ultimately the Cubs place Sosa on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ligament in his lower back.

April 26, 1962: The New York Mets acquire catcher Harry Chiti from the Cleveland Indians for cash and a “player to be named later.” After Chiti bats a mere .195 in 15 games, the Mets send him back to Cleveland, in effect making Chiti the first major league baseball player to be traded for himself.

October 30, 2003: The Tribune Company—owner of both the Chicago Cubs baseball team and the Hartford Courant newspaper—mistakenly makes the last of three deposits totaling $301,102.50 into the bank account of Courant deliveryman Mark Guthrie. The payments are intended for the other Mark Guthrie on the Tribune payroll, a relief pitcher for the Cubs.

May 27, 1991: Rodney McCray, a minor league outfielder for the Vancouver Canadians, crashes through the plywood right-field fence at Civic Stadium (Portland, Oregon) while attempting to catch a fly ball hit by Chip Hale.

April 17, 1972: The hang gliding daredevil “Kiteman” skis down a ramp at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, intending to soar to home plate and deliver the ceremonial first ball of the Phillies’ season. Blown off course by a gust of wind, Kiteman clips a row of seats, crashes into the railing of the upper deck, and hurls the ball into the Phillies bullpen, more than 400 feet from its intended destination.

Quirkiest Baseball Failures part one