Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Was Zeus a Pirates Fan?

There are no weather reports for March 4, 1884, but I have a feeling storms were in the forecast for Arnot, Pennsylvania. I know what you’re thinking:  “So what? That was over a hundred years ago.” Well, as it turns out, that was the time and place future major leaguer John Joseph “Red” Murray came into the world. And it was on today’s date in 1914 that he made the game-winning catch in the top of the 21st inning at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Now, there are several reasons this game stands out in the history of Major League Baseball. The improbable number of innings alone sets a National League record. On top of that, both starting pitchers – Babe Adams of the Pirates and Rube Marquard of the Giants – pitched complete games, Adams allowing NO WALKS. If you know anything about baseball, you understand what a great feat that was! Also, Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner was ejected from the game in the sixth inning after a bizarre play:  he tried to conceal the ball in his armpit while running the bases. I would have enjoyed seeing that one!

Any of these facts alone would make for an incredible game. For all of them to happen in the same game is even more amazing. But wait until you hear how it ended. The New York Giants pulled ahead in the bottom of the 20th with a 2-run homerun by Larry Doyle. The Pirates came up to bat in the top of the 21st. Two out, batter up; Red Murray is a right fielder, the ball comes flying at him – and he makes the game-winning catch…. immediately followed by a lightning strike, knocking him unconscious. I heard once that a person’s odds of winning the lottery are about equal to a submarine being struck by lightning. Guess Red won the jackpot that day.

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