That point Tippy Martinez picked off three Blue Jays in a single inning in the course of the 1983 playoff race

The growth Blue Jays went 54-107 in 1977, their first season within the majors, and performed at a 100-plus loss clip in three of their subsequent 5 years. It was robust sledding, however they turned the nook in 1983, the franchise’s sixth season and Bobby Cox’s second because the membership’s supervisor. 

The Jays entered their sport towards the Orioles on Aug. 24 with a 70-55 report, simply 1 1/2 video games out of first place within the tightly contested NL East (the fifth-place Yankees had been simply 3 1/2 out of first). That backdrop makes what occurred on a fateful Wednesday evening in Baltimore much more painful. 

In truth, the Orioles media information the subsequent 12 months mentioned this in regards to the sport: “Nobody who was there or who listened to that sport on the radio will ever overlook it.”

MORE: That point a participant obtained a success for 2 groups, in two cities, on the identical day

It’s not simply that the Jays misplaced to the Orioles — who had been 69-52 — on a walk-off house run. And it’s not simply that they misplaced once more on a walk-off on Thursday evening in Baltimore and misplaced once more on a walk-off on Friday evening in Detroit and misplaced once more on a walk-off Sunday evening in Detroit — yep, 4 walk-off losses in a five-game stretch — it’s how they fell to the Orioles on that Wednesday evening, a “demise by a thousand paper cuts” vogue. 

Nicely, perhaps simply three paper cuts, adopted by an enormous ol’ intestine punch.

Right here’s the state of affairs. The Jays carried a 3-1 lead into the ninth, however Baltimore rallied to tie the sport on a pair of two-out RBI singles, by Benny Alaya and Al Bumbry, to ship the sport to further innings. The Alaya hit was vital, not simply because he delivered the RBI base knock, however as a result of he was introduced into the sport as a pinch hitter for catcher Joe Nolan, who had entered the sport as a pinch-hitter for catcher Rick Dempsey within the seventh inning.

Right here’s the factor: The Orioles solely had two catchers on the roster, and each Dempsey and Nolan had departed in favor of pinch-hitters. That meant Lenn Sakata, the center infielder with precisely zero video games of expertise as a catcher in skilled baseball, needed to are available to catch the tenth inning. He’d recognized he was the emergency catcher since again in spring coaching, when the two-catcher technique was hatched, however he in all probability figured that meant “emergency in case of accidents” and never “emergency in case of pinch-hitting.” Apart from, it was late August and he hadn’t donned the instruments of ignorance but, so no manner it will occur within the late innings of a tie sport towards a division rival within the warmth of a playoff race, proper? 

With with Sakata transferring from second to catcher, outfielder John Lowenstein moved to second base; Lowenstein was 36 and hadn’t performed second base since 1975. Gary Roenicke had pinch-hit for third baseman Wealthy Dauer within the ninth, so he needed to play third base. He’d been within the majors since 1976 and had by no means performed a single inning wherever on the infield, other than a handful of video games at first base.

Baltimore supervisor Joe Altobelli later referred to it as his “humorous farm lineup,” in line with The Sporting Information write-up within the Sept. 5, 1983, challenge. 

It’s proper now that we pause and simply think about the Twitter response if a supervisor within the warmth of a playoff chase in late August tried to tug one thing like this. Pure chaos, proper?

OK, let’s get again to the sport. 

The Blue Jays had been, clearly, very excited in regards to the prospect of stealing bases off Sakata. And why wouldn’t they be? 

Cliff Johnson led off the highest of the tenth with a solo house run to offer Toronto a 4-3 lead, after which Tim Stoddard walked Barry Bonnell. Altobelli introduced in lefty reliever Tippy Martinez, and Cox countered by changing Jesse Barfield — a right-handed energy hitter — with Dave Collins, a speedy switch-hitting pinch hitter. 

“I knew they’d be operating as a result of Lenny was behind the plate,” Martinez mentioned on the time, in line with TSN, “and no person knew how he’d react to the scenario. I by no means throw to first base that usually. If I get three in a 12 months it is quite a bit.”

The primary out …

To assist distract Sakata, Collins stepped into the batter’s field on the left aspect, as an alternative of on the proper aspect as he usually would towards the lefty Martinez. Collins by no means noticed a pitch from the left aspect of the plate, although. 

“I feel our technique was to maintain throwing to first till the lights went out,” Sakata mentioned. 

Bonnell had respectable pace — 24 whole stolen bases in 1982-83 — however he was jumpy. So, desperate to advance 90 toes, he took off towards second earlier than Martinez began to pitch. Martinez threw to first baseman Eddie Murray, who chased down Bonnell and tagged him out. 

The second out …

Collins moved again to the aspect proper of the plate and labored a stroll. He was a way more achieved base-stealer than Bonnell, and it appeared inevitable that he would wind up on second and doubtless third. Collins had 237 stolen bases in his profession heading into that sport, together with 79 in 1980 for the Reds. He’d swipe 60 for the Jays in 1984. 

“John Sullivan was the primary base coach,” Buck Martinez recalled on this video after the actual fact. “And he says, ‘Hear, you’ve obtained one out, now don’t get picked off.’”

Nicely, you understand what occurred. Martinez made his transfer, Collins flinched towards second as an alternative of first, and Murray tagged out Collins for the second out.

The third out … 

Willie Upshaw reached on an infield single that Lowenstein fielded at second however couldn’t make a play — bear in mind how he hadn’t performed the place in virtually a decade? — and there’s no manner it occurs a 3rd time in the identical inning proper. Proper? 


Upshaw was the primary baseman, however he had stable pace — he swiped at the very least 10 bases 5 completely different seasons in his profession — and who couldn’t steal second base towards a transformed infielder catching for the primary time in his life? 

However, yeah, Upshaw was picked off, too. This one wasn’t essentially his fault. Not like Bonnell, who ran to second, or Collins, who was “caught leaning,” Upshaw was diving again to first when he was tagged out by Murray. The transfer by Martinez was actually, actually good. Like, unbelievably good, to the purpose that Cox lodged a protest after the inning.

“There wasn’t a balk known as,” Martinez mentioned. “So I feel I did a reasonably good job.” 

The kicker …

Cal Ripken Jr. led off the underside of the tenth with a game-tying house run, and walks to Murray and John Shelby put two runners on with two out. Guess who stepped to the plate?

Yep, Sakata. The infielder with 14 profession homers, a .226 common and 69 OPS+ in his first six seasons within the majors promptly socked a three-run homer. I couldn’t discover the video so I don’t know if he raced across the bases, however I wish to suppose he took his time, making particularly positive that he didn’t soar eagerly away from first base.

By the point the Blue Jays’ skid of walk-off losses ended, they had been 5 video games again within the NL East. It’s not that they collapsed down the stretch — they had been 19-18 of their final 37 video games — however the Orioles caught hearth, closing with a 29-12 report to say the division title, after which they went 7-2 in October to say the World Collection crown. 

Martinez was good within the postseason, rolling up a 1.00 ERA in 9 innings. He didn’t have a pick-off in October, although.  

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