- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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There's no better proof than baseball that truth is stranger than fiction, stranger than a Steve Bartman Halloween costume, stranger even than Michael Jackson. And the 2003 season provided us with about eight billion examples of that.
Fortunately, we were somehow able to boil them down to just our favorites. So as we check our 2003 rear-view mirror one last time, here they come -- the Strange But True Feats of the Year:
How old is Luis Sojo? He played for the Yankees in a regular-season game and their Old Timers Game.
Rand McNally's Player of the Year: Dan Miceli became the first pitcher in history to pitch in four different divisions in the same season (NL West, AL East, AL Central, NL Central).
Life begins on May Day for some people. Roy Halladay won zero games in April -- and still led the American League in wins.
Speaking of league leaders ... Russ Ortiz led the National League in wins -- and walks.
How They Didn't Score Dept.: In an Aug. 21 game in Milwaukee, the Phillies managed to get five straight hits without scoring a run. (They had one runner thrown out at the plate, another nailed at second trying to stretch a single and a third turn the wrong way after crossing first base and get tagged out.)
Was it the Curse of Cy Young? Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson combined to make the week of April 9-15 the first week in history in which three Cy Young winners gave up 10 runs or more in one game.
A Tale of Two Baseball Cities: Alan Trammell had more losing streaks of six games or more in his first 30 games as Tigers manager (three) than Joe Torre had in his first 1,162 games as Yankees manager (two).
All wins are not created equal. In a 12-inning Sept. 2 game in which 11 pitchers threw a combined 380 pitches for the Orioles and A's, the winning pitcher (Ricardo Rincon) was a guy who threw exactly one pitch.
As we were saying ... But Cubs reliever Kyle Farnsworth topped that feat. He got a win July 2 in a game in which he threw one pitch -- and never retired a hitter. (Paul Bako threw out Bobby Abreu stealing to end the inning.)
Kevin Heaven it wasn't: When Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants in April, it meant the Giants' last three no-hitters had all come at the hands of pitchers named Kevin (Millwood, Brown, Gross). And they're still trying to figure out why no other team has ever been no-hit by a pitcher named Kevin.
They can call their book "Ball Forty": On May 15, Jesse Orosco, age 46, walked Julio Franco, age 41 (or thereabouts).
One thing you couldn't call the Blue Jays was sacrificial. On their way to a record for fewest sacrifice bunts, they made it all the way from Opening Day to Memorial Day without laying down even one sacrifice.
At Least He Got the Hang of It Dept.: After hitting no grand slams in 2,999 consecutive at-bats, Boston's Bill Mueller switch-hit grand slams from each side of the plate in back-to-back innings, July 29 in Texas. The Rangers, of course, had allowed no slams all year before that.
Look Ma, No Swings: In a June 20 game in Arizona, Reds closer Scott Williamson blew a save without a bat touching a ball -- on a walk, wild pickoff and wild pitch.
Variety was obviously the spice of Johnny Damon's life. In that crazy June 27 game in which the Red Sox scored 10 runs before the Marlins recorded an out and put up 14 runs in the first inning, Damon became the first player in history to get three different kinds of hits (single, double, triple) in one inning.
Even in this age of specialization, this was a little ridiculous: In a June 11 start against the Braves, Oakland's Ted Lilly gave up five homers -- and no other hits.
So much for the Dynamic Duo. In June and July, the Diamondbacks won 26 consecutive games (including 12 in a row at one point) in which the winning pitcher wasn't Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling.
Mr. Consistency: Over three straight starts in April, the Brewers' Glendon Rusch gave up 11 hits, then one hit, then 11 hits.
They should have just given the scoreboard guy the week off: From July 12-20, the Indians scored exactly four runs (never more, never less) in seven straight games.
Nobody Claimed the Ball Was Juiced Dept.: In five straight games starting July 24, the Dodgers played games in which the final scores were 1-0, 2-1, 1-0, 1-0 and 2-0. Last team to play five games in which that few runs were scored: the 1906 Cubs.
The Dodgers Couldn't Make It Dept.: The Expos won two games in which they gave up exactly 17 hits in the same series (July 25-28, against the Braves in San Juan).
Somebody buy the Pirates a case of Mr. Clean. It took them 44 games and an unbelievable 191 trips to the plate, but finally, on May 18, the Pirates became the last team in baseball to get a home run from their cleanup hitter.
We bet Reds pitcher Jeff Austin doesn't sing "Start Me Up" out loud in his car. On May 23, he became the first pitcher since 1974 to get knocked out of back-to-back starts in the first inning -- without getting hurt. (It took him 11 hitters, over two starts, just to get an out.)
Pitcher's Very Best Friend Dept.: The Twins turned a bases-loaded double play, on Aug. 21 against Kansas City, in which they got both outs at home. (Doug Mientkiewicz caught a Brent Mayne ground ball and went home for the force. A.J. Pierzynski's throw back to first hit the runner. Luis Rivas picked up the ball and threw out Ken Harvey at home.)
They Shop at K-Mart Dept. Those resourceful Twins also scored two runs on a strikeout Aug. 12. (Strikeout, wild pitch, wild throw home by the first baseman.)
Dr. Hank and Mr. Blalock: Texas third baseman Hank Blalock had maybe the most bizarre game of the season May 16. He drove in six runs and struck out four times -- in the same game.
Déjà vu: Thanks to his midseason release by the Angels, Kevin Appier faced the Yankees three times in four starts -- in three different ballparks (in Anaheim on July 29 in his final start as an Angel, in Kansas City on Aug. 13 and in Yankee Stadium on Aug. 19).
Who says the Rangers had no pitching? Texas' R.A. Dickey had a save and a complete-game shutout in the same series (Aug. 18-20 in Detroit).
I Don't Love New York Dept.: In Tom Glavine's last 282 starts as a Brave, they never got blown out in a game he started by 13 runs or more. So naturally, his first start as a Met was a 15-2 loss.
Why They Have Customs: Mike Bordick committed no errors in his final 110 games as an Oriole. So of course, he committed an error in his first game as a Blue Jay.
Where's the DH when you need one? Steve Trachsel threw a complete-game one-hitter Aug. 18 in which the only hit was by the opposing pitcher (Chin-Hui Tsao) -- who, of course, had gotten no other hits in his career before that.
Anybody have a full-moon chart? In the same game, Phillies pitcher Vicente Padilla batted left-handed, then right-handed, then left-handed again in his first three at-bats -- all against the same pitcher (Carl Pavano).
And their favorite station is WKRP: Twice in 2003, the Phillies scored at least 10 runs in an inning -- both in the same road park (April 13 and June 14, in Cincinnati).
You can't say Blue Jays rookie Reed Johnson couldn't finish what he started. On June 21, he hit a leadoff and a walkoff home run in the same game (and got so hot, he then hit a total of one homer in July and August).
The True Meaning of Stardom Dept.: Armando Benitez became the first player in history to make an All-Star team, and then get traded twice in the next month.
It wasn't enough for the Yankees to attempt to collect the entire American League All-Star team. In July, they became the first American League team ever to have two members of that year's National League All-Star team on their roster at the same time (Benitez and Aaron Boone).
Back To Back To Back To Back To Back To Back Dept.: Boston's Jason Varitek was part of back-to-back homers six times this year -- with six different hitters.
When is a complete game the most misleading stat of the day? On Aug. 28, Devil Rays pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez threw a complete game against the A's -- and still got ejected from it (for grumbling about umpire Joe Brinkman on the way to the dugout, then tossing a bunch of bags of sunflower seeds onto the field).
Collect the Whole Set Dept.: In the same Yankees-Red Sox series in July, Byung Hyun-Kim had a win, a loss, a save and a blown save.
Bobblehead of the Year: Torii Hunter got ejected on his own Bobblehead Night in July.
Math Major of the Year: In his big-league debut, Diamondbacks rookie Oscar Villareal threw one pitch -- and racked up a strikeout. (He came in after an injury to Bret Prinz, threw a third strike to Hideo Nomo and got a whiff out of it.)
Finally, nothing Jack McKeon did in October would have surprised you if you'd seen this: In a Sept. 16 game in Philadelphia, McKeon pinch-hit-for his Nos. 3-4-5 hitters in a row.
From Juan Pierre's lack of power to Roy Halladay's O-for-April, it was truly a bizarre season.