- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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All this stuff actually happened this year. In real life. With witnesses:
Rundown of the Year
Some rundowns, you just can't practice under a palm tree in February. For the ultimate example, see: Milwaukee Brewers, Sept. 16.
It was, without question, the wildest play of the year -- an all-over-the-field extravaganza which Brewers quip coach Rich Donnelly calls "the Powerball rundown." If you were scoring at home -- and had a scorebook about six feet wide -- you scored it 5-2-9-4-9-1-6.
Which means, among other things, that the right fielder (Brady Clark) had two assists -- on a ball that never left the infield.
"He wants to be everywhere," Donnelly said of Clark. "I wouldn't be surprised some day if he throws out a runner at home -- on a squeeze play."
The best part of this rundown, outside of the fact that the only man to touch the ball twice was an outfielder, was that it included rundowns between every base.
"Yep. First, second, third and home," Donnelly said. "And if there was a fifth base, we'd have chased them into the parking lot."
Fan-Friendliness Non-Catch of the Year
It wasn't easy for Phillies center fielder Jason Michaels to make sure one lucky fan went home with a bizarre souvenir from a Sept. 10 Braves-Phillies game at Turner Field. But here in this fan-friendly era we live in, a guy has to go that extra mile.
So Michaels kicked off his extra mile by sprinting back 50 feet to get his glove on a rocket to the warning track by Charles Thomas. We still don't believe what happened after that.
Michaels had it. Then lost it. Then saw the baseball falling toward earth -- and took a desperation barehand swipe at it, all in a flat sprint, with the wall fast approaching.
Had he missed with that swipe, the ball would have landed on the track. Instead, he managed to lift it back into the air -- and into the seats for a home run. And of the most innovative ways to provide a souvenir ever witnessed.
It was viewed by most viewers as a fluke. But Year in Review investigator Doug Glanville has learned the actual truth: After hearing too many critics complain that baseball was too slow, Michaels was just "trying to bring the slam-dunk competition to baseball," Glanville said.
"He was planning to tip the ball to himself once, then flip it over his head, kick it with one spike, do a 360, backflip, then catch it between his teeth as he climbed the wall," Glanville revealed. "His only mistake was that he miscalculated where the wall was by 25 feet. But it was for the love of the game. Commissioner Selig should be proud."
18-Wheeler of the Year
In a May 12 Cubs-Dodgers game, L.A. shortstop Alex Cora had an 18-pitch at-bat against Matt Clement that equaled the longest AB of the last 15 years. Cora took the first three pitches, fouled off the next 14 and then, finally, 14 minutes later, ended this marathon with a home run.
It was some spectacle, even if you were 2,000 miles away. Which was how far away Cora's brother, White Sox coach Joey Cora, was at the time. He told the Chicago Sun-Times' Doug Padilla that he watched from a bar with Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
"We had a beer on the first pitch," Joey Cora said. "And by the end of the at-bat, we were so (stinking) drunk that we had to call a cab to take us home."
Cross-Dresser of the Year
Normally, drive-by shootings aren't anybody's idea of a laugh riot. But leave it to those wacky Cleveland Indians to turn a near-tragedy into just another bad sitcom plot.
It sure sounded ominous last week when reports surfaced that pitcher Kyle Denney had been shot while riding on the team bus in Kansas City. It stopped sounding quite so ominous when Denney revealed he was fine -- thanks to his stylish new set of calf-high white go-go boots.
Which he was wearing because it was rookie-hazing day on the team flight. His tasteful teammates had just picked them out, too, thinking they were the perfect complement to the USC cheerleader's uniform he'd been assigned to wear.
Asked about those boots, outfielder Ryan Ludwik told the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes: "We may have to make them standard issue. Maybe Kyle can get a deal with Puma. But they'd have to be black because that's what we wear on the field."
After Denney left the bus, he was shuttled into a waiting ambulance, still wearing his cheerleading costume. He was sitting there, answering questions for police, when traveling secretary Mike Seghi approached.
"Hey Kyle," Seghi said, "you know you can take the wig off."
Denney then peeled off the blond wig he'd forgotten he was wearing. Then he changed back into his regular clothes before heading into the hospital.
"The nurses were mad," Denney reported. "They wanted to see my cheerleading uniform."
Locksmith of the Year
Usually, when a hitter hears he's "locked in," that's a good thing. But it will always have a slightly different meaning now for Brewers minor leaguer Jeff Liefer -- because in May, he got locked inside the dugout bathroom during a game in Indianapolis. Resulting in the most inventive 15-minute delay of anybody's season.
"Now that," Brewers coach-witticist Rich Donnelly told Year in Review, "is what you call long relief."
Human Battery of the Year
Todd Zeile waved farewell to baseball Sunday after a classy 16-year career. And, thanks to his final season, one thing no one will ever be able to say about him is: Battery not included.
In one of the rarest daily doubles we can ever recall, Zeile pitched in one game for the Mets this year, was the starting catcher in another and played neither position in any of his other 133.
Zeile caught Tom Glavine for six passed-ball-free innings of the Mets' 8-7 win over the Pirates on Sept. 18. And while his catcher's ERA didn't turn out too hot (9.00), at least it was better than his ERA as a pitcher. That computed to 45.00 after a five-run mashing July 26 in Montreal.
After leaving the mound that day, Zeile found the perfect way to cap off his evening -- by striking out with the bases loaded in the ninth.
"I told Al (Leiter), it's amazing," Zeile told Newsday's David Lennon. "I pitch for one inning, and I start hitting like a pitcher, too."
22-Skidoo of the Year
There have been over 160,000 major-league baseball games played since 1900. Before this year, there had only been one of them in which a team got shut out, 22-0 (or worse).
So maybe we were due to have another one of those games come along. But who'd have thunk that game would take place in Yankee Stadium on Aug. 31 -- a day the scoreboard in the Bronx would read: Indians 22, Yankees 0?
But it really happened. Trust us. The Yankees became the first team in 25 years to lose a home game by 22 runs, the first home team to lose a shutout by 22 since the 1887 Indianapolis Hoosiers and the first Yankees team in history to lose any kind of game by three touchdowns or more.
And the Indians? They had as many runs as outs as late as the sixth inning. They never made more than four consecutive outs at any point all day. Eleven different Indians scored a run. And Omar Vizquel got more hits by himself (six) than all 13 Yankees who came to the plate combined (five). Visits to Yankee Stadium don't get more memorable than that.
"Yeah, I'll remember this game," third baseman Casey Blake told the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, but not for the reason you'd think. "I'll remember it because I didn't get any hits in 22-0 game."
Dead-Ball Duo of the Year
When you hear people refer to all the Twins' good young players, it's a safe bet they're not referring to the graybearded twosome that formed their starting pitcher-catcher combination in five games this year.
That combo consisted of 41-year-old left-hander Terry Mulholland and 41-year-old catcher Pat Borders -- a pair who constituted the oldest starting pitcher-catcher battery any team had rolled out there since June 3, 1945, when the Dodgers started Curt Davis and Clyde Sukeforth.
"That," Mulholland quipped, after being informed of that claim to fame, "was because all the young guys were out fighting the war."
Cutoff of the Year
Royals outfielder Matt Stairs has been hearing coaches tell him to hit the cutoff man all his life. But he might have taken those instructions just a little too literally July 3 in San Diego.
Stairs gathered in a Khalil Greene sacrifice fly and hit the cutoff man, all right. His throw home nailed first baseman Ken Harvey right in the back, after Harvey turned to watch a play at the plate that never did occur.
"That will be on TV tonight," Harvey told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton afterward, "and DVD tomorrow."
Hall Pass of the Year
We don't know if Brewers infielder Bill Hall can be considered a five-tool player. But one thing he proved on April 27 and 28 was: He's definitely a two-tool player.
He won the first of those two games with a walkoff homer in the ninth inning. He won the next game with a game-ending squeeze bunt in the 10th. And according to research by loyal Year in Review contributors Dave Smith (of Retrosheet) and David Vincent (SABR's fabled Sultan of Swat Stats), no one else in baseball has pulled off a walkoff and a squeeze-off in back-to-back games in the last 30 years.
"He's very versatile," coach Rich Donnelly told Year in Review. "Or, as Mickey Rivers used to say, he's ambidextrous."
Satellite of the Year
There are home runs that clank off foul poles. There are home runs that skip off the top of the fence and land in a petunia bed. And then there are home runs like the one Adam Dunn launched Aug. 10 against the Dodgers.
It didn't just carry over one fence. It cleared three fences -- the outfield wall, the monstrous center-field hitting background behind that wall and then the wall that separates the back of the stadium and the street outside.
When it finally did return to planet earth, it came down on a sidewalk 530 feet from home plate, then bounced another 200 feet and came to rest on the banks of the Ohio River.
Had it actually made it into the river and floated off downstream, Dunn's teammate, Sean Casey, told Year in Review he's still wondering where it would have ended up.
"It probably would have wound up in Pittsburgh," Casey said. "And Jason Kendall would have found it on his way to work."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: BOTH CASEY AND YEAR IN REVIEW NOW KNOW THAT THE OHIO RIVER FLOWS IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. BUT THE IDEA OF THESE HUMOROUS QUIPS WE PASS ALONG IS NOT TO BE 100 PERCENT GEOGRAPHICALLY CORRECT. IT'S TO SPREAD CHEER AND HUMOR ACROSS THE FACE OF OUR PLANET. SO PLEASE -- HOLD THOSE GEOGRAPHY-LESSON EMAILS. WE PROMISE NOT TO CONFUSE OUR RIVER-FLOW DIRECTIONS EVER AGAIN.)
Rain Men of the Year
They took on more water than the Titanic. They spent enough time playing cards to qualify for the World Series of Poker. They saw more of their friendly neighborhood tarp than they did of their wives, kids and other assorted loved ones.
They were the most water-logged team in baseball, the Phillies. And they spent more than 13 hours of their first season at Citizens Bank Park just waiting out rain delays. But more than 8½ of those hours came just in one four-day stretch in mid-June, forcing them to spend approximately 43 of their 56 waking hours at the ballpark.
"They might start charging us rent," Phillies outfield-humorist Doug Glanville told Year in Review. "It could be a new revenue stream."
Bagel Boys of the Year
What if two teams played baseball all night and nobody ever scored? The Angels and Brewers gave that a serious shot June 8. By the time somebody finally crossed home plate, it was the 17th inning, 117 batters had passed through the old batter's box and 11 pitchers had combined to throw 457 pitches.
But the biggest shock wasn't that the Brewers became the first team in history to strike out 26 times in one game and still win. The biggest shock was that the Angels didn't win a game in which their secret weapon, the Rally Monkey, did more jumping than Misty May.
"That Rally Monkey was exhausted, man," Brewers coach/primate expert Rich Donnelly reported. "They had him jumping every inning from the eighth on. ... I felt sorry for that monkey. He came out shooting fire. By about the 14th inning, he just put up his hand and said, 'Aw, the hell with it.' "
Question: The Twins have won at least 90 games in three consecutive seasons. Can you name the only three teams that have a longer current streak?
Answer: Yankees (four), A's (five) and Giants (five). And the Red Sox and Braves join the Twins as the only other teams to win 90 three straight years.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
8hAndrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews
1dAdam Rubin and Jesse Rogers