Bill Roper (billroper) wrote,
Bill Roper

The Steve McMichael Game

The oddest game that I ever saw at Wrigley Field was referenced as the very last entry in this column. But it leaves out a few of the salient details. So return with me to August 7, 2001 as the Cubs played the Colorado Rockies.

The home plate umpire that night was Angel Hernandez, a man not graced by an even temperament. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite. And when he managed to blow a call at the plate, because there was no way he was going to be able to actually see through the catcher to see whether or not the tag was applied, the Wrigley fans were incensed. Well, the fans on the third base side of the field were incensed, because they all had a better view of the play than Hernandez. When the Cubs missed turning off the replay monitors, everyone else in the stadium saw that he'd blown the call too.

Umpires hate it when that happens. Not so much the blowing of the call, I suspect, but the fact that everyone knows they blew it, no matter how much they want to deny it. And had Hernandez been in the proper position to make the call from, I'd cut him some slack. But he's a veteran umpire and should know that catchers aren't actually transparent and that you can't actually see through them to tell whether or not the tag was applied before the runner got to the base.

And then former Chicago Bear Steve McMichael stood up in the broadcast booth to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game". The video below is pretty bad, but you'll get the idea.

"Don't worry," said McMichael. "I'll have some speaks with that umpire after the game."

Hernandez had McMichael ejected from the booth -- but not before he sang. Well, he was thumbed out before he sang, but no one took the mic from him before he started. No one had ever seen anything quite like this happen before. Or since, for that matter.

Against all odds, the game went to the bottom of the ninth tied.

I turned to daisy_knotwise and said, "I hope Hernandez doesn't blow another call at the plate, because if he does, these fans are going to stomp this stadium into rubble."

And a few minutes later, the Cubs found themselves with Ricky Gutierrez on second, Sammy Sosa on first, and Joe Girardi at the plate with one out. Girardi lined a clean single to left field. There was no doubt that Gutierrez should be able to score on the play.

Until the moment when he slipped on the grass rounding third base and fell down. Ack!

At this point, time seemed to slow down, because it felt like the subsequent action took a minute and a half or so to play out. I watched it later on TV and it actually took about 20 seconds.

Gutierrez scrambled back into third base safely. And I looked up and saw Sammy Sosa between second and third base where he really had no business being, because his run was of importance only if Gutierrez were out. And Sosa dove back into second base just ahead of the throw.

And I looked up. And there was Joe Girardi, the old, slow catcher who was for some completely unknown reason standing halfway between first and second base carrying a run that could not possibly mean anything, because if Gutierrez and Sosa were out on the base paths in front of him, then the inning would be over. Ack! Ack! Ack!

Naturally enough, the Rockies caught Girardi in a rundown. And Girardi was singularly unhelpful. So as the Rockies applied the tag to him, Gutierrez took off for home. And if the second baseman's tag of Girardi became a little bit tangled up in Girardi's arms, well, Girardi was an old, slow, but apparently also a smart catcher.

The Rockies second baseman fired the ball home. The catcher reached down to tag the sliding Gutierrez.

And Angel Hernandez emphatically signaled "Safe!" and ran off the field.

The crowd went wild.

And I turned to Gretchen and said, "You know, I'm not sure he got that call right."

But when I watched it on the replay at home later, it turned out that he had.

I guess he can't miss them all.
Tags: baseball, cubs, humor, musings

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