I Don't Know is really on third


April 18, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Quick, call Abbott and Costello.

Who's on third? Everybody!

"It's pretty sad this game wasn't on TV," California third baseman Rene Gonzales said. "You can't describe what happened. It was probably the most ridiculous play I've ever been involved in."

We open with Gonzo's comment as a disclaimer. You will be confused by the time you finish reading this. The editors of this newspaper can change as many words as they want. It won't help.

Hey, don't blame the messenger.

It's the Orioles who transformed a bases-loaded, one-out situation into the Rocky Horror Base-Running Show yesterday. Instead of erasing a one-run deficit in the eighth inning, they wound up losing, 7-5.

Quick, name a new commissioner.

The post-game quotes from the two clubhouses were more confusing than a congressional budget hearing.

Orioles third-base coach Mike Ferraro and Angels left fielder Luis Polonia said that Jeff Tackett should have tagged up at third on Mike Devereaux's sinking line drive to shallow center field.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates, Angels manager Buck Rodgers and Orioles first-base coach Davey Lopes said Tackett should have gone halfway down the line.

The difference might boil down to semantics, but the bottom line is, Tackett screwed up. He raced down the line when the ball was hit, then raced back thinking it would be caught.

Second-base umpire Ted Hendry gave the no-catch signal immediately, but Tackett probably was the only one in Camden Yards who didn't see it.

Not that he was the only one to suffer a brain cramp.

Chito Martinez went on a rare -- from first to third, even though Brady Anderson already had claimed that base.

Gonzales further confused the issue, throwing to catcher John Orton instead of stepping on third to force Anderson and then engaging Tackett in a rundown.

"I'd like to say we worked on it spring training," Gonzales said, "but we didn't."

For those scoring at home, the play went 8-3-5-2, with Orton tagging out Tackett and then Martinez in the meeting of the mindless at third.

Can't you just see former Orioles third-base coach Cal Ripken Sr. sitting by his radio in Aberdeen, savoring every syllable of Jon Miller's frantic call?

"As soon as I got the ball, I was trying to tag everyone in sight," Orton said. "I never saw anything like it."

Join the club.

The closest thing crew chief Jim Evans could recall was a mishap years ago with Minnesota's Danny Thompson at second and Harmon Killebrew at third.

A fly was hit to left with none out, and Thompson was doubled off second. Killebrew stood off third, wondering how Thompson could be so stupid.

Bingo! Triple play.

Rodgers recalled a hilarious incident in the minors when two runners collided at the pitcher's mound trying to return to their bases.

But first-base umpire Larry McCoy was the only one who could remember seeing a similar play off a trapped ball. He thought it happened in Anaheim Stadium, but wasn't sure.

What should Tackett have done?

He's a slow runner, and Angels center fielder Chad Curtis has a decent arm, so he wasn't going to score if the 200-foot fly ball was caught.

That's why he should have been off the bag, close enough to return if necessary, but far enough down the line to score if the ball dropped.

Anderson did the right thing, but Martinez's mistake was at least as baffling as Tackett's. Ferraro probably was blameless. Tackett took off as soon as the ball was hit.

At the very worst, the Orioles should have been left with two

outs and the bases loaded for No. 4 hitter Cal Ripken after Tackett was forced at home.

Instead, pandemonium reigned.

Maybe this was revenge for 1989, when Devereaux hit a controversial homer down the left-field line to beat the Angels at Memorial Stadium. Devereaux was 13-for-25 with the bases loaded last season. But, after yesterday, he's 0-for-5 in '93.

Every out in the eighth came at third, starting when Terry Craft called out Harold Reynolds attempting to advance on a sacrifice, even though it appeared that Reynolds had slid under Gonzales' tag.

The Orioles got two doubles, an intentional walk and Devereaux's apparent single, but didn't score.

Still confused?

Take two aspirin, and call it an inning-ending double play.

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