It's a memory that will forever affect Dodgers third-base coach Rich Donnelly and Mets manager Willie Randolph in a different manner. Flashbacks will simply cause further bewilderment for Donnelly. But for Randolph, they'll simply bring a smile that wasn't present when he and his Yankees were on the wrong end of a similar play 21 years ago.
"It was a terrible baserunning blunder that we had to pay for," said Dodgers manager Grady Little, regarding the wacky second-inning double play that proved consequential in the Mets' 6-5 victory Wednesday.
It was a double play that the Dodgers found hard to recreate, and one that was so improbable that it's difficult to explain.
With nobody out and runners on first and second base, Russell Martin drilled a single toward right field. When it hit off the wall, it seemed definite that Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew would score. Until it happened, never did it seem likely that the play would end with Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca tagging both Kent and Drew out at the plate within a matter of approximately three seconds.
"It was really weird," Lo Duca said. "I have never seen anything like it."
As he looked up to see home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck call Kent out, Lo Duca almost didn't see Drew sliding headfirst toward the plate. But with one quick motion, the veteran catcher turned his head back toward the field and applied the tag that completed an improbable double play.
"I was watching the play [at the plate] all the way," Donnelly said. "In fact, when J.D. ran by me, I was shocked."
When Martin directed John Maine's delivery toward right field, Donnelly and Drew seemed to know it was going to fall before Kent, who was leaning toward second base. When the ball hit the wall and bounced directly to Mets right fielder Shawn Green, Kent yelled, "Let's go, let's go."
Unfortunately, the much faster Drew was already coming and coming hard. As Green made a perfect throw toward second baseman Jose Valentin, Donnelly wanted to put up the stop sign for Kent.
But with Drew charging right behind, Donnelly felt he had to send Kent, but just as he started to do this, he looked up and saw Drew was just a few steps away from third base.
"If I hold [Kent], I've got two of them at third," Donnelly said. "So I said, 'Send [Kent], one's going to be out, and [Drew's] going to be at third.' That was my thought process in a split second."
After waving Kent home, Donnelly turned toward the plate, expecting to see one out recorded. He then saw Drew breeze by and knew that potential disaster loomed.
Never did Donnelly provide the stop sign to Drew, who says he would have definitely been able to stop at third base.
"I thought Jeff was scoring standing up. I couldn't see what the ball did in the corner," Drew said. "Once I rounded second, my whole thing is to pick up Rich, and he was waving us home. So, I thought the play was on me."
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, all of the jokes created from this one will forever be on them. Just when they thought they were in the midst of the big inning that would have felled Maine, they encountered disaster and now found themselves needing to win three of the next four games to win the series.
Along the way, they'll forever be haunted by the memory of this wacky double play.
"It's awful," Donnelly said. "The job as the third-base coach is not to get in the way of a rally. When you do it, it's like [being] an air traffic controller -- nobody says anything until there's a wreck. There was a wreck out there, and it's awful. The thing that hurts you more than anything is that was a chance to have a three- or four-run inning."
Instead of a big inning, they could just feel fortunate that Marlon Anderson followed the double play with an RBI double. But they could have scored many more, especially if Drew hadn't hesitated while making his way to the plate.
Knowing there'd likely be a play on him, Drew looked toward right field to see where the ball was. A split second later, he turned back toward the plate and saw Lo Duca tagging Kent.
"I froze in my tracks right there," Drew said. "In hindsight, if I'd have kept running, I'd have probably been safe, because Lo Duca tagged and looked right up at the umpire. I'm just so mind-boggled."
|"I don't know if there's a place to put blame here. It was just an odd play going into the corner, and it kicked up right at him, and we're hung out to dry."|
|-- Jeff Kent|
"I have never seen that play on the field, but I do remember watching one like it on television, in a game involving [Carlton] Fisk," Hirschbeck said. "This caught me by surprise. I had called [Kent] out, and you let down for a second. The next thing you know, [Lo Duca] is swinging around to make another tag play. I had no idea, no idea whatsoever, that another guy was coming. Luckily, I kept my eyes on Paul."
That play involving Fisk occurred at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 2, 1985. Randolph was the starting second baseman that evening for the Yankees, who ended up losing, 6-5, in 11 innings.
On that evening 21 years ago, Yankees third-base coach Gene Michael waved both Bobby Meacham and Dale Berra toward the plate on a Rickey Henderson single. A strong relay throw from White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen allowed Fisk to retire both Meacham and Berra at the plate.
"It was just kind of like a serious flashback," Randolph said. "I remember how funny that play was when I first heard it. This was even more humorous to me."
In due time, there may be a time when the Dodgers find humor in this play. But for now, they're not laughing or placing specific blame.
"I don't know if there's a place to put blame here," Kent said. "It was just an odd play going into the corner, and it kicked up right at him, and we're hung out to dry."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less