Gregg Wong and Stew Thornley have split the official scorer duties at Twins' home games for the past several years. The task definitely has gotten trickier lately, since MLB set up a system where teams and individual players (including through agents) can protest to Joe Torre's office to get a call changed.
Presumably, pitchers can use this system, but almost unanimously it is players begging to get an error changed to a hit. They don't care how cheap ... they want those hits.
The only time that changes is when a pitcher happens to be working on a no-hitter. Then, everyone is crying for the borderline plays to be called errors, not hits.
Wong found himself on that side of the Catch-22 on Friday night at Target Field. There was one out in the third when Clete Thomas hit a ball just to the right of Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He tried to backhand it and the ball kicked off his glove. It was 50-50 and Wong called it a hit.
Three innings later, Cleveland lefty Scott Kazmir had two outs in the sixth and that remained the only hit. Tom Kelly, working in the TV booth, and his partner for the night started talking about the Thomas hit, enough so that the FSN crew showed Cabrera's unfancy glovework again.
Lonnie Chisenhall then hacked one at third that was called an error ... and Trevor Plouffe took care of any dispute by dropping a two-run single into right field.
The first clean hit came with two outs in the sixth, so it wasn't even sweating time for my friend the Wonger. Yet, whenever I'm watching a game where the only hit can be disputed, it takes me back to Sept. 25, 1976, and a Saturday afternoon game before a tiny crowd at Met Stadium.
The beat writers for the local newspapers still were dividing the official scorekeeping among us. I was covering the Twins for the St. Paul neswspapers and I had the scorekeeping duty for either one-third or one-fourth of the home games ... can't remember which.
This was also a time when newspaper editors had started to question the wisdom of having their beat writers perform this task. Scorekeeping decisions were well-known to cause clubhouse disputes and could lead to sportswriters being frozen out by certain players. Plus, the idea of sportswriters covering baseball and getting paid by baseball didn't sit well with some of those do-gooder editors.
(Actually, the do-gooders were right, and by the late '70s, active sportswriters for newspapers were pretty much out of official scorekeeping).
My favorite tale of an official scorekeeping dispute involved my friend Ken Leiker, who was stationed in Kansas City for the Topeka newspaper and covered both the Royals and the Chiefs. One night, Leiker decided not to give Steve Mingori a save, in the belief he had not fulfilled the effective part of the "three effective innings'' subclause in the save rule.
The Royals whined and starting pitcher Paul Splittorff made a grandstand play, telling Leiker he wasn't going to allow him in interviews until Kenny changed the decision on the save. To which Leiker replied: "That's OK. I'll get your quotes from somebody else.''
My smart-aleck moment in this area came one night at the Met, when third baseman Eric Soderholm and first baseman Craig Kusick converged on a high pop near the mound. They bumped and the ball dropped. I called on error on Soderholm, who disputed this energetically after the game.
I told Eric it was going to remain an error. He suggested it go to Kusick. Soon, Kusick was in on the argument. I finally said: "Flip a coin, I don't care, but somebody's getting an error.''
And they did--flipped in the middle of the clubhouse--and somebody (can't remember the actual result) did get the error.
My memories of the game at the Met on Sept. 25, 1976, in front of a crowd announced at an inflated 4,942, are much more clear.
Dave Goltz had become the innings horse of the Twins' pitching staff. He was making his 36th start of the season, vs. the Angels' Nolan Ryan.
California's first hitter, Dave Collins, hit a chopper toward first and Rod Carew wasn't able to make the play. Collins was fleet, and I gave him a hit. There might have been a "HIT?'' or two blurted from elsewhere in the press box, but it wasn't a big deal at the time.
Two hours and 20 minutes later, it was a very big deal. By mid-game, messages started to arrive from Calvin Griffith family members that the Collins' chopper in the first must be changed to an error in the name of justice. There was a call from the dugout to the press box, with the message: "Tell Reusse that Carew says that was an error.''
A walk and an error that I gave to second baseman Bobby Randall -- on another Collins' ball -- put two on with no outs in the sixth. And then Goltz started dealing: thee straight outs to end the inning, a 1-2-3 seventh, a 1-2-3 eighth. The Twins had knocked around Ryan and the result wasn't an issue (the Twins led 6-0) entering the ninth.
By then, there were fans screaming at me from behind the Twins' dugout ... and the crowd was so small you could hear them in the second-deck press box. One guy came to the front of the press box, put his face over the window ledge and questioned my family heritage.
Goltz recorded the first out in the ninth, then a second. There were more people gesturing angrily toward the press box than cheering for the big lad from Rothsay, Minn. to complete the shutout.
And then my last hope, Mario Guerrero, an infielder serving as the DH that afternoon, dropped a single into the open area of medium right center.
I love Mario Guerrero. Always have, always will.
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