Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Baseball Reference ruins another fine yarn

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: February 24, 2013 - 11:56 PM

The No. 1 reason to endorse the arrival of the Internet in the mid-'90s is that it brought us baseballreference.com. This has made covering the Grand Old Game easier than a hanging slider, compared to the days of looking through old scorebooks and microfilm to find details of a long-ago ballgame.

One drawback of Baseball Reference is this: It has been the ruination of many tall tales.

For instance, Bert Blyleven, the popular analyst on FSN's Twins telecasts, will tell us on occasion that allowing home runs isn't so bad, as long as they are solos. And to dramatize this point, Bert will mention that he once gave up five home runs, but they were all solos, and he went deep into the game and was the winning pitcher.

Unfortunately, this fine story is complete hogwash. Blyleven gave up five home runs once in his career: On Sept. 13, 1986, in the Metrodome vs. Texas.

Three of the home runs were solos, one was a two-run home run and Steve Buechele hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning. Oddibe McDowell followed with a triple, and Blyleven was done for the afternoon: 5 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 9 runs, and the losing pitcher in what wound up as a 14-1 drubbing of the Twins.

Joining Buechele in the home run barrage for Texas were Pete O'Brien, Pete Incaviglia, Darrell Porter and Ruben Sierra. And it's a bit surprising that Bert's memory on the outcome is so faulty, since this was the second game managed by Tom Kelly after Ray Miller was fired.

This is brought up as a way of making a confession: Baseball Reference has caught another person in a storytelling lie.

Me.

It goes like this: Phil Miller has a story in Monday's Star Tribune on MLB's new rule outlawing the fake-to-third, throw-to-first pitcher's maneuver that consumes time and doesn't fool base runners. I was in the Strib office on Sunday afternoon, talking with Kevin Bertels, the domo of the sports desk, about Miller's story.

And I repeated a tale that I spread as gospel for over three decades: Gene Mauch was the godfather of this maneuver. And in the hundreds of times I saw the Twins try it in Mauch's years as manager, I saw one runner get picked off _ Cleveland's Charlie Spikes, twice in the same series at Met Stadium.

I decided to find the games on Baseball Reference. Turns out, I owe Charlie Spikes an apology ... sort of.

On April 27, 1976, Cleveland had a runner on second and Spikes at first, and Charlie was picked off as the trail runner by Twins reliever Bill (Soup) Cambell.

On July 18, 1976, Cleveland had a runner on second and Spikes at first, and Charlie was picked off as the trail runner by Twins starter Jim (Bluegill) Hughes.

It is a grievous sin against baseball to be picked off as a trail runner, but Spikes wasn't done in by fake-to-third, throw-to-first, so ... sorry Charlie. I promise to stop spinning that yarn.

 

 

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