In Don Wakamatsu’s days playing for the Vancouver Canadians, he was involved in a memorably weird play on May 12, 1991, against the Portland Beavers. Here’s how the Vancouver Sun described it:
Morris Buttermaker would have been proud. Marv Foley wasn’t. And Russ Nixon could barely stop laughing long enough to talk about it.
But anyone who saw it will talk about it for years – or until the Bad News Bears make another movie. It happened in the fifth inning, and the madcap, zany folly by Foley’s Vancouver Canadians allowed Ed Naveda to score from near the dugout in a 4-3 Pacific Coast League victory for Nixon’s Portland Beavers.
“I don’t like to laugh about it, but it was comical,” a red-faced, teary-eyed Nixon, the Beaver manager, said in the visitors’ locker room. “Goddamn, it was funny.
“They had five guys around that kid (Naveda) between the dugout and home plate and he got out of it. And their trainer was at second base when the throw was made. It’s entertainment, I guess.”
Entertaining? Yes. What the Canadians needed? Like a hole in the head.
The play went like this:
* With Naveda at second and teammate Jarvis Brown at first with one out, Beaver Chip Hale hit a ground ball that bounced off the forehead of Canadian second baseman Cesar Bernhardt. Naveda tried to score, but pitcher Jerry Kutzler retrieved the loose ball and threw home to catcher Don Wakamatsu.
* Naveda, knowing he’d be tagged out, ran past home and stood near the Portland dugout. Wakamatsu, leary that Brown would try to score if he started chasing Naveda, handed the ball to third baseman Joe Hall, who had come in to help.
* As Hall began stalking Naveda in foul territory and Canadians’ trainer Greg Latta ran onto the field to check on Bernhardt, Hale started running towards second base from first. Hall threw the ball to second, and before shortstop Dan Henley could return it, Naveda sneeked back and touched home plate to make it 2-0.
“God, it was funny,” Nixon continued. “The kid (Naveda) that was involved is Latin, and he didn’t know what was going on. I was yelling at him to stay out of the dugout. And he was saying: ‘I miss home plate. I miss home plate.’ I’ve been in this game 40 years and it still amazes me.”
“We can play some bizarre games,” the Canadians’ manager said. “We were screaming (to Wakamatsu): ‘Don’t go get him. Stay at home plate. All you have to do is tag home plate.’ ”
According to rule 7.08 (k), if a player over-runs home plate and does not attempt to return to the plate, a member of the fielding team need only touch home and appeal to the umpire, who would then call the runner out.
Wakamatsu said he made an appeal. Umpire John Lipsey said he didn’t. Hall thought Naveda was out automatically, but he wasn’t.