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A Postseason Game Being Decided On A Walkoff Bunt? It Also Happened In 1969

  • Rick Chandler

Before Tuesday, the last walkoff bunt/pitcher throwing error in a postseason game occurred in the 1969 World Series — but you know all about J.C. Martin and Pete Richert, don’t you? It was the Orioles and Mets at Shea Stadium, and New York would prevail, 2-1, in an ending even more unusual than the Giants’ 5-4 victory over the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS.

In fact, one newspaper simply wrote a headline that included the words “Bizarre Happenings”. Here’s the story:

Tom Seaver was on the mound for the Mets, and had thrown 10 innings — starters did that then — with the score tied 1-all going into the bottom of the 10th. The Orioles had tied it in the top of the ninth on Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly. Seaver likely had extra motivation that day, as Vietnam War protesters had gathered outside of Shea to hand out leaflets with Seaver’s picture, accompanied by his quote: “If the Mets can win the World Series then we can get out of Vietnam.”

Seaver said that his picture was used without his permission, and that he would never protest the war during the World Series. He took out his frustration on the Orioles, striking out six and walking two over the 10 innings. Also in that game, Baltimore manager Earl Weaver was ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Shag Crawford — the first time that a manager had been thrown out of a World Series game since 1935.

So in the Mets’ half of the 10th, Jerry Grote led off with a double, Al Weis was walked intentionally, and J. C. Martin, a catcher, was sent up to hit for Seaver. Martin laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Orioles reliever Pete Richert fielded it and threw toward first — but his throw hit Martin on the wrist, the ball then caroming down the line in right. Rod Gaspar, running for Grote, scored from second to end the game.

Controversy ensued, as the Orioles claimed that Martin was running too far inside the baseline, and thus interfered with the throw. The umpires disagreed. And the controversy picked up steam the following day when people saw newspaper photos of the play (see above).

J.C. Martin, on the play:

“Remember first base is actually in fair territory. If you are a left handed hitter and you run inside that double line just to the right of the base, you’ll never even touch the bag if you run straight at it. I ran straight towards the bag. The funny thing is that nobody really made a big deal about it until the papers came out the next day. They had a picture that showed Pete Richert’s throw hitting me on the left wrist.”

On Tuesday, Cardinals’ reliever Randy Choate simply threw away the ball after fielding Gregor Blanco’s bunt. Again, a runner scored from second to end the game — which was also in the bottom of the 10th.

The Mets would go on to win the Series the following day with a 5-3 victory, which included the infamous Shoe Polish Incident. The Mets’ Cleon Jones hit the dirt to avoid a Dave McNally pitch, and claimed that the ball hit him in the foot. Plate umpire Lou DiMuro didn’t believe him, but when Mets’ manager Gil Hodges retrieved the ball from the Mets dugout, where it had landed, he showed DiMuro a smudge of shoe polish on it, and DiMuro awarded Jones first base. That prompted this quote from the Orioles’ Frank Robinson: “That ball didn’t go into the dugout with black shoe polish on it, but it came out with black shoe polish on it.”