All right. Here’s the situation: runners on first and third. Now there are several questiona. First, how many out? Second, is either of the runners a “bump on a log”—one who isn’t going anywhere— or are either or both definite threats to steal? Third, what inning is it? Fourth, does the pitcher have a good pickoff move? Also, how are the infielders positioned—are they, perhaps, at double-play depth if there are none or one out? And perhaps most important of all—what is the batter’s intention? There are many factors to take into consideration.
Let’s look back at one particular game—September 17, 1951 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees and the Indians were locked in a 1-1 pitcher’s duel in the bottom of the ninth inning. That half-inning began with Yogi Berra grounding out. Then Joe DiMaggio blooped a single over the third baseman’s head into left field, followed by Gene Woodling who put on a beautiful hit-and-run demonstration. Now there were runners on first and third, and both of them were threats to steal. Now, if you were the Indians’ manager, what would you do?
What Al Lopez did was pull a rock. He ordered Yankee third baseman Bobby Brown intentionally walked, thus loading the bases. (In baseball, a “rock” is something you did that both you and the manager know you shouldn’t have done, and in this case it was the manager who pulled the rock.) Under other circumstances, that might have been a good move; for one thing, he didn’t want to have to pitch to Bobby Brown again, not after Brown doubled back in the fifth inning to set up the Yankees’ one-run lead. The next batter was not a strong hitter, and Lopez figured that he could get the guy to hit into a double play, and the Indians would get out of the inning and the game would go to the tenth.
BIG MISTAKE. The next batter was Phil Rizzuto, and he was known as one of the best bunters in the major leagues. And what nobody except him and DiMaggio knew was that the suicide squeeze was on; not even Casey Stengel, who had a tendency to micromanage, was aware that these two had been working on that play all through spring training and during the season. Now Rizzuto was at bat, and the count was 0-and-1, and Bob Lemon—not knowing that the Scooter had signaled to DiMag that the squeeze was on—decided to pitch up and in, because that is one of the most difficult pitches to get any wood on. But Lemon, who was tiring, miscalculated, and the ball was coming straight at Rizzuto’s head.It would have been a real catastrophe if the Scooter had backed into it—but, that little shortstop must have had eyes in the back of his head, because he twisted around, got the bat on the ball, and laid down a perfectly exquisite dead-fish bunt between the mound and first base where nobody could make a play on it. DiMaggio, who had broken from third even as Lemon was going into his windup, could have crawled to home plate, but he took off like a rocket and scored standing up. And Indians catcher Jim Hegan, seeing that nobody could make a play on that ball, picked up his mitt and walked off the field. On top of all that, Rizzuto beat out that bunt for a base hit and got himself a nice game-winning RBI.
So, as we see, there are so many things to take into account that more than a catcher’s arm has to figure into the equation. 8) :baseballpitcher: