A’s All-Time Web Gems
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-10 21:10

Baseball Tonight is running a series, showing each team’s top three web gems of all time. No word yet on which day they’ll show the A’s; they’ve only listed the schedule through August 19.

But I thought I’d try the exercise to see how many all-time A’s web gems I could recall. I’m sure I’m forgetting some good ones, but here’s what I came up with:

  • Joe Rudi, 1972 World Series.

    This is probably just a nice play if it happens in June, but his scrawl against the wall is the signature image of that World Series.

  • The Bill Buckner Gaffe, 1974 World Series.

    No, not that Bill Buckner gaffe. With no one out in the eighth inning of game five, Bill North misplayed a Buckner hit, turning a single into a double. But when Buckner got greedy and tried to get three bases out of it, the A’s executed a perfect relay throw, Reggie Jackson to Dick Green to Sal Bando, and nailed Buckner at third. Instead of a runner on second and nobody out, there was nobody on base, and one out. The A’s won the game by one run, and clinched the series.

  • Dick Green’s bellyflop, 1974 World Series.

    Green was the fielding hero of the 1974 series, beyond the relay throw to nail Buckner. He launched three double plays in Game 3, the most memorable one with one out in the ninth, and A’s leading 3-2. Green stretched out to stop a ball up the middle, and from his belly flipped the ball to Bert Campaneris, who fired over to Jim Holt at first for the final out of the game.

  • Dwayne Murphy, off with his cap!

    I can’t actually remember any specific web gems from the Billy Ball era, but I do remember Dwayne Murphy being the defensive star. My memories aren’t of the great catches he made, but of him returning to his spot after the great catch to retrieve his hat. He always placed his cap so loosely on his head that it fell off with just the slightest motion. For me, in those days, the fallen cap was the very symbol of great defense.

  • Mike Gallego, pick ’em.

    If they had had web gems back around the turn of the 90s, Mike Gallego would have been a regular. I’m not sure how you pick just one of his plays. There’s the one where he charged a weakly hit ball from second base full speed, picked it up and flung himself parallel to the infield grass, and flipped the ball to first. There’s the one where he dove into the hole between first and second, ended up on his back, and from that prone position, flung the ball between his legs to first. And then there’s the time…

  • Felix Jose, stumblin fumblin catch

    I can’t remember exactly when or against whom, but in 1990, just before he got traded for Willie McGee, Felix Jose made some crazy stumblin’, bumblin’ catch in right field. As I remember it, he fell down and rolled around while the ball bounced off his glove, off some other body part, and then ended up in his hand somehow.

  • Randy Velarde, unassisted triple play

    What gets forgotten is that the reason there were two runners on in the first place is that Velarde had made an error on the preceding play.

  • Terrence Long, robs Manny Ramirez of a game winning home run

    With the possible exception of his 2-homer game in the 2001 ALDS, this was the highlight of Terrence Long’s career.

  • Jason Kendall, game ending tag at home

    This was one of those crazy games in Arlington, when nobody can stop anybody from scoring. It was 11-10 A’s in the ninth, two outs, when Kendall blocked a ball in the dirt. Michael Young tried to score, Kendall dove back to the plate, and tagged Young out to win the game.

  • Eric Chavez, pick ’em.

    Like Gallego, Chavez is a web gem highlight reel all by himself. There are multiple plays where he covers yards and yard of the enormous Coliseum foul ground, making over-the-shoulder catches, sliding into the dugout, etc. There are all kinds of hard hit balls he’s snared, even though the ball already seems to have passed him, like this one. And then there’s the quick-thinking double play he turned the other day against Texas. How can you pick just one?

Missing from my list: those crazy plays by Eric Byrnes. Most of the time Byrnes made a crazy play in the outfield, it was because he took a bad route to the ball to begin with. I’d rather give props to someone like Mark Kotsay, who makes those same plays look much easier.

Comments: 11
1.   Cliff Corcoran
2006-08-11 07:11

1.  As the Yankee shortstop Gallego turned a double play (Gallego to Pat Kelly to Mattingly) that was featured on the MSG Network's opening montage for quite a while. From what I recall it was some sort of crazy dive stop and flip with Kelly's throw (possibly because he had to bare hand Gallego's toss) requiring a classic Mattingly scoop & flourish for the second out. I was at that game, but can't remember a thing about it.

Since this is an A's site I'll be kind and not mention what will likley be the #1 Yankee Web Gem according to ESPN.

2.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-11 07:43

2.  Yeah, I saw the Yankee #1 in person; I saw what will probably be one of the Mariners' top three, as well, and maybe one of the Red Sox'. For some reason, those are a lot easier to remember than the A's ones.

3.   Padgett
2006-08-11 14:00

3.  I'd love to know the circumstances of that Gallego-from-his-back play, because I remember that vividly, too.

Two more plays by Chavez stick out in my mind, coincidentally both involving Ramirez. In August 2002, the night before Long brought back a Ramirez homer, Chavez also ended the game spectacularly. Here's how Slusser described it in the Chronicle:

"Eric Chavez played third for the first time in more than a week; he had DH'd most of the previous week because of tight hamstrings. He made a remarkable play to end the game, going way beyond third into foul ground to get a sharp hopper by Ramirez. With his momentum going toward the A's dugout, Chavez fired a long way to first to get the slow-moving Ramirez . . . . 'I didn't know where I was,' Chavez said. 'I didn't have time to set up, so I just threw it.'"

From my perspective sitting on the third-base side at Fenway, Chavez literally disappeared from view before making the throw.

The second is the play that set up the famous bunt in 2003, where Chavez somehow stopped the scorching grounder off of Kapler and then beat Manny to the bag at third, diving glove-first. The winning play was exciting on its own terms, but the drama with which the A's escaped the top of the 12th just made it that much better.

I agree as to your assessment of Byrnes, although there was one diving catch he made in foul ground last season, sprinting and fully laid out, that was pretty sweet and, I think, legit. This is the one:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2005/05/01/SPGKKCICQ61.DTL&o=0

4.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-11 15:31

4.  My wife remembers that Gallego play as being against the White Sox. She also remembers the Felix Jose play as being against the Royals. So those are some additional clues...

5.   Philip Michaels
2006-08-11 17:14

5.  Words cannot express my disappointment that Dave Henderson's name is nowhere on that list. Must I write another interminable screed about the greatness of Dave Henderson? Because I will do it. At least until you revoke my posting privileges.

As for 1, I don't see how ESPN could make that play the No.1 Yankee Web gem as the less-talented, less-traitorous Giambi clearly stepped on home as he was being tagged and was only called out as part of the vast anti-me conspiracy.

On a slightly less demented note -- only slightly, mind you -- I do not have the words to express the seething hatred I have for the Gatorade commercial that digitally alters the outcome of the play in question. I would rather Gatorade just air a 30-second spot in which ex-girlfriends opine on what a miserable human being I am or a commercial that shows my loved ones being mauled to death by bears -- either choice would be slightly less hateful to me.

Only slightly.

6.   jmoney
2006-08-11 18:55

6.  My favotite Chavez play is also the one he made in the 12th inning of that playoff game. It isn't the most spectacular play he's made in his career, butthe circumstances make it my favorite.

7.   Ken Arneson
2006-08-11 21:40

7.  5 I tried to think of a Hendu web gem, but the only play I could think of was catching the last out of Dave Stewart's no-hitter. That wasn't exactly a tough play. But if you have a play in mind, I'm all ears.

And from my recollection of 1, Giambi was called out because the Yankees fiendishly put quicksand between second and third base, and Giambi fell into their trap, and it took him 10 minutes to get from base to base.

8.   Voxter
2006-08-12 11:43

8.  I remember that Terrence Long play really vividly, even though I didn't actually see it happen. I was living in Palo Alto at the time, with a couple of A's fans, and we were listening to that game on the radio -- that series was a bit of a bragging-rights grudge match for the three of us, cos I'm a Red Sox fan. Anyway, I was sitting out on the back porch with a 40 of Olde English, and my housemates were inside on the couch. Bill King started to describe this high, arching flyball to right off the bat of Ramirez, and I stood up with my fist in my air. I was actually thinking, "Even if it doesn't go out, there's no way that T-Long of all people is getting to it." And then King shouted something along the lines of, "Caught! It's caught! Terrence Long with an amazing play!" Even through my dejection, I registered that King was just as shocked as I was by the play. I remembe I had to dump out my malt liquor and lie down on my bed for a while just to recover.

I didn't actually see it until later that night, at which point I was even more shocked. I still get mad just thinking about it -- seriously, Terrence Long?!

9.   Cliff Corcoran
2006-08-12 15:11

9.  5 I find that commercial disturbing too, but only because the alterations are so seemless they put a hint of doubt into my mind about any spectacular site I see on television or on film. Like I needed to be more cynical.

10.   Philip Michaels
2006-08-13 09:24

10.  7 Indeed, the problem with Hendu's best work is that most of it occurred in the regular season in an era before round-the-clock coverage of Major League baseball games. There's no defining catch of his from the postseason that I can remember, and I suspect most of the ESPN Web Gems -- particularly the older ones -- will be be culled from postseason footage. I mean, how to show off a Dave Henderson catch from a 1989 August day game against Cleveland? Artist renderings? Scott Van Pelt doing a dramatic reading of the Retrosheet play-by-play?

11.   California XKP
2006-08-23 20:46

11.  Two more web gems.

1) Who can possibly forget Catfish Hunter faking the pitchout to Johnny Bench. No batted ball involved, but brilliant!

2) Sal Bando racing down the line alongside the runner on a suicide squeeze, flipping the ball to Tenace with his glove and getting the out. Think it was vs. the Angels, but not positive.

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