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by Harold Friend
Toronto Blue Jays' manager Clarence "Cito" Gaston was familiar with the situation. In the eighth inning of a scoreless game at Atlanta, the Blue Jays had Scott Rolen on second base and one out. Rod Barajas was the batter, with pitcher Roy Halladay on deck. Through seven innings, Halladay had faced 26 batters, making 95 pitches.
No Designated Hitter
Games hosted by National League teams do not use the designated hitter rule. Clarence Gaston and Braves' manager Bobby Cox were forced into a battle of wits. Cox could intentionally walk Barajas to force Gaston's hand.
Pinch-Hit for Roy Halladay?
Halladay would be the scheduled batter with two runners on base. Gaston could let Halladay bat or use a pinch hitter. If Halladay batted, would he hit away or try to move the runners up, which would put Blue Jays on second and third, two outs, and lead off batter Marco Scutaro at the plate.
Clarence Gaston Pinch-Hit for Roy Halladay and the Jays Lost
Bobby Cox did not walk Barajas. With a full count, the Blue Jays' catcher hit a harmless fly ball to right field for the second out. Gaston pinch-hit for Halladay with Joe Inglett, who failed to bring in Rolen from second. The Braves scored a run against Halladay's replacement, Jesse Carlson, and won the game, 1-0.
Mets-Padres in 1970
Clarence Gaston had been in a similar situation many years ago as a player for the San Diego Padres in 1970. The Mets scored a run off Padres' starter Clay Kirby in the top of the first inning when Tommie Agee led off with a walk, stole second, stole third, and scored on an Art Shamsky ground out.
Preston Gomez Pinch Hit With Clarence Gaston
In the eighth inning, the Mets still led 1-0, but they were still hitless as the Padres batted. Ed Spiezio grounded out to shortstop Bud Harrelson. Bob Barton came to the plate, and Clay Kirby waited in the on deck circle. Mets' starter Jim McAndrew got the offensively challenged Padres' catcher on a harmless fly ball to right field. Padres' manager Preston Gomez made his move.
Gomez sent Clarence "Cito" Gaston to bat for Kirby as 10,373 fans booed. "It would have been the easy way out for me to let the kid go up and hit. I don't play for the fans. I play to win. In fact, if Ed Spiezio had led off the eighth with a hit, I would have bunted him over and the pinch-hit for the pitcher. I did the same thing in Spokane by taking Phil Ortega out after seven innings and we eventually won the game"
(Note: On September 4, 1974, managing Houston, Gomez pulled Don Wilson, who had no-hit the Reds for eight innings. Houston lost 2-1).
So Many Possibilities
Gaston struck out to retire the side. Gomez brought in Jack Baldschun, who gave up three hits and two runs. The Padres were retired in order in the ninth, but IF Kirby had remained in the game, he might have gotten a hit (unlikely), he might have kept the Mets scoreless and hitless in the ninth, the Padres, down by only a run, might have scored (unlikely). If the Padres didn't score, Kirby has the dubious distinction of losing a no-hitter. If the Padres did tie the game, how long does Kirby pitch if he still had the no-hitter?
What great situations, Did Gomez make the right move? The Padres were going no where, the Mets were trying to win the Eastern Division title, and Kirby might never have another chance at pitching a no-hitter. Unlike the Blue Jays-Braves, the potential tying run was NOT on second when Gomez pinch-hit for Kirby.
The designated hitter rule eliminates all of the above. The beauty of two managers matching wits is rarely seen in American League games. Managers are supposed to manage. Fans love to argue about strategy. So much is eliminated because the designated hitter rule has not been and never will be eliminated.
By JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times. (1970, July 22). BALDSCHUN GIVES 3 SAFETIES IN 9TH :Harrelson Gets First Met Hit Off Reliever--Kirby Pulled Out for a Pinch-Batter. New York Times (1857-Current file),68. Retrieved May 23, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 105306768).
By JOSEPH DURSO Special to The New York Times. (1970, July 23). 8-Inning No-Hitter Irks Fans on Coast. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 34. Retrieved May 23, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 78792541).