NEW YORK -- Postseasons don't always turn on magical October moments, on Kirk Gibson-esque swings of the bat, on Bob Gibson-esque pitchers taking over games with their bionic arms.
No, sirree. Sometimes, postseasons turn on happenstances right out of the Three Stooges' playbook.
Sometimes they turn on surreal happenstances like the one that unfurled in front of 56,979 befuddled witnesses at Shea Stadium on Wednesday.
It was a play that hung all over the final 2½ hours of the Mets' 6-5 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Which means it's a play that could very easily alter the course of this series, the course of this postseason, the course of dozens -- possibly even hundreds -- of lives.
Oh, you might think we're exaggerating. But remember this: Careers are defined by what happens in October. By who wins. By who loses. By who rides on a parade float and who doesn't. By who makes those Mr. October plays that decide these things. And by who makes the Buckner-esque mistakes that haunt them forever.
That's the deal. So while we don't know yet where this October is heading, we also don't know What Might Have Been this month had the Dodgers and Mets not produced The Weirdest Double Play in Postseason History.
"Gigantic play," said Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, the man in the middle of it. "Huge play "
And that's not all.
"Bizarre play," said Lo Duca.
You bet. So how exactly do we explain what happened here? OK, let's see.
First off, the Dodgers' Russell Martin singled into a double play. That ought to give you some idea this wasn't exactly your typical entry in the old scorebook.
But how that DP came about is the part of this play that all who saw it will be rehashing for at least the next 6,000 years.
It was a double play unparalleled in postseason history (thank goodness).
A double play in which both outs came at home plate. About 2½ seconds apart.
A double play on which one catcher (the always-gymnastic Lo Duca) caught one throw and then applied tags on two different baserunners -- one of which he never even knew was there until he tagged him.
But if Lo Duca didn't know what the heck was going on out there, he wasn't the only one.
It started routinely enough, with Martin whacking what looked like an RBI double off the right-field wall. But what it looked like and what it turned out to be were two very different things.
Kent thought the right fielder, Shawn Green, might catch it. So he headed back to second to tag up.
Drew instantly decided this ball was going to take a crazy carom off the fence, and that he was going to be able to score from first. So he quickly revved into a full sprint.
You can see the dark clouds gathering over this mess already, can't you?
Meanwhile, in the third-base coach's box, Dodgers third-base traffic cop Rich Donnelly watched intently as Green scooped up a perfect bounce off the wall and wheeled to throw.
So Donnelly looked up and got ready to throw a giant stop sign up there to hold Kent at third. Then he realized they were all in big trouble.
"As I was about to hold Jeff up, I said, 'Uh oh,' " Donnelly said, "because here came J.D., about 10 feet behind him. So what am I supposed to do? I can't hold them both. And I can't send them both. So I said, I'd better send Jeff and hope they screw up the relay or something."
So Donnelly wheeled his arm and prayed. Kent lumbered toward the plate. Lo Duca gathered in Jose Valentin's relay throw. And Kent was out. Way out. Which, from the Dodgers' point of view, would have been bad enough.
"But then, all of a sudden," Donnelly said, "I look up, and there goes J.D. right by me."
Yep, there he went, all right. And all around Shea Stadium, people began eyeing each other funny, as it dawned on them what was about to go down here. Everyone in the park could see it coming -- everyone, that is, except Lo Duca.
He applied the tag on Kent. He turned toward plate ump John Hirshbeck to show him he still had the baseball. He then turned back around -- and found a second out about to land right in his lap.
"Never saw him," Lo Duca laughed. "I swear to God. He just slid right into me."
"They all told me they were screaming at the top of their lungs," Lo Duca chuckled. "I never heard anything."
And how could he? Shea Stadium was the loudest place on the entire planet. And no play like this had ever taken place in any postseason game ever.
There was a play in New York once -- on Aug. 2, 1985 -- in which Carlton Fisk tagged out two Yankees at the plate on the same play. That one's famous enough that even Lo Duca remembers it.
But when someone tried to compare this play to that play, Lo Duca wasn't buying it.
"Because he [Fisk] saw both of them coming," Lo Duca said. "I only saw one of them."
You think of all the hours these men spend playing baseball. And all the hours they spend preparing to play baseball. And all the hours they spend thinking about playing baseball.
They still weren't ready for a play like this.
"If they'd have had the camera on me, out in left field, all you'd have seen was my big mouth wide open," said Mets left fielder Cliff Floyd. "I was just like you all. I was saying, 'What the heck is going on?' "
Even the Dodgers weren't sure just what the heck had gone on.
"We've been in L.A. all season long," joked Dodgers manager Grady Little. "We know about traffic jams. We certainly had one again right there."
It only takes one crazy motorist to cause a traffic jam. And it only took one crazy baserunner to cause this one.
"When I saw that play, I knew right there -- this was going to be a gooood day for the Mets."
-- Mets LF Cliff Floyd
Now here's the alibi from the perpetrator, Drew: "When I came around third, I thought the ball was still rolling around the corner."
Uh, not quite. And because he'd made that assumption, his co-conspirators were forced into actions they'd sure love to have back.
"That wasn't a good feeling," said Donnelly (a man whom even Floyd called "one of the best third-base coaches in the business"). "Russell Martin moved up to second on the throw. If he'd come over to third, I think I might have just handed him my uniform and gone back to Steubenville.
"Third-base coaches," continued Donnelly, "are like air-traffic controllers. Nobody says anything until there's a wreck. Well, there was a wreck out there, and it was awful. The worst part was, that should have been a four- or five-run inning, and it wasn't."
Instead, it was an inning in which the Dodgers managed to get their first five hitters on base -- and score just one run. Hard to do.
It also could have been an inning that kicked the Mets into a woe-is-us canyon, on a day when they learned their scheduled Game 1 starter (Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez) was probably gone for the whole month of October. Instead, it was an inning that pumped even more electricity into a turbocharged ballpark. And this series might never be the same.
Two innings later, that one-run Dodgers lead disappeared -- when Carlos Delgado pumped one of the most mammoth home runs ever witnessed at Shea Stadium, a 450-foot space shuttle that landed on top of the center-field camera hut. And when the center-field camera has to point up to follow a home run, you know it went a lonnnggg way.
"I've been here four years," said Floyd, "and there has never been a ball hit where that ball landed. I was just like the cameraman, 'cause I couldn't see it, either."
That shot was the highlight of a special day for Delgado, a man who waited 13 years to put on a 4-for-5 show. His 1,711 games played before this one had been the most of any active player who had never made it into a postseason box score. And his 407 career regular-season homers were the second most in history (behind Billy Williams' 415) by any player before his first postseason game.
Delgado tried to claim later that he was able to "control his emotions" and just play. But Wright made sure to announce: "For the record, he definitely did not control his emotions. [He] almost took my arm off, hitting my hand, on the [high five after the] home run."
We're not sure, though, how many of the nearly 57,000 people who witnessed this game will remember that home run five years from now. We're also not sure how many will remember Delgado's fourth hit -- a seventh-inning RBI single off Brad Penny (now 1-8 lifetime in Shea) that put the Mets ahead to stay after the Dodgers had rallied from three runs back to tie the game in the top of the seventh.
But The Weirdest Double Play in Postseason History? We can guarantee that everybody will remember that, for pretty much ever.
"When I saw that play," said Floyd, "I knew right there -- this was going to be a gooood day for the Mets."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.