Readers: Shocking baseball moments
From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed the 10 most shocking moments in baseball history, and we asked for your choices.

We received more than 1,500 e-mails, and here is how Page 2 readers ranked our National Pastime's most surprising occurrences. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the most shocking moment of them all.

1. Black Sox throw the 1919 Series (164 letters)
'Shoeless' Joe Jackson
Fans didn't want to believe "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and seven other White Sox threw the World Series.
The 1919 fix by the White Sox is the most shocking moment in baseball history. Untimely deaths, blunders, unseemly behavior and even deranged fans are all examples of events involving human beings that could be expected to happen every so often given the human condition. But a professional team that connives to fix a game, enters a different dimension of human failing that is unmatched. It is a clear example of a stupid and immoral decision that was traced to a whole group of people rather than to just one beleaguered or compromised individual.
Jean Petter
Athens, Ga

With all due respect to Red Sox fans who will undoubtedly insist Bill Buckner's error -- an unintentional lapse by one man -- was equivalent to the coming of the apocalypse, the 1919 Black Sox scandal is unquestionably the most shocking moment. The fact that it happened so long ago makes it seem less significant to today's public, but just imagine eight players on the best team in baseball taking money to intentionally lose the World Series. What would happen if, this September, it was revealed that the Yankees threw last year's Series, and Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, and others were banned from baseball for life? You media guys would probably be asking the players tougher questions than "It's not true, is it?"
Chris Anderson
College Park, Md.

Although I found it interesting that Pete Rose's gambling problem didn't make it to your list, the most shocking moment in baseball history was the Black Sox scandal. Even forgetting the actual events on the field of the 1919 World Series for a moment, consider the following: Comiskey & Rothstein hired attorneys together to protect Comiskey's players, and keep Rothstein out of jail. The Black Sox spent most of 1920 locked in a tight pennant race with the Indians and Yankees and threw games throughout the season to keep the gamblers from exposing them (the players were suspended with two weeks left in the season and were within two games of first place when it happened). Then, don't forget the disappearance of the signed Grand Jury confessions of Shoeless Joe and Eddie Cicotte prior to the trial ... evidence that almost certainly would have led to convictions in the trial. It seems every generation remembers a watershed event. Everybody of our generation will remember 9/11. Some will remember the Challenger disaster, when Kennedy was shot, or Pearl Harbor was attacked. For a much earlier generation of baseball fans, I am quite certain they will recall where they were when when they heard scandalous news.

2. Strike cancels 1994 Series (137 letters)
Not the Kaiser, not Hitler, not the Depression, not scandal, nor natural disaster; nothing had ever stopped the Fall Classic. In 1994, baseball became the first major professional sport whose championship was canceled by its own accord. It forever broke the naive illusion that sports were an eternal constant, a refuge somehow immune. It forever broke the emotional trust in fans for all sport. We are more cynical now and more grown-up, and not as childlike in our devotion.
John Lillie

How can you not even give an honorable mention to the 1994 strike-driven cancellation of the World Series? That's got to be the worst thing that's happened to baseball since mesh hats.

As a lifelong fan of the game, nothing in the last 20 years can compare to Bud Selig's cancellation in '94. If baseball thinks that anybody is going to come back when they strike again this time, they are sorely mistaken. I think we will have had enough.
Tom Collins

3. Red Sox Series hopes go through Buckner's legs (111 letters)
Bill Buckner
Bill Buckner's name will long symbolize screwing up.
When Mookie Wilson's apparent inning-ending groundball to Bill Buckner got away!!
Totally unbelievable and unforgettable!!
Tom Baumgardt
Paramus, N.J.

This weekend, I watched Trot Nixon let a ball go under his glove in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Yankees. As a Red Sox fan, I was devastated. Multiply that by 100, in say ... Game 6 of the would-be first World Series Championship since 1918, and you have the most shocking moment in baseball history. No one will forget until Boston finally wins one ... maybe not.
Amity Ziegler
Newton, Mass.

I was sitting in a bar in Boston, with a beautiful blonde next to me ... next to her, a New York Mets fan. The blonde overheard us arguing about who was going to win the game. She decided to add to the fun, by stating that she would leave with whom ever won the game. Needless to say, in the bottom of the 10th, two outs, up by two runs, I was planning a wonderful evening for two. Then hit, after hit, after hit ... my throat swelled up when Bob Stanley threw the wild pitch. I was so confused, and it only got worse. Next came the slow roller down the first-base line through the legs of Bill Buckner. The whole bar was quiet, the streets were quiet. How could you go to N.Y. and win the first two games, come home and barely win one, then go back to N.Y., win it in extra innings, only to lose it in extra innings?? I am no longer mad at the Sox, I'm a convert ... a Yankees fan now. Never again to feel the pain, Boston gave me year after year ... Oh, and the blonde, yeah she left with the Mets fan. I am OK, now.
Fred Merrill II
Concord, N.H.

4. Roberto Clemente dies in plane crash (96 letters)
Roberto Clemente is not in your top 10? You have Thurman Munson, but not Clemente? Roberto was one of the greatest all-around players in history. He reached the magic number of 3,000 hits in his last game of his career. He was later delivering relief supplies to help the people of Nicaragua, when his plane crashed off Puerto Rico. He was one of the most caring individuals off the field, who gave his life to help others ... For some reason, I think that if he were in a Yankees uniform, he would have been on this list.
Nick R
North Bend, Ore.

With all due respect to Thurman Munson and Darryl Kile, the most shocking loss was Roberto Clemente. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and Clemente died when I was 7 years old. His loss is one of my most vivid and defining childhood memories. I remember my mother telling me, "Roberto died trying to help others, Honey. God takes his best as soon as he can." I cried for days. I've got a tear in my eye right now. God must really have needed a great man to play right field.
Jim Wilkeson
Lexington, Ky.

Being from Pittsburgh, there are a few things one learns as a child:
1) The Immaculate Reception wasn't luck, it was skill.
2) Mario Lemieux is our savior and will be cannonized.
3) When Roberto Clemente died, time stood still. The bereaved city didn't know whether to cry or wind its watch. Where are the classy athletes like Clemente these days? His death not shocking? I'd be shocked if another Clemente came along.

5. Lou Gehrig struck down in his prime (89 letters)
Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig pulled himself out of the lineup on May 2, 1939.
Lou Gehrig's legacy embodies everything one could ever love in baseball. Besides all of his ungodly career achievements, how many athletes could ever give a speech that moves an entire nation? His speech still rings in people's heads to this very day -- young and old. Listening to his speech should make any baseball fan want to wring the "whine" out of every player currently considering a strike. (How much did Gehrig earn, again? How fulfilled was his life despite how short it was? Dammit!) He was a tragic hero.
Tom Chris
New York

6. Darryl Kile found dead in hotel room (87 letters)
I moved from St. Louis to Boulder, Colo., about six months ago. It's hard being a rabid Cardinals fan here, but I do my best. One Saturday afternoon, I woke up and went with a friend to go to lunch. We were laughing and having a good time. I glanced up at the TV behind her, it was on ESPN. And I saw a picture of Darryl Kile on it, and "1968-2002." The sound was off, so I had no idea what was going on. I jumped up, I was shaking. We got our food to go, and went home to watch whatever was going on. That night, I attended my first baseball game at Coors Field. I went for DK. Since he used to be a Rockie, I figured they would do something for him. ... The Cardinals are still in first place now, it doesn't matter though. Yes, the Cards fan in me is still excited about their lead over the Reds, but the humanity aspect in me just says, "Maybe next year, maybe next year."
Boulder, Colo.

I realize that I might be somewhat biased not only because of where I live, but also because of how recently it happened, but the unimaginable death of Darryl Kile is easily the most shocking moment that I have ever experienced related to baseball. I can vividly recall the day of the Jack Buck memorial service when my friend and I went to Busch Stadium to remember Mr. Buck and watch the Cards play. ... The first two players out of the dugout as Mr. Buck's coffin was taken from the field were Matt Morris and Darryl Kile. ... I can still clearly picture Matt and Darryl smiling, kidding around with each other as we watched Darryl snap his incredible curve ball. Only a few days later we settled into our seats at my friend's apartment only to hear the tragic news. Words still cannot describe the shock and devastation of my friends and I, let alone the obvious effect upon the Cards family.
Robert K.
St. Louis

7. Juan Marichal-John Roseboro bat brawl (77 letters)
During the heat of a typical Giants-Dodgers pennant race, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal bludgeoned Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro over the head with his bat during an Aug. 22, 1965 day game at Candlestick Park. Marichal had been knocking down Dodgers batters all day with head-hunting brushback pitches, and Roseboro was sending back a message when Marichal was batting by throwing the ball back to pitcher Sandy Koufax and nicking Marichal's ear in the process. What made this particularly shocking was that Marichal, while a fierce competitor on the mound, had been known for maintaining a cool composure. His subsequent suspension and banishment from a series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles later in September cost the Giants an opportunity by one game to represent the National League in the 1965 World Series (ultimately won by the Dodgers over the Minnesota Twins).
Joe Higgins
Jacksonville, N.C.

What about Juan Marichal clobbering Johnnie Roseboro over the head with the bat after getting hit by pitch. This is the ultimate no-no in the unwritten rules of baseball. It might not be as shocking if it happened today, but remember that this was before violent video games, gangsta rap, and the other pollutants "experts" say poison the minds of our children now.
John Costa
Folly Beach, S.C.

8. Umpire John McSherry collapses to his death on the field (69 letters)

John McSherry (age 51) died on Opening Day of 1996 in Cincinnati, and it was the most shocking thing I've ever seen on a baseball field. To see him stumbling back from the plate ... it was just disturbing. Almost equally as shocking is the fact that Marge Schott pushed for the game to continue! Unbelievable.

9. Pete Rose banned for betting on baseball (62 letters)
Pete Rose banned from baseball. At the time, no one was more popular to one city than Pete was to Cincinnati, our own pride and joy -- Mr. Charlie Hustle. As a boy, we awaited baseball practice to slide like Pete, head-first like a man-missile, jumping from a grenade and losing our cap in the process, just to be like No. 14. Then, that August, in the midst of a hunt for "Reds in October," the walls of a famed temple came crashing down, and no one from this city has been the same since. Whether or not he did is not the point, it's only that a man had a part of his body cut off, and everyone was around to see him bleed, all the way to a prison cell for tax evasion. Ty Cobb was charged with murder and is in the Hall of Fame, as are racists, drug dealers, raging alcoholics and sex offenders -- Pete was only accused of "stealing baseball's purity." The game has yet to be, and will never be, the same.
Chris Mercurio
Loveland, Ohio

Pete Rose, say it isn't so! The mighty hit master who brought the promised land to Philly, decides the ponies are not enough and gets banned for betting on baseball. How could you take the Padres over the Dodgers even up?! Is his attorney selling vacuums door to door now?
Jeff Oakes

10. Giants, Dodgers head west (58 letters)
The Giants and Dodgers leaving New York completely changed the game of baseball and led inevitably to the mess of today. There'd be no talk of contraction or moving teams from city to city and league to league without the actions of "pioneers" like Walter O'Malley. He and his peers have a lot to answer for.
Willem O'Reilly
Buena Vista, Colo.

Also receiving votes

  • Ray Chapman killed by Carl Mays beanball, 1920
  • The George Brett's pine tar incident
  • Cleveland 10-Cent Beer Night riot
  • Robbie Alomar spits in umpire's face
  • Amazin' Mets win in 1969
  • Brooklyn Dodgers sign Jackie Robinson
  • Roseanne Barr's rendition of the national anthem
  • Earthquake rocks 1989 World Series
  • 2002 All-Star game called in a tie


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