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September 10,1995 –Who’s playing second? Knoblauch? Hale? Puckett?!

Two days before I became a teenager,the Minnesota Twins played the then-California Angels at the then-Anaheim Stadium in perhaps one of the strangest games,scoring-wise,of the last half century.

Baseball scorekeeping is a time-honored tradition among fans. A technique often passed down from parent (or grandparent) to child,scorekeeping details every event of a game,from hits to errors to outs to player substitutions. Developed as a part of the box score by journalist,amateur statistician,and “father of baseball”Henry Chadwick in the late 1800s,most individuals who keep score have a unique style or method which incorporate key principals outlined by Chadwick over 100 years ago.

A fairly normal box score looks something like this one,the summary of a game played on October 27,1987,between the Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals,and better known as Game Seven of the 1987 World Series.

Both teams made a few adjustments throughout the game,which the box score notes. St. Louis had Curt Fort pinch hit for Jim Lindeman in the eight inning,failing to reach base after popping out to Gary “G-Man”Gaetti,the Twins third baseman. St. Louis replaced rookie starting pitcher Joe Magrane with Danny Cox after Magrane faced two batters in the bottom of the fifth inning,recording one out. Cox was replaced by Todd Worrell after walking the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth inning,Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek.

On the Twins’side,light-hitting starting second baseman Steve Lombardozzi was pinch hit for in the bottom of the sixth inning by former All-Star shortstop Roy Smalley III. Smalley,a switch-hitter with decent power who suffered from spondylolysis later in his career,walked. Smalley was then replaced by pinch runner Al Newman. The Twins replaced starting pitcher Frank “Sweet Music”Viola with their fearless closer,Jeff “The Terminator”Reardon in the top of the ninth inning.

As far as a baseball game goes,Game Seven of the ’87 Series was a fairly standard affair. Though the Twins are no strangers to odd box scores (witness Game Three of the 1991 World Series,which is unfortunately unlinkable through Retrosheet.org),the game they would play with the Angels in 1995 ranks far above anything they’ve done before or since.

Since certain parts of Retrosheet.org are not linkable,I created the diagram below from Retrosheet’s data for the September 10 meeting between the two clubs. A full-size version of the diagram is available here.

Twins vs. Angels - Sept. 10,1995

The first inning of the game started with a bang for Minnesota. All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch led off with a walk,then stole second base. Utility man Jeff Reboulet was playing first base and batting second. Generally a light hitter,Reboulet grounded out to the pitcher while Knoblauch stayed put,bringing future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett to the plate. Puckett,the designated hitter,smoked a double to right field that scored Knoblauch.

Hitting cleanup was Pedro Munoz,the right fielder. Munoz was struck out by California’s former ace starter,the one-handed southpaw Jim Abbott. With two out,Marty Cordova,who would garner 1995 Rookie of the Year honors,stepped in to face Abbott. Cordova launched a double to left that scored Puckett,putting the Twins up 2-0. Twins third baseman Scott Leius stranded Cordova,popping out to Angels first baseman J.T. Snow to end the inning. Line score for the top of the first: 2 runs,2 hits,0 errors,1 runner (Cordova) left on base. Twins 2,Angels 0.

The Angels faced right-handed starter Oscar Munoz in the bottom of the first. Munoz stuck out the first batter he faced,California’s switch-hitting third baseman Tony Phillips. He then issued a walk to future All-Star (with the Detroit Tigers) Damion Easley,bringing Jim Edmonds,the Angels’center fielder,to the plate. Edmonds,in his first season as a full-time player,was starting off a career that would see him as one of the five best center fielders of the era. Edmonds,a power hitter (as we shall see later) grounded out to Jeff Reboulet at first base,advancing Easley to second.

Tim SalmonDesignated hitter Chili Davis,a former Twin and integral part of the 1991 World Series Champion team,was hitting cleanup. Davis,who returned for his second stint with the Angels following his two years in a Twins uniform,drew California’s second walk of the inning. Slugger Tim Salmon,the Angels’right fielder,popped out to Pat Meares at short,for the third out. Line score for the bottom of the first: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,2 runners (Easley,Davis) left on base. Twins 2,Angels 0.

The Twins’half of the second inning passed quickly. Catcher Matt Merullo flied out to Edmonds in center. Shortstop Pat Meares grounded out to his counterpart,Angels SS Dick Schofield. Twins rookie center fielder Matt Lawton,who had played his first game in the majors only five days before,reached first on an error by California third baseman Tony Phillips,only to be picked off by the deceptive Jim Abbott. Line score for the top of the second: 0 runs,0 hits,1 error,0 runners left on base. Twins 2,Angels 0.

The Angels portion of the second progressed nearly as quickly. Munoz again struck out the first hitter he faced,this time first baseman J.T. Snow. California left fielder Garrett Anderson singled to center. Greg Myers,the catcher,hit into an attempted double play,
with Anderson out at second. Normally sure-handed Chuck Knoblauch made an error on the play,and Myers reached first. It would be for naught,as Dick Schofield would end the inning by popping out to Knoblauch at second. Line score for the bottom of the second: 0 runs,1 hit,1 error,1 runner (Myers) left on base. Twins 2,Angels 0.

Jim AbbottThe Twins went even more quietly in the third inning. Jim Abbot got three quick outs as Knoblauch grounded out to the shortstop,Reboulet flied to Salmon in right,and Puckett grounded to Tony Phillips at third. Line score for the top of the third: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Twins 2,Angels 0.

Leading off for California in the bottom of the inning,Phillips fared no better than he had in his first match-up against Munoz,as he was struck out (looking) for the second time in the game. Damion Easley turned things around with a double to center,and he would score moments later when Jim Edmonds singled to right. Thanks to heads-up play by Pedro Munoz in right and relay man Jeff Reboulet,Edmonds was called out at second trying to stretch his single into a double. Chili Davis flied out to Lawton in center,closing out the frame. Line score for the bottom of the third: 1 run,2 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Twins 2,Angels 1.

Pedro Munoz started off the fourth with a single to right field. Twins left fielder Marty Cordova struck out swinging,and then Scott Leius grounded into a third –second –first double play. Line score for the top of the fourth: 0 runs,1 hit,0 errors,0 runners left on base. 1 double play (Phillips –Easley –Snow). Twins 2,Angels 1.

The bottom of the fourth was a monster for the Angels. Tim Salmon got things cooking with a lead-off single to center,and then advanced to third when J.T. Snow singled to left minutes later. Garret Anderson smoked a double that scored Salmon and advanced Snow to third. Snow scored when Greg Myers grounded out to Knoblauch at second,and Anderson moved up to third on the play. Matt Lawton committed an error that allowed Dick Schofield to reach base (and Anderson to score),and suddenly the Twins were behind for the first time in the game.

Jim EdmondsTony Phillips followed with a walk,but Easley grounded out,shortstop to first,giving the Angels two outs with two runners on base. Jim Edmonds launched an offering by Oscar Munoz for a 3-run homer,his 31st of the season. Munoz avoided the Angels batting around the order by inducing a ground out from Chili Davis (also shortstop to first),but the damage was done. Line score for the bottom of the fourth: 6 runs,4 hits,1 error,0 runners left on base. Angels 7,Twins 2.

With his team staking him a five-run lead,one might think Jim Abbot would dominate the Twins in the fifth inning the way he had since giving up two runs to open the game. However,all the scoring from the previous inning must have messed up Abbott’s tempo. Abbot got the first batter,Merullo,to ground out to Schofield at short,but then surrendered a single to Pat Meares and plunked Matt Lawton.

Chuck Knoblauch was patient with Abbott and walked,loading the bases. Jeff Reboulet grounded out,short to first,but Merullo scored and Lawton and Knoblauch each moved up a base. Kirby Puckett then singled to right field,scoring both Lawton and Knoblauch and chasing Abbott from the game. With two out,righty Mike Bielecki replaced Abbott. Bielecki got Pedro Munoz to strike out for the second time of the day,getting the Angels out of the inning. Line score for the top of the fifth: 3 runs,2 hits,0 errors,1 runner (Puckett) left on base. Angels 7,Twins 5.

Twins manager Tom Kelly replaced Oscar Munoz to start the bottom of the fifth,bringing in mediocre reliever Scott Klingenbeck to face Tim Salmon. Somehow averting disaster,Klingenbeck got the Angels to go 1-2-3,with Salmon flying to Munoz in right,Snow grounding out pitcher to first,and Anderson grounding out Reboulet,who threw to Klingenbeck covering at first. Line score for the bottom of the fifth: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Angels 7,Twins 5.

Marty CordovaThe Twins continued their comeback in the sixth. Marty Cordova led off with a successful bunt toward third,advancing to second when Scott Leius walked. Merullo,already 0 for 2 on the day,popped out to Phillips at third. Pat Meares reached on a fielder’s choice,with Leius forced out at second. Cordova made it to third on the play.

Matt Lawton walked,moving Meares up to second,and that was it for Bielecki. Marcel Lachemann called the bullpen for Rich Monteleone,who gave up a bases-loaded single to Chuck Knoblauch that scored both Cordova and Meares and sent Lawton to third. Monteleone then got Reboulet to fly out to Anderson in left,but the Twins had evened things up. Line score for the top of the sixth: 2 runs,2 hits,0 errors,2 runners (Lawton,Knoblauch) left on base. Twins 7,Angels 7.

Klingenbeck coughed up a run in the bottom of the inning but stayed in the game. Greg Myers singled to right field,and then Dick Schofield executed a sacrifice bunt (Reboulet to Knoblauch,covering at first) to advance Myers into scoring position at second base.

Tony Phillips got an infield single that advanced Myers to third. Mike Aldrete was called on to pinch hit for Damion Easley,but he grounded out to Meares at short for out number two. Myers managed to score on the play,and Phillips moved up to second. Klingenbeck stopped the bleeding by getting Jim Edmonds to strike out looking. Line score for the bottom of the sixth: 1 run,2 hits,0 errors,1 runner (Phillips) left on base. Angels 8,Twins 7.

Before the Twins came to bat in the seventh,Rex “Wonder Dog”Hudler replaced Mike Aldrete as second baseman and Mike James took over for Monteleone on the mound.
James induced the third 1-2-3 inning of the game,getting Puckett to pop out to Greg Myers,Pedro Munoz to ground out to Hudler,and Cordova to ground out to Schofield at short. Line score for the top of the seventh: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Angels 8,Twins 7.

Not to be outdone,Minnesota’s new pitcher in the bottom of the seventh,Dave Stevens,got the Angels to go down in order. Chili Davis grounded out to Jeff Reboulet,who threw to Stevens covering at first. Tim Salmon and J.T. Snow both flied out to Lawton in center. Line score for the bottom of the seventh: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Angels 8,Twins 7.

The eighth inning was the turning point in the game,both in terms of what was done on the field and the mind-boggling scorekeeping required to track all the changes in the game. Aurora,IL native Rich Becker,normally an outfielder for the Twins,pinch hit for third baseman Scott Leius. Becker,who had decent speed,got an infield single to get things going.

Lachemann lifted Mike James for lefty Bob Patterson,figuring Patterson would have a favorable match-up against Matt Merullo,who hadn’t gotten a hit all day. Tom Kelly countered by sending switch-hitting catcher Matt Walbeck out to face Patterson,but Walbeck couldn’t deliver,grounding into a third to second to first double play.

With the Twins suddenly down to one out in the inning,Patterson was pulled in favor of right-handed rookie Troy Percival,who would go on to become the greatest reliever in Angels history,notching 316 saves over ten seasons with the club. Chip Hale,pinch hitting for Pat Meares,singled to left. Matt Lawton walked,sending Hale to second,and for a moment,it seemed like the Twins had a rally on their hands. Unfortunately,Percival bore down,getting Knoblauch to strike out to end the inning. Line score for the top of the eighth: 0 runs,2 hits,0 errors,2 runners (Hale,Lawton) left on base. 1 double play (Phillips –Hudler –Snow). Angels 8,Twins 7.

Quite a few Twins players switched positions before the Angels came to bat in the bottom of the inning. Reboulet,a utility man,moved from first base to shortstop to replace Pat Meares defensively. Rich Becker,the outfielder who had pinch hit for Leius,moved into right field,sending Pedro Munoz to first base,a position he had only played twice before in his six-year career.

Munoz had pinch hit for Dan Masteller in a 9-4 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore on July 3rd of that year,doubling in the eighth inning and playing the field in the final inning. A few weeks later,on July 21,1995,Munoz started at first base in the first game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Munoz committed three errors in the game against the Red Sox before being moved to right field,and two runs in the 13-5 loss were the direct result of Munoz’s gaffs. However,Twins manager Tom Kelly was running low on infielders,and first base was the position least likely to expose Munoz’s defensive difficulties.

Chip Hale,who had pinch hit for shortstop Pat Meares,was displaced by Reboulet at short and slid over to cover for Scott Leius at third (who,as noted above,had been pinch hit for by Becker,now in right field). Walbeck stayed in the game at catcher,and the defense was set.

For all the changing around,California made it easy on Dave Stevens,who remained in the game after coming in for Klingenbeck for the previous inning. Both Garrett Anderson and Greg Myers flied out to Cordova in left,while Dick Schofield struck out looking,sending the Angels down in order. Line score for the bottom of the eighth: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Angels 8,Twins 7.

Kirby PuckettThe parade continued on both sides in the ninth. The Angels sent their closer (and all-time saves leader),Lee Smith,out to shut the door on the Twins. California also sent out utility man Rene Gonzalez to replace Tony Phillips at third. The Twins countered by pinch hitting the afore-mentioned Dan Masteller for Jeff Reboulet (who had moved from Masteller’s natural position at first base to play shortstop after Pat Meares had been lifted in favor of Rich Becker,who was now playing right field –got all that?). It worked –Masteller homered,tying the game. Kirby Puckett flied out to Jim Edmonds in center,bringing up Pedro Munoz,now at first base. Munoz hit an infield single,only to be thrown out by Greg Myers moments later while attempting to steal second base. Line score for the top of the ninth: 1 run,2 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Twins 8,Angels 8.

Tom Kelly was in trouble. Dan Masteller had homered to tie the game,but in doing so had forced Jeff Reboulet,who had the ability to play any position on the diamond (excepting pitcher),out of the game. Faced with a problem,Kelly did something completely unorthodox.

Kelly moved Kirby Puckett,who had been the designated hitter,to second base,a position he had played only three times previously –once during the eighth inning of a game in Cleveland on August 16,1990,once in a loss to the Brewers at home on April 15,1992,and again that year in the ninth inning of a 3-2 win at the Metrodome against the Red Sox on July 17th. By moving Puckett into the infield,Kelly lost the use of his designated hitter (per the official DH rule).

Kelly placed Masteller at first base (removing Munoz from the game) and moved pitcher Dave Stevens to Munoz’spot in the batting order (oddly enough,the clean-up spot). Chuck Knoblauch moved over to shortstop (a position he played in college and the minor leagues) to fill in for Reboulet.

Spike Owen,batting for third baseman Rene Gonzalez,was the first Angel due up. Owen,a switch-hitter,singled to center field. With Wonder Dog Hudler,a right-handed hitter,due up,Knoblauch and Puckett switched positions,Puckett to short,Knoblauch back to second base. Puckett had played shortstop twice before in his career,both times during games when he also played second base (the loss to the Indians in 1990 and the win over the Red Sox in July of 1992).

Wonder Dog attempted a sacrifice bunt,but wound up reaching base,with the play scored as a fielder’s choice. Owen safe at second,was forced out on a pitcher to third fielder’s choice a moment later when Jim Edmonds attempted a bunt. Edmonds reached,and Hudler moved to second.

Puckett and Knoblauch got Chip Hale into the musical chairs act,sending Puckett to third (where he played in high school and college),Hale to second (his natural position),and Knoblauch back to shortstop. Chili Davis grouned out (Hale to Masteller at first),but both Hudler and Edmonds advanced. With two runners in scoring position and a win only 90 feet away,Dave Stevens got Tim Salmon looking at strike three,staving off a loss. Line score for the bottom of the ninth: 0 runs,1 hit,0 errors,2 runners (Hudler,Edmonds) left on base. Twins 8,Angels 8.

Rich BeckerWith the game tied,things got even stranger in the tenth inning. Spike Owen (who had pinch hit for Gonzalez to start the California half of the ninth) stayed in the game at third,while southpaw Mark Holzemer came in the game to face left-handed hitting Rich Becker.

Things didn’t work out as favorably for Marcel Lachemann this time around. Holzemer beaned Becker,sending him to first base. Matt Walbeck grounded out pitcher to first,but advanced Becker into scoring position at second base.

Becker had good speed –a single would bring him home. The Twins didn’t get a single.

Chip Hale stuck out,bringing up Matt Lawton with two down and the winning run on second base. Lawton hit the ball to Owen at third,who committed a devastating error,allowing Lawton to reach safely and,more importantly,Becker to score. Lawton moved up to second,and with Knoblauch,the Twins’second-best hitter coming up and first base free,Lachemann opted to intentionally walk Knoblauch to face Dan Masteller again. Masteller also walked,loading the bases,and Lachemann brought in righty John Habyan to face Puckett. Puckett struck out,ending the inning and preventing the Twins from scoring any insurance runs. Line score for the top of the tenth: 1 run,0 hits,1 error,3 runners (Lawton,Knoblauch,Masteller) left on base. Twins 9,Angels 8.

The bottom of the tenth saw more changes for the Twins. Puckett and Hale flip-flopped (Puckett to second base,Hale to third),while lefty Scott Watkins came in to face left-handed hitting J.T. Snow. Snow stuck out,bringing up Garrett Anderson,also left-handed. Anderson hit a grounder to Puckett,who fielded it cleanly and threw to Masteller for the second out. Lachemann sent weak-hitting righty Eduardo Perez to the plate,and Kelly countered with right-handed hurler Pat Mahomes. Lachemann then pulled back Perez in favor of Orlando Palmeiro,a left-handed hitter. Palmeiro lined out to Knoblauch at short for the final out for the game. Line score for the bottom of the tenth: 0 runs,0 hits,0 errors,0 runners left on base. Final score:Twins 9,Angels 8.

What a headache for the official scorer,and what an interesting bit of trivia for the fan. A completed scorecard from that game would be a prize,featuring a Gold Glove center fielder (and Hall of Famer) in Kirby Puckett starting the game as the designated hitter,only to wind up playing three positions in the infield in the final two innings of the game.

It also serves as a positive note for Puckett’s otherwise sad September of 1995. Unbeknownst to anyone,including Puckett,his career would be ended by a Dennis Martinez beanball in the first inning of the last game of the season,September 28. Martinez launched a fastball,breaking Puckett’s jaw and crumpling him into the dirt around home plate. Puckett would develop glaucoma in his right eye the following spring,and he would never again play the game,a sad ending for the greatest career in Minnesota sports history.

Two Notes

I originally intended this to be the Weekend Update,but as the post became longer and longer,I eventually decided to post it for Monday,in the wake of the Twins sweeping the Kansas City Royals in four games to move into second place in the American League Wild Card standings (.5 games behind Chicago). I don’t write about baseball much here,as I have outlets to do so elsewhere,but I decided to make an exception this time around.

I’ll be going out the field on Tuesday morning,and due to that I’m forced to miss both the Wednesday and Friday updates. Look for the regular weekend update unless I am sidetracked by the Twins sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays next weekend.

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