Saturday, August 17, 2019

Cups of Coffee During the Original Best 32 Days of the Year

My wife is a month older than, and since the early days of our nearly two decades together, I have celebrated what I like to call, “my favorite 32 days of the year.” (She does not find this amusing.)

One of my favorite random factoids is that because she was born in September 1979 and I was born at the end of October, she was alive the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, while I was not. (She also does not find this amusing.) The other day, something else occurred to me: maybe there were players who played their entire careers in that gap between her birth and mine. Wouldn’t that be fun!

And of course there were, and of course it is! (There are two, actually, and as an added bonus I just noticed that one played for the Pirates and the other played for the Baltimore Orioles, the team the Pirates beat in the World Series.)

The first was Pittsburgh’s Gary Hargis, on September 29 against the Chicago Cubs. With two outs in the 13th inning and the Pirates trailing 7-6, shortstop Tim Foli flared a single to right against Bill Caudill for his second hit of the day. Hargis, the team’s second round pick in 1974, was brought in to make his major league debut as a pinch-runner for Foli. I didn’t understand why this happened so I tried to find a game story or something on Google; nothing doing there, but I DID find video of the game broadcast on YouTube (apparently it was NBC’s Game of the Week). Play-by-play announcer Joe Garagiola didn’t mention specifically why Foli was lifted except to note that he had a bad leg; I also didn’t catch him saying anything about it being Hargis’s major league debut, but did point out that first baseman Bill Buckner made a show of looking at the name on the back of his uniform as if to figure out who this guy was. He eventually moved up to second on Dave Parker’s fifth hit of the day but was stranded there when Hall of Famer Willie Stargell struck out to end the game.

And that was it for Hargis in the major leagues. He was just over a month shy of his 23rd birthday, still a young man, but was done with baseball after two more seasons in the minors. It’s kind of wild to think that all he did as a major leaguer was run 90 feet.

The next day, September 30, was the last day of the season. The Baltimore Orioles visited the Cleveland Indians, with Dennis Martinez getting the start. Martinez had given up three runs, two earned, on six hits when he headed out to the mound to start the sixth. A leadoff homerun by Cliff Johnson and a Ron Hassey single later and he was headed to the showers with the Orioles trailing 4-3.

Enter Jeff Rineer, a 24-year-old lefthander making his major league debut. He stopped the budding rally before it could get started, getting Ron Pruitt to fly out to left and inducing a ground ball from Dave Rosello to start a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

And that was that. Two batters up, two batters down, and Rineer’s major league career was over. Two Baltimore runs in the bottom of the sixth put him in line for the win, at least, but Don Stanhouse coughed up the lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Orioles lost in eleven innings.