Archive for Blue Jays

Have a day, Dewayne Wise

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2022 by macmystery
Dewayne Wise saves Mark Buehrle’s perfect game.

I want to start by saying this post is dedicated to my friends – Richard Coco, Will Rothschild and Chris Winston.

Though it’s Feb. 25 now, I started writing this entry before midnight, late on Thursday, Feb. 24. As I perused my Facebook feed, looking for something inspiring that might not have anything to do with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I came across a post by Braves Baseball Memories.

The post was wishing Dewayne Wise, an Atlanta Brave in 2004, a happy 44th birthday.

And that’s all it took to send me down a rabbit hole.

Dewayne Wise, a product of Chapin High School just outside of Columbia, S.C., was a slightly below average Major League Baseball player, although that is solely based on his offensive statistics. In 575 games in the show over 11 years, Wise had an OPS – on-base percentage + slugging percentage, a general indicator of offensive performance – of .645. While the average OPS of a Major League hitter varies from year to year, around .750 is a safe indicator of an average player, in any given year.

Wise’s poor on-base percentage belied the fact that he did have a little bit of power and a great deal of speed – he was successful on 55 of his 68 career stolen base attempts.

Wise hung around the majors, though, not just because he had promising offensive tools. It’s fair to say it was Wise’s glove that kept him in the bigs. And make no mistake, a career that involves parts of 11 seasons in the majors is nothing to dismiss. You don’t get there by accident.

The shining moment of Wise’s career came on July 23, 2009. And fittingly, it came in the field.

Though he didn’t start, the .196-hitting Wise, then a member of the Chicago White Sox, came on to play center field in the ninth-inning of a 5-0 game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Wise was tested early as Gabe Kapler led off the top of the ninth with a deep fly ball to left center field. Wise raced into the gap, leapt and reached high above the top of the wall to steal a home run away from Kapler.

Making the catch more spectacular, Wise lost the ball on the way down, found it in the air and caught it again before rolling to the ground.

Still, none of that is what really made the catch legendary. It was the circumstances surrounding the catch.

After Wise’s feat, Mark Buerhle took Michel Hernandez to a 3-2 count before striking him out, then got Michael Bartlett to ground out to the shortstop, completing his second no-hitter and the 18th perfect game in Major League history.

“Under the circumstances, one of the greatest catches I have ever seen in 50 years in this game,” White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson said.

It’s fair to say Buerhle should be sending more than socks to the Wise household every Christmas.

A year and two teams later, Wise was plying his trade in Toronto, and it’s with the Blue Jays that my friends and I encountered him.

A Bronx tale

Amazingly, somehow, in 14 years of writing this blog off and on, I’ve written nothing about Baseball Across the States, or BATS as we call it.

In 2000, three co-workers at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal – Richard Coco, Will Rothschild and Chris Winston – and I began a 20-year baseball odyssey.

In Chris’ Jeep Cherokee, the four of us headed to the Midwest and saw three games in four days – The Pirates at the Brewers at County Stadium on July 1, the Pirates at the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 3, and the Reds at the Cardinals at the old Busch Stadium on July 4.

On the drive back to Spartanburg from St. Louis, we made the decision to make one of these trips every year. And we did. For the next 19 years.

In 2010, that trip carried us to New York, minus Will, who couldn’t make it. We saw a Mets game at Citi Field, a minor league game at Staten Island, and on July 4, the Blue Jays at The Stadium.

The temperature was in the 90s for a noon game, and our seats were at the very top row of the new Yankee Stadium on the third-base line.

And Dewayne Wise was starting in center and batting second for the Jays. As it turned out, this game was one of the best in 20 years of games on these trips, and Wise was clearly a factor.

In the top of the 5th, with the Jays trailing 3-1, Wise comes to the plate with two out and two on base and turns on a 1-0 pitch, taking it down the line in right for a three-run home run and a 4-3 Blue Jays lead.

There’s not a baseball fan that’s not heard the old adage about how the guy who makes a big defensive play always seems to come to the plate in the next half inning. Well on this day, that was reversed.

After he had the big blow to give Toronto the lead over Phil Hughes, who would go on to win 18 games that season, Wise once again demonstrated it was his defense that made him a Major League player.

Nick Swisher led off with a line-drive single to center for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira followed with a deep fly ball to center, over Wise’s head and to the wall for a double. But Wise’s throw was perfect to shortstop Alex Gonzalez and the relay throw nailed Swisher at the plate. Teixeira went to third.

On the very next pitch, Alex Rodriguez flirted with a home run to deep center, but it was caught by Wise. And this time, Wise didn’t need a relay man. His throw made it to the plate on a hop and Teixeira was out at the dish, as well.

A single, followed by two shots to the track in deep center, and thanks to Wise, it played like a routine 1-2-3 inning.

An Adam Lind solo homer in the top of the sixth frame put the Blue Jays up by 2, 5-3. In the Yankees’ half, however, Wise would once again factor in a big play. But this time, it was by the Yankees.

With Jorge Posada on first, Brett Gardner hit a deep fly ball to center that Wise didn’t contain, and College of Charleston’s Gardner turned in an inside-the-park home run to tie the game at 5.

In the bottom of the 7th, with no one out and Swisher and Derek Jeter on first and second, respectively, Teixeira doubled home Jeter, moving Swisher to third and giving the Yanks a 6-5 lead.

After a strikeout and a walk, Francicso Cervelli hit a foul ball deep down the right field line. When Swisher tried to tag and score from third, he was once again gunned down at home, this time by Jose Bautista for a double play to end the inning.

This made three Yankees thrown out at home in the game. Their base running still hasn’t improved much since then.

Enter Sandman

The Yankees lead held until the top of the ninth. And you know what that meant … Mariano Rivera time.

Rivera allowed a leadoff single to Lyle Overbay before striking out Jose Molina.

Enter John Buck.

A journeyman catcher to most, Buck held some significance for us.

Over the first 13 years of our trip, we saw John Buck play at least one game on like seven different trips … including twice in minor league games, once with the Single-A Lexington Legends and once with the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. We also saw him play for the Royals, these Blue Jays, the Marlins, the Mets and the Pirates.

Buck singled, of course, putting Rivera in jeopardy.

Fred Lewis grounded into a fielder’s choice, moving Overbay to third. And up to the plate stepped Wise.

On the day, despite his 3-run homer and pair of assists in center field, Wise had still had a bumpy day, striking out in his other three at bats. But if you had any doubts, you only need to know that despite seeing the Yankees play five times in New York – once at Shea, twice at the old Stadium and twice at the new stadium – I never saw Rivera get a save,

Wise lined a single to center to tie the game. After the Yankees failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, there was one more bit of craziness in the top of the 10th.

Against David Robertson, the Blue Jays got the first two runners on base. And then, surprisingly, they asked slugger Edwin Encarnacion to bunt. A huge mistake.

Encarnacion actually got the bunt down, moving Jose Bautista to third, even. But A-Rod made a strong play, fielding the bunt and going to second to start a rare double play on a successful sacrifice bunt (no credit is given for a sac bunt here).

The Yankees walked Overbay intentionally and Robertson struck out the offensively inept Jose Molina to end the threat. The Blue Jays wouldn’t bat again.

Robinson Cano walked to lead off the bottom of the 10th, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, and a walk and a strikeout later, he scored the game-winning run on a single by pinch-hitter Marcus Thames.

After DeWayne Wise’s homer and four RBIs, three Ks and two assists; three Yankees thrown out at the plate; a Brett Gardner inside-the-park home run; a Mariano Rivera blown save; a John Buck sighting; and a double play on a bunt that was also a successful sacrifice, it was a 7-5 Yankees win.

Back to the Bullpen

After the nearly four-hour game, we took the train back to Manhattan. Prior to our walk from the station to our hotel, we had decided we would go back to our room and rest a bit in the cool before going back out and trying to find someplace we could watch the Angels’ night game on ESPN, as well as the fireworks over New York Harbor.

We did none of that.

On the way home, tired, hot and hungry, we stopped at a bar called The Bullpen where we sat down to order food and met a bartender named Jerrah Kohn from Charleston, S.C.

Eleven hours later, we left that bar. We had a lot less money. But a lot more stories.