Top 10 Dumbest Moments in Baseball History

Robert Bluestein@@ROBERTBLUESTEIN424Contributor IIFebruary 27, 2013

Top 10 Dumbest Moments in Baseball History

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    Baseball has had some memorable moments. Who can ever forget that iconic home run Bobby Thompson hit against the Dodgers in 1951?  Where were you when Game 6 of the 2011 World Series was played? How about Kirk Gibson's homer in the 1988 World Series? Dramatic moments are a part of the baseball experience for over a 100 years.

    True fans of the game have been inspired by Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken. We each seem to have a particular moment which we can debate about night and day. Baseball has had amazing moments that bring a tear to the eye. Well, this article is not about any of these moments. It's about the dumbest moments in baseball history.

    In picking these 10, I am aware that they are fully subjective.

    This is where you the fans get to interject some of your opinions. There are still many contenders out there. I decided to keep these dumb moments as much on the diamond as I could. Of course, it was very dumb for the Red Sox to deal Ruth and Bagwell, for the Cubs to deal Lou Brock and the Reds to think Milt Pappas to be more valuable than Frank Robinson.

    It was very dumb for the Reds to deal Christy Mathewson or for the Rangers to think Eddie Stankey could manage. Dumb doesn't even begin to describe the decision to trade Joe Morgan and four others to the Reds and thereby assure the Astros of more years of mediocrity. And don't even begin to explain how dumb it was for there to ever be a "tie" game in an All-Star Game!  

    The strike of 1972 and 1994 were dumb, well, if you were a fan that is. It was probably really dumb for the Rangers to think A-Rod would be worth $250 million for 10 years, too. But these are about dumb things players did while on the field.

    Enjoy all the dumbness. If nothing else, it will make you laugh.

    Send me your dumb moments! 

Jose Canseco Uses His Head

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    When Cleveland Indians outfielder Carlos Martinez stepped up the plate on a warm afternoon against the Rangers, he certainly had no idea that Jose Canseco would inadvertently help him to hit a home run.

    Canseco was actually a good fielder in his prime and had a very strong arm. But on this play, he lost the ball in the lights, and proving that he could track a ball properly, had the ball squarely hit him on his own dome.

    Canseco's career was one laundry list of dumb things, and he probably perpetuated more damage in the means of his steroid use than anyone else in the history of the game.

    From Madonna to the jail cell, few players have endeared themselves to fans and team mates less than Canseco. I actually found him to be quite a nice guy, though. 

Ruben Rivera Uses Second Base as an Obstacle Course

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    Ruben Rivera should have scored. The game should have been over. Instead, Rivera ran circles around second base, got thrown out at third, only to see the ball bounce away and then got tossed out at home by almost two full yards. In a game where the bases are just 90 feet apart, Rivera managed to run a half-mile. 

    There have been many examples of baserunning errors. It was dumb to have three Dodgers on third base. It was dumb to be deeked out like Lonnie Smith was against the Minnesota Twins in the 1991 World Series.

    But in all reality, nothing rivals Rivera's adventure around the bases. You can come up with a lot of adjectives for this video, but the first one that comes to mind in this case, well, it's beyond dumb! 

Picked off Twice in One World Series Game

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    Max Flack was a dependable outfielder for the NL Chicago Cubs in their pennant-winning 1918 season. Despite having the highest fielding percentage for an outfielder when he retired, Flack made two errors which led to runs for Boston. 

    But worse still was his atrocious baserunning. Flack was picked off twice in the same game and ultimately was labeled the "Goat" of the 1918 World Series. But the real question is why we don't know much about Flack. 

    The answer is probably because of the events of the 1919 World Series. Gambling was nothing new in baseball, but it had not yet officially resulted in players deliberately playing poorly in order to receive a payoff.

    But recently, the Baseball Library found documentation from Eddie Cicotte that the gamblers (Aaron Rothstein in particular) had sold the Sox on throwing the 1919 Series by telling Cicotte that it had ''already been done" by the 1918 Chicago Cubs. 

    A closer examination into Cicotte's handwritten deposition is revealing. From the Chicago Public Museum Archives, "...Well we were going east on the train when someone told us of a member the Chicago Cubs or maybe even several players being paid $10,000 to throw the World Series. This was on the train going over, and someone made a crack that if we got into the series that we should throw this series." The question was whether or not this was enough to indict the Cubs or any of the players of conspiring to throw the World Series.

    So, if the jury is out on Flack and he is innocent until proven guilty, then we have to take into consideration that he may just have pulled off the dumbest moves in World Series history. You be the judge. 

Maury Wills: The Worst Manager Ever

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    There have been bad managers in baseball before. Ted Williams was, by most accounts, a bad manager. Frank Chance was universally disliked, as was Rogers Hornsby. Being a bad manager is still forgivable, unless you are Grady Little of the Red Sox.

    But being a bad manager who also makes dumb moves is not too forgivable. Take the case of Maury Wills, a stealing machine who helped the Dodgers to two World Series titles with his baserunning. Here is an excerpt from an article written in the Beaver County Times by Steve Rudman.

    The Seattle Mariners were looking for a name to go with a cast of largely unknown expansion-era players on a cellar-dwelling team. So they hired Maury Wills, and for 83 agonizing days, he pulled one terrible move after another. Here are just a few examples:

    1) In an effort to improve his team's bunting, he ordered the groundskeepers to alter the size of the batter's box. It was so obvious that Billy Martin caught it as soon as he handed the lineup card to the umpire. 

    2) Wills, as a favor to a friend, tried to insert him in the game even though he had no contract. He was caught when the man began to run out to the outfield with no uniform number on his back. 

    3) According to the Beaver County Times, Wills chewed out his coaches for not making him ''look good.'' He also held team meetings where pitching coach Wes Stock was not allowed to attend. Then he ordered ''sore-armed Shane Rawley to throw in the bullpen, so it would look like he, Maury Wills, was making command decisions." 

    4) In a foreshadow of things to come, in his second game, he had a 4-3 lead and a pretty decent pitcher in Dave Heaverlo pitching to an anemic-hitting Rick Miller of the Angels. On deck was an even more anemic hitter, Dan Whitmir.

    Instead of pitching to Miller, he ordered him walked, much to Heaverlo's dismay. Jim Fregosi then pulled Whitmir and had the .317-hitting Jason Thompson pinch hit. Thompson blasted a two-run double. When asked about the move later, Wills simply said, ''I was hoping Fregosi wouldn't use a pinch-hitter." (Courtesy of the Beaver County Times, May 11, 1981)

    5) A month later, with the Mariners playing in Chicago and the tying and lead runs on second and third, respectively, All-Star left-handed batter Harold Baines stepped up against Manny Sarmiento, a right handed pitcher.

    Instead of walking Baines to force an out at every base, Wills insisted on pitching to him. Baines roped a two-run double. When asked about it afterward, Wills answered with ''...whoever heard of Harold Baines?''

    6) He went to the mound to take out his starting pitcher only to realize he hadn't warmed anyone up in the bullpen.

    7) After telling the team in spring training that he wanted to build a ''winning attitude,'' he promptly went to the Ramada Inn and complained about the lack of posh service and moved to another hotel, away from the team.

    8) Before the season began, Wills told members of the press that he was bringing non-roster player Steve Stroughter to camp. It would have been a good move had he not traded Stroughter just two weeks earlier.

    9) He once made out a lineup card that had two third basemen and no center fielder.

    10) He tried to insert the same pinch-hitter in a game twice.

    11) In the sixth inning of a spring training game against the Padres in Yuma, Ariz., he simply skipped out on the rest of the game and caught a plane to see friends in California. No one knew where he went or why.

    12) In another game, Wills waived outfielder Willie Norwood and decided not to tell him until the game was over. He then used Norwood as an outfielder in the game.

    13) Finally, with the Mariners losing by three runs, Wills inserted a pitcher, Bryan Clark, into the game to pinch-run for Zisk. Not only did the mover backfire, but Wills wasted his only left-handed reliever.

    Wills was asked the day after he became a manager why it took so long for him to land a job. "...I often think about that, but couldn't come up with anything reasonable."

The Hidden Ball Trick Fools Ozzie Guillen...THREE Times!

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    Ozzie Guillen is a colorful figure in baseball. Widely regarded as one of the smartest baseball men around, Guillen has actually been a victim of the hidden ball trick THREE times!  It happened twice in 1989 and again in 1991 when Steve Lyons pulled it on him at second!  

    I wonder what Ozzie would have done as a manager if the same player was caught napping three times in his career! One thing is certain, Guillen would have called such a player 'dumb!'

Pedro Martinez Gives Up a Perfect Game

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    Pedro Martinez is the subject of one of the greatest mistakes ever made by a baseball manager. Sitting on 134 exhausted pitches and a slim lead, Grady Little decided his bullpen with hard-throwing lefty Alan Embree wasn't going to pitch well against fellow lefty Hideki Matsui.

    Instead, Little stuck with Petey and the rest as they say, is history. The Yankees won a series which saw Martinez throw 70-year-old Don Zimmer to the ground and threaten to throw at the heads of Jorge Posada and others. It was your typical Yankees-Red Sox clash of the titans which has turned a normal game into an extraordinary experience.

    While Little's decision certainly should be listed amongst the all-time dumbest moves on a baseball diamond, you can't fault Martinez. After all, he is a competitor. In addition, he is actually very smart with a worldly view of the panorama around him.

    He is humorous, and away from the diamond, very likeable. He is among the top five pitchers of the past 20 years and the man you want with the ball in a tough game.

    Sometimes, Martinez lets his emotions get in the way of his superlative pitching. Some would describe him as "...all lion and no fox." Martinez would hit anybody, fight anyone, argue incessantly and even undermine his own pitching excellence because of his controlled anger.

    In May 1994, Martinez, then with Montreal, and Reds outfielder Reggie Sanders had exchanged words several times in a tight 2-0 game. A fierce competitor, Martinez took exception to the amount of time it was taking Sanders to step into the box and hit. Tensions were high, but Martinez was quite literally, unhittable.  

    With a perfect game in progress and Martinez pitching a gem, Sanders stepped up in the seventh inning and was drilled by a Martinez fastball. Sanders never hesitated.

    Charging the mound, a wild melee erupted, and after several minutes of pushing, shoving and name-calling, Martinez arose from the bottom of the pile. He made it through the seventh and then the eight, but clearly the fight had taken a lot out of him.

    In the ninth, the Reds broke up the no-hitter and Martinez's chance at history. All of this was because he couldn't control his temper...and that is very dumb.

Manny Being Manny

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    The list of dumb things Manny "ManRam" Ramirez has done is long and wide. But the fact remains, Rameriz had one of the most fluid and beautiful right-handed swings in baseball history.

    Most of his accomplishments get lost in a maze of humorous moments and estrogen cream and other illegal performance-enhancers.

    From his famous line when he arrived at the Dodgers camp, "I'm baaaaaaack'' to "....Hi, I’m Manny Ramirez. I bought this AMAZING grill for about $4,000, and I used it once…But I never have the time to use it because I am always on the road. I would love to sell it, and you will get an autographed ball signed be me :) Enjoy it, Manny Ramirez.”

    For whatever reason, Manny decided to have the best eBay auction ever when he put his grill on the market. It’s kind of surprising to see a pro athlete, one who makes $20 million per year making this move. Manny, truly being Manny.

Kendry Morales Limp-off Grand-Slam

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    Everyone dreams of being at the plate with the bases loaded in the home-half of the final inning of a game.

    The power surges through your veins, your eyes get really wide, you breathe hard out of your nostrils, and then, in a split second, you rotate the hips, keep your hands inside the ball, time everything just right and POW.

    The ball arcs high into the air, there is an audible gasp and then you hear it—the slow and rumbling cheer which begins to rise in a crescendo, screams rip through the air and the sea of red, a carnival of color, rises to their feet.

    The ball lands in the stands, and you soak in your dream as you make your way around the bases. Your teammates are excited and happy. And as you make your way around third, you see the guys. These are your blood-brothers, your friends, essentially your family.

    These are the very players depending on you to carry them through the season ahead. And, you in turn, depend on them. Outside of your family, these men and their families will share good times with you. The ties that bind baseball players is the strongest of sports bonds.

    They are smiling, laughing, partaking in the joy of victory. They are cheering you on as you head home, tears in your eyes. About 15 feet from home, you follow the tradition and toss your helmet high into the air. The slaps are hard on your back, and you hear the fans cheering your name and high-fiving one another.

    At seven feet before home plate, you launch yourself high in the air, like an eagle on the west wind, flying over the mountaintops. You soar over the canyons and into the stars, you are reaching for the heavens as you brace for your implausable landing on the earth. And shatter your leg. You are lost for the season. 

    That is DUMB. 

Jeremy Giambi Doesn't Like Washing His Uniform

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    Jeremy Giambi couldn't help it. Who prepares himself for a shortstop who races across the entire infield on an errant throw from right field, catches the ball as he is crossing the foul line and backhands it to the catcher who seemingly awaits for just such a moment to happen? Baseball just doesn't prepare even the best of players for that, right?

    Maybe not, but the general rule of thumb is that on any play at home, you are supposed to slide. Giambi offered no excuses afterward, even though he can thank Derek Jeter for making him look just plain dumb on the bases. 

Poor Bill Buckner

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    No man has been more maligned for a deed which he never intended than Bill Buckner. The dumb move wasn't Buckner's fault at all. The responsibility fell to John McNamera.

    Many theories persist as to why Buckner was even out there. Some argue that it was because McNamera wanted the hard-working and affable Buckner on the field when the Red Sox won. This seems highly unlikely as Buckner was in the field for the end of plenty of games throughout the season.

    He didn't have much of an arm or range, but his glove was dependable. McNamera might have had better choices, but it wasn't such a bad thing to have Buckner out there. 

    Secondly, Dave Stapleton, the player most often credited as the defensive replacement for Buckner, was younger and more agile, but he made his share of errors as well. The ball took several bounces and then skipped on the ground under Buckner's legs. 

    It is important to remember that Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch under Mookie Wilson that advanced the runners to second and third. Had this not happened, Bucker would have been holding the runner on (perhaps) or otherwise been closer to the line.

    Of course, this is just speculation, but the move by McNamera to pitch to Wilson once the runners advanced was also questionable. Many dumb things happened here, and unfortunately, it is Buckner who got much of the blame. 

Babe Ruth Attempts to Steal Second and Loses the 1926 World Series

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    Babe Ruth was, without a doubt, a game-changer. So incredibly powerful was his presence that opposing pitchers altered the entire game when he was in the lineup. His records were so impressive that this gaffe is often overlooked. Yet, here was a situation which demanded more out of Ruth than was given.

    The series was tied at three games a piece, and the score was 3-2. With two outs and Ruth at first base, left fielder Bob Meusel came up to the plate. Meusel was a .315 hitter that year and had batted in 81 runs in just over 100 games.

    But suddenly, with Grover Cleveland Alexander pitching, Ruth broke for second. Catcher Bob O'Ferrell threw him out easily, and Meusel was left staring at the end of his season without even coming close to swinging the bat.

    Ruth's 714 home runs is an astonishing feat. Being the face of baseball and pulling the sport beyond its gambling scandal of the previous decade was an awesome achievement. Being a hero to kids for 50 years is heartwarming. Being tossed out trying to steal second, down by just one run in the bottom of the ninth is, well, just plain dumb. 

Honorable Mention-Merkle and Snodgrass

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    Bonus: At the urging of fellow baseball fans, I decided to elaborate on two different plays that should not be lost in an article like this. In honor of Raphael Llorens, here are two controversial moments in the history of the game, but whether they are dumb or not dumb, well, that is your call! 

    1) Fred Merkle: Everyone who knows baseball is aware that Merkle cost the Giants a single game by failing to run out a base-hit with two outs. In Lawrence Ritter's epic book, ''The Glory of Their Times, The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It,''... a remorseful Al Bridwell recounts the moment. "..I wish I hadn't gotten that hit, it sure would have saved Fred all of that trouble."  Actually, at the time, running off the field without touching the base was quite common, as the rule allowing a force play after a potential game-winning run was not well known. The reason was simple - as soon as the last out or game winning run was made, fans rushed the field. Thus is was practically impossible to appeal a play with all of this chaos on the diamond. It was no different in Merkle's case as he approached second he must have thought he would have a head-start to the locker-room with all of those people spilling out onto to the turf.  Johnny Evers however was an ardent student of the game and having experienced this in Pittsburgh just two weeks before, he knew to call for the ball.

    But was it really among the all-time 'Dumb' plays in baseball history?  Some would say that it is, and that the ''Merkle Boner'' is part of baseball folklore. But John McGraw never once blamed Merkle for the infraction and in fact considered him so intelligent that he was sought out for strategic advice. Since the custom of the day was to do exactly what Merkle did, I cannot not classify this as a 'Dumb' play, just an unfortunate one. 

    2) The Snodgrass Muff: This was not a 'Dumb'' play either, as it was simply an error. Fred Snodgrass was among the nicest players to play the game and a very good one. In fact, in that same World Series game, he made a circus-style catch that had the fans cheering wildly. (Again, see 'The Glory of Their Times, The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It Lawrence Ritter)

    Dumb plays are mental lapses, not physical ones. Josh Hamilton's glaring error against the A's in the playoff game last season had an incredible impact on the game. Mickey Owens dropping a third strike in 1941 impacted the World Series. Hank Gowdy threw his mask in the way of foul ball in the 1914 World Series and tripped over it.  Certainly that had an impact. Alex Gonzales missing a ground ball just after the Steve Bartman play was a game changer. But these were errors by omission, not commission, and therefore they are not dumb!