We all know how age affects memory, but occasionally something happens to drive the point home. I recently recalled listening to an A's broadcast when I was a child that ended with the most exciting play I can ever recall. This led me off on a search of the internet and then Baseball Reference to see if my mind was just playing tricks of me; I love Baseball Reference.
What is the most exciting one play in baseball? The walk-off home run must be high on the list, and almost all the candidates I can think of involve a game ending play; the bang-bang play at the plate, the last pitch of a no-hitter/perfect game, etc., but what is the rarest, most exciting way for a game to end? I believe we KC fans have been privileged to witness this twice.
My Google search (it had “Ed Charles” in it) led to this obscure article, http://www.allbusiness.com/sports-recreation/sports-games-outdoor-recreation-baseball/8926623-1.html
Yes, the walk-off steal is my choice for the most exciting play of all. As a single play in a game, I think it must be the rarest of all. According to this article, it has happened only 35 times in baseball's history. Many here will remember Brett's walk-off steal in '76, but it was the memory of another walk-off steal by another KC franchise's 3B that led me to this topic. Sure enough, there on page 12 of the article, I found proof that the broadcast I remembered had indeed occurred.
Then I was off to Baseball reference, and I was not disappointed. There I found the complete box score and play-by-play for the game in question. This is how Charles' walk-off steal came to happen.
Bottom of the 9th, Athletics Batting, Tied 3-3, Bill Pleis facing 3-4-5
Bill Pleis replaces George Banks pitching and batting 9th --- 71% E Charles Single to LF 1-- 82% N Siebern Fielder's Choice /Sacrifice Bunt; Charles to 2B O 12- 85% J Tartabull Bunt Groundout: 3B-2B/Sacrifice; Charles to 3B; Siebern to 2B Ray Moore replaces Bill Pleis pitching and batting 9th; Wayne Causey pinch hits for Bobby Del Greco batting 6th -23 83% W Causey Intentional Walk O 123 66% G Cimoli Strikeout R 123 100% J Azcue Charles Steals Hm
I believe the Twins tried to get Charles at 2B and failed, leading to Tartabull's sac bunt. When Cimoli was batting, the Twins had the infield and outfield pulled in and the tension was unbearable. Cimoli promptly K'd, leaving it up to Jose Azcue.........or so everyone thought. The Twins returned to a normal defensive alignment, and I have to believe they might have relaxed a bit.
Meanwhile, out on 3b, Charles was not satisfied to watch the light hitting catcher try to drive him home. I can't find the info on the count when Charles stole home, but I do remember going absolutely insane when it happened. Like the Spanish Inquisition, no one ever suspects the walk-off steal of home.
The most amazing discovery I made in this exploration of the past was that I was only 7 years old when this happened! I remember that game better than I remember people I met last week. At least I have my memories from my youth, even if I don't remember why I walked over to the refrigerator and other little things in my daily life.
I don't know if it's just a coincidence, but both Brett and Charles played 3B; maybe they had some particular insight into the situation that allowed them to pull off this extremely rare feat. Whatever the case, KC fans have been privileged to witness 2 of the 35 walk-off steals in history, a disproportionate percentage given the amount of time MLB has been in KC. Just one more reason it's special to be a fan of KC baseball. Now, where the hell did I put my keys?