Recalling another quirky piece of O's history

Recalling another quirky piece of O's history
December 31, 2012, 12:45 am
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Our own estimable Rich Dubroff and just about anyone else who looks back over the Orioles’ 2012 season agree on one game when they pick out the most memorable moments of the year. That’s the 17-inning win in Boston in which first baseman-outfielder-designated hitter Chris Davis became a pitcher and threw two shutout innings to finish the game after the O’s had run out of other options.

It was the kind of baseball oddity that fans will remember for years, maybe even more so than postseason games. And it will go down in Orioles lore with another oddity that involves extra innings and running out of players, though in this case it was position players, not pitchers.

In 1983, the Orioles’ last world championship season, they were embroiled in a still-tight division race and played an extra-innings game with the Blue Jays on Aug. 24. The O’s had run through several pinch-hitters to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, leaving them to come out for the 10th inning with two outfielders playing infield — John Lowenstein at second base and Gary Roenicke at third base — and utilityman Lenn Sakata at catcher. Sakata had never been behind the plate in his professional career.

After Cliff Johnson homered and Barry Bonnell singled off Tim Stoddard in the top of the 10th, Tippy Martinez came in to pitch. Martinez then picked off Bonnell. After he walked Dave Collins, Martinez picked him off first, too. And after next giving up a single to Willie Upshaw, Martinez finished the inning by picking off Upshaw. In the bottom of the inning, Cal Ripken tied the game again with a homer, and with two outs, Sakata hit a home run for a 7-4 victory.

Thus Sakata spared himself the task of catching for another inning and he and Martinez became an indelible part of Orioles history.