On this day 28 years ago, the Mets-Reds game got weird. Real weird.
Just as late nights makes B-movies scarier and informercial products more enticing, so too does baseball take on a different quality as the nights grow long. When position players take the mound and pitchers take the field, as our frontal cortexes shut down and our reading comprehension suffers, #WeirdBaseball reigns.
Earlier this season, Astros reliever Tony Sipp made news for taking the field not once, but twice. And while he was fortunately shielded from having to field the ball (unlike Roy Oswalt just a few years before), his performances don't even rate when compared to the Mets-Reds game of July 22, 1986.
For the first eight innings, it was a fairly routine contest. The Reds held a 3-1 lead thanks to home runs from Dave Parker and Buddy Bell and eight strong innings from starter Scott Terry and relievers Rob Murphy and Ron Robinson.
With the Reds one out away from winning, all of that changed. In the top of the ninth, Keith Hernandez hit a deep fly to right field that Dave Parker couldn't haul in. In an alternate universe, Parker makes the routine play and the game is over. In our universe, the Mets plated two runs, tying the game and sending it to extras. I feel bad for the purveyors of baseball oddities in that other universe.
In the bottom of the tenth, with Jesse Orosco on the mound, Eric Davis stole second base. Then third. Mets third baseman Ray Knight, offended by Davis' slide into the base, started swinging, leading to a brawl that wouldn't look out of place in Anchorman:
Has there ever been a better phrase to hear during a baseball brouhaha than "[Reds pitcher John] Denny is a karate expert"? I submit not.
Following the ejections of Knight, Davis, Mario Soto and Kevin Mitchell, Mets manager Davey Johnson was put in an difficult situation. With no remaining bench players, catcher Gary Carter was moved to third base and Orosco shifted to right field as Roger McDowell was brought in to pitch.
Over the next four innings, the Mets would perform an intricate square dance. While the left-handed Orosco oscillated between the mound and right field, the right-handed McDowell saw time in left, right and on the rubber, getting outfielder Mookie Wilson involved along the way.
While they would finally stop moving in the 13th (McDowell pitched the final two innings), Orosco didn't get off easy. Playing right field, Orosco fielded a fly ball off the bat of Tony Perez for an out.
Naturally, when Howard Johnson hit a three-run home run in the top of the 14th that would prove to be the difference maker, Orosco scored one of the runs, having drawn a walk earlier in the inning. All hail #WeirdBaseball.