MLB bloopers that will never be forgotten

April 1st, 2020

There’s no exact science for a classic baseball blooper.

From defensive miscues to dugout shenanigans to oddities that simply can't be categorized, bloopers can happen at any time and at any place on the field.

The blooper reel received a strong submission from Marcell Ozuna just this past week, as the Cardinals left fielder climbed the wall while trying to rob a homer ... on a fly ball that landed on the warning track.

The four moments below, meanwhile, have stood the test of time and are MLB’s greatest bloopers of the past 100 years.

Canseco allows homer off his head
Rangers at Indians, May 26, 1993

Jose Canseco racked up a bevy of accolades in his career, winning an MVP and a Rookie of the Year Award, making six All-Star teams and becoming the first member of the 40/40 club. Alongside fellow “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire, Canseco also helped the A’s win the World Series in 1989. However, it’s fair to say that Canseco was not renowned for his glove work, and his shortcomings on defense were never more magnified than in this moment.

Canseco appeared to have Indians designated hitter Carlos Martinez’s fly ball in his sights as he neared the right-field wall, but the ball missed his glove, caromed off his head and bounced over the fence for a home run. A stunned Canseco couldn’t help but crack a smile afterward.

Johnson hits bird with fastball
D-backs vs. Giants, March 24, 2001

Although Randy Johnson is a Hall of Famer with five Cy Young Awards and a World Series championship on his resume, he’s perhaps remembered for this incident as much as anything else. The retired left-hander even references it in the logo for his photography company.

It was a shocking moment that defied the odds, as Johnson accidentally hit a bird with a pitch in a Spring Training game. Facing the Giants’ Calvin Murray, Johnson uncorked a fastball that would never reach its destination, as a dove flew between the mound and home plate and was struck, creating a burst of feathers at the point of impact.

Ramirez cuts off Damon's relay throw
Red Sox vs. Orioles, July 21, 2004

Manny Ramirez became known for his quirky and mercurial nature over the years, and his idiosyncrasies were often described as “Manny Being Manny.” One of the many examples of “Manny Being Manny” happened when Ramirez inexplicably got involved in a relay following a fly ball off the center-field wall at Fenway Park.

In fairness to Ramirez, Johnny Damon’s throw from deep center field was going to come up well short of the cutoff man. But Boston’s left fielder probably didn’t help matters when he opted to dive and cut off Damon’s throw himself. Once Ramirez got to his knees and threw the ball to shortstop Mark Bellhorn, the Orioles’ David Newhan had already rounded third en route to an inside-the-park homer.

Damon returned the favor at the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series championship 10-year anniversary celebration, intercepting Ramirez’s ceremonial pitch before it reached the catcher.

O’Neill prevents run with perfect kick
Reds at Phillies, July 5, 1989

Known for his fiery temper, Paul O’Neill wasn’t shy about letting an umpire know when he didn’t agree with a call, and water coolers were never safe when the outfielder was slumping. In a 1989 game against the Phillies, O’Neill directed his ire at the baseball itself.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, O’Neill charged hard after Lenny Dykstra’s single to right field with an eye on the runner coming around third base, but he was unable to field the ball cleanly or grab it with his bare hand once it bounced off his glove. As the ball took a generous hop off the Veterans Stadium turf, a frustrated O’Neill, who assumed he had just allowed the walk-off run to score with his misplay, booted it like a field-goal kicker and somehow kicked it directly to first baseman Todd Benzinger. The improbable relay stopped the Phillies’ Steve Jeltz in his tracks at third base (though Jeltz did score on a passed ball two batters later). Whether the Bengals later tried to recruit O’Neill to improve their kicking unit is unknown.

Of course, there are more than four amazing bloopers in MLB history. Here’s a look at some of the best that just missed our top tier.

Merkle’s boner
Giants vs. Cubs, Sept. 23, 1908

How close was this pennant race between New York and Chicago? It may have come down to one costly baserunning mistake by Giants first baseman Fred Merkle. The 19-year-old rookie was making his first Major League start in a game between two powerhouses tied atop the National League standings, and they were knotted up at one in the bottom of the ninth when Merkle hit a two-out single that put two runners on for New York. 

What came next would unfortunately define Merkle’s career. Giants shortstop Al Bridwell jumped on the first pitch for what appeared to be a game-winning single, but Merkle, seeing fans swarm onto the field in celebration, turned back to the dugout without touching second base. That violated MLB’s official rule 4.09, which stipulates that a run does not count if any other runner on the bases makes the third out by being forced out. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers alerted the umpires of Merkle’s mistake and the rookie was ruled out. When the umpires couldn’t clear the field, they called the game on account of darkness and the game had to be replayed on Oct. 8 -- which happened to be a pennant tie-breaker between the Giants and Cubs. Chicago prevailed, 4-2, and went on to win its last World Series for more than 100 years.

Kitten storms the Kingdome
Mariners vs. Red Sox, 1984

There's been all sorts of rally creatures that have taken the field through baseball history (see: Rally Squirrel, 2011 in St. Louis), but this kitten may have been the fiercest. The feline was spotted along the Kingdome's outfield wall, causing a delay of several minutes in Seattle. Attempts to remove the kitty went haywire, as the kitten memorably made its presence known to a groundskeeper with a fearsome bite to the hand.

The image of the groundskeeper twisting and turning from the pain caused by this cuddly kitten still lives on in blooper reels to this day.

Lyons drops his pants
White Sox at Tigers, July 16, 1990

Many people share a common nightmare about losing their clothes in public spaces, but few can say they’ve experienced it with more eyes watching than Lyons. The White Sox sparkplug had beaten out a bunt single at Tiger Stadium with a head-first slide at first base, but Tigers pitcher Dan Petry disagreed and argued with the umpire. Meanwhile, Lyons felt dirt running down the inside of his pants and, evidently forgetting about the crowd of 15,000 in the stands, pulled his trousers down to shake the dirt out.

"I was in tune with the argument and forgot where I was for a second," Lyons says. "I guess I thought I was back in the dugout. So I pulled them down," Lyons told in 2015. "I pulled them down to get the dirt out."

Once Lyons realized he was not in the Chicago locker room, he could only smile and shake his head in disbelief. Nearly 30 years later, he’s fully owned the moment.

"I always tell people that I did it because I needed a date," Lyons would later joke. "It was probably the most memorable thing I did."

El Duque throws glove to first base
Yankees vs. Mets, June 5, 1999

Baseball gloves are built to handle wear and tear and stop speeding projectiles, but sometimes, balls get lodged in the webbing. In 1999, Orlando Hernandez came up with a crafty solution to overcome such a situation, throwing his glove overhand to first base with the ball inside it. The Cubs' Jon Lester did the same on a play nearly 16 years later, though his was an underhand toss.

Smith’s baserunning blunder
Braves at Twins, 1991 World Series Game 7

In the eighth inning of World Series Game 7 vs. the Twins, the Braves’ Terry Pendleton laced a ball to left-center field that appeared to be deep enough to bring home Lonnie Smith from first base and break a scoreless tie. However, Smith lost track of the ball and was faked out by Minnesota middle infielders Chuck Knoblauch and Greg Gagne, who feigned turning a double play. Smith momentarily stopped running to locate the ball and was unable to score, and the Twins ultimately won, 1-0, in 10 innings.

Tribe rounds bases as Knoblauch argues call
Yankees vs. Indians, 1998 ALCS Game 2

Seven years after being involved in Smith’s blooper, Knoblauch had one of his own for the Yankees in Game 2 of the 1998 ALCS vs. the Indians. Knoblauch covered first base as Tino Martinez fielded Travis Fryman’s bunt up the first-base line, but Martinez’s throw hit Fryman in the back and bounced past first base. Instead of chasing it, Knoblauch argued for an interference call as the ball continued to roll, giving Enrique Wilson enough time to score the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th.

Bartman incident at Wrigley Field
Cubs vs. Marlins, 2003 NLCS Game 6

The Cubs were five outs away from their first World Series appearance since 1945 when the Marlins' Luis Castillo lifted a foul ball down the left-field line, setting up one of the most infamous scenes in baseball history. As Moises Alou tried to reach into the stands for the catch, the ball bounced off spectator Steve Bartman’s hands, prolonging Castillo’s at-bat. Alou was incensed, and Bartman was vilified after the Marlins rallied to win the game and also took Game 7 to eliminate the Cubs. Bartman has declined to make public appearances since the incident, though the Cubs did give him a World Series ring after they ended their 108-year title drought in 2016.