It was a play that could have happened to anyone. Not that you’d want it to.
On Aug. 24, 2006, less than a month after being traded to the Tigers, first baseman Sean Casey found himself the unfortunate subject of one of the most unusual plays in MLB history.
Leading off the fifth inning against the White Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit, the lefty slugger slapped a line drive the other way. But third baseman Joe Crede was right there to catch it -- or so Casey thought.
In reality, the ball deflected off Crede’s glove and into left field. Thinking Crede had snagged the liner, Casey began to shed his helmet, heading for the dugout. Only by the time Chicago left fielder Pablo Ozuna scooped up the baseball in shallow left and came up firing did Casey realize what had happened.
A fast runner might have beaten the long, one-hop toss across the diamond, but Casey was not so fleet of foot. Ozuna’s throw beat the runner by half a step, and just like that, Casey had made a sort of history he likely never envisioned.
Casey remains (for now) the only batter known to have been thrown out at first base from left field on a would-be hit, but he’s far from the only hitter retired by an outfielder making a heads-up -- and always entertaining -- play. The last such instance came in September 2021, when Marlins right fielder Jesús Sánchez cut down Nationals pitcher Josiah Gray at first base. (The advent of the universal DH in 2022 makes outfield putouts at first base considerably harder, as slow-footed pitchers commonly fell victim.)
Here are a few of the most memorable instances of one of baseball’s rare feats.
March 31, 2019 (Giants at Padres)
RF Gerardo Parra (SF) throws out Chris Paddack (SD)
Yes, this play features a pitcher at the plate -- but could the circumstances be much better otherwise? In the finale of a four-game NL West series to open the 2019 season, the Giants intentionally walked San Diego catcher Austin Hedges to load the bases for Paddack with two outs. That strategy seemed to backfire when Paddack lined a 2-1 offering from Jeff Samardzija the other way into right field -- until Parra grabbed the ball on one hop and displayed his elite throwing arm. Brandon Belt dug out the laser toss to end the inning and wipe at least one run off the board, although the Padres got the last laugh in an eventual 3-1 win.
May 30, 2014 (Royals at Blue Jays)
RF José Bautista (TOR) throws out Omar Infante (KC)
Infante was sure he had fouled off a middle-middle fastball from Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ, and that miscalculation cost him during a 2014 contest at Rogers Centre. In fact, the Royals second baseman couldn’t have placed his flare down the right-field line any better, dropping it in ahead of a sliding Bautista. But Joey Bats flagged the baseball down on a hop and casually slung it to first base, retiring a jogging Infante by a considerable margin for the inning’s second out.
May 29, 2014 (Royals at Blue Jays)
RF José Bautista (TOR) throws out Billy Butler (KC)
No, that’s not a typo -- Bautista really did record two 9-3 putouts in as many days! The night before cutting down Infante from right field, Joey Bats made an even better play in a key moment. With one out in the ninth inning and the Blue Jays up 6-5, Bautista snared a scorched one-hopper from the slow-moving Butler and rifled it to first to keep the tying run off the basepaths. Unfortunately, his effort was all for naught: Down to their final out, the Royals still rallied to tie the game in the ninth and scored two more in the 10th -- on a single by none other than Infante -- to win 8-6.
Sept. 7, 2011 (Royals at A’s)
RF Jeff Francoeur (KC) throws out Michael Taylor (OAK)
Taylor -- not to be confused with free-agent center fielder Michael A. Taylor -- got his first Major League hit against the Royals on Sept. 6, 2011. The next day, Francoeur flat-out denied Taylor’s bid for hit No. 2. Playing shallow in right field, “Frenchy” was in the perfect position to pick up Taylor’s opposite-field liner on one bounce, firing the ball to first base in time. Unfortunately for Kansas City, the play was overshadowed by A’s rookie Guillermo Moscoso, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a 7-0 Oakland win -- and Taylor still got his hit later in the ballgame.
July 2, 2010 (A’s at Cleveland)
RF Ryan Sweeney (OAK) throws out Mike Redmond (CLE)
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Cleveland had its biggest chance to finally break through during a home game against the A’s when it strung together three two-out singles. Redmond appeared to have the club’s fourth consecutive hit, but Sweeney charged the ball in right and easily retired the Cleveland backstop at first base. The visiting TV broadcasters were confused initially (asking incredulously, “They threw him out at first?”) but the A’s knew they’d retired the side and ended the threat. Oakland finished a 3-0 shutout, becoming the first team so far on this list to complete a 9-3 putout … and actually win the game.
July 4, 1992 (Expos at Padres)
RF Larry Walker (MON) throws out Tony Fernandez (SD)
He’s best known for his time with the Rockies, but Walker made his first All-Star appearance as an Expo in 1992. On July 4 of that season, the future Baseball Hall of Famer showed off his arm by throwing out another ’92 NL All-Star from his spot in right field. Walker wasted no time throwing out Fernandez -- no slouch on the bases with 20 steals that season and 246 for his career -- after the Padres leadoff man pulled a hard grounder into right to start the bottom of the first. The play-by-play commentator’s call is certainly memorable: “Base hit -- I take it back.” Like Bautista, Walker is also a two-timer: In 1995, while with the Rockies, he threw out Dodgers pitcher Tom Candiotti at first on an identical play.