2011: A Chiefs Odyssey – Kevin’s Number 6
#6 – You’re Outta Here!
Number Six takes us back to June 28 for the third game of a four-game set against the Columbus Clippers. The first two games in the series will appear later on the timeline. And that’s all that needs to be said about that right now. But after two unforgettable and historic performances on the previous two nights – which, again, we’ll get to in short order – the stage was set for well, nothing, really. Tommy Milone was on the hill against a Clippers team which was mashing the International League, but had been relatively shut down by Syracuse pitching to date.
Milone’s night didn’t start well when Nick Johnson hit a two-strike pitch over the right field wall in the second inning, giving Columbus a 2-1 lead. An ominous beginning, for sure – but for a left-hander who may have been the IL’s best pitcher in 2011, it seemed like simply a minor blemish. That is, until Columbus put two runners on in the third inning for another former Yankee basher, Shelley Duncan. With one out, Milone delivered a strike, and Duncan swung and crushed the ball. It was a well-hit ball soaring down the left field line, headed well over the fence, but its result seemed – at least from the press box – relatively certain early on in the ball’s flight.
According to Wikipedia, foul lines in baseball extended indefinitely before 1920. A batter was awarded a home run only if a fly ball over the fence landed in fair territory, or was fair “when last seen” by the umpire. But the institution of the foul pole changed the game. Even if a ball goes over the pole, an umpire can still tell almost every time a fly ball lands down the line whether it went to the left or the right of the pole. In this case, Shelley Duncan’s fly ball went to the left. At least, I thought so. Jason thought so. Tommy Milone thought so. Randy Knorr thought so. Home plate umpire – and crew chief – Fran Burke thought so. Shelley Duncan probably thought so. But Kelvin Bultron did not think so.
Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh took a shot in the dark after the foul ball and went out for a discussion with the three umpires. Burke – the crew chief – then called his group together for a meeting. And to everyone’s shock, that Shelley Duncan foul ball became a Shelley Duncan three-run home run. Not because it was seen by Frank Burke, the home-plate umpire, who had the best view down the line. Not because the decision was overruled by Fran Buke, the crew chief, who had the best view down the line. But because Kelvin Bultron, the first base umpire, who had almost no angle whatsoever to this decision, decided he had seen a home run.
Randy Knorr, predictably, was less than thrilled. He came out to argue while Duncan crossed the bases, and was ejected in fairly short order. This didn’t stop Randy from heading back into the clubhouse. The man had a point to make. He headed out toward the left field wall – with nobody quite sure what he was doing – and picked up two baseballs. The former major league catcher reared back and threw one over the wall, to the left of the foul pole. And then the player turned manager momentarily turned into an umpire – and pointed his arm to the left of the pole. That’s foul, Randy seemed to be saying. He cocked back again, and with the power of a Stephen Strasburg fastball, Randy hurled his second red-stitched, white orb over the fence to the right side of the pole. And that, said Mr. Knorr to much fanfare from the crowd of 7, 109, is a fair ball. (Editor’s Note: I may be leaving out a few words, such as *bleep* or *bleeping.* Please forgive me.)
Oh, by the way, the soft-spoken Milone was thrown out of the game too. Oh, by the way, the Chiefs rallied for four runs in the seventh and eighth innings for one of their best comeback wins of the year.
I take it we’ll hear more from this game at some point…