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Rollie Fingers, Johnny Bench and the intentional walk that wasn’t

Feb 10, 2011, 1:00 PM EST

Rollie Fingers

I’m guessing that Reds and A’s fans — and other fans of a certain age — knew this already, but I had never heard this story about Rollie Fingers, Johnny Bench and the intentional walk that wasn’t from the 1972 World Series:

With Bench standing in the box expecting a wide pitchout, Fingers broke off a slider for called strike three.

“When (manager) Dick Williams came to the mound and told me, ‘We’re going to fake an intentional pass to Bench, but throw a strike. But don’t throw a fastball because he is a fastball hitter,’” Fingers said. “I said, ‘What? What are you talking about? Is this Little League or what?,” Fingers said he told Williams.

But being a good corporal, Fingers followed orders. “I threw probably the best slider I’d ever thrown in my life,” he said of the called strike three. “When I see Johnny Bench, I never mention it. But he usually brings it up and says, ‘That was the most embarrassing moment of my life.’”

If that happened today there would probably be a week’s worth of reports about the “unwritten rules.”  Ethicists would be called in for talking head segments on SportsCenter.  HardballTalk would probably devote 200 posts to it, all of which would begin by BC calling Fingers “a chipwich” and all of which would devolve into arguments about whether cake or pie is better.

Put differently, it would be glorious.

But now it’s just a footnote. One I had never heard of despite my baseball obsession.  I had never heard of it because there is just so damn much baseball history, trivia, shenanigans and tomfoolery out there and no one person can possibly know it all. Or even a majority of it.

And that is glorious too.

  1. megary - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Bob Costas knows it all. He would even know who was on deck and who was coaching 3rd base when it happened. At least that’s the way he comes across. :)

    • clydeserra - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      I think you scrambled some words. “Bob Costas is a know it all” is more accurate

      • scatterbrian - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:12 PM

        you made my day

  2. BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    No, but I’d have called him a chipwich if he beaned Bench instead.

  3. BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    And pie rules.

    • Utley's Hair - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:47 PM

      Felix Pie rules? Are they anything like Joba Rules or Hughes Rules?

      • BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        Felix Pie doesn’t rule anything. He’s a horror show.

    • hep3 - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      Cheesecake rules. The best of all with a cup of joe and a snifter of Grand Marnier.

      • Utley's Hair - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:00 PM

        Cider House Rules.

  4. writtenbyross - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    The Indians did this as well, although I’m having trouble remembering the details. I think it was Tony Pena and El Presidente Denny Martinez in the ’95 Series but it’s fuzzy.

  5. bigxrob - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    If Macarver was calling the game, he could have explained, in detail, how the intentional walk normally results in a walk

    • Joe - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:50 PM

      +1

      • kiwicricket - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:09 PM

        second

  6. hasbeen5 - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    How often does an intentional walk happen with 2 strikes?

    • Utley's Hair - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      If the count goes full with a crappy batter on deck and a base open?

      • BC - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        Bench was at his peak in 1972, so they probably were hitting him in the 3 or 4 spot. So you’d figure a decent hitter (Griffey maybe) would be hitting behind him.

      • Utley's Hair - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        Tony Perez was batting behind him, but I was going more general.

      • scatterbrian - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        In this case, after a one-out stolen base put runners at second and third and eliminated a double play opportunity. Reds were up 1-0 in the 8th.

      • Utley's Hair - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        If it was Game 5—I haven’t seen a reference to which game it was—then here’s a link:

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK197210200.shtml

      • pestiesti - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        It was either the top of the 8th in game 3 or the top of the 5th in game 5. Tony Perez was batting behind Bench in both games. I’m surprised Joe Morgan hasn’t told this story a thousand times, as he was either standing on third or had just scored when it happened.

        In game 3, the Reds were up 1-0 with 1 out Morgan was on third and Tolan is on first. Fingers comes in to replace Vida Blue. Tolan steals second. Bench strikes out, then Fingers intentionally walks Perez. Menke then popped up to foul territory to end the inning.

        In game 5 , the A’s are leading 4-3 with 2 outs. Morgan had just scored from first on a single by Tolan. Fingers comes into the game for Catfish Hunter. (Has any team ever had a pitching staff with cooler names than the 70s A’s?) Tolan steals second, again, then advances to third on a wild pitch. Bench strikes out to end the inning.

      • rje49 - Feb 10, 2011 at 7:02 PM

        Not game 5. In the top of the 8th, Bench didn’t strike out (see above link to baseball-reference.com). He grounded out to 3rd.
        Had to be game 3.

      • pestiesti - Feb 10, 2011 at 7:09 PM

        We’re looking at the fifth inning of game five, not the eighth inning.

      • rje49 - Feb 10, 2011 at 7:18 PM

        Wow. The “closer” in the 5th inning? No wonder I got confused…

  7. heiniemanush - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I remember watching it live on TV when I was a wee lad and thought it was cool. I kinda expected to see it happen again at some point but, alas, no. Although the ’60s and early ’70s were something like the second coming of the deadball era it spawned managers like Williams or Billy Martin who would make wacky or “unsportsmanlike” plays to get an edge.

  8. Jonny 5 - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    “One I had never heard of despite my baseball obsession. I had never heard of it because there is just so damn much baseball history, trivia, shenanigans and tomfoolery out there and no one person can possibly know it all. Or even a majority of it.

    And that is glorious too.”

    Perfect example. “The Mickey Mantle letter” about his best time he ever had in Yankee stadium…. I was shocked, awed, and laughed my butt off on that. And the best part was it’s real.

  9. ahealthyscratch - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    This is an awesome story, but screaming for Rob Neyer to do his fact checking thing he does in his Big Book of Baseball Stories (a must-read). Because, ya know, why not?

  10. professorperry - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    that whole article is outstanding. The mustache policy, for example. Go Hal McCoy.

  11. The Baseball Idiot - Feb 10, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    Wouldn’t someone also get called a Nazi before the day was over.

  12. Utley's Hair - Feb 10, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Hey, Craig, don’t forget that those mustaches and haircuts would be accused of juicing.

  13. rossesmithii - Feb 10, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    Hey I remember seeing that on TV. The announcer called it (believe it or not). Bench just waved at it. The scouting report said under no circumstances let Bench beat you. It worked. It was great (being an A’s fan).

  14. nosb4u - Feb 10, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    not only had of it when we were in college we practiced this

    • kiwicricket - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:13 PM

      You went to college?

  15. gobraves2011 - Feb 10, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    I remember watching this live. My recollection is of Dick Williams going out to the mound, gesturing emphatically for the intentional walk. Bench was totally fooled, he just stood there with the bat on his shoulder.

  16. crazimitch - Feb 10, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Two things boos.

    First, how old are you? Not meant as a dig, I’m just trying to think of what age groups know this story and which don’t, I’m 38.

    Second, Beer, Beer, Beeer!

    Bill

  17. crazimitch - Feb 10, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    Two things boss,

    First, how old are you? Not meant as a dig, I’m just trying to think of what age groups know this story and which don’t, I’m 38.

    Second, Beer, Beer, Beeer!

    Bill

  18. screwyinstlouie - Feb 10, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    Tony Kubek was the NBC announcer who said to look out for the fake IBB. I couldn’t believe it when Rollie Fingers actually did it. It’s still the only fake IBB I ever remember seeing.

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