By Jason Iannone
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Any time someone commits the cardinal sin of caring about what happens during a spring training game, they’re quickly fitted with concrete shoes and thrown into the Sea of Pointless. “The stats don’t matter!” *Blub* “Wins and losses are meaningless!” *Blub* “It’s just practice, who cares if they hit six grand slams in one game?” *Final gasp for air before joining Nemo’s mom in the Great Wet Beyond.*
Yes, we’re all aware spring training records, stats and accomplishments don’t count toward the regular season. But that doesn’t mean we should just dismiss a legitimately amazing accomplishment with a mere “huh” just because it happened in early March. With that in mind, let’s pay tribute to five incredible spring training moments that would have been a hell of a lot more memorable if people had stopped insisting they were meaningless for one freakin’ second.
5. Six Red Sox Pitchers Combine for a Perfect Game
There have been 23 perfect games in Major League history, but never a combined perfect game, in which two or more pitchers come together to completely emasculate anybody who wears a different uniform than they do.
But if you actually paid attention to spring training, you would’ve seen the 2000 Boston Red Sox pull it off. On March 14, while utilizing six pitchers (including Pedro Martinez, who probably took this deadly serious because he took EVERYTHING about baseball deadly serious), the Sox blanked the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-0. A Canadian tee ball team probably would’ve have had better luck at the plate.
It is, as far as we can tell, the only perfect game in spring training history, not to mention the only combined perfect game in Major League history EVER. Not that it did the Red Sox much good that year, as they finished a decidedly average 85-77, missing the playoffs. Sadly, one instance of making actual history doesn’t earn you a gimme into the postseason.
4. State College of Florida Beats the Baltimore Orioles
Some teams, to prepare themselves for the grueling gauntlet that is spring training, will kick off everything by beating the stuffing out of a college team or two. Nervous underclassmen versus people so good at sports they get paid to play them typically goes exactly the way you’d expect — the pros pummel the kids into oblivion, not unlike when the Ultimate Warrior would “wrestle” some random nonathletic fat guy on Saturday morning wrestling.
Except on April 3, 2012, the fat guy pinned the Warrior 1-2-3. Or, more accurately, the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota humiliated the Baltimore Orioles, 2-1. This almost never happens, and when it does, it’s because the pro team used almost nothing but minor leaguers and rookies with little hope of making the team. Not this game though — there were real live Orioles everywhere, and they still lost.
They, naturally, brushed it off as not a big deal, and even Florida’s coach said he didn’t consider it a win because motivating your team through positivity is just the stupidest idea ever idea’d. The Orioles clearly took it as a wake-up call though, and actually made it to the playoffs that year with a 93-69 record. That’s pretty amazing because in Baltimore, a 90-win season is rarer than an episode of The Wire that makes the city look good.
3. Red Sox Players Hit Four Consecutive Home Runs
Back to Boston for another amazing spring training feat. Hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs is one of the rarest feats in all of baseball, only happening seven times ever. No team has ever done it twice, unless you count spring training, which we obviously do or else we’d be writing about something else right now (Top 5 Ping-Pong Players Who Could Totally Kick Your Ass, anyone?)
On March 23, 2009, the Red Sox hit four consecutive homers off the Detroit Tigers (they needed every single one, by the way, as they only won 7-6.) This makes them the only team to quadruple-homer twice, since they also did it on April 22, 2007 against the Yankees. Guess which one everybody remembers? Hell, even Sox manager Terry Francona saw it as little more than neat, simply saying “It’s fun to watch. I know it won’t help us during the season, but we’ll take it.” This is opposed to what he should have really said, which was HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT $#!^? WHAP WHAP WHAP WHAP BUH GAWD WE ARE BASEBALL TERMINATORS BAYBEE AIN’T NOBODY GONNA STOP US HOPE Y’ALL WANTED THREE RINGS BOSTON CUZ YO’ GONNA GET JUST THAT.
Of course, he would’ve been wrong — though the team went 95-67 and made the playoffs, they were swept in the first round by the Anaheim Angels. Still though, in the moment, Yelly Screamy Francona would’ve been more than acceptable.
2. Brian Dozier Hits a Little League Home Run
Inside-the-park home runs, while fairly rare, are not unheard of. There have actually been just under a thousand since the 1950s. Far rarer are Little League home runs, where somebody scores an inside-the-parker because the other team errored and blundered the whole way through. They call it a Little League homer because that kind of amateur crap is supposed to only happen IN the Little Leagues.
But on March 4, 2014, the Little Leagues invaded the brains of the Bigs for one night only. Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins hit what should’ve been a double at best, except Blue Jays shortstop Macier Izturis botched his throw and sent the ball scrambling to the very last place it should have been. Dozier took advantage and easily scored. No word on whether or not Izturis got to eat ice cream with the rest of the team afterwards.
There’s also no word on whether or not this is a bad omen for the Blue Jays, since it just happened and all. But because it’s the Blue Jays, we’ll take a wild stab and say “yep, they’re gonna suck.”
1. Randy Velarde Pulls Off an Unassisted Triple Play
And here we have perhaps the greatest, and certainly the rarest, individual feat in all of baseball — the unassisted triple play. This has happened a mere 15 times in history, 16 if you count the one “meaningless” time it happened in spring training.
On April 17, 1995, Randy Verlarde was playing for the Yankees and managed to pull off the solo triple play against the then-California Angels. Little is known about the play, because it happened during spring training and thus nobody cared. More than likely the three guys called out reacted by going “aw, man” and then forgetting anything ever happened.
Not that Velarde minds any. Though his Yankees were ousted in the first round of the 1995 playoffs, he ended up making history that people pay attention to just five years later. As a member of the Oakland Athletics, he pulled off the second unassisted triple play of his career on May 29, 2000. He did it against the Yankees too, in a move likely described as “ironic” by scores of people who have no bloody clue how irony works.