Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three Delicious Games in Baseball History

A twitter conversation in the wake of Tuesday's post on Sandy Koufax's Perfect Gingergame led me to wonder: was that the most delicious baseball game in history? Today we examine three other games in contention for the title.

Chili Davis' Chili Cook-off

In 1991, as DH for the Minnesota Twins, Chili Davis was given a rare start in the outfield in a game against the Texas Rangers. However, when he discovered that the scheduled starting pitchers were a couple of extreme ground-ballers, Scott Erickson and Kevin Brown, and he wouldn't likely have any plays to make, Davis took matters into his own hands.

"I wanted to support my team," says Davis. "We were in a pennant race, and we needed to do anything we could to get a leg up. Eat better, groom ourselves more neatly, learn more languages, anything where we can say we're better than the other guys." So, in that spirit, Davis organized an in-game, on-field chili cook-off between him and opposing left fielder Juan Gonzalez.

Davis showed off his 6th tool - culinary skills

Two portable kitchens were installed right in the middle of left field. Experts tasted each man's chili after every inning, assigning points for flavour, "chiliness", and flatulence potential. In the end, Davis won when Gonzalez bowled over his own chili chasing after a fly ball, severely bruising his ribs in the process, and to this day Davis credits the victory as the key to Minnesota's eventual World Series Championship.

Jeffrey Loria Feeds a Bunch of Hoboes

In 1996, Jeffrey Loria, then-owner of the Montreal Expos, decided that the team was spending too much of his hard-earned money, and ordered general management to slash payroll to minuscule levels. So minuscule, it turned out, that the only players the Expos could afford were rail-riding hoboes (as opposed to street bums, which are very different, as explained by Fran's Hobo Page:
A Hobo is a person that travels to work.
A tramp is a person that travels and wont work.
A bum is a person that will neither travel or work.)
At first, the Montreal crowds fell in love with these adorable scamps, the "Exbos" as they were affectionately nicknamed. But after an 0-37 start, the sentiment began to change. The frustration culminated on June 8th, 1996, the 60th game of the season, which also happened to be the night of an annual promotion: Free Poutine Night.

After the top of the first inning saw its third grand slam, all hell broke loose. French fries, cheese curds and gravy started pouring down on the field like a deluge of torrential rain, one third of which is solid and shaped like French fries for some reason, one third of which is melty and shaped like cheese curds, and one third of which is shaped like regular rain. Good simile.

Anyway, the hoboes, not having been paid enough by Loria to eat for the first two months of the year, were in absolute ecstasy. The game was cancelled, but the players stuck around until the next morning, collecting whatever they couldn't possibly fit in their stomach in their batting helmets to store for future sustenance.

Bob Lemon's "Lemon Shortbread Shutout"

In 1954, Bob Lemon was having one of his best seasons - in late May he was 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA. To the great amusement of his teammates, he very publicly attributed this success to his wife's lemon shortbread, which he claimed he ate before every start. Among his teammates, Lemon's wife was known as an absolutely awful cook - the Lemons hosted a pre-season dinner every year for the entire team, and the food was so inedible that Cleveland typically had two or three players out of the opening day line-up due to illness. But the Lemons were such a sweet couple that nobody ever said anything.

So Bob's teammates found his supposedly shortbread-induced success absolutely hilarious - that is, until he brought a team-sized batch to his last start in May. "He wouldn't take the field until we all ate one," remembers center-fielder Larry Doby. "The game was delayed by half an hour."

Third baseman Al Rosen clearly recalls the fear his teammates felt as they considered the prospect of eating a cookie. "We literally thought that was the day we were going to die," says Rosen. "I dunno how, salmonella? I mean, yeah, typically there's no raw chicken in lemon shortbread, but you never knew with Doris (Lemon's wife)."

Finally, veteran pitcher Bob Feller picked up a piece of shortbread, examined it, weighed it, looked his teammates in the eye, and took a bite. His face instantly changed. "Oh my god... this is amazing." One by one, the players were overcome with the same shock, followed by unbridled joy at the unexpected tastiness of the cookies.

The batch of shortbread was demolished, and the teams took the field. Cleveland won the game 12-0, Bob Lemon pitched brilliantly, and to this day the game is remembered as the "Lemon Shortbread Shutout".

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