Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
9:16 pm - Rhubarb!  
No, not the stuff my father grows in his backyard that none of the rest of us will eat. Rich Lederer presents a fifty year-old piece of audio of Vin Scully describing one of the all-time great rhubarbs of the baseball variety involving the Dodgers. The setting is the Los Angeles Coliseum, one of the most oddly laid out ball fields ever. The left field foul pole was only 251' from home, 50+ feet closer than Fenway's famous wall. Because of the nearness, a 42' high screen was raised at the fence from the foul pole out to left center to keep routine fly balls from become dramatic, game-changing home runs. And because of the quirks in the set up, some bizarre ground rules were devised that seemed to make matters even worse.

And, of course, it had to be against the Giants...

"It's a fight, a blow-by-blow verbal battle."

- Vin Scully, June 30, 1959


Rich provides both the clip and a transcription.

Reading the transcript really makes clear what a remarkable piece of reportage this is, considering that Scully was doing the whole thing on the fly. Just keeping track of all the participants is something. And what participants! Willie Mays sets the whole thing off. Besides manager Walter Alston for the Dodgers there's Gil Hodges and Don Drysdale, and Don Zimmer, when he was still a stick-thin shortstop with cable-like veins in his neck rather than the chubby old gerbil who sat next to Joe Torre in the Yankee dugout.

The umpires look really bad here, because not only did they change their original call, they had to change it a second time when Alston (apparently) pointed out the correct, albeit bizarre) ground rule that changed a home run into a ground rule double. On the other hand, what's even more amazing is that no one was tossed from the game.

The umpires looked even worse later in the same season, when something similar happened in an even bigger spot. From the Wikipedia article on the Coliseum:

The Milwaukee Braves were playing the Dodgers in the Coliseum on September 15, 1959, and Joe Adcock hit a ball that cleared the screen but hit a steel girder behind it and got stuck in the mesh. According to the ground rules, this should have been a home run. However, the umpires ruled it a ground-rule double. Then the fans shook the screen, causing the ball to fall into the seats. The umpires changed the call to a homer, only to change their minds again and rule it a ground-rule double. Adcock was left stranded on second. The game was tied at the end of nine innings and the Dodgers won it in the tenth inning. At the end of the regular season, the Dodgers and Braves finished in a tie. The Dodgers won the ensuing playoff and went on to win the World Series. If Adcock's hit had been ruled a home run, the Braves may have won the game and could have gone on to win the pennant by one game.
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nestra on July 1st, 2009 - 03:43 am
...what the hell is a rhubarb?

Yes, I know I could just Google.
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DXMachina: Charlie Brown 2dxmachina on July 1st, 2009 - 02:00 pm
Rhubarb is slang for a heated argument.
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nestra on July 1st, 2009 - 02:14 pm
Huh. I did not know that.
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mearamearagrrl on July 1st, 2009 - 05:37 am
...and why will none of you eat your father's home grown rhubarb? I love rhubarb baked goods! I would make yummy things! Or is your father like, using creepy pesticides or something?
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DXMachina: Opusdxmachina on July 1st, 2009 - 02:03 pm
There are two kinds of people in the world, thems that like rhubarb, and thems that don't. Eight of the nine people in my immediate family belong to the second group. Which is fine by my old man because it means there's more for him.
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