On Twitter yesterday, I found an interesting question. If you could change the outcome of one pitch in history, what would it be? You can pick any pitch in the history of the game.
Obviously, the only correct answer is to pick that Rich Garcia would actually call fan interference on the Jeffrey Maier play, so all answers can be made knowing that we've already established the only true and just answer. This is a competition for second place.
Only slightly less traumatizing for my younger self was the 1997 ALCS. You know this pitch, too, because you re-lived it every time that MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick happened to be calling a game where a relief pitcher starts throwing unnecessary sliders and leaves one hanging. Pedro Strop, in particular, seemed to feel a nudge towards a true destiny as another Orioles reliever from an earlier era, who happens to be on the Hall of Fame ballot this year.
The date was October 9, 1997; the place, Baltimore. It was Game Two of the series, the top of the eighth inning, with the Orioles holding a 4-2 lead over the Indians. Armando Benitez entered the game in relief of Scott Kamieniecki and proceeded with this sequence: strikeout, walk, strikeout, walk.
Marquis Grissom stepped to the plate. Marquis Grissom, number nine hitter. Marquis Grissom, who batted .262/.317/.396 over that season. This, in 1997, when there was no way to pretend that was any kind of acceptable performance. He was not a guy who was likely to catch up to the kind of heat that Benitez could throw. Why that pitch? Damn it, man, why? No one will ever know. Grissom hit a home run into the Baltimore night, giving Cleveland a 5-4 lead.
Suppose Benitez did what he should have done and struck out Grissom. The Orioles would take a 2-0 series lead into Cleveland, which they were not likely to surrender - though there's always Benitez's performance in extra innings in Game Six. And yet, the Orioles were so close to a World Series, where they surely could have triumphed over the soon-to-be-dismantled Marlins, thus ensuring that they would have at least won a championship in my lifetime.
Cal Ripken would have won another World Series. Mike Mussina would have a World Series ring and unimpeachable Hall of Fame credentials. Brady Anderson and Chris Hoiles would have gotten rings, and B.J. Surhoff - all of the favorite Orioles of most of our childhoods would be World Series winners. Another flag would fly at Camden Yards. The fourteen years of losing would have never happened, surely. Ah, Benitez...
Would you pick something that would help the Orioles win a playoff series that they did not actually win? Do you still have memories of a would-be no-hitter or perfect game that was ruined because of one unfortunate batted ball? Is there another game where you regret the way one pitch ended up?
Tell us all about it in the comments. Now is the time to get it off your chest. It's OK, we're not going to judge, unless you pick something that doesn't benefit the Orioles. That would just be weird. Get it all out there. No need to hold it in any more. Spin us your alternate universe. Make it good.