19 Years ago this past Sunday…

On June 8, 1989, the Pittsburgh Pirates scored 10 runs in the first inning against the Phillies, sending 16 men to the plate in one inning. It was only the first inning, though, and the game proved Yogi Berra’s maxim that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Although the Pirates left the bases loaded, with a 10-run lead, the Pirates doubtless were unconcerned. They had good reason: By the time the Pirates made the last out of the inning, the win expectancy of the Phillies clocked in at just 1.6 percent

Pirates broadcaster Jim Rooker might not be a devotee of win percentage charts. But he was a former player, a member of the Pirates’ 1979 World Championship team. As such, he knew that 10-run first inning leads were pretty secure. Confident in that knowledge, he made a statement that he would soon regret: “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.”

You can probably guess where this is heading. …

I was at that game with my grandfather and younger cousin. I made a pronouncement as definitive as Rooker did, though fortunately without the promise of walking home. I mean, really, who would have thought Steve Freakin’ Jeltz could hit two home runs in a season, much less a game? He only had five for his career! (Link to box-score.) Also, see an amusing story about Steve Jeltz and his lack of hitting ability.

But this game is a prime example of why baseball’s the best damn sport there is. It truly “ain’t over till it’s over.” As the great Earl Weaver once said:

You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.

On this there can be no debate.