I do my darnedest to stay abreast of Minor League Baseball's weirdest and wackiest on-field occurrences but, really, Crooked Numbers would not be possible without the constant contributions of MiLB.com colleagues, team employees and readers like you
To wit: I first became aware of this month's lead story via an email from a co-worker. He simply sent a link to a box score along with this note: "This is the very definition of Crooked Numbers."
The game in question was an Aug. 11 contest between the Missoula Osprey and visiting Billings Mustangs. How was this game the "very definition of Crooked Numbers"? Let us count the ways.
1. The Mustangs seemed destined to win this game, with Brandon Dailey's lead-off home run setting the tone. They opened up a seemingly insurmountable 9-0 lead through 4 1/2 frames -- scoring two in first, four in the third, and three more in the fifth - only to see Missoula storm back and take an 11-10 lead after eight innings.
2. Making the Osprey comeback even more remarkable was the manner in which it occurred. Missoula scored 11 runs over the fifth through eighth frames, on the "strength" of just five hits. The eighth inning was particularly memorable, as a hit batter and a pair of walks loaded the bases with two out. Erik Miller then entered the game in relief, and proceeded to let all three of his inherited runners score via three wild pitches (this was a running theme for Miller during his time in Billings, as the right-hander uncorked 16 wild pitches over just 13 2/3 innings of work). Miller's third and final wild pitch allowed the exquisitely named Moniker Madness candidate Socrates Brito to score, giving the Osprey the improbable 11-10 lead.
3. This lead, as hard-earned as it may have been, didn't seem destined to last long. A pair of singles brought (the also exquisitely named) pinch-hitter Beau Amaral to the plate with runners on first and second and no outs. What happened next? A game-ending triple play, of course! Amaral's ground ball to third resulted in an around-the-horn triple-killing, giving the Osprey a most unlikely victory.
As noted in the MiLB.com game story, winning pitcher Chase Stevens issued the following Tweet upon the conclusion of the contest: "I was just part of the best baseball game ever!"
"Best" might be overstating it a bit, one thing's for sure: It certainly was one of the crookedest.
Multi-purpose Toole: A Minor League season doesn't feel complete unless one individual plays all nine positions in a ballgame, and this year's paragon of versatility was Justin Toole of the Carolina Mudcats. Toole batted second for the Mudcats, and next to his name in the Gameday box score you'll see the following listing: RF-CF-LF-1B-2B-SS-3B-C-P.
As for his time on the mound, Toole allowed back-to-back ninth-inning homers to Salem's Drew Hedman and Sean Coyle but then recorded a pair of strikeouts to end the ballgame. Those were the only runs Salem scored in the ballgame, with Toole and the Mudcats earning a 4-2 win.
The (seemingly) never-ending story: Twenty-three-inning ballgames take a long time to play, simply by virtue of being 23 innings. But the Princeton Rays' 12-9 victory over the Pulaski Mariners not only took 23 innings -- it took two days. On Aug. 2 the two teams battled to a 8-8 tie over 18 innings before a 1 a.m. curfew caused the contest to be suspended. It was resumed the next day, and the team's played another five innings before the Rays finally emerged with a 12-9 win. The time of game, officially, was seven hours and 48 minutes.
Breakout! The Omaha Storm Chasers pounded out a staggering 33 hits en route to their 20-3 victory over Tucson on Aug. 12. Every player in the starting lineup collected at least two hits and scored at least one run, but it was the head (and heart) of the order that really led the charge. Each of the first five players in the Storm Chasers' lineup recorded at least four hits!
Inability to break out! The New Orleans Zephyrs collected 15 hits and drew seven walks against those very same Storm Chasers on Aug. 26 -- and scored just two runs. The Zephyrs went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left an agony-inducing 18 men on base over the course of the contest, which they lost by a score of 7-2.
Swingin' singles: The Fort Wayne TinCaps rapped out 18 hits in their 7-6 win over Lansing on Aug. 28, and all 18 hits were singles. That this is an unlikely occurrence goes without saying, but just how unlikely is it? In a post on his "It's All Relative" TinCaps blog, broadcaster Mike Couzens provided the answer: "This season in the Midwest League there have been 18,218 hits, 3,722 doubles, 607 triples and 1,355 home runs. Subtract that from the total number of hits and you've got 12,534 singles. The total number of singles divided by the 18,218 hits shows that 69 percent of all hits have been singles this year. So if you multiply .69 to the 18th power, you get 0.13 percentage. Nearly one tenth of one percent."
Piling on the runs, deep in the heart of Texas: Per MiLB.com's weekly Texas League notebook, the Corpus Christi Hooks' 11-run ninth inning on Aug. 4 against Midland was a truly rare occurrence: "The Hooks scored 11 runs in the final frame to post a 17-6 victory, marking the first time a team has scored 11 times in the ninth since Forth Worth beat Beaumont, 11-2, in 1937. The ninth-inning record is 12 runs scored by Denison in 1896."
The Hooks were up to similar tricks just eight days later, when they posted a 12-run sixth inning as part of a 20-9 win over Springfield. The next day, TL president Tom Kayser provided the following bit of tantalizing esoterica in an email: "The 12 runs by Corpus Christi mark the 17th time that a Texas League team has scored 10 or more runs in the sixth inning, however it is the first time that a team has scored 12 runs in the sixth. ... [T]eams have scored 13 runs in the sixth three times, 11 runs four times, and 10 runs nine times."
Order amidst chaos: The esteemed Mr. Kayser will not be the only individual to have an email quoted in this column. Jason Grohoske, a community relations intern for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, got in touch after noticing the following: "The Flying Squirrels are now 11-2 over the past three seasons when they play on the 12th of any month! Their last loss dates back to June 2010. ... The Squirrels are 9-0 over the past two season on the 12th."
But that's not all! Grohoske also noted the following, regarding an Aug. 7 ballgame against Harrisburg: "[E]ach team had seven hits, the Flying Squirrels scored 7 runs, attendance was 7,147, and lastly Chris Heston started the game [with a record of] 7-2. I know the last two '7' facts are a bit of a stretch, but when you're on a roll, why stop?"
IronBird anemia: Saturday was not all right for the Aberdeen IronBirds this season. The team played 11 games on Saturday -- and lost them all!
When it rains... Kyle Roller hasn't exactly been a triples machine in his pro career, as the Tampa Yankees first baseman has hit eight over 1,062 at-bats. This made the events of Aug. 9 seem even stranger, when Roller hit two triples -- in one inning! His pair of three-baggers highlighted a nine-run eighth frame as the Yanks rolled to a 12-0 victory over Clearwater.
Kings of pain: Matt Duffy of the Lexington Legends set a new South Atlantic League record on Aug. 5, when he was hit by a pitch for the 33rd time this season (breaking Nyjer Morgan's mark of 32, set in 2004). And after breaking the record, Duffy didn't rest on his laurels. He went on to get hit a whopping 41 times in 2012, 13 more than any other Minor League player and 26 more than anyone else in the SAL.
However, Tyler Gaffney of the State College Spikes got plunked at an even more prodigious pace this season. The outfielder appeared in just 38 games, and managed to get hit 20 times (a number equal to the number of occasions in which he drew a walk).
Keeping pace: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans and Winston-Salem Dash entered the month of August in a first-place tie in the Carolina League Southern Division standings. They then did their best to stay tied, as over the first 11 games of the month the two teams played to the exact same result. This bizarre bit of copycatting finally came to an end on Aug. 13, when Winston-Salem won and Myrtle Beach lost.
No hits, plenty of base-runners: All no-hitters are not created equal, and this was amply illustrated by the Huntsville Stars in their rather ugly no-hit win against Chattanooga on Aug. 2. Five Stars pitchers combined to issue a whopping 11 walks in the contest -- retiring the side in order only three times -- but they still managed to earn a 3-1 victory.