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Beavers, McCray remember 'The Crash'

Video remains unforgettable, ubiquitous after 15 years
August 11, 2006
Over the course of baseball history, many outfielders have run into the wall while pursuing a deep fly ball. Only one, however, can claim to have run through the wall.

That man is Rodney McCray.

On May 27, 1991, the Portland Beavers took on the Vancouver Canadians in a Pacific Coast League contest at Portland's Civic Stadium (now PGE Park). In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Beavers' Chip Hale lofted a deep fly ball to right-center field. McCray went after the ball at full speed -- paying no heed to the warning track -- and slammed into Civic Stadium's plywood fence face-first.

The force of the impact caused the fence panel McCray ran into to flip upwards, and he ended up on the other side of the wall (Hale, meanwhile, scurried to third with an RBI triple).

Sound familiar? It certainly should. In the 15 years since McCray's spectacular collision, footage of the incident has permeated the landscape of our sports-obsessed culture.

In addition to becoming a blooper-reel staple, the crash has been featured in a Powerade commercial, and was hailed as an "Unforgettable Sports Moment" by Fox Sports' "Best Damn Sports Show Period." ESPN, meanwhile, ranked McCray's headlong smash as No. 7 on its all-time list of the "25 Biggest Sports Blunders."

On Saturday, a decade and a half of "Crash" McCray mania will reach its logical culmination -- logical, at least, in the world of Minor League Baseball. The Beavers will be holding "Rodney McCray Bobblefence Night," and the first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a "bobblefence" doll that immortalizes McCray's inimitable effort. It even features a movable fence panel.

Rodney, himself, will be on hand to sign autographs and throw out the first pitch. And the team will rechristen the right-center-field portion of the ballpark as "McCray Alley."

McCray, for his part, is delighted to participate in such an event.

"I'm tickled to death," he said. "It's an honor. Usually, it's the megastars who get their own bobbleheads. When the crash first happened, I didn't have the foggiest idea it would be so huge this late in [my] life."

And to think, McCray's most defining moment almost wasn't recorded for posterity.

"Portland, at that particular time, wasn't drawing very well," he said. "The team had just one camera guy there that night, and he was freelancing. He usually did Trail Blazers games. That guy just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

Although McCray did spend parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues (1990-92, with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets), he is destined to be remembered for a single play in a Minor League game. That's fine with him. While most sports bloopers are embarrassing by their very nature, "The Crash" symbolizes something else entirely.

"That's how I played the game," said McCray. "I was hard working, fun loving and prided myself on stealing bases and good defense. When people see the crash on TV, well, that's the type of player I was."

McCray stole nearly 400 bases in his Minor League career, and his mastery of baserunning and defense led to coaching jobs after his playing days ended. Most recently, he served as an outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Cincinnati Reds, though he has also worked in the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals organizations.

"Right now, I'm taking a year off because I have two kids, but I plan on always being involved in the game," said McCray. "I'm also a motivational speaker and looking to break into broadcasting, as well."

But for the next several days, McCray's energies will be focused on his special night in Portland.

"I'm looking forward to going back, and I've got some friends flying in, as well," he said. "I might have to relocate and move there after this is all over. I helped to put them on the map."

As for the crash itself, McCray doesn't regret a thing.

"I didn't get physically hurt, so nothing bad came of it," he said. "I'm happy to still be talking about it. Hopefully, the attention will just keep escalating."

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to