Perhaps you have been fortunate enough to see your favorite slugger at bat twice in one inning. One of those, where the mercy rule should probably be invoked, if only it could. Because the perfect union of wild-rumpus-slugfest and despicable-fall-apart-pitching have at once come together. The lineup has been exhausted, and still outs remain. This is unusual, yes, and the average number of batters per half-inning… is a statistic that I am still searching for. But I assure you, it is less than 9. With a confidence interval of, say, 0.05?
Occasionally a batter will make two plate appearances in an inning (or half-inning, to be even more specific). It happens. It’s nice when it happens to your team, and you rack all those lovely runs up at once, and it is not-so-nice when your team is the one swapping out pitchers in the seemingly-never-ending-inning like they were going out of style.
But today on Throwback Thursday, we are going to look at an even more peculiar baseball oddity. For in these instances, not only does one particular batter step into the box twice in one inning, but he steps into the box two consecutive times in one inning.
Yes, that’s right. You heard me.
But it is not possible, is it? How could it be? A man cannot simultaneously be at bat and on deck, or on deck and in the hole, now can he? That would violate some law of physics, to be sure.
No, not really, there is a way. Should that man exist in more than one dimension- in the flesh- and, in another- on paper- as he is written down in the batting order.
Normally these two dimensions of the man exist in harmony, occurring simultaneously, without separation. The flesh of the ballplayer arrives at bat just when he is supposed to- as indicated on the lineup paper, his ethereal counterpart.
But to every rule there is an exception.
If these two universes- the paper universe and the flesh universe- are somehow misaligned, through some cosmic accident, and a ballplayer goes up to bat out of his certified turn, he encounters some sort of tear in the space-time polyester jersey fabric.
The umps are notified. Time is reversed. The batter will go up to bat. Again.
Yes, this has happened. Many times in fact. Not always does a misplaced batter result in a double-take, but Retrosheet lists all such disordered batting shenanigans [here]. From the first recorded occurrence to years as recent as 2009, when Houston’s Michael Bourn batted both in the leadoff spot and in the two-hole. Bourn singled to right field first. Then, the visiting Brewers manager called attention to the fact that Kazuo Matsui was written first in the batting order on the lineup card, with Bourn listed second. So Matsui was called out, and Bourn went to bat again, this time walking, and later scoring off of Lance Berkman’s RBI.
Oh, and the Astros won that game. Yes, they did.
Follow? You can check out the box score of the game from Retrosheet [here]. Scroll down to the play-by-play and check out the bold type, which explains the confusion.
It is alright if this makes you a little uncomfortable. I promise that feeling of unease shall pass, but it is a normal side effect of your first experience with time-travel, or simply recognizing the imperfection that shrouds our favorite sport.