MLB Memory Lane – June 29, 1991

I went to a lot of baseball games before I started working in baseball.  MLB Memory Lane is a look back at some of those games.

This week, the most frustrating game I have ever attended in my life.

Date: June 29, 1991
Teams: New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers
Stadium: Milwaukee County Stadium
Seat Location: Bleachers in Left-center
With: Friends

I want to put this out there right away.  I do not hate Dan Plesac.  In fact, I stood up for him while he struggled late in his career as the closer for the Brewers.

But, some of my friends and family members…They probably do not want to hear the name Plesac ever again.  This game from 1991 may is probably one of the reasons.

It was a great day for a game.  We showed up with over 31,000 other fans to watch Teddy Higuera take on the Yankees.  Jeff Johnson was on the mound for New York.  Jeff Who?  Exactly.

But, first Higuera got into a lot of trouble in the first inning.

There were two on with one out as Jesse Barfield singled to drive in Steve Sax.  Higuera walked Kevin Maas to load the bases and Hensley Meulens singled in two more runs to put the Yankees up 3-0.  Higuera escaped the rest of the inning without allowing another run.  In fact, he wouldn’t give up another run the rest of his time on the hill.

Meanwhile, the Brewers charged back to take tie the game against Jeff Johnson in the third inning.  They loaded the bases with one out and Robin Yount grounded into a force play to let Rick Dempsey score from third base.  Candy Maldonado followed with an RBI single to drive in Billy Spiers.  Then, Greg Vaughn singled in Yount.

That was it for Johnson.  Eric Plunk took over and got the last out of the third.

The game settled in after the pitching change.  Higuera pitched a 1-2-3 fourth, worked out of a runners on the corners with no out jam in the fifth, allowed a meaningless two-out single in the sixth, and tossed a 1-2-3 seventh.  The fans were loving Higuera’s performance after that first inning stumble.
TeddyHiguera

However, Plunk was just as good.  He had a 1-2-3 fourth, worked around a one out single by Willie Randolph in the fifth, and pitched a 1-2-3 sixth.

So, here we are.  Seventh inning stretch time at Milwaukee County Stadium.  Tied 3-3 on a perfect Saturday afternoon and BJ Surhoff is coming to the plate to pinch-hit for Rick Dempsey.  Single.  Spiers bunts into a force play at second base for the first out.  Then, Paul Molitor walks.  That’s it for Plunk.  Time to bring in, um, John Habyan to face Randolph.

Willie Randolph singles to center to score Spiers.  Then, a horrific throw by Meulens lets Molitor score and the Crew are up 5-3.  Robin is next and he does what you expect of Robin Yount in that spot.  He smacks a double to drive in Randolph to make it 6-3.  Then, Candy “By GOD!” Maldonado cracks a two-run homer and the Brewers lead those damn Yankees 8-3!

Candy "By God!" Maldonado

Candy “By God!” Maldonado

You’ll remember that Higuera did not start the 1991 season with the Brewers.  His season didn’t get started until the end of May.  This start on June 29 was the first time in that season he made it seven innings.  But, surely the Brewers bullpen could get six outs.

They needed three pitchers to get three outs in the freaking eighth inning.

But before we get to that…Important plot point.  Daryl Hamilton came into the game as a defensive replacement for Robin Yount in the top of the eighth.

Along with that move and putting Surhoff in at catcher, which bullpen warrior did Tom Trebelhorn call on to start the top of the eighth?  Julio Machado.

Machado retired Don Mattingly for the first out.  Then…back-to-back home runs by Barfield and Kevin Maas.
jesse-barfieldKevinMaas
It’s 8-5, but not time to panic.  However, it was time for a pitching change.  Hi, Chuck Crim!

Mel Hall retired for the second out.  But, Pat Sheridan doubled.  Bye, Chuck Crim.  Hello, Mark Lee.

Willie Randolph commits a throwing error after a Matty Nokes grounder and Sheridan scores to make it 8-6.

It was at this point that my friends in attendance started to yell to Greg Vaughn and Daryl Hamilton that, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, should they allow Dan Plesac to take the mound in this game.  “Hey, Daryl! Hey, Vaughn!  If Pleasac comes out of the bullpen, tackle him! Don’t let him get to the mound!”

Well, Mark Lee did get the final out of the eighth inning.  Then, the Brewers went down in order in the bottom of the eighth.  The score was still 8-6.

Here comes Plesac!

Photo from si.com

Photo from si.com

There was an audible groan from my friends and most of the people in my section of the bleachers as he headed for the mound.

Now, at the time, Dan Plesace was 5-for-5 in save opportunities.  He had appeared in 23 games up to that point in the season and he had allowed more than one run in an inning just one time before this game and that was when he gave up a pair of runs in one inning during a non-save situation in a 9-0 loss to Toronto back on April 14!

In fact, Plesac had pitched a scoreless inning on June 28 against the Yankees to pick up his fifth save of the season.  Sure he gave up a leadoff single to Mattingly, but he came back to get Hall, Maas, and Barfield to secure a Brewers win.

Surely today would be no different for Plesac, I was thinking.  And he will be on his way to his fourth All-Star Selection.

*Sigh*

PLESAC REPLACED LEE (PITCHING); Sax singled to left; R. Kelly popped to third; Mattingly singled to left [Sax to second]; Barfield walked [Sax to third, Mattingly to second];Maas forced Barfield (second to shortstop) [Sax scored (RBI), Mattingly to third, Maas to first].

Here’s the situation.  Brewers up 8-7 with two outs in the top of the ninth.  The Yankees have the tying run at third and the lead run at first.  Mel Hal, who had pinch-hit for Meulens in the eighth inning, is at the plate.

Hall doubled to right-center. Two runs scored. Hall was out at third trying for a triple to end the inning.  Yankees are up 9-8.
Mel Hall

“WE TOLD YOU, DARYL!”my friends screamed at Hamilton as he made his way back to the Brewers dugout.  “YOU SHOULD HAVE TACKLED HIM!”

The Yankees went to Steve Farr to pitch the bottom of the ninth.  As Farr warmed up on the mound, Mel Hall took his place in left field.

“Hey, Hall,” one of my friend yelled. “Did you get thrown out at third because you were laughing at how easy it was to hit Plesac while you were running the bases?”

Mel Hall turned and laughed at my friends.

Farr got Molitor to fly out to left and Randolph to fly out to right.  That brought up Robin Yount’s spot in the order, oh, wait. That’s right.  Daryl Hamilton went into Robin’s spot in the order when he went in defensively for the top of the ninth.

*sigh*

Farr struck out Hamilton to end the game.  Brewers lose a heartbreaker, folks!

   New York Yankees              Milwaukee Brewers        
1. Sax                 2b        Molitor             1b
2. R. Kelly            cf        Randolph            2b
3. Mattingly           1b        Yount               cf
4. Barfield            rf        Maldonado           dh
5. Maas                dh        Vaughn              lf
6. Meulens             lf        Bichette            rf
7. Espinoza            ss        Sveum               3b
8. Geren               c         Dempsey             c
9. P. Kelly            3b        Spiers              ss

TOP PERFORMERS:
NYY:
Steve Sax 3-for-4, 2 RUNS
Barfield, Maas, Meulens, and Hall each had two RBI

MIL:
Teddy Higuera: 7IP, 7H, 3R, 3BB, 5K, ND
Candy Maldonado: 2-for-4, RUN, HR, 3RBI

NOTES:
Paul Molitor: 1-for-4, RUN
Robin Yount: 2-for-4, 2 RUNS, 2RBI

Sadly, that was the last start of the season for Teddy Higuera.  He wouldn’t appear for the Brewers in a big league game again until August 14, 1993.  That makes me angry and sad.

Speaking of angry and sad…Julio Machado’s story.

Dan Plesac’s 1991 season with the Brewers took turn after that.  Just look at his Game Log on Baseball-Reference for 1991.

He would have only four more saves in a Brewers uniform.  Three more in 1991, before he moved to the starting rotation in August.    In 1992, his final season in Milwaukee, Plesac had one save in 44 appearances (40 in relief).  He still holds the Milwaukee Brewers record for saves in a career with 133.

After parting ways with Milwaukee, Plesac would go on to pitch for the Cubs, Pirates, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays (again), and Phillies.  He pitched a total of 18 seasons in the major leagues before hanging it up in 2003.

He is now an analyst – and a pretty good one – for MLB Network.

Dan, if you read this, I’d like to buy you a drink some day because I remember a different game that you pitched.  I wasn’t there, but I listened to it on the radio.  It was a 1989 game against the Red Sox at home.  You came on in the top of the ninth in a 1-1 game.  The bases were loaded and Wade Boggs was at the plate with two outs.  You struck him out.

Then, you went four more scoreless innings with another strikeout of Boggs in the twelfth inning.  Wade Boggs struck out 51 times in 742 plate appearances in 1989 and you got him on strikes in two straight at bats with the game on the line.

But, the offense couldn’t score and Boston finally got two runs off Mark Knudson in the top of the fourteenth.  It was a throwback with the closer tossing more than one inning, but you went out there and kept shutting Boston down to keep giving the Brewers a chance.

That – and the strike out of Greg Walker to save win #13 in a row to start the 1987 season – are how I prefer to remember Dan Plesac.

Retrosheet Boxscore
Baseball Reference WPA Chart

Past MLB Memory Lane entries:
Rally against The Eck & Walkoff the A’s (1989)

Dennis Lamp near no-hitter (1981)

Teddy & Team Streak (1987)

Chester Marcol steals the show (1980)

Nolan Ryan at Wrigley (1987)

Larry Hisle beats Louisiana Lightning (1978)

Bonds, Kent, Burks ruin my dad’s 60th birthday (1999)

Doubleheader against Yaz & the Red Sox (1977)

Rockie Mountain Way (1999)

Wrigley in September (1985)

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