February 24, 2009
BASEBALL: Stealing Sutcliffe
Home Run Derby looks back at an amusing Cubs broadcast from 1987. And links to this classic baseball story about Rick Sutcliffe and Bill Murray:
It was 1987, Harry Caray had suffered a stroke, and fellow Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone often invited guest commentators into the booth. Bill Murray decided to make his appearance on a day Sutcliffe was pitching.
In the third inning, Sutcliffe singled in Jody Davis, who scored on a close play at the plate. The pitcher for the Montreal Expos got ejected after arguing the call.
Sitting in the booth, Stone and Murray had to stall while a new pitcher warmed up. Murray looked at Stone and said, "I betcha a case of beer Sutcliffe steals second."
Stone laughed and pointed out Sutcliffe had never even attempted to steal a base. He pointed out Sutcliffe had a bad hamstring. He pointed out Sutcliffe was not exactly the world's fastest human being.
"But," Sutcliffe remembered Stone saying, "I'll take the bet because I'd like to win a case of beer from you."
The pitcher was still warming up when word spreads and a fan yelled, "Hey Sut, Murray just bet Steve Stone a case of beer you'll steal second!"
Standing on first base, Sutcliffe decided: Screw it. I'm going.
"All of a sudden the pitcher comes down and I tell my mind to go but my body won't move and I literally almost fell down," he said.
Then Expos manager Buck Rodgers yelled to first baseman Andres Galarraga, 'Play behind him, he ain't frickin' going anywhere!'"
Sutcliffe took off running. All 6-7 of the Red Baron hauling ass for second base just to mess with Cubs announcer Steve Stone.
"I am gone," Sutcliffe said. "He comes down and looks over. Well I'm halfway to second. I'm going, 'Ah, he got me.' Well the dummy goes to home so now I've got to get going again. But there's still a play. That's how slow I am."
(The box score for April 17, 1987 is here; Sutcliffe's victim was Andy McGaffigan, and Sutcliffe ended that day with 3 RBI and a 4-hit shutout to go with the stolen base. Interesting postscript: Sutcliffe stole three more bases the next two years, and was never once caught).
Meanwhile, Chris Jaffe looks back at Sutcliffe's pitching career.
That could happen only in Chicago.