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Bizarre moments in baseball history

or at least three of them

Arizona Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson tips his hat t ROY DABNER/AFP via Getty Images

The long history of baseball has produced some of the greatest moments in sports but also some of the most bizarre ones. The three stories I’m going to talk about today are:

  • Ray Caldwell’s lightning game
  • Dock Ellis’ acid no-hitter
  • Randy Johnson’s bird incident

Ray Caldwell never lived up to his full potential as a baseball player because of being a notorious alcoholic. For one day though, he put himself forever in baseball history for his bizarre moment. On August 24, 1919, Ray was pitching for the Cleveland Indians.

The Indians were up on the Philadelphia Athletics 2-1 with one out to go. What seemed to be just another Sunday afternoon game became much more than that. Next up to bat, was Joe Dugan. He had one of the four hits for the Athletics that day, so he had a chance to tie things up. A storm had picked up though, so the teams were just hoping to finish out the inning and go home.

It would not happen that easy though as DOWN GOES RAY! As Ray was about to pitch, he got struck by lightning and was laid out. His teammates feared he may have been killed as the flash seemed to have struck the pitching mound on fire. The fans dived for cover and Ray would get off the dirt and did a quick check to make sure everything on his body was still there. One of his teammates came up and touched him on the head (which wasn’t the best idea as he jumped quickly up in the air because Ray was sizzling with electricity).

I know you would assume this is the part where Caldwell had to be taken off the field and someone came in relief to finish off the game. That would be incorrect, as he refused to come out and wanted to record the final out. He was given the clearance to continue and ended up getting Dugan to groundout right before the rain became a torrential storm. Ray recorded the complete game win, giving up only four hits and one run. I guess one could say this was Ray’s most electrifying pitching performance!

There has been 303 officially recognized no-hitters in the history of baseball. However, only one of those is known to have happened while under the influence of LSD. On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis would put himself in baseball history forever with his bizarre accomplishment. It seems appropriate something like this would happen on a Friday night as Ellis was having his own party.

The only run support he received from his teammates was from no other than Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. He scored the only two runs of the day but that’s all that was needed as Dock put on an absolute pitching clinic. Even though he walked eight batters, no hits/or runs were given up as the Pittsburgh Pirates would get the victory over the San Diego Padres 2-0.

This no-hitter was like no other one before it though as Dock did it while high on acid. Yes, he pitched a major league no-no while on LSD. In the 1980’s, he opened up and discussed how he pitched nearly every game of his career while under the influence of acid. It’s sad of course he felt the need to be high all the time but it’s also truly remarkable he could do what some pitchers only dream of while not even being in the right state of mind.

The last bizarre moment we need to discuss is something recent and nearly everyone knows about. The spring training game incident where Randy Johnson’s fastball killed a bird. On March 24, 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants met up for your ordinary preseason game. At least, that’s what they thought coming into the day. This would become much more than an ordinary day.

I probably don’t need to tell you how great Randy Johnson was. His accolades include being a 10 time All-Star, 5 time Cy Young award winner, and 2001 World Series MVP. He pitched a perfect game in 2004 but will forever be remembered in baseball history for his bizarre moment.

His opponents had a hard time hitting his fastball, but on this day, a dove ran straight into it. The 99 mile per hour fastball demolished the bird and stunned fans worldwide. Nothing like this had ever been seen so what was it considered? It was officially ruled as a no-pitch (which meant it wasn’t a strike, ball, or balk). Usually, a no-pitch is called when an umpire calls for time while the pitch is being delivered but this was the one in a million exception.

It was so bizarre that we may never see anything like it ever again. Since the pitch came from one of the greatest of all-time, it makes the moment seem even more significant. It’s the type of stuff that makes for “legend” because Randy Johnson is the one who threw it.

What is the most bizarre moment in history to you? It can be one I mentioned or something else that happened.

For me personally, it was Ray Caldwell still finishing his complete game win in 1919 after being struck by lightning. The toughness shown on that Sunday afternoon deserves to live on forever. Ray also just happens to be one of the great spitball pitchers in his time. The spitball pitch was made illegal 100 years ago, but Ray was one of the 17 pitchers allowed to continue using it until retiring.

The spitball (also known as mud ball or supersinker) was altered by either saliva or Vaseline to give the ball a little more break. The spitter became a pitch hitters couldn’t do much with but it had a horrible image. The icing on the cake for it to get banned was in 1920 when a player was killed after being struck in the head by the spitball. This made it easier to ban the pitch, but it also should be mentioned the game it occurred was in poorly lit conditions.

Ty Cobb would even later talk about how this type of pitch was outlawed because owners “sold out to home runs.” Ray Caldwell made his living off the spitball and it’s what helped him record the complete game win August 24, 1919 despite being struck by lightning.

Let’s bring back the old spitter!