The Pitch and The Plate

How does a writer who has spent his professional lifetime living under deadline pressure miss a deadline for a monthly newspaper?

Good question.

Answer: President Trump

‘Nuff said.

This column will be the one I should have submitted on time but didn’t. Something about Singapore, a summit and denuclearization.

Padres lore, as we have discussed, is mostly about losing. There are, however, important moments in team history that every self-respecting Padre fan either knows by heart or must commit to memory. One is The Pitch. The other is The Plate.

Consistent with franchise history defined by futility, both represent that which did not happen. The Pitch was not called a strike even though it was. The Plate was never touched, but a run – the winning run – was counted anyway. The Pitch turned around the 1998 World Series. The Plate kept the Padres out of the National League playoffs in 2007.

The Pitch, if you have never seen it or read about it, still traumatizes. For me, the memory is almost too much to bear. I remember as if yesterday screaming at my television “THAT WAS A STRIKE.” I screamed other words utterly unsuitable for this or any other family publication.

Let me set the scene briefly. Yankee Stadium. Game One of the 1998 World Series. Bottom of the 7th inning. Padres leading 5-5. Two outs. Bases loaded. Tino Martinez at the plate. Mark Langston on the mound. Two balls and two strikes. Langton fires a fastball that cuts the heart of the plate and flies between Martinez’s belt buckle and knees – the literal definition of a strike. Home plate umpire Richie Garcia called it a ball. It wasn’t. It was as clean a strike as could be thrown.  Martinez hit the next pitch, slightly elevated from the previous uncalled strike, for a grand slam. The Padres lost 9-6 and the momentum and hope that existed when the bottom of the 7th began (Padres leading 5-2) was extinguished, never to be revived. You can watch the hideousness here if you dare: And you can read about it here and here  The Yankees swept the series and the Padres haven’t returned to the Fall Classic since.

The Plate is about the 2007 NL Tiebreaker Game to decide who would advance to National League Division Series. The game was played at Coors Field because the Colorado Rockies won a coin flip. The Padres led 8-6 in the bottom of the 13th inning when Trevor Hoffman, our now-revered Hall of Fame inductee, was on the mound. But Hoffman was gassed. His velocity and location were off and his pitches nauseatingly hittable. The Rockies tied the score and with one out had runners at the corners. The runner at third was Matt Holiday. Jamey Carroll then lashed a line drive to right field that Brian Giles snared and hurriedly threw home – too hurriedly, actually, because he skied the throw and it landed short of the plate and bounded past catcher Michael Barrett. Holiday sailed over and around home plate, but never touched it. He skidded helplessly in the no man’s land beyond and rolled over as if to say “Uh-oh” only to see home plate umpire Tim McClelland call him safe while Barrett was about to apply what should have been the inning-ending tag. Bedlam ensued as the Rockies stormed the field. Padre manager Bud Black did not argue the call and the phantom run inexplicably stands. You can see it here and on this list of “The Ten Most Egregious Blown Calls in MLB History.”

I’m not suggesting or recommending that you wallow in this pitiful past. These moments deprived the Padres of what they earned or had a right to expect – fair and equitable play. These were not close calls. They were memorable failures – not by the Padres but by the umpires.

I readily admit a better team would have made more of these opportunities. The Padres of 1998 were not as good as the 114-win Yankees (125 wins if you count the playoffs). In the World Series we were outscored 26-13 and outhit 43-32. But Langston’s pitch was a strike and no blown call in that series mattered more or was more detrimental to the Padres’ fragile hopes of taking the Yankees deep into that World Series. The Padres deserved justice. It was denied. Similarly, the 2007 tie-breaker game shouldn’t have been required. The Padres had led the NL West for 52 days that season while the Rockies led it for all of three days, the last being April 6. Winning teams win when they have to and avoid playing an extra game riddled with exhaustion and spent bullpen arms like Hoffman’s. Still, Holiday never touched the plate and there should have been a 14th inning.

The Pitch was a strike. The Plate was never touched. Baseball justice was not served. In the future, it will have to be won. Let there be Padres who remember this.


Do you have a Padres or Clairemont question for Major…. Heck, maybe even a White House question? Send us an email to: we’ll forward them.


Major Garrett was born and raised in Clairemont, is Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News, host of “The Takeout” podcast and author of the upcoming book “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams and Occasional Blackouts of His Extraordinary First Year in Office.”  

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