Even if Johnny Damon had gone oh-for-the-first-four years of the 52-million dollart contract he signed with the Yankees after the 2005 season, he might have earned most of the cash with one of the most heads-up plays in World Series history.
As the potential winning run with two out in the top of the ninth inning of a game New York had nearly blown, he not only got a great jump on Brad Lidge to cleanly steal second base, but because the Phillies had employed the shift on Mark Teixeira, Damon had the presence of mind to realize Carlos Ruiz’s throw to second might be handled by a fielder unaccustomed to the role, who was also leaving third base unoccupied. Thus Damon utilized the pop-up slide, and when Feliz went to the wrong side of the bag, Damon accelerated past him and cruised into third as the Phillies watched helplessly. Lidge’s inning immediately cascaded into chaos and Mariano Rivera suddenly had a three-run lead in a game the Phils had just tied.
In the broad sense, at least, Damon’s dash was reminiscent of the famous Eddie Collins-Heinie Zimmerman play that decided the 1917 Series. Scoreless in the fourth inning of the finale, the White Sox cringed as Collins was trapped in a rundown. Giants’ catcher Bill Rariden correctly ran Collins back towards third, presuming that either his first baseman Walter Holke or his pitcher Rube Benton would cover the plate. But neither did, and as Rariden tossed to Giants third baseman Zimmerman, Collins burst past him, leaving Zimmerman to define futility to chase Collins towards the dish.
Though Ring Lardner actually made up the quote, Zimmerman was long credited with one of the most telling of acerbic explanations for a pivotal Series play: “Who the hell was I supposed to throw it to? The umpire?” It will be fascinating to hear if Feliz says anything similar.