Fri May 27 11:54am EDT
It seems like only yesterday that minor leaguer Rodney McCray went back, back, back on a fly ball hit by Chip Hale at Portland's Civic Stadium and came away with a mouthful of plywood instead of the ball after a violent crash through the right-field fence.
The truth, though, is that we've been seeing McCray's ill-fated charge through the Flav-R-Pac billboard during that May 27, 1991 game between McCray's Vancouver Canadiens (a Triple-A White Sox affiliate) and the Portland Beavers on blooper reels for 20 years now.
In many ways, it is the ultimate baseball blooper, involving all of the elements — speed, misfortune, comedy, determination, singularity — that makes us want to watch again and again. In fact, if it weren't for the homer off Jose Canseco's head (which coincidentally turned 18 on Thursday), there probably wouldn't be any competition for McCray's spot atop the hill of hilarity. Can you imagine if this happened in the age of the Internet?
McCray's claim to the throne of the blooper world is strengthened by the interest he still generates 20 years later. The New York Daily News ran a "where is he now?" profile on Friday. (Answer: Outfield and baserunning coordinator, naturally, in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.) McCray was also the subject of a special bobblehead day back in 2006. If you missed attending that one, don't worry, there's one currently listed on eBay for $85.99.
McCray — not to be confused with the old NBA player of the same name — eventually went on to play a total 67 games in the big leagues for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. But though he managed just a .214 batting average over 14 career at-bats, he can still be found at Cooperstown, where the NY Daily News reports that the clip is part of a film that greets visitors before they start their tour of the Hall of Fame.
And we can all feel comfortable laughing, of course, because it ultimately turned out that McCray was all right. Not that he didn't have to get over a few bumps and bruises after landing in a puddle that was on the other side of the wall.
From the NYDN:
"Eating was uncomfortable that night and the beer didn't taste too good," he says with a laugh. He played the next day.
Was he lucky? "There were beams behind the plywood and I hit the beam parallel to the ground — that was the forehead abrasion — but I missed the horizontal. Otherwise, who knows?" he says. "Being a plywood wall, that helped, too."
At any rate, it's nice to see that McCray treats the unique way we remember him with such good grace and a sense of humor. May he and his iconic video clip experience many more happy (crash) landings in the years to come.