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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The day after ordering Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said he received just one phone call.
No, it wasn’t from Buck Showalter, who had Barry Bonds walked in similar circumstances when he was managing Arizona 10 years ago. “Termite called," Maddon said. “He was the only one."
Joe “Termite" Tito is an old buddy from Hazleton, Pa., Maddon’s hometown.
But Maddon’s decision Sunday night deserves to be recognized beyond the borders of Hazleton. The Rays, citing data provided by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), said Hamilton’s intentional walk was the first time in 107 years that an American League player was walked intentionally with the bases loaded, and only the fifth time overall since 1900.
The Rays had taken a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth in the Ballpark at Arlington, Texas. The Rangers scored once on a bases-loaded force play, which resulted in the second out of the inning. Reliever Grant Balfour walked Michael Young to reload the bases, then Maddon ordered Balfour to walk Hamilton, forcing in the run that made it 7-4 and bringing Marlon Byrd to the plate as the potential winning run.
Maddon lifted Balfour for Dan Wheeler, who struck out Byrd to end the game.
“In the minor leagues it might have entered my mind on occasion," Maddon said Monday, “but I was thinking about doing that well in advance of that happening yesterday.
“If I’d been managing against Boston, I probably would have thought about it. Josh Hamilton having the year he’s having, maybe David Ortiz without Manny (Ramirez) behind him in an odd moment, I don’t know."
Maddon said he and pitching coach Jim Hickey talked about walking Hamlton, who has 28 home runs and a league-leading 114 RBIs, a couple of batters before he came to the plate.
“I turned to Hick and said, ‘If we walk Young to load the bases, we're not pitching to Hamilton,' " Maddon said.
“Percy was the one who mentioned it in the clubhouse," Miller said. “He said, ‘I would walk this guy right here. You don’t pitch to Superman when you have Wonder Woman on deck.' "
Maddon was bench coach for the Angels in 2002 when they faced Barry Bonds and the Giants in the World Series. No, he said, they never discussed the possibility of walking Bonds in similar circumstances.
“What we talked about was the four-man outfield," Maddon said. “(Scout) Gary Sutherland brought that up. Going into that series, we hadn’t seen him all year. You hear all the stories and watch TV, but we’re going to be different. We’re going to challenge him.
"Then he hits that ball off (Jarrod) Washburn halfway to Brea, and we say, ‘That’s over with.’ Our machismo went away very fast."
The SABR folks said that before Hamilton, the last American Leaguer to be given an intentional walk with the bases loaded was Napoleon Lajoie of the Philadelphia Athletics on May 23, 1901. The occasions in which a National Leaguer was given a free pass with the bases loaded: Bonds, May 28, 1998; Bill Nicholson, Cubs, July 23, 1944; and Del Bissonette, Dodgers, May 2, 1928.
In each case, the team issuing the walk won the game.
Maddon knows that a lot more people than Termite would have weighed in had the move blown up on him.
“Doesn’t matter," he said. “You’ve got to go with what you think is the right thing in the moment, based on everything that’s presented to you.
“Of course if it didn’t work out I would have been skewered, and that would have been fine."