Johnny Damon joins Enos Slaughter in the annals of great World Series baserunning plays tonight, stealing second and then third base on one play. One of the first baseball proverbs I recall was "in every game you see one thing you've never seen before," and after thirty years of idling away hours watching baseball games, tonight was the first time I've seen anything like it.
Here's how it happened: After fighting off several potential third strikes with two outs in the 9th inning, Damon slapped a single to left. On the first pitch to Mark Teixeira, Damon took off for second, stealing the bag easily with a stand-up slide. But the Phillies had overshifted their infield defense against pull hitter Teixeira, moving the shortstop over to the right side of the infield and leaving only the third baseman Pedro Feliz on the third-base side of the infield. Feliz fielded the late throw from the catcher, Damon saw no one was at third, and he took off running, stealing two bases on one pitch for what surely is the first time in World Series history.
After the game, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, looking shellshocked, said it was usually the catcher's job to cover third base in that situation. But here's my question: with three infielders on the right side of the infield, why isn't one of them -- second baseman Chase Utley or shortstop Jimmy Rollins -- always covering throws from the catcher on base-stealing attempts? Wasn't the first mistake having the only defender on the left side of the infield cover the bag?
[UPDATE: Damon, speaking in the postgame news conference, notes that he still has a little speed left in his 36-year-old legs, but that if (Angels' third baseman) Chone Figgins had been the one fielding the throw from the catcher, he might not have been able to outrun him to third. Could the same be said of shortstop Jimmy Rollins? Damon's half-joking, but still...]
[UPDATE II: Here's a link to the last time this happened in the majors, Brandon Phillips stealing second and third with the overshift on for Adam Dunn in 2007.
Damon didn't claim to know about this play, instead saying his teammates and he had imagined it and spoken about it earlier in the season, having seen overshifts against Teixeira all year. A similar play I've always imagined happening one day is a runner on third stealing home during an intentional walk to a righthanded batter -- with a usually-immobile catcher stepping the customary several yards to his right, seems like it would be very hard to get a tag on the runner.]