I like the last play in “Major League” quite a bit.
The last play is a tough spot for a sports movie. The big home run is too cliché, as is the big strikeout. Football generally resorts to some mix of crazy laterals (the hook and ladder in “Varsity Blues”, the Annexation of Puerto Rico in “Little Giants”, etc.), or improbably long field goals (the flubber-aided kick in the old-school “Son of Flubber”, “Gus”). Other sports feature the ridiculous (any movie about figure skating or diving), the implausible (The Scout), or a Teen Wolf (Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf 2, How I Met Your Mother). Basketball has the “last second shot”. (Hoosiers, Blue Chips, Teen Wolf again. By the way, the last second dunk by Shaq in Blue Chips is awesome. First of all, you shouldn’t dunk when the clock is running down, because if the ball is still in your hand when the buzzer goes off, it’s no good. Second, if you re-watch Blue Chips you will notice that the dunk takes place in slow motion while the clock runs in real time, almost costing Western the game.)
The last play in Major League is exciting without being cliché, and just plausible enough to remain grounded in reality. (What is not plausible is the Indians’ lineup which apparently has a washed up catcher on an AL team hitting second instead of buried in the 9 hole. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Indians lineup makes no sense at all, but we’ll leave that for another post where we have some time to watch the game more closely.)
Anyway, Willy Hayes is supposed to be one of the fastest guys in the AL, so it’s entirely plausible the he could score from second on a bunt with a big enough head start, especially considering that Yankee first-baseman Clu Haywood does not look to be a “defense first” player. As the AL triple crown leader that year, he’s on the team for his offense. In fact you can really question the Yanks for not DHing Haywood in this game, though perhaps he is more skilled than he appears.
The scouting report on catcher Jake Taylor would indicate a slow player with bad knees, and with two outs a bunt would be supremely unlikely. As such, the third baseman would be playing back, giving Taylor a decent shot to beat it out. (Quick question: Is “The Duke” a lefty or a righty? If he’s falling off towards first base this is an even better idea.) Calling his shot was just icing on the cake for Taylor.
Would a manager call this play? Probably not, but keep in mind that at some point in the 2009 playoffs Derek Jeter tried to bunt with two strikes on him with no one out, so anything is possible. And what if you had, say, Jason Kendall up there in this situation? Sure he might get a hit, but pulling something like this might cross your mind as “not a bad idea.”
The play itself is has all sorts of drama and excitement. The Yankee 3rd baseman makes a great barehanded play on the ball just barely missing a hustling Taylor. (It is the third baseman, right?) Ironically, if Taylor isn’t such a slow player he might just put it in his pocket and hold Hayes at third, or possibly even get him in a rundown. Hayes gets a great jump, and when the bunt draws in the 3rd baseman it removes any need for Hayes to slow up when rounding third, as he has been taken out of the play. The throw from Haywood to home is strong and on target.
Hayes’ slide always bugged me. He has to go outside to avoid the catcher and just catches the plate with the outside of his trail leg, narrowly avoiding a tag, but had he take a more direct route to the plate he would have easily beaten the throw. Still it creates an excellent moment of drama at home. All in all, on this play we have:
1. A stolen base. (Note: I wish they had a better shot of this, because it looks like a really close play. Hayes may have been out.)
2. A “hit and run.”
3. Not one, but two bang/bang plays (1st and home) which lead to dramatic call from both the umpire and from Harry Doyle.
4. A stellar defensive play from the Yankee third baseman.
5. A pitcher intentionally throwing at the batter.
6. A totally unexpected game-winning play with a great call from the booth.
7. We avoid the standard home run or strikeout and we avoid the supernatural.*
It may not be the smartest play ever designed, but the Major League writers did a great job with their conclusion. Too bad about Major League 2.
*Yes, they did both a HR and a dramatic strikeout earlier in the game.
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