Random Box Score: Sept. 14, 1987

George Bell was one of three Blue Jays to hit multiple homers in this game. (via Robert Taylor)

In mid-September 1987, I wasn’t in a great space. I had just started in a new school and was completely miserable and friendless. I didn’t do so well academically in seventh grade and my mother was convinced it was because I had too much freedom in our public junior high school. So she took me out of there and plucked me into a Catholic school for eighth grade. But it wasn’t the Catholic school down the road from my house where I knew a bunch of people. No, she put me in the Catholic school in the next town over where I only knew one person.

My mom attended Catholic school and  thought I needed more discipline and she believed I’d get it there. And I did, but I also got a lesson in how not to treat other people. The tough part for me that school year wasn’t just starting in a new school. It was that by eighth grade, kids in Catholic schools have been together—for the most part—since kindergarten. They had formed unbreakable bonds and were like a family, so I was an interloper and I was treated like one. I wasn’t fully accepted by most of those kids until the last month of the school year.  It’s hard enough being 13 years old, hormonal, gangly, acne prone, and awkward,  but on top of that also having people treat you like you don’t exist? Or worse yet, making fun of you and leaving you out of group events? It’s completely miserable.

It was the worst school year of my life. Thankfully my mom relented and allowed me to go back to public school for high school.

So aside from miserable 13-year-old Stacey, what else was happening on or around Sept. 14, 1987?

“La Bamba” by Los Lobos was the number one song that week. Every married man’s worst nightmare, Fatal Attraction, was released.  And Dan Rather left the CBS Evening News newscast when a televised tennis match went over by two minutes. Because Rather walked off the set, the network was forced to go black for six minutes. Rather would start the telecast at 6:39 p.m. as nothing happened. It was quite the hullabaloo at the time.

And what was happening in baseball? Well, five days earlier, on Sept. 9, Nolan Ryan struck out 16 batters in a game against the San Francisco Giants to pass 4,500 for his career. Four days later, on Sept. 18, Darrell Evans hit his 30th home run of the season and became the first player to accomplish that feat after the age of 40. And a week later, on Sept. 21, Darryl Strawberry stole his 30th base and joined teammate Howard Johnson as a member of the 30-30 club. It was the first time teammates achieved 30-30 seasons in the same year.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles were going in opposite directions before their game began on Sept. 14, 1987. The Orioles were in the midst of a six-game losing streak as they headed into Toronto while the Blue Jays were fighting with the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the American League East Division, tied at the top at 85-57, six games ahead of the third place New York Yankees.

Starting lineups

Pete Stanicek DH
Billy Ripken 2B
Larry Sheets RF
Eddie Murray 1B
Cal Ripken SS
Ray Knight 3B
Terry Kennedy C
Mike Young LF
Mike Hart CF

Nelson Liriano 2B
Lloyd Moseby CF
Tony Fernandez SS
George Bell LF
Ernie Whitt C
Jesse Barfield RF
Rance Mulliniks 3B
Fred McGriff DH
Willie Upshaw 1B

The umpires that day were Greg Kosc at home, Tim Tschida at first, Rocky Roe at second and Larry Barnett at third.

Kosc, was featured in my last Random Box Score piece for being an umpire during the game on Sept. 6, 1995 when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak.  It’s amusing that he was working this game as well; you’ll learn why later.

Tschida was involved in the infamous Joe Niekro “emery board” incident on Aug. 3 of this 1987 season. He’s the one who ejected Niekro for the infraction, leading to Niekro being suspended for 10 games. Later in his career, Tschida was involved in “the phantom tag” incident during Game Four of the 1999 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. He’s the one who made the call saying Chuck Knoblauch had tagged Jose Offerman when he clearly didn’t.

Roe was was involved in the 1999 union resignation “strategy” but reconsidered and he withdrew his resignation, which was a smart move because Major League Baseball accepted all of those resignations and those umpires lost their jobs. Roe would stay on as an MLB ump until his retirement in 2002.

Barnett was behind the plate for two major incidents. One resulted in death threats against him and the other resulted in making young Jeffrey Maier famous. The first was during Game Three of the 1975 World Series when Barnett made a controversial call at home that didn’t go Boston’s way and led to the Reds’ winning run. The Red Sox wanted him to call interference on Ed Armbrister, who was in Carlton Fisk’s way after Armbrister attempted a bunt and Fisk fielded it. Fisk tried to throw to second and Ambrister was in his way. Barnett didn’t call interference.

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Curt Gowdy, a former Red Sox announcer, in the booth for NBC, complained about the call and criticized Barnett for not calling interference. He also didn’t read the correct interpretation of the rule, which was given to him by a producer who also happened to work as a Triple-A umpire. Because of this, Gowdy was let go from NBC’s baseball coverage and Barnett said he got death threats.

In October 1996, Barnett was on the crew in Yankee Stadium, though not directly involved, when the umpires called a Derek Jeter home run on a ball 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier caught.

Back to  Baltimore-Toronto, Cal Ripken Sr. managing the Orioles and Jimy Williams the Blue Jays.

The game started off relatively quietly. Both teams went scoreless in the first inning while the starters—Ken Dixon of the Orioles and Jim Clancy of the Jays—each allowed one hit.

In the second inning, the Orioles were set down in  order. The Jays were not.

Ernie Whitt hit a home run to put the Blue Jays up 1-0. Jesse Barfield followed that with a double and Rance Mulliniks brought him home with a home run of his own. Dixon got Fred McGriff to strike out and Willie Upshaw to ground out, and it looked like the O’s could make it out of the inning having given up only three runs. Then Dixon walked Nelson Liriano and Lloyd Moseby stepped in and, well, he hit a home run.

The Orioles had to go to their bullpen in the second inning. Eric Bell replaced Dixon and got Tony Fernandez to hit a fly ball for the third out of the inning.

In the top of the third, Orioles center fielder Mike Hart led off with a homer; apparently the balls were just flying out of Exhibition Stadium that night. But after that Clancy shut down the Orioles, allowing only a single by Larry Sheets.

In the bottom of the frame, it was George Bell’s turn to go deep for the Blue Jays. He led off with his dinger and put the Jays up 6-1. After Eric Bell—no relation—got Whitt and Barfield out, Mulliniks hit his second home run of the game to give the Jays a 7-1 lead. McGriff would strike out to end the inning.

The Orioles would go down in order in the fourth while the Blue Jays would tack on another run, though this time it was only an RBI single by Fernandez off the Orioles’ third pitcher of the game, Mike Griffin.

After another scoreless inning by the Orioles, Whitt led off the bottom of the fifth with his second home run of the game, off Griffin. The Blue Jays were now up 9-1 and the game had just about entered laugher status.

In the top of the sixth, Cal Ripken hit a double that scored his brother and cut the Jays’ lead to seven but that’s as close as the Orioles would get because guess what George Bell did in the bottom of the sixth inning? Yep. He hit his second home run of the game, which put the Jays up 10-2. This one was off the Orioles’ fourth pitcher of the game, Mike Kinnunen.

After that, Jays manager Williams made some substitutions for the top of the seventh. He took Fernandez, Bell and Moseby out of the game. In their place were Manuel Lee at short, Lou Thornton in left and Rob Ducey in center. Clancy, once again, set the Orioles down in order.

The Blue Jays had a big bottom of the seventh inning, scoring all their runs with two outs. Jesse Barfield led off with a single but he was quickly erased on a double play hit into by Kelly Gruber who was subbed in for Mulliniks. With two outs, McGriff worked a walk, Upshaw singled, Liriano singled, scoring   McGriff and advancing Upshaw to second. Then Ducey hit a homer, which scored Upshaw and Liriano and put the Blue Jays up 14-2.  Even the substitutes were hitting home runs! Manuel Lee followed Ducey’s dinger with a single and that would be all for poor Kinnunen, whose line was not pretty at all. He pitched 1.2 innings and gave up six runs on six hits including two home runs. And the bottom of the seventh inning still wasn’t over and this all happened with two outs.

Orioles reliever Tony Arnold tried to stop the bleeding, but gave up a single to Lou Thornton. which advanced Lee to third.  Whitt came up once again and he hit his third home run of the night. It put the Blue Jays up 17-2 and gave them a total of seven runs in the seventh inning, all scored with two outs. Barfield came to bat again and singled, but Arnold finally ended the inning when he got Gruber to hit a fly ball to right.

Whitt is not the player you’d expect to hit three home runs in a game. In September 1987, he was 35.  He had made only one All-Star team (in 1985). He had moderate power and usually hit double digit home runs, but three in one game? Come on.

The Orioles would score their third and final run of the night on a Cal Ripken forceout, scoring Sheets.  After the top of the eighth, Cal Ripken Sr. would remove his son from the game and replace him at short with Ron Washington, ending the younger Ripken’s consecutive innings played streak of 8,243. It didn’t end with as much as fanfare as the games-played streak that would end 11 years later (Kosc umpiring again) but it’s still pretty significant. If the game hadn’t been a blowout, he probably would have stayed in.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Blue Jays would hit their final home run of the evening, off the bat of 23-year-old Fred McGriff. Jack O’Connor would enter the game for the Orioles in the bottom of the eighth, get the last two outs and become the only Baltimore pitcher to not give up any runs in the game.

There would be no miraculous comeback in the top of the ninth for the Orioles, who hit two singles but went down on a Billy Ripken flyball to center to end the game.

The final tally was 11 home runs overall: 10 for Toronto, one for the Orioles. The Jays set a major league record for most home runs by a team in a game, a record that remains today.

George Bell would go on to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1987 but the Blue Jays would miss the playoffs. They had a 3 ½ game lead over the Tigers with two weeks left in the season, but the Tigers would overcome that deficit and swept Toronto in Tiger Stadium during the final weekend of the regular season. The Tigers won the American League East by two games.

The Orioles finished in sixth place in the American League East with a 67-95 record, 31 games behind  Detroit.

References & Resources

Stacey Gotsulias is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on ESPN.com, USA Today online and FanRag Sports. She currently writes for Baseball Prospectus and is an author of The Hardball Times. Follow her on Twitter @StaceGots.
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I was overseas for this one and watched the highlights on CNN and read the game report in Stars-and-Stripes. O’s manager Cal Ripken Jr. had a couple of great lines: On why he removed Cal Jr. for Washington: “I wanted to take the monkey off his back,” Ripken Sr. said. “I wanted everybody to stop writing about it. Everywhere we go somebody has to write an article about the streak.” Asked why he chose a rout to lift his son, Ripken Sr. said: “What the hell, he couldn’t hit a 20-run home run.” https://miscbaseball.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/1987-10-blue-jay-homers-and-the-end-of-a-cal-ripken-streak/ On the ’87 Orioles and their… Read more »

The next night the Reds hit 7 home runs (https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ATL/ATL198709150.shtml). I remember my Dad showing me the boxscore with “Bell” and “McGriff” homering for the Reds. So on September 14, 1987 you had George Bell and Fred McGriff homering for the Blue Jays, then the next night it was Buddy Bell and Terry McGriff homering for the Reds.