Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Chase Utley committed a big no-no last night. The 36-year-old went into second base a very tough (read: dirty) slide in last night’s Dodger win in the NLDS to effectively kill a double play and prevent the New York Mets from getting out of a jam in the seventh inning. Instead of the inning being over, and the score being 1-2 in favor of the Mets heading into the eighth, Utley was called safe (despite never touching the bag) and the Dodgers went on to score three runs and take the lead.
But this is not a post about debating whether or not what Utley's slide was clean, dirty, or a hit that even the NFL would probably issue a penalty on. No, this is about remembering that time Albert Belle absolutely destroyed Fernando Vina to break up a double play of his own.
I honestly do not remember the play happening in real time (mostly because I was six years old), but it has always been one of the more interesting highlights in Albert Belle's controversial career.
The takedown occurred during a May 31 game in Milwaukee, with the Milwaukee Brewers sporting one of my favorite jerseys of all time. In the top of the seventh inning, after Belle was hit by a pitch to get on base, Indians designated hitter Eddie Murray hit a ground ball to soon-to-be-annihilated Brewers second baseman Fernando Vina.
Unlike the Dodgers scenario with Chase Utley, the Indians were well in the lead of this 9-3 game, and Vina admittedly was blocking the path of Belle as he was running to the base. But, as noted by the broadcasters, Belle very obviously gave Vina a stiff elbow and blasted him off his feet. Like the Utley play, the umpires completely blew the call and did not declare the play illegal. Despite both plays being obviously dirty (and one resulted in a broken leg), baseball officially ruled that both plays are just dandy, and Utley was even awarded the base. At least some things never change.
(Hat tip to T.J. Zuppe for posting the gif last night after the Chase Utley slide happened.)