Shoe Polish Followup

April 6, 2019
I just had occasion to look at the Cleon Jones shoe polish incident that arose here as an addendum to the article I wrote a month ago on the subject of Jerry Koosman accusing Gil Hodges of managing like an idiot, and specifically of Hodges faking the shoe-polish ball that nailed the 1969 Orioles' coffin shut. That last thing was a link to a Youtube clip of the incident (that I'll give here too, since links usually don't work here: ) --it kinda blew me away, looking at it again.
Simply, if you look at the first few seconds of the clip, it's practically stupid how obvious it should have been that the ball caromed off Jones' foot. I had forgotten how the play LOOKED, rather than relying on the description of it I'd read so many times over the past 50 years.
In case neither link works, I'll describe what I mean (and you can just Google "Cleon 1969 shoe polish" or some such): the pitch (a curve, I think, by Dave McNally) arguably bounces in the dirt near Jones' foot BUT instead of bouncing randomly as it would off the ground, it INSTANTLY shoots off in the opposite direction of McNally's pitch.  It couldn't have possibly hit anything other than Jones' shoe. Just look at the first five seconds of the clip, and explain how a ball bounces that way WITHOUT hitting Jones' foot.
You don't even have to couple it with Jones' immediately trotting down to first base. Maybe Jones was the quickest thinker since Aristotle and the greatest actor since Edmund Kean (though anyone who followed his thinking and articulating on Kiner's Corner would dispute either characterization). Just look at the angle of that ball, and the only question you'll have is how could ump Lou Dimuro have hesititated even a few seconds before seeing the light? It's kind of silly that this play was controversial, or that the whole shoe polish thing even had to be introduced. If Jones didn't get awarded a base on that play, it would have been one of the worst calls in Series history.
Kinda makes you glad we have replay now, don't it?

COMMENTS (7 Comments, most recent shown first)

Sorry, missed the comment below yours.
11:57 PM Apr 22nd
Steven Goldleaf, would that make it a J C Martini? A perfect drink for an article on the '69 Mets! ​
11:56 PM Apr 22nd
Steven Goldleaf
Learn sompnin' every day, Gary, don't we?

The thing I'd add to your comment is that looking at the video clarifies your question, too, at least to a biased observer but probably to an unbiased one. The ball just doesn't LOOK like it took a hop, even a tiny one, before caroming off in the opposite direction. The shift in direction is more or less instantaneous, although the view of the ball hitting Jones isn't exactly clear.

The analogy I'd draw is with a shoestring catch, with the ball going into an outfielder's mitt either directly or a fraction of an inch off the ground before he catches it. The difference there is that we have a frontal view usually of it, and replays from several angles, and the ability to stop action and review it endlessly. The most you could claim for this one, I think, is that it struck Jones' foot AND the ground 50-50, maybe, which as you point out is still a HBP.
3:54 AM Apr 11th
I haven't seen the video, and won't because my comment (following) is more theoretical.

Couldn't the ball have hit the ground just slightly in front of the batter's foot, and then hit the foot? I'm pretty sure no one gets awarded first base by getting hit by a ball that hits the ground first...well, as I write this, I'm not so sure. Let's look some of this up...

Well, how about that? From wikipedia:

"A hit-by-pitch can also be called on a pitch that has first touched the ground before hitting the batter. Such a bouncing pitch is like any other, and if a batter is hit by such a pitch, he will be awarded first unless he made no attempt to avoid it (and he had an opportunity to avoid it)."
4:42 PM Apr 10th
Steven Goldleaf
What kind of martini would J.C. drink?

I'm thinking maybe vodka and water, which he would turn into vermouth?
4:47 PM Apr 7th
Orioles were cheated in game four. J.C. Martini was out of the baseline on the throwing error that gave the Mets the game.
8:49 AM Apr 7th
Looking over the video several times, the plausible deniability the ball didn't hit Jones was it bounced off the heel of the catcher's glove.

But that crazy carom and Jones' virtually instant reaction of a guy who'd been hit much more strongly favors your theory it was a genuine HP. And Earl Weaver acted like, "Yeah, I'm screwed, but I gotta argue a least a little."
8:34 AM Apr 7th
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