Don’t Mess With . . . Tippy

Tippy Martinez and Dennis Martinez both pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1980s. A relief pitcher, Tippy played in the shadow of Dennis, who won 245 games, including a perfect game. But Tippy did something that Dennis never did–or anyone else for that matter.

On August 24, 1983, the Orioles trailed the Toronto Blue Jays in the late innings, but managed to tie the game in the ninth. In the comeback they pinch hit for their catcher and their backup catcher, who they had to replace with a second baseman, Lenn Sakata.

In the top of the 10th, the first Blue Jay batter homered, putting Toronto up by a run. The next batter, Barry Bonnell, singled. The Oriole manager signaled for a relief pitcher, Tippy Martinez. Bonnell, assuming that stealing second on Sakata would be easy, took a big lead. Tippy promptly picked him off. One down.

Up next was Dave Collins, a speedster who stole 79 bases in 1980. The Jays’ first-base coach cautioned Collins. “One out now,” he told him. “Don’t get picked off.” Collins took his lead and Tippy picked him off. Two down.

Willie Upshaw came up and hit a single. The first-base coach probably should have sat on him. Instead he said, “Two outs now. You can’t get picked off.” Oh yes he could. Tippy picked him off. Three up, three down. Tippy Martinez is the only man in baseball history to pick off three runners in an inning.

But the story’s not over. The Orioles were still behind by a run in the bottom of the 10th. Cal Ripken homered to tie the game. Then, with two outs, none other than Lenn Sakata, the emergency catcher, slammed a three-run homer, winning the game for the Orioles, who went on to win the pennant and the World Series.

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