A’s 5, TWINS 3
Sunday, August 13, 1978 at Metropolitan Stadium
Game 1542 – 10/4/16
After a slim Game 1 win over the A’s, the ‘Morris the Cat Mask Day’ crowd at Metropolitan Stadium was hoping the magic of the promotional giveaway would once again inspire their hometown Twins to victory, and a sweep of their afternoon set of games in Minneapolis. Alas, it wasn’t to be, as the A’s ignored the thousands of smug felines staring back at them and bounced back to beat the Twins 5-3, earning a split of their Sunday twinbill.
Eighteen-year-old rookie southpaw Tim Conroy, two months out of high school and a first round pick by the A’s in the June amateur draft, made his first start for the club—and first major league appearance—and collected the win, hanging tough after allowing five hits, seven walks, and three runs over his five innings of work. Oakland batters helped the cause by scoring three runs in the fifth, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 advantage, and relievers Steve McCatty and Elias Sosa preserved the win by each pitching two shutout innings over the final four frames. For Sosa, it was his sixth save, good for third best on the A’s this season.
“Was I nervous out there? Was I nervous? Man, more than you could ever imagine,” said a still-nervous Conroy following the game. “After I walked those first two guys, I thought for sure I was gonna get yanked and shipped back to Monroeville.”
Which was how Conroy opened the game, first walking lead-off batter Rod Carew, then issuing four straight wide pitches to follow-up hitter Jose Morales, putting two runners on with nobody out. A troubling situation for any pitcher, but Conroy was saved by a fielder’s choice comebacker to the mound off the bat of Dan Ford, which he fired to Mike Edwards at second for the first out, and a perfect double play peg from left fielder Mitchell Page, who caught Roy Smalley’s high fly down the line and nailed Carew trying to tag from third, ending the inning.
The Twins then got to Conroy in the second, scoring when Willie Norwood stroked a one-out single, stole second, and raced home on Bombo Rivera’s two-out base hit to center. After Minnesota went down 1-2-3 in the third, and the A’s countered with two in the fourth—one on Rico Carty’s 26th home run, the other on a two-on, two out single from Wayne Gross—to take the lead, it appeared Conroy had settled down, and was ready to maintain his squad’s 1-run advantage.
In what was turning into a see-saw conflict, the Twins clawed back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth to regain the lead. With the bases loaded and only one out, Rivera delivered again with another RBI hit, scoring Mike Cubbage from third; a pinpoint throw from Joe Wallis nailed Norwood trying to score from second, keeping the score deadlocked at 2-2. Unfortunately, after a short conference on the mound between pitcher, catcher, and manager Jack McKeon, a shaken Conroy issued two consecutive walks to Glenn Borgmann and Carew, the latter of which forced Bob Randall home from third, and suddenly Minnesota was up 3-2. Another comebacker to Conroy, this time off the bat of Morales, ended the inning, but it appeared the rookie hurler’s afternoon was done.
Luckily for Conroy, however, the A’s batters responded once again, scoring three times in the fifth to take a 5-3 advantage, one that would last for the remainder of the game. Lead-off batter Miguel Dilone opened the frame with a seeing-eye single to right, and after stealing second off Twins starter Roger Erickson (10-10) with one out, scored easily when Mario Guerrero drilled an 0-2 offering down the left field line, past a diving Cubbage and into the left field corner; Guerrero arrived at third standing with a triple, his team-leading fifth of the year. The next batter, Page, then crushed Erickson’s first offering well over the fence in right-center, in an open area beneath the massive scoreboard, for his 13th HR of the year, and the Twins found themselves up once again, this time by two.
McKeon gave Conroy one more shot at the win, sending him out to finish the fifth, but with two down a fielder’s choice, a walk, and a wild pitch on a third-strike call on Randall had the bases stocked with Twins for the second straight inning, and Conroy’s chance in jeopardy; he worked Rivera—already 2-for-2 in the game—to a nerve-racking full count before the first-year Twin lined a shot back at Conroy to end the threat. McCatty and Sosa handled their AL West opponents the rest of the way, and Conroy had his hard-fought first major league victory, and the ceremonial last-out game ball from catcher Jim Essian.
The doubleheader split allowed the A’s to jump ahead of the Angels, by percentage points, into fifth place in the AL West, while the Twins fell a half-game back of the second-place Royals, and 4½ games back of the division-leading Rangers. The A’s will take tomorrow off before returning to Oakland for an eight-game homestand; Minnesota will travel to Cleveland for a quick two-game set before returning to the Met to square off against KC, in a head-to-head battle for second place.
• The game was played in the morning at site AZ18 in Peoria, Arizona, on the living room table while I listened to songs from 1984 on my HP Mini laptop.
• This was the 47th game played at site AZ18, good for 10th place on the all-time games hosted list.
• This was the second SP78 game ever played on this date; the other was played in 1992.
• A’s pitcher Tim Conroy really did graduate high school in June of 1978, and after being drafted made his first major league appearance for Oakland a few weeks later, on June 23rd, where he started against the Royals and had a no-decision in a 5-4 A’s win. Conroy lasted 3.1 innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits, and walking five. He would start one more game, on June 29th, before being shipped to the AAA Vancouver Canadians for the remainder of the season. He wouldn’t pitch in the majors again until 1982.
• As mentioned, Conroy went straight from high school to the major leagues in 1978, bypassing the minor leagues entirely. In my season, the A’s had only one rested starter for today’s doubleheader, so I made an emergency call-up and added Conroy to their roster. But since this was August 13th, I couldn’t very well have him sitting around for two months after the draft twiddling his thumbs, so for the SP78 season, he went from high school to AAA, then to the major leagues.
• It wasn’t until I started playing this game that I took a good look at Tim Conroy’s player card, and noticed his numbers: a PB 2-5, with no strikeout capabilities and a walk range of 21-64! No wonder he served up seven walks in his five innings pitched!
• The above photo shows Conroy pitching for Gateway High School in Monroeville, PA, also the home of Monroeville Mall, where much of George A. Romero’s zombie film Dawn of the Dead was filmed.
• Twins pitcher Mike Marshall had entered the game in the seventh in relief of Jeff Holly, but frustrated after allowing a single, a wild pitch, and a walk (that he felt should’ve gone for an inning-ending strikeout), began screaming at home plate umpire Nick Bremigan, who promptly ejected him. The ejection was the result of an actual Z-card draw; the reason for it was entirely fabricated by me.
• In the Oakland fifth, with a runner on third and one out, I was going to intentionally walk Mitchell Page, to set up a double play possibility. But on-deck was Rico Carty, who’d homered his previous time up, so to play it safe, I pitched to Page…who homered. If I’d gone ahead and walked Page, that same card draw would’ve resulted in a strikeout for Carty.
• Roger Erickson also started for the Twins in Game 2 of the actual 1978 game, and beat the A’s 2-1, improving to 12-7 on the year.
• This game was the last meeting of the year between the A’s and Twins.
• To see the recap for Game 1, click here.
• I created the ‘Morris the Cat Mask Day’ promotion after I’d recently found an old This Day in SP78 History comment made by my friend Steve P, after the Twins had spoiled a Cap Night game at Oakland earlier in the season. He wanted a ‘Spuds McKenzie Mask Night’ game to be ruined by the A’s the next time they played at Minnesota, but I reminded him that Spuds McKenzie wasn’t around in 1978, and that a Morris the Cat promotion would make more sense. I then discovered two things: Morris the Cat passed away in July of 1978, and the current slate of games I was playing in the AL included the last visit of the season by the A’s to Metropolitan Stadium! Thankfully, I hadn’t played that doubleheader yet, so I quickly added the Mask Day promotion to the schedule.
• And yes, there really was a ‘Spuds McKenzie Mask Night’, a game which Steve and I had attended between the Indians and Angels at Anaheim Stadium on October 2, 1987. Hand-held Spuds masks were handed out to all fans in attendance, courtesy of radio station KMPC, and as it turned out, it was one of the craziest games I’d ever been to; there was more screwy action going on in our section of the stands than on the playing field, which I couldn’t see anyway because I’d left my glasses in the car. I still own my Spuds mask, by the way…check out the photo below: