By Joel Alderman
When Jonny Gomes took off on a plane today (Aug. 1st), along with Jon Lester, headed for Oakland after the two were traded to the A’s, he left an imprint on the field of Fenway Park that those in attendance and viewers on NESN, including myself, vividly recall.
It was in a 15 inning game against Seattle, exactly a year ago to the day when the blockbuster trade was made. The 5-hour plus marathon began on July 31, 2013, and ended at 17 minutes after midnight. The game actually started in one month and finished in another.
Gomes, the leftfielder, shocked the Mariners and everybody else with an unassisted double play
In the top of the 15th, Gomes , from his leftfield position, did something that rarely ever happened in baseball. He made an unassisted double play. Infielders do it routinely. Hardly ever is it done by an outfielder.
I remember watching that game, half asleep, when the “impossible” happened, and it took a while to absorb the significance of what I had seen.
Seattle had runners on first and second when the batter hit a sinking liner to left field. Raul Ibanez, who was on second, gambled that the ball would fall in and was well on the move. Then Gomes raced in and made a diving catch.
At that point Jonny could have thrown to Dustin Pedroia, who was covering second, and easily doubled up Ibanez. Instead, he decided to take the ball in himself. He ran, though not too hard, about 100 yards to reach second before Ibanez could get back to the bag, completing an unassisted twin killing.
Why didn’t he throw to second?
“It definitely was on purpose,” he said. “I’ve never had one and I’ve never seen one. So that’s why I’m glad I’ve got it on my resume’.” Furthermore, he said he had been waiting years to do that.
How rare was it?
An unassisted double play by an outfielder in a major league game had only happened twice since 2003. In another baseball era, the early 1900s, there were several such defensive gems.
The all-time leader in that department was the great Tris Speaker, with six. He played for several teams but made four of his unassisted double plays in one uniform, that of (surprise) the Boston Red Sox.
Jonny Gomes is in good company. He departed Boston this week knowing he left behind a fielding legacy at Fenway Park.
Some final coincidences
Soon after Gomes’ unique play, the Red Sox won that game in the bottom of the 15th. Guess who drove in the deciding run? He is also now an ex-Red Sox player who was traded away the same day as Gomes. He was Stephen Drew.
Exactly a year before they were traded each made a key contribution to a Boston win, both within a few minutes of each other, and in the same inning. Today, they are gone but not forgotten at Fenway Park.