Tommy John Commits 3 Errors – in 1 Play! July 27, 1988
You might see a 9-year-old do this in a Little League game, but you don’t expect to see a Major League ball player, especially a very good one like Tommy John, commit three errors in the same play. He managed to pull off this dubious accomplishment while pitching for the Yankees, against the Milwaukee Brewers. It happened on July 27, 1988.
At the time, John was a 45-year-old veteran, pitching his 25th season in the big leagues. Although he came into the game with a record of 284 wins against 214 losses, by this point in his career, and probably forevermore, he was, and will always be, better known for the surgery that was performed on his on his elbow in 1974. If medical professionals want to show off, they might refer to his procedure as an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, but everybody else just calls it “Tommy John Surgery”.
On this night in Yankee Stadium, John was cruising along nicely. In the first three innings, the only Milwaukee batter to reach base was Rob Deer who singled in the second inning, but was doubled up the next play when Dale Sveum lined out. John pitched a clean inning in the third, and he started out the fourth by getting Paul Molitor to ground out. Then he walked Jim Gantner and maybe it affected his concentration. On the next play Jeffrey Leonard hit a dribbler to the mound. John booted it – for error number one. Then he threw the ball wildly passed first baseman Don Mattingly, into right field – for error number two. By the time Dave Winfield chased it down, Gantner was trying to score. John caught Winfield’s relay throw, and fired it over catcher Don Slaught’s head,allowing both Gantner and Leonard to score. – And that was error number three. Then Robin Yount came up and hit a single, but John stranded him at first as Deer lined out and Sveum was called out looking.
Meanwhile, after all that, the Yankees still led 4-2 and wound up cruising to a 16-3 win. John got the win after pitching eight very respectable innings in which he allowed only six hits and two earned runs.