05/13/2003 12:40 PM ET
A game to remember
It all happened on May 15, 1989 at the Vet
PHILADELPHIA -- The ball kept rolling and rolling and rolling.
So Bob Dernier kept running.
That is, until he slid home safely after his three-run, inside-the-park homer in the 12th inning downed the Giants, 3-2. That game, played May 15 during a meaningless 1989 season for the Phillies, endures as one of the greatest ever on the Veterans Stadium turf.
"It was a full moon. Somehow the planets were in line because it was a bit of a miraculous ending," said Dernier, 46. "It took about 14 seconds for it to happen and in baseball terms, that's an eternity."
The 3:43 game seemed like an eternity. Starting pitchers Scott Garrelts and Don Carman each threw nine scoreless innings, with Carman pitching around seven walks.
Dernier experienced a roller-coaster ride on that cool May evening. Entering the game in the 10th inning in right field, Dernier helped snuff a Giants threat when he nailed Will Clark at home on a single by Candy Maldonado. Clark had doubled to center with one out. Ernest Riles then whiffed to end the threat.
The Phillies began the bottom half of the 10th in fine shape when Steve Lake singled and Steve Jeltz walked off Craig Lefferts. But Dernier popped up a bunt ahead of a double-play grounder by Juan Samuel.
"I helped to destroy that rally," he said.
He felt worse in the top of the 12th when Steve Bedrosian served up back-to-back home runs to Clark and Kevin Mitchell for the game's first two runs.
On to the Phillies' last gasp.
Von Hayes began the inning by taking a called third strike from Lefferts, then pinch hitter Dickie Thon and Lake singled. Dernier watched from the on-deck circle as Jeltz popped to second baseman Robby Thompson for the second out.
"I had faced Craig on many occasions," Dernier said. "I figured he was going to try and get me to hit the ball on the ground to the left side, and throw sliders down and in. He didn't fear I would take him deep and rightfully so."
Then came Lefferts' 1-1 pitch -- a slider down and in.
"(Mike Schmidt) used to call me a guess hitter and he was right," Dernier said. "I guessed right and hooked it down in the corner, which was kind of a signature hit for me because pitchers would challenge me inside."
Then the rolling commenced, thanks to the perfect spot found in the corner. Mitchell got there as the ball squirted away.
"The ball took a crazy carom. I still see Kevin Mitchell chasing it," said broadcaster Chris Wheeler. "It looked like a double that was going to tie the game. Then it hit in the corner and started running along the wall like a rat. And Bob Dernier could fly, so as soon as that ball hit the wall, you had the feeling something exciting was happening."
"If that ball dies in the corner, we don't even tie it," said Dernier. "It's probably second and third with two outs because Lake wasn't known for his speed."
Seeing the white pellet dart along the warning track injected adrenalin into the speedy Dernier, who at the time was battling through leg injuries. Knowing double, yet thinking triple, Dernier kept thinking "left turns" and let the ball dictate the outcome.
"I saw the ball when I was coming toward second, and you go into a different gear," he said. "Though my gears were running lower in '89, I still had enough. It was an attitude of max effort until Bowa shuts you down."
Dernier remembers Larry Bowa, then the team's third-base coach, and not one to show his emotions (yeah, right), "going nuts." Thon and Lake scored and Dernier hit the accelerator as he made that final left turn toward home.
"We don't practice that in baseball," said Dernier, who added that he would have run through Bowa's stop sign. "We run into a wall by third base because we're not used to touching all four. Those last 90 feet, brother, seem like an eternity."
Mitchell's throw was off line and Dernier slid in easily, with what would be his only home run that season -- and the last of his career. It was also his only inside-the-parker.
"I remember Chris James jumping around like a jack rabbit and Bedrosian being so full of joy that he carried me up the tunnel to the clubhouse," said Dernier. "I also remember hanging around the locker room for an extended period of time after the game, enjoying the fruits of victory."
Even 14 years later.
"Occasionally I like to fantasize that I can still play the game, even for a 46-year-old," said Dernier, who now lives in Kansas City.
For those not fortunate enough to play in a game like that, the memory of watching it will have to last beyond the final days of Veterans Stadium.
"To me that is one of those examples of baseball being the greatest game because I look back and think it was one of the neatest things I ever saw," Wheeler said. "I go into that booth every night thinking I may see something tonight I've never seen."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for
MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball
or its clubs.
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com