May 9, 1979: Pirates Win Wild Game Against Braves, 17-9

The Pirates won a wild and crazy 17-9 game against the Braves as the replacement umpires — MLB was in the midst of an umpires’ strike — had an even rougher night than the pitchers.  For a more detailed version of the goings-on, check the SABR game account.  The game produced 26 hits, 10 walks, 16 earned runs, and 10 unearned runs.  Beyond that, there were, in SABR’s words,

five errors, three passed balls that resulted in as many runs, five ejections, four players hit by pitches, two near-brawls, and two protests. Substitute umpires, used by the major leagues during the ongoing umpires’ strike, turned the game into a fiasco through questionable calls and poor game management. In fact, things became so bad in the fifth inning that the game devolved from a tightly contested struggle into an all-out war between the Pirates, Braves, and umpires.

The Pirates jumped on Phil Niekro right away, as Omar Moreno led off the game with a single and Tim Foli got an infield hit, with an error letting the runners move up.  A Dave Parker grounder scored one and a passed ball another.  Bill Robinson, playing first with Willie Stargell still out, made it 3-0 by launching a solo homer, his sixth longball on the year.

The Braves, though, came back against Don Robinson, starting in the second.  They tied the game when Robinson gave up two walks and three singles, two of the infield variety, one of those by Niekro.  The final run of the inning scored when Rennie Stennett muffed a popup.  Atlanta took a 4-3 lead the next inning, but Bill Robinson went deep again in the top of the fourth, his seventh of the year.  The Braves made it 5-4 in the bottom half on an RBI double by Dale Murphy.  That was Don Robinson’s last inning.  He finished with nine hits and five runs, four earned, on his line.

The follies continued when Manny Sanguillen hit for Robinson to start the fifth.  He struck out but reached on a passed ball.  Moreno doubled and Foli singled in both runners, then went to second on the throw home.  A flyball and a passed ball brought Foli in to make it 7-5, Pirates.

That’s when things got out of hand.  Ed Whitson relieved Robinson and walked two of the first three batters.  Niekro came to bat and swung at a pitch that hit him, but the plate umpire, an obstetrician by trade, ruled it a hit batsman, loading the bases.  A lengthy argument followed, resulting in the ejection of Chuck Tanner and Pirate coach Joe Lonnett.  The Pirates informed the umps that they were playing the game under protest and their mood probably didn’t improve when, after a popup, Gary Matthews hit a grand slam to put the Braves up, 9-7.

The Braves’ lead didn’t last long.  After letting Niekro hit, Atlanta’s Bobby Cox had replaced him with a pinch runner and Craig Skok came in to pitch the sixth.  He walked Phil Garner and pinch hitter Lee Lacy with one out, and Moreno singled in Garner.  Skok then hit Foli and a Parker groundout scored Lacy’s pinch runner, Bruce Kison, to tie the game, 9-9.  Meanwhile, Cox protested the game after claiming to see Tanner and Lonnett in the dugout.

The Pirates’ bullpen then started to get a handle on things.  Enrique Romo let the first two batters reach in the bottom of the sixth.  Fortunately, he got an unassisted double play when Barry Bonnell popped up a bunt, and Romo caught it and ran to first before the runner got back.  Jim Bibby got the last out of the inning.

In the seventh, the Pirates took a 10-9 lead when Garner singled off Gene Garber to drive in Robinson, who’d doubled.  In the bottom half, they lost Rennie Stennett to an ejection when he stepped on the second base umpire’s foot by accident while disputing a call.  Kent Tekulve, however, got the last out of the inning to maintain the one-run lead.

Somehow, nothing happened in the eighth, but the chaos resumed in the ninth.  With one out, Ed Ott and Dale Berra both reached on errors and Garber hit Garner to load the bases.  Teke, of all people, got an infield hit to drive in Ott.  Moreno hit into a force at the plate, but Foli singled in Garner and Teke.  Garber then hit Parker, who charged the mound but stopped short of fisticuffs, although he still got ejected.  John Milner followed with a grand slam, his sixth home run of the year, to settle the competitive part of the game.

The craziness wasn’t over, though.  In the bottom of the ninth, with two out and a runner on second, Teke brushed back Rowland Office, who charged the mound.  The benches cleared but there was no brawl, and Office was ejected.  Teke then struck out Jerry Royster to end it.

Foli, Robinson and Moreno all had big days.  Foli was 4-for-4 with three runs and four RBIs.  Robinson went 3-for-5 with three runs, a double and the two bombs.  Moreno went 4-for-6 with three runs.  Bibby got the win to go 2-1, and Teke, who threw two and a third scoreless innings, picked up his second save.

This entire game is on YouTube if you have four hours to kill: