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Davey Johnson couldn't remember calling for a suicide squeeze before last night.
After the game, Davey Johnson swore he had never called for a squeeze in his managerial career.
"That was a first," he said. "That was the first time I've ever squeezed in the big leagues. The way we've been going, I figured it might be a good time."
So there you had it. Guess there's a first time for everything. Johnson, at age 68, in his 2,048th game as a major-league manager, finally decided to put on the squeeze.
Except, he admittedly wasn't 100 percent sure of that fact.
"Somebody would have to check the records," he said. "But I think that's the first."
Well, somebody did check the records this morning. And it appears Davey's memory wasn't perfect.
Baseball-reference.com has perhaps the coolest subscription-based, statistical feature known to man. It's called the "Play Index" and it basically lets you come up with any scenario or event you can think of and then find out if it's ever happened.
In this case, the research was fairly simple. Look up each of Davey Johnson's teams and compile a list of all those teams' sacrifice bunt attempts for per season. Each instance includes the game's scenario (what runners were on base) and result.
So, here it is. The date: June 30, 1988. The site: Shea Stadium. The situation: Mets lead the Astros, 3-0, in the bottom of the fourth. The bases are loaded. There's one out. Wally Backman is at the plate.
And what happened? Backman bunted to the pitcher and was thrown out at first. All the runners advanced, including Dave Magadan, who scored from third. Backman was credited with a sacrifice.
Had to have been a squeeze, right?
Yes, though there's no way to know from the boxscore whether Johnson actually called for the squeeze or whether Backman did it on his own. And there's no way to know whether Magadan broke for the plate on Danny Darwin's pitch, or whether he just went on contact.
But wait, here's more concrete evidence of Johnson having called for it from the dugout. From an Associated Press article the following morning*:
"Lenny Dykstra singled to start the third and stole second and third before Strawberry hit an opposite-field homer into the left-field bullpen with two out. New York made it 4-0 in the fourth on Wally Backman's suicide squeeze bunt."
Seems pretty clear Johnson called for that one. Unless Backman and Magadan somehow communicated to each other that they planned to try it. But that seems unlikely.
We'll have to present Davey with that evidence before tonight's game and see if it rings a bell. Certainly, the man can't be expected to remember every call he's ever made in his managerial career.
Still, as great a story as it would have been last night had that been the first suicide squeeze of his career, it appears the old dog did not actually learn a new trick. He just forgot he had done it once before.
*-Many thanks to Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post for passing along that excerpt from the AP article after discovering it on a Lexis/Nexis search.