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  1. #1

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    Jun 2010
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    How To Resurrect a Career With One Swing

    How To Resurrect a Career With One Swing
    By Drew Pelto, AKA *censored*

    Thirty-five years ago today, the greatest Cleveland Indians career ever began and ended.

    No one, not even Jamie Quirk himself, likely expected him to be a member of the 1984 Cleveland Indians. Starting the season with veteran Ron Hassey and rookie Jerry Willard behind the plate, the Tribe seemed well-stocked at catcher. Even in AAA, prospect Chris Bando, former Yankee Juan Espino, and utility man Kevin Rhomberg were ready if the call came that they would be needed at the MLB level. Midway through the season, Hassey was shipped out to the Cubs in the Rick Sutcliffe-for-Joe Carter deal leaving Bando and Willard, while former Blue Jay Geno Petralli was signed and put in AAA.

    Meanwhile, Quirk’s career looked to be potentially coming to an end. He had mostly been a utility man through the first nine seasons of his career, passing up a scholarship to play quarterback at Notre Dame after being drafted in the first round by the Royals in 1972 (notable players picked after him include Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley and Gary Carter). After struggling to crack the lineup as a shortstop, he converted to catcher in 1979. The Cardinals released him at the end of the 1983 season, and he remained in St. Louis as a coach and bullpen catcher for the early part of the 1984 season. But when Carlton Fisk went down injured in July, the White Sox signed him to serve as insurance behind Marc Hill and Joel Skinner. Quirk only pinch-hit and played an inning at third base. Once Fisk was back to health, Jamie went to AAA Denver, and then went back home to Kansas City at the conclusion of the season.

    The Indians were well out of contention late in the 1984 season. 30 games behind the eventual World Series winning Detroit Tigers, they were playing for price and maybe to be the spoiler for a tightly-contested West Division. In the middle of the month, Bando was unable to continue catching due to a bruised leg. Needing someone to back up Willard in the event of injury, the Tribe turned to Quirk, purchasing his contract from the White Sox for an undisclosed sum. It was mostly viewed as just a precaution: no one really expected the career .245 hitter to play ahead of the 24-year old rookie unless there was an injury or a game going to extra innings.

    The season ended for the Tribe at home with four games against the Minnesota Twins, who trailed Quirk’s former Kansas City mates by a game and a half. Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth in the series’ opening game, Pat Tabler finally got the Indians on the board: a double followed by Willard driving him in with a single. Willard was lifted for pinch runner Tony Bernazard, which would only mean one thing: Quirk was going to catch the ninth.

    Or more. Bando, able to hit but not catch, pinch-hit for Mike Fischlin, walked, and was lifted for a pinch-runner. Brett Butler bunted them over, and a ground out and single later, we had a tie game. Not only was Jamie Quirk going to actually catch an inning, but he would be due up third in the bottom of the ninth. Ernie Camacho worked his typical inning, teetering on a tightrope and barely avoiding trouble from a pair of walks, much to Pat Corrales’ constant consternation. But he got rookie Kirby Puckett and future Indian Ron Washington both to fly out to keep it tied for the Tribe. After a pair of strikeouts to George Vukovich and Pat Tabler, Quirk came to the plate.

    Through nine seasons, Jamie Quirk had 14 career home runs in 909 at-bats. He wasn’t quite at Tyner Zone level (mostly since his OBP was also low), but he wasn’t exactly the guy you’d fear at this point in the game. He was more of the “okay, let’s get this guy out and go to extras” type of batter.

    Closer Ron Davis was rated on Twins Daily’s list of worst Twins of all-time. He had just suffered his thirteenth blown save of the season moments before in the bottom of the 8th, less than a week after picking up two saves against the Tribe in the Metrodome. Davis delivered a first pitch strike, followed by a curve out of the zone to even the count at 1-1.

    Quirk recalled later that he wasn’t going to take a cut at a curve with anything less than two strikes. So when the 1-1 pitch came as a fastball, Jamie turned on it, just tucking it inside the right field foul pole for an improbable Cleveland walkoff victory.

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    Reports differ as to the distance, of which no publicly-accessible video currently exists. Some say it was the longest home run of Quirk’s career. Some say it went into the upper deck. I choose to believe it left the Stadium entirely, bounced off the big Chief Wahoo over Gate D, and rolled into Lake Erie.

    Meanwhile, the shellshocked Twins dropped all four games to the Tribe: the next night in a 11-10 walkoff from Butler’s bases-loaded one-out single (Davis’ MLB record 14th blown save that season), then 6-4 and 7-4 respectively on the weekend. The Royals won the West by three games over both the Angels and Twins before getting swept by the Tigers in the ALCS.

    Jamie Quirk never played another game for the Indians. There is no photographic evidence of him having played for them [NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that a whole one photo exists; however, it may only exist however as a black and white newspaper clipping]. He remains the only player (as far as I can find) to hit a walkoff home run in the only inning he ever played for a team. The Indians released him two weeks later, and the Royals brought him in for Spring Training the following year, resurrecting a career that appeared to be DOA after the 1983 season. He went on to be part of a pair of World Series winners with the 1985 Royals and 1989 A’s, though he did not play in either. He has since served as a major league coach and minor league manager and is currently Minor League Catching Coordinator for the Marlins.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: At five months of age, Drew Pelto hit only one less home run for the 1984 Indians than Jamie Quirk. He lives in Arlington, TX and at press time, has hit as many this season as the Rangers’ Patrick Wisdom.

    Last edited by *censored*; 09-29-2019 at 10:12 AM.

  2. #2

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    Mar 2005
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    Nice write up Drew. Hopefully, you get the card signed. I assumed you sent it out to be signed TTM style. Look forward to hearing the results.

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