The Amazing Enrique Bradfield, Jr.
Like so many sports fans who grew up in Los Angeles, I learned baseball from Vin Scully.
One thing Vinnie always said was that in virtually every game, because baseball is so wonderfully complicated and quirky, you’ll witness something you’ve never seen before. Next time you watch a game, put that claim to the test and see if it’s not true.
It happened to me last week, watching Vanderbilt host Indiana State. The Vandy Boys trailed 7-3 entering the bottom of the ninth. Parker Noland hit a two-run homer. Spencer Jones singled in another run, and Enrique Bradfield advanced to third. All plenty exciting, but I’d seen similar plays before.
Then, with two outs, needing just one run to tie, Bradfield did the unthinkable. As the pitcher wound up, he broke for home. The pitcher was so stunned that Bradfield scored without a throw. Vandy went on to win the game.
I’d seen old films of Jackie Robinson stealing home, but I’d never witnessed it myself. The play, by its nature, is so outrageous that it’s always been hard for me even to imagine. How can a runner beat a ball to the plate?
The secret, it turns out, is surprise, which in Robinson’s and Bradfield’s case is augmented by a healthy dose of intimidation. Every time Bradfield comes to bat, every time he reaches base, every time he steals—which at last count he has done 41 out of 41 times—the pitcher and the defense start to sweat.
The result was a play I’d never seen before. Check out the video replay.
Bradfield is a throwback to the days of Willie McGee and Joe Morgan, a time when there was no such thing as “small ball,” featuring bunts, stolen bases, and hit-and-run plays. It was just called baseball.
Thinking of it, I smile. So would Vinnie.