This has been a difficult season for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, from a fistful of free agent defections to the tragic death of pitcher Josh Hancock to a parade of players on the disabled list.
So it was a welcome diversion in the midst of all of this when a new man marched out to the mound to pitch a mop-up inning on June 15. Scott Spiezio, who had previously played six different positions as a utility man this season, added a seventh and now owns the best ERA on the Cardinal staff -- a fancy 0.00.
St. Louis was being beat up decisively by the Oakland A's, the remnants of the pitching staff battered for 31 runs in two games, when Spiezio brought order to the mess. The Cardinals were trailing 14-3 when the A's came to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning. Manager Tony La Russa wasn't about to use up any more real pitchers.
Now pitching for St. Louis, No. 26 Scott Spiezio.
"He told me in the seventh to go out and warm up. When he approached me, I thought I was going to pinch-hit or play the field," said Spiezio, who recently spent several days in a New York hospital for treatment of a staph infection on a finger and is now recovering.
Nope and nope.
Instead, Spiezio's assignment was to take one for the team, get the Cardinals through one last inning of the Oakland rout. Save the pitching staff. This could be good, he thought.
Spiezio has done some odd stuff before, including spots on the Jay Leno and David Letterman shows. He sang in a garage band, SandFrog, and performed with an All-Star Band comprised of musicians from Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie and Alice in Chains. But pitching? Now that was new.
"They told me to throw nothing but fastballs," Spiezio said. "Tony told me to go out there and have some fun. I haven't done that since high school."
So Spiezio marched out to the mound at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum. The first batter he faced was Bobby Crosby, retired on a grounder to second. It was not routine, Crosby was the first Oakland leadoff hitter since the second inning of that game not to reach base. Dan Johnson then walked. Mark Ellis flied to left and Jack Cusp flied to center.
No runs, no hits, no errors. Four batters. Twenty pitches, 10 for strikes. A clean line for Spiezio. The A's finished the game with 14 hits. Spiezio didn't give up any of them.
"You get out there and you start thinking," Spiezio said. "Can I throw a curve? Can I throw a split? But I was told I could only throw fastballs. That took some of the fun away. But I did throw one split."
Spiezio's fastball topped out at 87 miles per hour. Not exactly Bob Gibson or Nolan Ryan, but there are real pitchers who don't throw any harder than that.
The episode added to Spiezio's eclectic resume. He is only the 11th player in Major League history to play in the World Series after his father also played in the Series. Ed Spiezio spent nine years in the Majors and was with the Cardinals when they were 1964 and 1967 World Series champions. They are the only father and son in Major League history to win World Series with the same franchise.
Scott not only won the Series with the Cardinals last year, he was also with the Los Angeles Angels when they won the Series in 2002. He saved the Angels with a three-run homer late in Game 6 when it seemed San Francisco would win the championship.
It was a big moment for him. Pitching that mop-up eighth inning was a big one for the Cardinals.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York City.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.