Whether you’re talking Kirk Gibson, Bernie Carbo, Francisco Cabrera, Gene Larkin or Dusty Rhodes, there have been a litany of memorable, single at-bat pinch-hits throughout history, but we’re talking long haul. If you had one choice for a player who performed primarily as a¬†pinch-hitter with the game on the line — be it April, June or October — who would you want at the plate?
I was fortunate enough to interview Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush on Tuesday morning, which reminded me that there’s never been a bat off the bench I’d rather have stride to the plate with the game on the line than Bush.
The left-handed swinging outfielder helped the Twins win a pair of World Series championships in 1987 and ’91, and enjoyed one of the most ridiculous seasons in memory off the pine for the ’91 club.
Bush made 43 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter that year, finishing with a slashline of .382 (13-for-34) / .500 / .618 that resulted in eight RBI, eight walks and a pair of game-tying, ninth inning¬†blasts off of closers Mike Schooler and Jeff Reardon, games which Minnesota went on to win.
I may have focused on ’91 with Bush, but for that one season, I saw all I needed to. When¬†the outcome¬†hung in the balance, Bush came through time and again, and we’re not allowed to forget that Bush laced a first pitch single to center off of John Smoltz in the bottom of the eighth of a scoreless tie¬†in Game 7 of the ’91 Fall Classic, but his run (carried by pinch-runner Al Newman) was stranded at third.
So when the chips were on the table, my money is, was and ever shall be¬†on Randy Bush. All day.
But that’s where you, the loyal and learned B&C reader come in.
Baseball, by nature, is a game that generates discourse (and often times arguments), so let us hear you. It doesn’t matter if it’s Manny Mota, Gates Brown, Lenny Harris, John Vander Wal, Mark Sweeney or¬†whomever you felt most confident with off the pine. Share who you’d want with the bat in their hands when it mattered most. And of even greater importance, make your case for why in the comments section below.
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