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July 11, 2014 at 1:50 am ET
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One Game – NY Yankees @ Oakland; August 3, 1998

oquistTonight, Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers gave up 13 runs against the Angels.

That’s also known as an “Oquist”.

Sure, many pitchers before this date have given up double digits of runs. In ye olden days, pitchers gave up 15 or 20 runs in an entire game, because bullpens were for sissies and liquor was cheap.

But since the advent of relief pitching and managerial sanity, not many have had the luxury of being pelted around the yard for a 10-spot, much less 13 or more. Hitting that magic number of 13 – that’s an Oquist.

Monday night, August 3, 1998, was one of those nights. Mike Oquist was and thanks to ESPN radio and the internet’s reach, it became a touchstone.

The Yankees rolled into Oakland with a 77-28 record to face the first Billy Beane’s A’s team. Orlando Hernandez was taking the hill for the Yanks, facing failed Orioles prospect Oquist in a game that on paper was a mismatch. In real life…it was too.

Oakland had the building block for their early 2000’s offense in place, and they had Rickey! leading off. They could score runs. They were 50-60 because they could not pitch. No, that’s not strong enough. They COULD.NOT.PITCH. Oquist was the #4 starter behind Kenny Rogers, on his last legs Tom Candiotti, and another failed prospect, Jimmy Haynes. Blake Stein, yes, THE Blake Stein, was the #5 starter. That was a starting rotation, besides Rogers, that was between rancid and putrescent.

The pen was Billy Taylor as the closer and a whole bunch of guys like TJ Mathews, Mike Fetters, Tim Worrell, and Mike Mohler backing him up. Not exactly top shelf. The A’s basically had to try to ourscore everyone, in the worst offensive park in the league. Ick.

So out comes Oquist, with an ERA nearing six, facing an absolutely loaded Yankees team. Lovely.

Chuck Knoblauch leads off the game by rocketing a double down the left field line. Derek Jeter follows with a double to the gap in right center. It’s 1-0 before anyone could have a second beer. No more damage is done in the first though, and Oquist moved on to the second.

All around bad guy Chad Curtis singles to lead off the second. He steals second and then Jorge Posada walks. Scott Brosius hits a grounder to short that Miguel Tejada barely gets to, then throws wild. It’s an infield hit and Curtis scores on the throw, making it 2-0. Knoblauch then rockets a 3-1 pitch one over the fence in the power alley in right, making it 5-0. Jeter singles to deep short, then Paul O’Neill sends one over the left field fence.

It’s 7-0 with no one out in the second; it gets worse.

Bernie Williams doubles to right. Tino Martinez singles to left scoring Bernie. It’s 8-0. Is anyone warming up in the A’s pen? I don’t think so; they had to use their bullpen a lot in the past few days and the starter on Tuesday is the immortal Jay Witacek. Oquist is going to have to take the heat, as it were.

Oakland scores a run on a Matt Stairs homer, but that only made the Yanks mad. Brosius leads off the third with another infield hit, and Knoblauch swats another round tripper to make it 10-1. Not a bad start for Chuck – 10 total bases in three at bats!

Oquist calms down a bit, getting two outs sandwiched around an O’Neill single. Tino drives in O’Neil though,and then DARRRRYL! smacks a home run and it’s 13-1 after three.

Here’s where ESPN Radio and the internet comes into play. I played softball in my hometown, but I lived 45 minutes away near Indianapolis. We had the late game on Monday night so I was on the road near my house when I got the AM radio signal for the ESPN affiliate ESPN radio was still kind of a new thing and it was still a bit novel to have Sportscenter on the radio and not the TV. I heard the hosts talking about the games in progress and they said something like “The Yanks are in Oakland, and I can’t believe Mike Oquist is coming out for the fourth inning.” For about three minutes, they went on about how incredible it was that he was still in the game, and it wasn’t for another minute that they actually gave the score.

I was in my neighborhood when the game went to the fifth. Oquist somehow got the Yanks out without scoring a run in the fourth, but it was still 13-1. One of the announcers, Chuck Wilson maybe (it’s lost to the sands of time, really), said “It’s Bang the Bum Slowly in Oakland, and Mike Oquist is out there again for more punishment.” I was just fascinated by this, as were the radio yakkers, as were others around the nation just wondering why the A’s were doing this to one of their starters in this day and age.

It was relatively quick in the fifth, but it wasn’t a goose egg. A walk, a single and a double play ball netted the Yanks run number 14. Oquist got the third out, and finally Art Howe made a move to the bullpen.

The line for Oquist?

5 16 14 14 3 3

Of course, I was curious about this game, and thanks to the internet I could see it kinda sorta unfold; or at least the box score could be updated. Fans around the nation logged onto their AOL or other ISP accounts to ESPN to see the score. Instead of waiting for the box score to show up two days from now (if at all, since late night west coast games were never in the morning paper and their late scores were never guaranteed to run), we could see it in all of its glory either that night, or in the next morning. We didn’t have to wait for Jayson Stark’s Rumblings & Grumblings to appear in Baseball America. We saw it ‘live’ and then we went to message boards or on ICQ to talk about the wacky Oakland game – as it happened. That was novel.

Nothing else really happened in the game. It lasted just 2:38 and I think maybe 50 people were left in the stands in the ninth inning. It wasn’t really the end for Oquist, either. He finished the year in Oakland and was part of their rotation most of 1999 despite his 6.22 ERA in 1998.  In 1999, though, Beane’s younger pitchers were starting to arrive, and at the end of that season Oquist was jettisoned never to pitch in the bigs again.

Since then, we’ve had the Vin Mazzaro game, the Jason Marquis game, and now the Colby Lewis game. We can all look them up, witness them as they happen, and now we can mock and cringe on Twitter as it happens. But games like tonight for Lewis will always be an Oquist. Mike wasn’t the first one it happened to and obviously he won’t be the last. But he was the first one interactive one, in it’s own quaint, retro way.

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