This Name the Game submission is courtesy of the 1978 Topps set and features a play at first between Gene Richards of the San Diego Padres and Len Randle of the New York Mets. Review of the old box scores reveals that Len Randle played in four home games in 1977 against the Friars, which were the second half of a double dip on May 11th, and all three games of the July 29th through 31st series.
Further investigation revealed that the May 11th second game of the double header was at night, so that game has been eliminated. As for the series at the end of July, both Gene Richards and Len Randle played in all three games, however, Gene Richards only played first base during the first six innings of the July 31st day game, and played outfield the remaining time.
So, we’ve identified the action on this card coming from the July 31st, 1977 game. Now, let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can figure out what play is occurring!
To me, it is obvious this is a pick-off play at first base. Randle has dove back to the bag, soiling his white pinstripe uniform, knocking his helmet askew, and flashing his sparkling white teeth in a grimace. If that wasn’t awesome enough, the pickoff throw has thrown Gene Richards off balance, and Gene braces himself by planting his left hand on Randle’s rear. HOW COOL IS THIS CARD? Add to it the bright green grass, contrasted with the infield dirt, the yellow bleachers, the yellow stirrups, Gene’s yellow batting glove, the yellow piping around the card, as well as Gene’s flip shades and this card achieves 70s greatness.
Phew, let me compose myself. Ok, back to the actually play. Review of the box score shows that Randle was on first base with Richards covering twice during the game. Once in the bottom of the 3rd via a single to center and the other in the 4th on an E5. In the bottom of the 4th, there was a runner on second, so the Padres wouldn’t have been attempting a pickoff maneuver, so let’s take a look at the bottom of the 3rd.
Here’s the official box score description, “Randle Picked off 1B, safe on E1; Randle to 3B.” Randle was a speedster at the time, so with no one on second and a tied game, I bet the Pads were trying to keep Randle close to the bag. Apparently, the Pads tried one too many times to pick him off and there was an errant throw by Dave Wehrmeister, which ended up with Randle on third.
Looking at the card, it’s hard to tell if this is the errant throw or not, but I don’t think it is. I think it is a previous pickoff move because it looks like the ball is in Gene Richards’ first baseman glove judging by the bulge in the pocket. Regardless, the play pictured came from the Bottom of the 3rd inning during the July 31, 1977 matchup between the San Diego Padres and New York Mets.