With the bright lights of the playoffs come the attention and scrutiny of playing on sports’ biggest stages. And while rising to the occasion at the most intense moments can immortalize a player, failing to deliver when the pressure is on can dog someone for years to come.
Fair or not, Brewers rookie right fielder Trent Grisham entered the latter category in Tuesday’s National League wild-card game, when he was a central figure in the play that swung the game to the Washington Nationals.
Here’s a look at some of the company Grisham now keeps.
Trent Grisham: 2019 NL wild card
What happened: The Brewers led 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but the Nationals had loaded the bases against reliever Josh Hader. Juan Soto lined a base hit to right field, and Milwaukee’s rookie right fielder charged hard with the possibility — as unlikely as it was — of throwing out the tying run at home plate. The ball appeared to bounce to Grisham’s right, and all three runners came around to score, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Washington lead.
With the bases loaded, Juan Soto rips a ball into right field, and Trent Grisham misplays it, allowing three runs to score as the Nationals take the lead in the eighth inning.
What happened: The Indians needed one more win to clinch their first World Series title since 1948, but Game 6 got off to bad start when Kris Bryant homered in the first inning for the Cubs, and then the rookie center fielder for Cleveland (along with right fielder Chisenhall) let Addison Russell‘s fly ball drop for a two-out, two-run double. Wrote ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand after the game: “Even after the game, Naquin and Chisenhall were not on the same page. Naquin said both of them called for the first-inning ball, and Chisenhall said neither did. Their manager, Terry Francona, said that Naquin yelled, ‘It’s yours!’ to Chisenhall. But they all agreed on one thing — it was loud.” The Cubs won the game 9-3 to force Game 7.
Matt Holliday: 2009 NL Division Series
What happened: The Cardinals led the Dodgers 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth and were about to even the series at one game apiece. With two outs and nobody on, James Loney hit a fairly routine fly ball to left field. Holliday dropped it, and the Dodgers rallied for two runs to win the game. They took the series in Game 3.
Alex Gonzalez: 2003 NL Championship Series
What happened: The Cubs led the Marlins 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning and were on the verge of heading to their first World Series appearance since 1945. With one out, a double, walk and single made it 3-1. Miguel Cabrera bounced a potential double-play ball to the Cubs’ Gonzalez at short, but it popped out of his glove, and all hell broke loose as the Marlins scored eight runs in the inning. Steve Bartman became the scapegoat, but Gonzalez’s error opened the floodgates.
Mariano Rivera: 2001 World Series
What happened: We all remember how the Diamondbacks’ improbable rally against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees ended, but Luis Gonzalez might never have had a chance to win it if Rivera hadn’t thrown away Damian Miller’s bunt attempt that put runners on first and second with no outs. Rivera made just six errors in his career, so the miscue — the ball might have been a little wet, as it had briefly rained the inning before — was highly unusual for him. (Jay Bell, the next batter, also bunted, and Rivera made a good play to get the lead runner at third base. Scott Brosius had a chance to possibly complete a double play at first base on the play.)
Tony Fernandez: 1997 World Series
What happened: Indians closer Jose Mesa had already blown a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 against the Marlins, and the game went on to the 11th inning. With one out and a runner on first, Craig Counsell hit a ground ball to the left of Fernandez, the Cleveland second baseman, and the ball scooted under his glove. Counsell eventually came around to score the winning run.
Bill Buckner: 1986 World Series
What happened: With the Red Sox on the verge of their first World Series title since 1918 after scoring two runs in the top of the 10th inning, the Mets had two outs and nobody on. Base hit. Base hit. Base hit. Bob Stanley replaced Calvin Schiraldi to face Mookie Wilson. A wild pitch off Rich Gedman’s glove tied the game. Then came one of the most famous plays in baseball history:
Jack Clark: 1985 World Series
What happened: The Cardinals were three outs away from winning the World Series against the Royals in Game 6. You remember Jorge Orta’s infield trickler and Don Denkinger’s blown call at first base to begin the inning, but everyone forgets that on the next pitch, Steve Balboni hit a pop foul near the dugout that Clark should have caught. Balboni singled, and the Royals rallied for two runs to win 2-1. Really, the Cardinals self-destructed after Denkinger’s call, as Darrell Porter had a passed ball that moved the runners into scoring position. Then they really self-destructed in Game 7, an 11-0 win for the Royals. (By the way, the Royals used six bench players in their ninth-inning rally: four pinch hitters and two pinch runners.)
Leon Durham: 1984 NLCS
What happened: In the winner-take-all Game 5, the Cubs led the Padres 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh. With a runner on second and one out, Tim Flannery’s routine grounder scooted between Durham’s legs at first base. Game tied. The Padres went on to score three more runs in the inning and win 6-3.
Willie Davis: 1966 World Series
What happened: In Game 2, after the Orioles won the opener, Dodgers center fielder Willie Davis made three errors in the fifth inning as the Orioles scored three runs to take a 3-0 lead. They won the game 6-0 and swept the Dodgers. I guess this is three blunders, but Davis is too often remembered for one horrific inning rather than his 2,561 career hits. On a tough day at Dodger Stadium, Davis dropped two fly balls that he said he lost in the sun and compounded the second miscue with a throwing error. The great Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote that Davis that day “played center field as if it owned him.” In the end, it really didn’t matter: The Dodgers were shut out the final three games.
Mickey Owen: 1941 World Series
What happened: In Game 4, with the Dodgers trying to even the series against the Yankees and holding a 4-3 lead with two outs in the top of the ninth, Tommy Henrich struck out but reached first base on Owen’s error. The Yankees went on to score four runs, win the game 7-4 and take the series in five games. Owen was regarded as an excellent defensive catcher — he had two passed balls that season — and there was always speculation that pitcher Hugh Casey crossed up Owen with a spitball. Owen dismissed that speculation. “Casey had two kinds of curveballs,” he told Dave Anderson of The New York Times in 1988. “One was an overhand curve that broke big. The other one was like a slider, it broke sharp and quick. But we had the same sign for either one. He just threw whichever one was working best. When we got to 3-and-2 on Tommy, I called for the curveball. I was looking for the quick curve he had been throwing all along. But he threw the overhand curve, and it really broke big, in and down. Tommy missed it by six inches.”
Fred Snodgrass: 1912 World Series
What happened: In the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 8 (there had been a tie), Snodgrass dropped Fred Engle’s fly ball leading off the inning for a two-base error. Snodgrass made a spectacular catch on the next batter, but the Red Sox rallied for two runs — with the help of a pop foul that should have been caught, followed by a base hit — and won the game 3-2 against the New York Giants. “Snodgrass’ Muff” was one of the most famous plays in baseball history for a time, so much so that when Snodgrass died in 1974, the New York Times headline read, “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.” Ouch. Of course, the play is now 107 years old, and there’s no video replay with a Vin Scully call, so it gets called up from the dustbin of history only for lists such as this.