The Breakup Slide C. 1866-June 23, 2017
Thank you all for coming here today to pay homage to one of the building blocks of good baseball, the Breakup Slide. The Breakup Slide was a noble baseball play. He was said to have been birthed by Bob Addy all the way back in 1866 while part of the Rockford Forest City Baseball Club. The Breakup Slide has been known by many different names throughout its life: the Hard Slide, the Takeout Slide, and the Wipeout Slide. Perfected by the likes of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, the Breakup Slide was the type of baseball play you could expect to see in every single game for more than a century. However, after fighting courageously against Major League Baseball’s rules and regulations for many years, the Breakup Slide finally succumbed to death with one out in the Bottom of the Fifth Inning between the Los Angeles Angels and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Part ok June 23, 2017.
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It is with a hint of irony that you cannot find video of the Breakup Slide’s death on Google or MLB.com. However, those of us lucky enough to have DVR’d “Big Papi Night” at Fenway will forever have its final moment recorded.
It was broadcasted on NESN, overseen and tended to by one of its many victims, Jerry Remy. Remy, like most middle infielders, had a love/hate relationship with the Breakup Slide. The Breakup Slide is responsible for many a scarred and scabbed shin from those that regularly tried to turn two, but most of the old guard understood it was just a routine baseball play. If they did not fear the Breakup Slide, they at least expected it, and always respected it. To disrespect the breakup slide, and not know how to maneuver in a way so as to avoid it, was to court not just an error, but even sometimes injury.
It is that injury part that ultimately led to the Breakup Slide’s death. For years and years, in fact, for more than a century, the Breakup Slide was simply a baseball play. But because Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg on national television in the 2015 playoffs, the onus for learning how to avoid the breakup slide fell away from middle infielder’s like Remy and Tejada and on to the baserunner. When this happened, the Breakup Slide knew it was handed a death sentence, it simply did not know when exactly it was going to die. Die it did on Friday, June 23, 2017 at MLB’s oldest ballpark.
Mitch Moreland, a throwback first baseman for the Red Sox, a guy that plays through a broken big toe, came to the dish with Xander Bogarts on first base with one out in the bottom of the fifth. The Angels were in a shift for the left-handed hitting Moreland; the second basemen more than half of the way to first and the shortstop playing a step to the right of the second base bag. Moreland hit a ground ball to the left of the second basemen who played it perfectly, and pivoted his body to toss a strike to the shortstop who was covering second base.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogarts was barreling down on the Angels shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, who was covering the bag ready for two. Simmons is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball if not THE best defensive shortstop in baseball. As Simmons collected the ball for the first out, he took a half-step back from the bag and then attempted to jump over the Breakup Slide of Bogarts. This was shortstop on shortstop crime with the type of perfectly executed Breakup Slide that generates a fire in the loins of older generations of baseball fans and middle infielders.
Simmons did not move fast enough out of the way, nor did he jump high enough to clear Bogarts. Simmons dropped the ball and Moreland, who was running on a broken toe, was safe at first. Except, Second Base umpire Adam Hamari called an illegal slide on Bogarts resulting in an automatic double play.
Replay showed Bogarts initiated his slide well before the bag (legal), he stayed on the same path throughout his entire journey to second (legal), did not execute a roll block/slide and in fact kept his spikes on the ground (all legal), and he only made contact with Simmons while in the midst of a “bona fide” slide, which by the rules , should not have resulted in interference.
Despite a perfectly by-the-rulebook slide, interference was called and (EVEN AFTER REVIEW) a double play was called. The Breakup Slide was dead. Former MLB second basemen and current Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy wailed in horror and wrenched his Joseph Abboud wardrobe up in the NESN booth while lamenting how such a thing could happen, but happen it did.
The Breakup Slide lived a long and contentious life. For more than 150 years he was often overlooked, but in the span of an instant could turn into the turning point of a standard baseball game. He was taught to immeasurable little league boys and girls thanks to his symbiotic friend the card board box. He was perfected on rainy spring and summer days when games got cancelled only for some genius coach to turn that day into “Sliding Practice Day.” The Breakup Slide will be mourned by all those that shared rides in the bed of a pickup truck after those practices, many of which ended with trips to the local ice cream shop and numerous looks of abject horror from surprised moms after glimpsing their child’s clothes.
The Breakup Slide was most proud of his ability to score runs through the back door. He also enjoyed slow rollers to the infield off of the bat of the slowest guy on the team. He also got a kick out of bad throws that ended in the stands and a runner at second base. Some loved him, some hated him, but almost all understood and respected his will to compete. Now though, the will to compete is slowly getting stripped out of the game he loves and one of the last things he ever said was, “if the game I love wishes to get rid of me, I no longer think I understand this game I love, Baseball.”
The Breakup Slide is survived by his younger brothers the Hustle Double, the Running Into the Fence Outfielder, the Diving Infielder with a Guy at Second and Two Outs, and of course his parents Mr. and Mrs. Sacrifice Fly and Bunt. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your local little league foundations and ease off on the coaches who are working 9-5 and taking the extra time to teach children fundamentals. Also, for those of you inquiring about Breakup Slide’s older brother, The Home Plate Collision, unfortunately he is on life support at Mt. Sinai hospital and is not expected to make it to 2020.
Once again, thank you for coming and please, feel free to argue with an umpire on your way out.
May Ted Williams be with you.