Welcome to Routine Moments in Baseball History, a running weekday feature that looks back at plays that have been ignored by the history books because history books only talk about things that are important or interesting. Today's installment is "Pepe Mangual Has a Chance to Be a Hero."
The game was a pretty sleepy affair. Late-July baseball in Montreal's Parc Jerry wasn't much of a draw back then, not with the Expos in last place in the NL East, and especially not with them hosting the Houston Astros, who were holding down last place in the West. A scant 7,000 people were scattered among the 28,500 seats to watch the home team fall behind 6-3 in the sixth inning; some of them might even have left in a grumble of disgust before the ninth. If so, they missed a pretty good rally.
The lead was at two runs when Pete Mackanin cranked a home run off Larry Dierker, after which the Astros swapped the pitcher in for Wayne Granger, a beanpole of a man who had been a great reliever for the Reds a few years before; now he was bouncing around the league, taking his sinking fastball and sidearm delivery from team to team. The first batter he faced, Tim Foli, hit a double. Then Granger got pinch-hitter Jose Morales to ground out to short, bringing up the leadoff hitter, outfielder Pepe Mangual, to the plate with the score at 6-5 and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth. All of a sudden a meaningless game had produced a dramatic situation. The only problem was, Pepe Mangual wasn't very good.
The 23-year-old was likely batting leadoff because of his speed and base-stealing abilities (he'd swipe 33 bags in the 1975 season), but he wasn't getting on base very much, batting .246 with an OBP of .323. He had already had a lousy day, going 0 for 4 with a strikeout, but he had a chance to redeem himself here. All he needed to do was hit a single off of Granger, this gawky, scrawny giant with a funny delivery.
First pitch: swing and a miss. Strike one.
Second pitch: swing and a miss. Not even close.
Third pitch: couldn't figure out where the ball was going, swung anyway, back to the bench.
On the next batter, Granger was swapped out for Mike Cosgrove, who promptly got Bob Bailey to ground out to short. It was that kind of season for the Expos.
This has been Routine Moments in Baseball History. Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.