What Were You Doing Rich Donnelly?

Rich Donnelly is a baseball lifer, a guy around longer than dirt but, sad to say, a guy nobody knew, probably even some of the Dodgers.

He cured his anonymity with one call Wednesday afternoon under cloudy New York skies, and the cloud followed the Dodgers the rest of the day.

In ages past, the Dodgers have had three men on third base - simultaneously. This time, they had one man in the third base coaching box, and that was all it took for a classic foulup.

In ages past, the Dodgers have had outfielders get konked on the head by a fly ball, they have had a right fielder (Casey Stengel) tip his cap to the crowd from whence a bird flew out.

But never have the Dodgers done anything so dizzy in a playoff game.

To set the stage. Top of the second. Against a rookie substitute for a substitute pitcher assuredly jittery. Jeff Kent singles sharply. J.D. Drew beats out an infield single. Men on first and second. No out.

Kid Katcher, Russell Martin, up. Martin hits a ball deep into the right field corner in the afternoon sky.

Donnelly waves everybody home. Not Kent, but Kent and Drew. At the same time.

Of course, Kent first holds up to make sure the fly ball isn't caught, then belately starts his 38-year-old legs churning (Kent has what can only be described politely as below average speed). Drew, not so cautious, is soon right on his tail.

The ball is plucked by ex-Dodger Shawn Green, who hustles it to ex-Dodger Jose Valentine who gets it swiftly to ex-Dodger Paulie Lo Duca at home. Dodger to Dodger to Dodger doing something perfectly, but alas all in the uniform of the Mets.

Kent knows the ball has beaten him. Instead of playing hard-nose baseball and barrelling into his former teammate Lo Duca, he attempts an artful slide to the foul side of home plate. He has yet to touch home.

Green, still on Kent's tail, sees this maneuver has been unsuccessful, attempts an artful slide to the playing side of home plate. He also has yet to touch home.

Lo Duca, maybe watching too many Sopranos reruns, and playing in New York, says "How Ya Doin" goes ba da bing, Kent you're out, and ba da bing, Drew, you're out too.

Three hits in a row, Donnelly's now lifetime signature call, and the Dodgers have two out and one on. And of course, they lose the game by a single run.

It is very Dodgerish, it is sure to make every highlight rerun, but sadly it has already been acidly etched into the heart of every Dodgers fan.

The Mets fans, always loud and aggressive, roar in delight, sticking it in and then, for pure pleasure, sticking it in again.

No problem here, the Dodgers fans in Brooklyn and at Ebbets Field were exactly the same. New York is New York. Loud, brassy, in your face, cocky. LA is not.

By the time LA fans get to the parking lot, New York fans are already hoarse from screaming and shouting. When the LA fans begin to depart, the New York fans are still full throttle.

Donnelly's deed overshadowed another day in the downfall of B(r)ad Penny, the All Star starter who tied for the league-lead in wins, and who has been in free fall since.

Bombed in his last New York start, lasting only an inning in his last regular season start, alibi-ed with a "bad back", Grady Little turned to the iffy starter in a 4-4 tie. Penny walked the two of the first three he faced, both scored. Penny was the loser. What's new?

Dick Young, the late, marvelous baseball writer for the New York Daily News, also now defunct, once said a tree grows in Brooklyn, (a pun on a famous book title), a cherry tree, a cherry choke tree.

Were Young still among us, and having watched Mr. Penny, on Wednesday, he have been tempted to say "another tree grows in Brooklyn, an apple tree" for it surely looks like Mr. Penny has an apple lodged in his throat these days, full choke.

It's hard to devalue a penny. If his name was dollar, the headline could easily read "Dollar in Freefall." But a penny --like its cousins, the farthing and the kopek, it don't get you much anymore.

After the loss that shouldn't have been, Little was quoted as saying "We will come back." Somebody should tell brother Little that after three losses, you don't come back - at least until next year. The Dodgers gave one away, although in fairness to Donnelly, there was more than enough blame to go around.

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