Aug. 22, 1988

Don’t tell David Price this, but throughout a Hall of Fame career Dennis Eckersley drove many batters sufficiently crazy to claim Eck threw a spitball.

On second thought, go ahead and tell Price. There’s nothing like throwing a little annoyance at someone who is so thoroughly annoying.

Eckersley didn’t expect to be working at all on the Sunday afternoon in question. He got up in Fenway Park’s visitors bullpen just to get in some throwing, having been idle for the previous five days. WIth the Red Sox leading 4-3 to start the eighth, it looked like another day off for him, and a fourth straight loss for the A’s.

Unfortunately for Boston, it didn’t have Eckersley in its bullpen. The A’s scored twice in the eighth and held on for a 5-4 win, with Eckersley earning the save.

In 1988 the Eck was enjoying a banner year as the Oakland A’s closer. Against the Red Sox he had four saves and showed no mercy in the ALCS, allowing one hit in six innings of work, earning the series MVP honors. One swing by Kirk Gibson bittered Eckersley’s memory of that October.

As for the grumbling over his alleged spitter, the old skipper of the Boston nine put it this way: “I wouldn’t say he threw a spitball,” Joe Morgan said, according to the Boston Globe. “But he did throw a pitch of some description.”

Editor’s note: Anyone wondering about David Price’s mention at the start of this brief essay must have forgotten about his verbal confrontation on the team plane in June, 2017. Price took the Eck to task for doing some critical analysis during a NESN broadcast.

And we thought critical analysis had some place in an analyst’s job description.

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