I have been a lifelong baseball fan, but I admit there are times the game can be a bit slow. From my schoolboy days as a player I can remember how long the innings seemed when you are out in the field and no balls ever come your way. So it is not surprising to find that sometimes a ballplayer’s mind wanders a bit while he standing out in the sunshine doing…nothing.
Do you think that happens to major leaguers? Do they start thinking about where they’re going after the game or what they’re going to do at the end of a long road trip? Surely we expect them to at least keep track of how many outs there are, and e en if they do temporarily lose the plot there’s always the teammates holding up one or two fingers. And that’s not to mention the modern baseball stadiums’ 360 degree signage that makes the number of outs in an inning clearly visible even if you’re buried in a long line at a hot dog stand.
We don’t know what Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley was thinking on the night of June 12, 2009, that caused him to lose track of how many outs there were with the MInnesota Twins batting in the top of the 8th inning. But knowing what would transpire later in life it’s not likely that he was distracted by warm thoughts about his wife.
What transpired that night was what Bleacher Report writer Doug Mead would call one of The 15 Stupidest Defensive Plays in MLB History.
Here’s his description:
“In an inter-league game against the visiting Minnesota Twins, Bradley had already had a bad day by the seventh inning, losing a fly ball in the sun that led to a run for the Twins.
“In the eighth inning, with two men on base, Bradley camped himself under a routine fly ball and caught it, flipping the ball into the bleachers and posing for a picture.
“However, there was only one problem. There was only one out at the time. The lead runner was sent home on the stupid mental mistake.”
Bradley was always something of a loose cannon. During the 2004 season, he sauntered up to the plate, started arguing with the home plate umpire and got himself ejected. At first he walked calmly back to his dugout, but then threw a bag of several dozen baseballs out onto the field and followed that up by throwing some of them into the stands. Later that season, a Dodgers fan threw a water bottle at him after he had lost a fly ball in the lights. Bradley picked up the bottle and headed to the stands, throwing it right back. He was restrained by one of the umpires who then ejected him. He was suspended for the rest of the season (it was September) and ordered to go to anger management counseling.
Despite incidents like this Bradley fashioned an 11 year MLB career. He played for eight different teams. He was a guy prone to wearing out his welcome. But he was a .271 lifetime hitter and was talented enough that there always was another team willing to give him a go.
After that game against Minnesota, the next day AP story had this to say:
“The Cubs’ Milton Bradley wasn’t so beloved by the home fans even though his two-run double in the sixth off Slowey halved what had been a 4-0 deficit.
“In the seventh, he lost Jason Kubel’s pop-up in the sun for a single and got a late jump while failing to catch Michael Cuddyer’s RBI bloop double for a 5-3 Twins lead and then it got worse.
“With Nick Punto on third, Harris on first and one out in the eighth inning, Bradley caught Mauer’s flyball and, thinking the inning was over, posed for several seconds before throwing the baseball into the seats. As Punto scored easily on the sacrifice fly to make it 6-3, Harris was awarded third base on Bradley’s error as boos cascaded down from every section of the ballpark.”
And what did Bradley have to say for himself: “That’s life. These people have high expectations. I have high expectations for myself. I never made a mistake like that (losing track of the outs) in my life. Sue me.”
The Twins won that game 7-4. Bradley was nearing the end of his career. The Cubs traded him to Seattle at the end of 2009 season. He lasted until early in the 2011 season when the Mariners cut him loose.
Things didn’t go substantially better for Bradley after his playing days. In 2013, he was convicted of nine counts of physically attacking and threatening his wife as well as several other charges and was sentenced to 32 months in prison. He got out, remarried and in 2018 he pleaded no contest to charges of spousal battery. This time he was sentenced to 36 months of probation and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling. No word on how that worked out.
Baseball’s dumbest plays: