This puzzle is an homage to one of my favorite puzzles of all time. Each vignette is mostly accurate, except that it has been changed in a fundamental way to create a different, far less memorable outcome than what really happened.
To solve the puzzle, you must identify the person being inaccurately described, and then notice that each description has a number written as a numeral, which you use to index into the last name of the player.
Here are the references:
- Protecting leads in the ninth had been no problem for this pitcher all season long until, one game short of the record, he was given the ball with a 3 run lead. He had his only blown save of the season that night, a blemish that may have been the only thing that prevented him from winning the Cy Young Award that year. - This refers to Eric Gagne and his consecutive save streak in the 2003 Cy Young season. The 3rd letter of GAGNE is G.
- Trying to avoid the team’s third consecutive postseason sweep following their improbable World Series victory, this pitcher failed to get it done, giving up 4 runs to seal yet another playoff disaster. - This refers to Jose Lima’s playoff shutout over the Cardinals in 2004. The 4th letter of LIMA is A.
- After learning of a no-hitter pitched earlier that day in another city by another California team, this pitcher gave up an infield single to the leadoff batter, but refused to allow another hit after that to complete an impressive 1-hitter. - This refers to Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter on the same day as Dave Stewart’s in 1990. The 1st letter of VALENZUELA is V.
- With one game to play in the regular season and needing a victory to clinch the division, this player came to bat with the bases loaded, one out, and the score tied in the ninth. He weakly grounded into a double play to send the game into extra innings, where they would lose 5 innings later. - This refers to Steve Finley’s grand slam to clinch the division in 2004. The 5th letter of FINLEY is E.
- Needing the elusive triple to complete the team’s first cycle in almost forty years, this player struck out in each of his final 2 Opening Day at bats in an otherwise great first appearance with the team. - This refers to Orlando Hudson’s Opening Day cycle in 2009. The 2nd letter of HUDSON is U.
- After a miraculous barrage of consecutive home runs in the ninth inning tied the game, this player came up in the tenth as the potential winning run if only he could hit the team’s 7th home run of the day. Instead, he grounded into a double play to squelch any possibility of another rally. - This refers to Nomar Garciaparra’s home run to win the 4+1 game in 2006. The 7th letter of GARCIAPARRA is P.
- After winning the previous night’s game with a walk-off double, this player had the chance to be the hero for the second straight night when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the twelfth inning with 2 outs, only to be called out on strikes before the team lost in the next inning. - This refers to Andre Ethier’s back to back walk-off hits in 2009. The 2nd letter of ETHIER is T.
- Needing extra innings in his final start of the season to eclipse a remarkable record set by a fellow teammate from an earlier era, this pitcher gave up just 1 run in the ninth to blow his streak and lose the game. - This refers to Orel Hershiser’s scoreless inning streak in 1988. The 1st letter of HERSHISER is H.
- On the night this player was honored with his own bobblehead promotional giveaway, he appeared as a pinch hitter in the 6th inning, but forgettably struck out with the bases loaded. - This refers to Manny Ramirez’s BobbleSlam in 2009. The 6th letter of RAMIREZ is E.
- Looking as awkward swinging the bat as he did hobbling to the plate, this player was barely able to stand when he waved at the full-count backdoor slider to end the first game of a most probable and possible 4-game World Series sweep. - This obviously refers to Kirk Gibson’s famous home run in the 1988 World Series. The 4th letter of GIBSON is S.
- After 3 innings were in the books, an opposing hitter hit a line smash up the middle towards this pitcher, who fortunately was able to get his glove in the way to avoid a nasal fracture that might have ended his season. - This refers to Kaz Ishii’s season-ending, face-smashing comebacker in 2002. The 3rd letter of ISHII is H.
- As 2 protesters burned the American flag in the outfield, this player stood idly by and watched it all transpire. - This refers to Rick Monday’s flag saving heroics in 1976. The 2nd letter of MONDAY is O.
- When Edgar Renteria narrowly won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, this player missed out on being the team’s fifth consecutive Rookie of the Year and the 12th since moving to Los Angeles. - This refers to Todd Hollandsworth’s 1996 Rookie of the Year season. The 12th letter of HOLLANDSWORTH is T.
Taking each of the letters from each of the vignettes gives you the intermediate solution “GAVE UP THE SHOT”. This refers to “The Shot Heard Round the World”, possibly the most non-memorable actual moment in Dodger history, and suggests the final solution, RALPH BRANCA.
Congratulations to BCCSweet, Golem, and Cliff Beefpile for correct responses, and my apologies for being and absentee puzzlemaster. The real world interfered with my plans more than I would have thought possible. Updated standings to follow shortly, and the next puzzle, Thursday, August 8!