Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Flashback: The time Gabe Kapler needed to be pinch-run for in the middle of a home run

Gabe had two stints as a member of the Boston Red Sox. (Patrick McKenna)

Want a crazy baseball story with a connection to the Philadelphia Phillies? Here’s an interesting one.

Over the weekend, I – excuse the personal life anecdote for a moment – was asked what would happen if a player hit a home run but suffered such a devastating injury that they couldn’t finish running the bases. Ryan Howard on the final play of the 2011 NLDS was the jumping off point for the discussion. Research yielded an example that not only answered the question, but has a connection to the 2019 Phillies.

On Sept. 14, 2005, David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 at the Rogers Centre, then simply referred to as the Skydome. The difference in the game came courtesy of second baseman Tony Graffanino, who launched a two-run home run in the top of the fifth inning off of Blue Jays starter Josh Towers.

The only issue is that Graffanino was held up from completing his home run trot because the runner on first base at the time suffered an injury that didn’t allow him to finish running the bases. Who was that runner? Current Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

While running around second base, Kapler, 29 at the time, stumbled and ruptured his left Achilles tendon. Kapler was unable to continue running, which halted Graffanino at first base until Red Sox manager Terry Francona had to substitute a pinch-runner – who turned out to be Alejandro Machado – to finish running the bases for Kapler, allowing Graffanino to do the same thing:

After the game, Kapler expressed confidence in his ability to rebound from the injury, but disappointment that he would be away from the defending World Series Champions for quite some time.

“This is a bump in the road but nothing I can’t manage,” Kapler said. “I can handle this. It’s going to challenging. This season has been challenging for me. I just need to get where I need to be and help this team win, whenever that might be.”

Given that Kapler suffered this injury in September, it would be the final time he would play during the 2005 season. The Red Sox would finish 95-67 in 2005, winning the American League Wild Card. They would ultimately be swept by the Chicago White Sox, who would go on to win the World Series, in the ALDS. Kapler would return to the Red Sox in 2006, hitting .254 in 130 at-bats in what proved to be his final season with the Red Sox.

Kapler could probably write a book about his 2005 season. This injury would certainly be part of the book, but probably play second fiddle to his stint playing in Japan earlier in the year. After winning the World Series with the Red Sox in 2004, Kapler – who later said he was fascinated with Japanese culture and the idea of being a ninja as a young child – signed a $2 million deal with the Yomiuri Giants ahead of the 2005 season. Kapler lasted just 38 games in Japan before returning to the Red Sox, but he spoke extensively to me before the 2018 season about what he learned during his brief stint in Japan.


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