A decade later, the ripples of MLB’s wild, legendary ‘Game 162’ are still felt


Ten years later, the story of Game 162 still comes up on the golf course. Dan Johnson will line up a 5-foot putt, take one last look at the break, and a friend is ready with a quip: “Oh, this is no pressure.”

No pressure? That’s about right. Nothing compared to standing in the batter’s box on the final night of the baseball season, two outs, two strikes, the playoffs on the line. Nothing compared to the night he was summoned to pinch-hit, to rescue a game and a season, with lingering nerve damage in his left hand. See, Johnson’s friends know the basics of the story, and how could they not? Ten years ago, their friend was on the Tampa Bay Rays, a journeyman first baseman at the center of perhaps the wildest, most exhilarating night in baseball history: Four games. Both wild-card spots up for grabs. Two extra-inning classics. Another walk-off. Careers in the balance.

“If you line up everybody that was affected by that day,” former manager Buck Showalter says, “it’d be a long list.”

Thing is, as Johnson stands over the putt, he always wants to re-tell the story, to explain how improbable it all was, how there are so many details that went unnoticed. Five months before stepping in against Yankees reliever Cory Wade on Sept. 28, he was drilled in the wrist by the Twins’ Matt Capps. The doctors called it a deep bone bruise, and Johnson, a Minnesota native who grew up playing peewee hockey, tried to play through it. But for months, he could barely grip the bat. When he did play, he batted just .108.



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