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Tuesday, October 04, 2022

The coin flip that saved baseball in Seattle

This year, tiebreakers themselves have been abandoned. Under the expanded MLB postseason format introduced for 2022, ties are to be settled based on regular-season results, with head-to-head records being the first deciding factor. With 12 total teams now advancing to October, the league opted to let math—not Game 163s—settle any unresolved issues so that the postseason schedule is not held up an extra day.

Back in ’95, though, tiebreakers were still on the table ... as were the bouncing coins.

Because the American League and National League still operated somewhat independently of one another at that time, the AL coin tosses—18 in all—were to take place in the office of AL president Gene Budig. Each team would have a representative on-hand to witness the toss of the coin, which was usually a quarter.

“There was a very complicated formula in the league rules that said you draw lots to determine Team A, B and C, depending on how many ties were possible,” says Phyllis Merhige, a longtime MLB executive who at the time was the AL’s director of public relations and who was in the room for many coin tosses. “So [in a three-way tie], maybe A gets a bye while B plays C. It was a whole complicated thing. And then we’d do the coin flip, and, if you won the flip, you decide whether you would want to host [a tiebreaker] or not.”

Because the vast majority of races were settled without need for a Game 163, it’s not as if clubs dispatched high-powered execs to midtown Manhattan in mid-September to call out “Heads!” or “Tails!” Other than George Steinbrenner sending a team rep as a matter of course (and partial paranoia) whenever the Yankees were involved, clubs were typically content to let a league executive or public relations person represent them.

But for the ’95 toss—the first of the Wild Card era—Armstrong pulled out a slight wild card of his own: He wanted Carolyn Taylor, then the director of special events for MLB, to represent Seattle.

“To call somebody from special events was definitely unusual,” Merhige says. “Only Chuck. That’s Chuck.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 04, 2022 at 08:30 AM | 2 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mariners

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   1. Rally Posted: October 04, 2022 at 09:01 AM (#6099008)
They didn’t need a coin flip for home field. They had Randy Johnson.

As an Angels fan I’m not even bitter about that one. Not at all like the 1982 or 1986. Series where if they do one of a dozen simple things they should win. Doesn’t matter what else you change. Angels weren’t going to beat Randy that day.
   2. Hombre Brotani Posted: October 05, 2022 at 04:20 AM (#6099138)
I first became an Angels fan in 1982 when Reggie came to town and they were a game away from the series and choked that away. I was only 14 when they were one strike away, and lost it all. By 1995, I was fully a young adult and ready to get utterly destroyed the horrifying disintegration of an 11 game division lead and the heartbreak of game 163. It made me a diehard fan for life. That 1995 team is still my favorite Angels squad ever. They broke my heart, but I'll love them forever.

Of course, for the Mariners, that 1995 tiebreaker was EVERYTHING. Griffey's mad dash home to save the franchise doesn't happen if they didn't win that tiebreaker.

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