Devon White had a fine career, is a fan favorite in Toronto and one of only a handful of players to have been born in Jamaica.
And yet he was robbed.
He should be a legend. His name should be mentioned every single October. He should have one of the great highlights in baseball history.
And he doesn’t have one of the great highlights in baseball history because instant replay technology wasn’t advanced enough yet.
Devo was born in Kingston in 1962. When his family emigrated to the United States, his father accidentally wrote “White” instead of the actual spelling which was Whyte.
After going to Park West High School in Manhattan, he was drafted by the California Angels.
The talented center fielder found himself as a defensive replacement on the 1986 Angels squad, filling in for George Hendrick or Rupert Jones in the late innings. He was in right field when Dave Henderson’s homer sailed over Brian Downing’s head in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.
By 1988 he was a Gold Glove winner. By 1989, he was an All Star. And by 1991, he was a Toronto Blue Jay.
As the Blue Jays did an overhaul after the 1990 season, White was brought in for a deal involving Junior Felix and Luis Sojo. He picked up his third Gold Glove, smacking 17 homers and stealing 33 bags along the way, his best all around season. The Blue Jays won the Division but the Twins made short work of them in the ALCS.
Then came 1992.
Some of White’s numbers dipped but he remained a top caliber defensive centerfielder. The Blue Jays imported Jack Morris and Dave Winfield to put the team finally over the top. And White did his best to help in the ALCS.
He batted .348 against the A’s, getting a pair of hits and scoring a run in the Blue Jays dramatic 11 inning Game 4 victory. He drove in a run in the Game 6 clincher as well, sending the Blue Jays to their first ever World Series.
Atlanta and Toronto split games 1 and 2, sending the World Series to Canada for the first time in history.
In the top of the 4th of Game 3, the Braves were rallying against Juan Guzman. Two runners were on and none were out with David Justice coming to the plate.
He hit a deep drive to center field that forced Devon to turn his back to home plate. He reached out and made a fine running catch, crashing into the wall.
Then he threw back to the infield.
The Braves baserunners, Terry Pendleton and Deion Sanders, passed each other on the base paths with Pendleton certain it was going to be an extra base hit. When they passed, it became a double play.
Not knowing Pendleton was already called out, the throw went to first baseman John Olerud for the purpose of doubling up Pendleton.
Sanders, seeing a chance to make something out of the disastrous play, tagged up and tried to take third.
Olerud threw the ball to third baseman Kelly Gruber who got Sanders in a rundown.
Instead of throwing to shortstop Manny Lee to tag Sanders and complete the triple play, Gruber dove. The umpire ruled that Gruber missed Sanders’ foot and he was safe.
It was a bang bang play and umpire Bob Davidson made the call.
Except he was wrong. The replay showed that Gruber made the tag. It should have been a triple play. They did everything for it to be a triple play.
And with reviews today, it would have been ruled as such. Instead for all time it is simply a double play.
For years to come, the triple play would have been brought up whenever there was a tough jam in the post season with nobody out. They would shot the clip. The Devon White play would be shorthand in October for wiggling out of trouble.
Instead only Bill Wambsganss is credited for turning a World Series triple play, and there is no video of his unassisted gem in the 1920 World Series.
The run didn’t score and eventually the Blue Jays won that game and the World Series. They won again in 1993 and White was a member of the 1997 Marlins team that won too. In fact White’s grand slam all but put the dagger in the Giants in the 1997 Division Series.
He was the first ever Diamondbacks All Star in his one year in the desert, 1998 before winding down his career with the Dodgers and Brewers in 2001.
Here in this strange Topps Card (that more resembles those 1983 Fleer Cards I once wrote about) he is looking over fan mail.
I assume one of them was from a fan who knew that he helped REALLY turn the second triple play in baseball history.
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