Revisiting Johnny Damon's Dash

A play for the ages shouldn't be overshadowed

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    Watching Pedro Feliz giving futile chase to Johnny Damon in the ninth inning on Sunday night brought to mind several thoughts but one lasting image. He looked like Tom scrambling after Jerry as the mouse made off with a cube of cheese or some other goodie. Feliz, like Tom, had his heart in the right place but you knew from the second the play began that it the chase wasn't going to go his way in the end because, like catching Jerry, it's more than a one man job and the Phillies refused to help Feliz.

    You can't blame them for standing slackjawed at the sight of a runner stealing third on the same play that the stole second. It's not something you see all that often, and all credit must go to Damon for realizing the confluence of events that took place to put him in the position.

    It wasn't just that the Phillies shifted their infield to protect against Mark Teixeira pulling the ball and left third base uncovered, it was the fact that Feliz had to field the throw a bit to the first-base side of second base. That meant Damon had the head start on the footrace to third, which was key even if he is faster than Feliz. That's two smart reads, but there was still one more that put the whole play in motion in the first place.

    "I think what I had to see before I could start running to third base is how Pedro caught the ball," Damon said. "When I was running, I still had some of my young legs behind me. I thought being on third base, it sometimes takes away a tough slider in the dirt that I might score on. Alex got two fastballs. So it did work out for us."

    Not bad for a guy who proudly called himself an idiot earlier this decade. The difference between Damon and the Phillies on that play is that Damon was thinking third because of the defensive alignment while the Phillies weren't even considering covering the base. Call it smarts or instincts or whatever, but it changed the entire game.

    Damon is probably too kind to mention the fact that Brad Lidge is more skittish than a housecat in a room full of rocking chairs, but that was yet another benefit of the Damon Dash. Maybe he doesn't throw his slider in the dirt, but he probably doesn't hit the ice-cold Mark Teixeira either. A-Rod hasn't been so hot in the World Series, but he's had better at-bats than Teixiera and there's no arguing his flair for the dramatic these days.

    Rodriguez's backstory guaranteed him the headlines after Game 4, but Damon's play was one for the ages and one that will launch loud reactions at Yankee Stadium every time it is shown on the big screen in the indeterminate future. It deserves a second, third and fourth look because of what it meant and because you'll probably never see it happen again.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.