Twenty years ago today, New York Mets third-base coach Chip Hale was unable to execute a hit-and-run in Portland and was rewarded with a permanent place in Cooperstown.
Well, sort of.
Then playing for the Triple-A Portland Beavers in the Minnesota Twins' system, Hale hit a long fly ball over the head of Vancouver right fielder Rodney McCray instead of the grounder he'd intended.
In pursuit of the ball, McCray sprinted straight through the plywood outfield fence and into the all-time pantheon of baseball highlights. The play now runs as part of a continuous loop of bloopers at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
"When it happened, you were just so scared that he got hurt," Hale said. "When you see someone go through the middle of the wall, you're not sure."
"He's a tough guy, was always a tough guy all the way through the Minor Leagues playing, so we knew he would be OK eventually."
McCray, then a member of the Chicago White Sox system and currently an instructor in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization, was not seriously injured.
As for Hale, he wound up on third with a triple when the force of McCray's collision with the wall caused the ball to ricochet along the AstroTurf and back to the infield.
"I'm thinking, 'Holy smokes, there's not enough room,'" Hale said. "The ball, his face and the fence all hit at once. The ball kind of catapulted from the impact and whipped right back in."
The two have had plenty of time to discuss their shared moment in baseball lore, as their paths have crossed numerous times during their careers as coaches in the Minor Leagues. When Portland gave out bobbleheads of McCray crashing through the wall in 2006, the Beavers sent one to Hale, who then got it signed by McCray.
Though not everyone knows it was Hale who hit that fateful fly ball May 27, 1991, he says those who do always have questions for him.
"When they find out, they always want to know about it," said Hale.
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.