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Jim Qualls - A Play at the Plate

April 22, 2009

by William Szczepanek

On July 8, 1969 the Cubs began a crucial series against the Mets in Shea Stadium.  They lost the first game because of a couple of misplays in center field by Don Young.  I always felt that the criticism of Young’s play was unjust.  The balls he missed were difficult chances and he did not receive an error on the plays. That wasn’t good enough in Leo Durocher’s book and Jim Qualls was in centerfield for Cubs the next day.

1970 topps #192Jim QuallsJim Qualls is most well known for breaking up a Tom Seaver no-hitter with a one out solid hit in the ninth inning at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1969.   Qualls was booed loudly by all of the 59,083 fans in Shea Stadium.  He represents in a strange way some small sense of satisfaction the Cubs achieved against the Mets that year. One fact that makes the year palatable to me is that the Mets played very well down the stretch against everyone, winning 38 of their final 49 games.  Another is that I blatantly predicted that the Mets would win the World Series in 5 games.  After Baltimore won the first game I was asked by many if I still thought I was right.  With confidence I said the Mets will win in five.  Being a genius requires a lot of luck.

Jim Qualls holds another distinction that I consider quite important.  He was involved in the most sensational play at the plate that I have ever seen.  It was June 13, 1969 and the Cubs were facing the Reds in Cincinnati at Crosley Field.  He doubled in the tenth inning and attempted to score on a single by Paul Popovich.  Pat Corrales, the catcher for the Reds, blocked the plate as the throw sailed to the third base side of the plate and up the line.  Corrales moved up the line to catch the ball.  Qualls, running full speed, jumped as Corrales bent down to grab the throw.  The ball and Qualls arrived at the same time. Qualls, having nowhere to go but up, attempted to leap over Corrales, but his leg hit Corrales’ shoulder as Corrales rose with the ball and Qualls was sent hurdling into the air about ten feet before home plate.  Qualls soared over the plate, his feet skyward and his hand reaching downward in an effort to touch the plate. His momentum carried him over the plate and his outstretched hand never came within a foot of the plate as he crashed to the ground and rolled about twenty feet past home plate.  Corrales held up the ball and looked at the umpire who stood stone-faced making no signal at all. Qualls, knowing he missed home plate, got up and raced for home.  Corrales, still down the third base line, did the same.  Qualls and Corrales both dived for the plate with Qualls hand sliding under the tag before the collision. The ump signaled Qualls safe, an argument ensued, and the Cubs had won the game.

Jim Qualls only had 139 at bats over 3 seasons, but his time in the majors is marked by events that will be remembered for a good time to come.

You can check out Qualls's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.

 

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