Intentional walks are a tactical option that often make perfect sense for a team to try. Yes, you’re putting a runner on, but you’re either getting yourself a more advantageous matchup or setting up a situation that leave you better equipped to get out of the inning damage free.
Yet, there’s always risk. You are putting a runner on base still. If it backfires, it’s probably going to get even worse than if you didn’t issue the intentional walk. The Angels tried to intentionally walk their way through a 1962 game against the Yankees. While it very nearly worked, it eventually backfired on them.
Whitey Ford got the start on the mound for the Yankees on May 22, 1962, and quickly got the Yankees in a bit of a hole. He walked two hitters, and thanks to a combination of other outs, one of the runners eventually scored on a sac fly to get the Angels on the board. As you might guess from the first couple paragraphs, this was not close to the most notable tidbit involving walks in this game.
The Yankees lineup was a bit lighter than normal with Mickey Mantle out, having suffered a knee injury days earlier, not to return until mid-June. A lot was left up to two-time reigning MVP Roger Maris, although the Angels would do their best to make sure that he couldn’t make a game-changing play.
In the sixth inning, Maris stepped to the plate with two on, nobody out, and the Yankees still down 1-0. To that point, Maris was 0-1 with a normal walk, but this time he was given an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a double play. It didn’t completely work, as after a strikeout, Elston Howard hit a fly ball that was deep enough to score a run. However, the Angels did manage to keep anyone else from scoring in the inning, keeping the game tied.
With the game still tied in the eighth, Maris came up with a runner on second and one out. He was again intentionally walked, and the Angels got two fly balls after that to end the inning.
In the tenth, there were two outs and a runner on third when Maris was due up again. The Angels again put him on base intentionally, opting to face Héctor López instead. It once again worked as López lined out to end the inning. After a scoreless top half in the 11th, two Yankees, Bill Skowron and Yogi Berra, were intentionally walked, but it again didn’t work out as Bobby Richardson grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Yankees’ pitching kept putting up zeroes, as Bob Turley threw an 11th straight scoreless inning in the top of the 12th. After that first inning against Ford, the Angels’ lineup managed only one hit and four walks in the next 11 frames.
In the bottom of the 12th, Joe Pepitone hit a one-out triple, bringing Maris to the plate. You’ll never believe what happened next. That’s right, the Angels, intentionally walked him for the fourth time in the game. At the time, that was tied for the record for the most intentional walks to one player in one game. It’s since been surpassed by an Andre Dawson game in 1990.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. López was also intentionally walked, in an attempt to set up another double play. However, this time the game finally ended. Howard hit a fly ball that was deep enough to score Pepitone from third and give the Yankees a 2-1 win.
In total, the Angels issued seven intentional walks to Yankees’ hitters. That too is just one behind the MLB record, although that one was only very recently broken. Back on August 25th, eight Padres drew IBBs in a loss to the Dodgers. It should be noted that game went 16 innings and also had the runner on second in extra innings, creating more situations where a team might want to issue a walk to set up a play.
This game proved that intentional walks as a strategy can work. It’s just that the Angels maybe flew too close to the sun.
New York Times, May 23, 1962
Baseball Reference Stathead