Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Cubs Fact: Geovany Soto

Much was made of the fact that Geovany Soto was the first National League rookie catcher to start an All Star Game. But here is another interesting fact from the 2008 season involving Geovany Soto:

On May 19, 2008, he hit the first inside-the-park home run by a Cubs catcher in 49 years. It had been nearly half a century since catcher Cal Neeman hit an inside-the-parker on June 17, 1959.

Cal Neeman, Topps 1959. Neeman broke in with the Cubs as a 28-year-old rookie in 1957 and established himself as the full-time catcher. He couldn't repeat his '57 success in the following years and instead became a back-up. The Cubs traded him to the Phillies in May, 1960 for my pal Ed Bouchee.

Soto's home run was controversial because replays seemed to show that it was actually an over the fence home run and that the umpires had blown the call. The next day the Astros made some changes to Minute Maid Park to make it easier for umpires to tell if a ball hit in that area is a home run.

This was also the day after umpires messed up a home run call for the Mets' Carlos Delgado. The buzz from two straight days of botched plays by the umpires led to louder talk of instant replay in baseball, which by the end of the season, was implemented.

So the inside-the-park home run by Geovany Soto was historic for two reasons, first Cubs catcher in 49 years, and helping bring about MLB's version of instant replay.

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