Juuusssst a bit outside! Ten years ago, Mayor Mark Mallory uncorked the wildest Opening Day ceremonial first pitch in Reds history.
With Eric Davis standing behind home plate, and the sold-out crowd watching in Great American Ball Park, Mallory took the mound before the Reds-Cubs game on April 2, 2007.
The mayor, a right-hander, threw the ball with a three-quarters arm motion across his body – and flung it toward the Reds dugout.
Not only did he miss the plate, he missed the batter's box and the entire batter's circle. The ball fell at the feet of one of the umpires, who threw up his right arm as if to eject the pitcher out of the game.
"That's one of the worst Opening pitches I've ever seen!" Reds TV analyst Chris Welsh told Fox Sports Ohio viewers.
Davis, dressed in a black suit with red pinstripes, turned his head toward the dugout with "a look of pained confusion," recalls Kimball Perry, a former Enquirer reporter who was assigned to cover the mayor that day.
Welsh explained to viewers: "Even Eric Davis, as fine of an athlete, and as much ground as he can cover as a defender for the Reds, couldn't even catch up with that one!"
Time magazine's website in 2014 listed Mallory's terrible toss as one of the "Top 10 Worst First Pitches." Time noted that "to Mallory's credit, he maintained a sense of humor about the incident, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer, 'Eric Davis missed the sign. I called for a pitchout.' "
Mallory, almost always seen wearing a suit, wasn't among the most athletic politicians to serve as Cincinnati mayor, Perry says.
"The mayor, as many know, wasn't a prime athlete. He wore a suit everywhere -- even to the hardware store -- and was proud of it," Perry says.
"I followed the mayor and his host, Reds owner Bob Castellini, around that day and it was obvious how nervous Mallory was. He had been practicing throwing out that pitch, Jason, his aide told me, for weeks before Opening Day. Within an hour before the pitch was to be thrown, Mallory was in the batting cages under the Reds dugout practicing throwing to his aide. When it was over, I asked Jason how the mayor had done. The look I got wasn't encouraging but Jason tried to be positive. 'Better, better,' he said.
"I was standing in foul territory between home plate and the Reds dugout. The atmosphere was electric, especially for me, a Cincinnati native.," Perry recalls.
The pitch "came nowhere close to the plate. It actually came almost closer to me than it did the plate. Davis wore on his face a look of pained confusion. He took a step or two to his right, couldn't believe the pitch was that bad and then looked back at Mallory and then started looking around as if to make sure it had really happened as badly as it did. From my vantage point, Davis' look was hilarious…. I busted out laughing (sorry, Mark)."
The wild pitch made Mallory an instant punch line and national celebrity. ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel invited Malloy to Los Angeles for a do over two days later. Actor Kurt Russell was his catcher. The audience wore battling helmets.
Mallory threw two pitches on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." The first one went into the cheering studio audience. (On purpose?) The second actually bounced to Russell, who caught it on a short hop. The audience applauded.
The 2017 Opening Day parade starts at noon Monday, April 3, at Findlay Market. The Reds play the Philadelphia Phillies at 4:10 p.m. on WLW-AM, Fox Sports Ohio and WKRC-TV (Channel 12).