By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Mookie Betts battled, and battled, then battled some more during Thursday night’s victory over the Blue Jays. Eventually, the Red Sox’ All-Star outfielder won his battle with pitcher J.A. Happ, launching a much-ballyhooed grand slam into the night sky over the Green Monster.
It was cause for much celebration, but it didn’t necessarily impress Betts’ own manager.
“Well, as everybody knows here, I know about long at-bats. I mean, it’s just … 13 pitches? That’s nothing, actually,” Alex Cora said while cracking a smile after the 6-4 win. “You know? If it’s an 18 pitches, that’s a long at-bat.”
To those who may not be aware, Cora was referencing his own 18-pitch at-bat, which he authored back in May of 2004 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the time, it was tied for being the third-longest at-bat in MLB history. Though since then, it’s been moved into a tie for fourth when new record holder Brandon Belt flew out earlier this season to end a 21-pitch marathon at-bat.
Cora’s at-bat came against one-time Red Sox pitcher Matt Clement, who at the time was a member of the Chicago Cubs. And it ended in equally spectacular fashion, as Cora smashed a home run to right field at Dodger Stadium, over the head of Sammy Sosa.
For sentimentality’s sake, here are some other fun folks playing in that game: Former Sox second baseman/Johnny Damon collider Damian Jackson, Moises “Wet Hands” Alou, notorious hot head Milton Bradley, and a 25-year-old Adrian Beltre (who would end up leading the NL with 48 home runs that year).
Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of the internet (and MLB’s dedication to archiving footage), Cora’s entire at-bat can still be viewed online. It begins with a not-so-subtle burn from legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, who said at the start of the at-bat: “Alex Cora, couple of fly balls. So when you don’t have power, a couple of fly balls is pretty much wasted opportunities.”
Cora ultimately proved Scully wrong with his two-run blast to right to break a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Dodgers would win 4-0.
Check out the video below (and check the special cameos from soon-to-be Red Sox hero Dave Roberts):
The homer was Cora’s second of the 2004 season, which ended up being the best homer-hitting season of his career. He hit 10 that season, after he had hit just 17 combined in the four previous seasons. In his career, he hit 35 homers in 3,408 at-bats. That one in May of 2004 was as memorable as any.
And based on the perfect form on that bat flip, you’d never know Cora was such a novice when it came to belting big league home runs.
Obviously, Cora’s dismissal of Betts’ blast was in jest. But as history clearly shows, Cora knows a thing or two about outlasting a pitcher in an impossibly long at-bat.