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Grace's arm earns Blooper honors
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12/11/2002 07:40 am ET 
Grace's arm earns Blooper honors
Pitching debut earns inaugural honors
By Rich Draper /

Mark Grace imitates teammate Mike Fetters as he prepares to pitch against the Dodgers on Sept. 2. (Paul Connors/AP)
• Grace's pitching debut:
56K | 300K

PHOENIX -- How can a game of monstrously losing proportions quickly turn into one of laughter and fun?

Try a little comic relief.

That's what Diamondbacks veteran first baseman Mark Grace did while the NL West-leading club was dropping a 19-1 blowout to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Bank One Ballpark on Sept. 2.

The 38-year-old Grace, armed with a 70-mph fastball and a quiver full of one-liners, took the edge off the anguish of defeat by taking the mound in the ninth inning, fulfilling his wish to pitch in the Major Leagues after 14 seasons.

It was a quintessential funny moment, and America's baseball fans overwhelmingly endorsed Grace's appearance as the just-announced winner of the Blooper of the Year honors for the 2002 season, part of's "This Year in Baseball Awards."

This Year in Baseball Awards
Play of the Year: Hunter robs Bonds
Blooper of the Year: A Grace-ful outing
Setup Man of the Year: Chris Hammond
Defensive Player of the Year: Torii Hunter
Pitcher of the Year: John Smoltz
Player of the Year: Alex Rodriguez

It easily beat the competition, which included Seattle skipper Lou Piniella covering home plate with dirt, Houston's Jason Lane having troubles in right field, Marlins' outfielder Kevin Millar coming up short on a try for a two-base hit and a young Red Sox "announcer" calling a homer by the opposition.

Arizona starter Rick Helling handed the Dodgers a 7-0 lead, then reliever Eddie Oropesa was forced to grit his teeth in the eighth inning, giving up 10 runs without any help from an already depleted bullpen.

So in the ninth, out trots Grace. He had teased longtime friend and TV announcer Rick Sutcliffe for years about how easy a pitcher's life was. He soon learned the downside.

    Mark Grace   /   1B
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
Player page
Hit chart
D-Backs site

Grace got the first two batters on fly balls, but LA rookie Dave Ross crushed his first-ever big-league homer to left field on a 67-mph, pitch. Grace retired the side in relative triumph after throwing 12 pitches -- five balls and seven strikes.

"That poor kid got his first home run and it was off Mark Grace," laughed Grace. "But five minutes of fun in a game like this, I'll take it,"

The fans especially loved Grace's dead-on imitation of teammate Mike Fetters' unusual pre-pitch ritual, which features a deep breath, a blink-of-an-eye turn of the head and a demonic-like stare at the batter.'s "This Year in Baseball Awards" debuted on Nov. 7. More than 300,000 votes were cast for the six inaugural awards, which included Play of the Year, Blooper of the Year, Setup Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year.

The awards were created to allow fans to have the final say on the top moments and players from the 2002 baseball season.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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