Damon's strange play a TYIB winner

Damon's strange play a TYIB winner

NEW YORK -- It was a play that Johnny Damon can surely laugh about now. He would have liked to at the time, but it hurt too much -- both for him and for the Yankees.

Of the many touching and poignant moments that will be replayed from Yankee Stadium's final season, a July 4 matinee against the Red Sox produced one of the bloopers. Damon chased a Kevin Youkilis drive to the warning track and crashed against the wall, momentarily snagging the baseball.

While gravity had its way with Damon, crumpling him to the warning track, the baseball had other ideas. It sat atop the left-field fence, rolling for what seemed like an eternity on the blue padding, before finally falling to earth in one of the year's most bizarre plays.

"I had no clue," Damon said. "When I didn't see it at first, I thought it might have been a home run."

Damon's strange pursuit was chosen as the 2008 Oddity of the Year winner in MLB.com's annual This Year in Baseball Awards presented by State Farm, which was voted on by fans. A record 12 million votes were cast, eclipsing last year's total of 9.6 million.

For background, the play occurred in the third inning of a holiday afternoon scorcher in the Bronx, with the Yankees leading, 3-1. Darrell Rasner delivered a full-count offering to Youkilis, who belted the ball deep to left-center.

Reaching for the wall with his left hand, Damon jumped and appeared to snare the ball, but crashed into the fence and lost his grip. Damon was on his back, his legs in a "V" shape, as the baseball still sat atop the fence.

"I think it was bizarre in that it stayed on the wall," said Mike Lowell, who delivered the game-winning three-run homer for Boston in the fifth inning. "I don't think I've ever seen that."

Looking around, Damon heard it fall behind his head and finally retrieved it, but the damage was done -- two runs scored as Youkilis went to third base, sliding in safely with a triple.

"Johnny's effort was unbelievable -- he ran into that wall at full speed," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's not a catch that you're probably going to make, but Johnny's effort was unbelievable. Unfortunately, he didn't have another step to the wall to secure it."

As for Damon, he wound up on the disabled list for the first time in his career, suffering a bruised AC joint in his throwing shoulder after colliding with the Plexiglas that separated the playing field from Monument Park.

On his way off the field, escorted by Girardi and head trainer Gene Monahan, Damon even stopped at the mound.

"He apologized; said he had it the whole time," Rasner said. "He was apologetic. I don't know why. He did his best to catch that ball, and I appreciate what he did out there."

Damon has a history of being involved in weird outfield happenings. His personal favorite is still the July 21, 2004, game at Fenway Park in which Manny Ramirez decided to become the cutoff man on what would become an inside-the-park home run for David Newhan, diving across the outfield to intercept Damon's throw to Mark Bellhorn. That play was a runner-up as the 2004 This Year In Baseball Blooper of the Year.

"Hopefully, one of these days we can see the overhead of that play and just kind of see how everything converged and happened. It's pretty funny," said Damon.

Damon's ball-on-the-wall play received 18.9 percent of ballots cast from fans around the world. Mets pitcher Johan Santana's infield single against the Cubs on Sept. 23 that hit the broken bat behind the pitcher's mound, sparking a rally that helped New York to a 6-2 win, was second with 13.9 percent.

The Twins' Michael Cuddyer's bobbled catch, off of his own hat in right field at the Metrodome during a May 13 game against the Red Sox, finished in third place with 12.5 percent.

Results will be rolled out daily through Friday. Here is the schedule:

Wednesday, Dec. 17: Manager/Executive
Thursday, Dec. 18: Closer/Setup Man/Starter
Friday, Dec. 19: Moment/Postseason Moment/Performance

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.