Mike Napoli, Kolten Wong

Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, right, celebrates after tagging out St. Louis Cardinals pinch-runner Kolten Wong on a pick-off throw to end Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press / October 27, 2013)

ST. LOUIS – In the ninth inning, the manager called for a pinch-runner.

The pinch-runner was playing in his first World Series. He took first base. He took his lead.

And, with all of America watching him for the first time in his life, he was promptly picked off.

This was not Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, in Game 4 of this World Series. This was Herb Washington of the Oakland Athletics in 1974, in Game 2 of the World Series.

Washington had to live with that scar. Never did baseball offer him another chance to star on the grand stage.

Washington was a track star, recruited by A's owner Charlie Finley to be a designated runner. As he learned the hard way, and as Wong showed Sunday, baserunning is much more than pure speed.

Washington was a world-class sprinter. He played in 105 games for the A’s. He never batted.

He stole 31 bases, but he was caught 17 times. That is about learning how to take a lead off the base, and how to read a pitcher.

Wong failed on both counts Sunday. For the first time in World Series history, a game ended on a pickoff and, worse, with Carlos Beltran at the plate, one of the most prolific hitters in postseason history representing the tying run.

After the game, Manager Mike Matheny said Wong had been alerted that Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara had a good pickoff move. He said Wong was told not only in pregame meetings, but as he went out to pinch-run.

“Also, he was reminded that run didn’t mean much, be careful, shorten up [on the lead off first base],” Matheny said. “And he got a little extra. Then he slipped, and the slip cost him.”

Wong fought back tears as he addressed the media after the game, recounting his gaffe to wave upon wave of reporters.

He also took to Twitter to apologize to the St. Louis fans.

“All i want to say is i'm sorry #CardinalNation I go out everyday playing this game as hard as I can and leaving everything on the field,” he tweeted.

He followed with this tweet: “I want tho tell everyone thank you for the support.”

That support came not only from Cardinals fans, but from his Cardinals teammates.

“We’ve got a couple guys, myself included, that have said some things to him,” second baseman Matt Carpenter said, “the message most importantly being that that was not the reason we lost the game.

“That was how the game ended, but … certainly it was not the reason we lost. There were a lot of other factors that were in play.”

Matheny said he was heartened that Wong took the aftermath of the pickoff so seriously.

“There’s nothing wrong with sitting on it for awhile,” Matheny said.