10th anniversary: Curt Schilling vs QuesTec cameraby Chris Jaffe
May 24, 2013
10 years ago today, a memorable act of anger occurred in baseball – star Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling destroyed a camera.
It wasn’t just any old camera he destroyed, but a QuesTec camera. QuesTec cameras were new things to baseball. Major league baseball had signed a contract with the QuesTec company to install cameras in some major league ball parks to track pitches. The QuesTec cameras were special in that they would not just photograph pitches, but could record with precision where the ball was when it crossed the plate. In other words, it could tell us what pitches were balls and which ones were strikes.
This was a big deal because ever since at least the 1980s, complaints had arisen that umpires didn’t call the rulebook strike zone. Instead, they abandoned the high strike and called many outside pitches strikes. The QuesTec cameras provided feedback on how accurate umpires were. With these cameras in operation, big brother was watching like never before. This was new.
Since the cameras could be used to rate umpire performance, they started calling a more textbook strike zone. At least they did when playing in stadiums with QuesTec cameras. When the first roll out happened, only six stadiums had them.
Not only were umpires concerned about the new cameras, but so were some pitchers. They’d gotten used to throwing in the umpires’ strike zone and felt threatened that some of their old, reliable strikes were now being taken for balls.
Clearly, one pitcher who didn’t like the new camera was Curt Schilling. He was a pitcher whose game relied considerably on control. The year before he allowed the fewest walks per nine inning of any NL pitcher. In 2001, he’d been runner up in that category, and would be again in 2003.
On May 24, 2003, Schilling took the mound at home against the Padres. Unfortunately, for Schilling his home stadium in Arizona was one of 13 stadiums that had a QuesTec camera by 2003.
Looking at Schilling’s numbers, it doesn’t look like the cameras hurt him very much. He walked just two while fanning 11 in seven innings work. He allowed three runs and got the loss, but that had more to do with poor run support than anything.
But Schilling was steamed, so he grabbed a bat and destroyed one of the two QuesTec cameras in the park. The powers that be in major league baseball would fine him $15,000 for his actions. Schilling admitted his action was immature, but said the umpires told him before the game that they affected how they call games, and Schilling didn’t like that.
Ultimately, QuesTec cameras are no more in baseball, but the technology is still here. Now every baseball broadcast has their gadgets that can tell us exactly where the pitch was. We have pitch F/X data that does likewise.
Ultimately, Curt Schilling lost the war. That tends to be the case with Luddites, and Curt Schilling’s anti-technology moment came 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary of “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
2,000 days since Cleveland signs free agent pitcher Roberto Hernandez.
2,000 days since San Diego signs free agent pitcher Randy Wolf.
4,000 days since Albert Pujols launches his second career grand slam.
4,000 days since Tampa’s Jared Sandberg hits two home runs in one inning.
5,000 days since baseball owner approve the sale of the Reds from Marge Schott to Carl Lidner for $67 million.
5,000 days since baseball owners vote to merge the AL and NL administrative operations. NL president Leonard Coleman announces his resignation, effective at the conclusion of the World Series. Basically, the two leagues are becoming conferences.
9,000 days since George Brett, age 35, spends an inning playing shortstop, a position he hasn’t been at in six seasons.
9,000 days since several players appears in their last big league game, as the 1988 regular season winds up. The most notable of those players include: Larry Parrish, Phil Garner, Ray Knight, and Ted Simmons.
20,000 days since Milwaukee Braves pitcher Lew Burdette hits a two-run homer while throwing a complete game shutout to defeat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 4-0.
At some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the White Sox announce the suspension of announcer Jimmy Piersall for making “derogatory remarks” about player wives.
1880 Buffalo center fielder Bill Crowley has four assists in one game. He’ll do it again on Aug. 27, 1880.
1880 Roger Connor, the all-time home run king before Babe Ruth, hits his first home run.
1884 Al Atkinson throws a no-hitter. He hits the first batter, who then advances on a sacrifice fly, then on a force, and scores on a passed ball. However, that first batter is the only one who reaches base, and Atkinson wins, 10-1.
1884 Right fielder Mike Dorgan makes five errors in one game for the Giants in a game against Providence.
1886 Star second baseman Fred Dunlap hits for the cycle.
1888 Hardie Henderson, a solid pitcher for the 1880s, appears in his last game.
1892 Despite tallying only 14 hits, Brooklyn scores 24 runs in a 24-4 romp over Washington.
1892 Joe Oeschger, pitcher, is born. He is most famous for throwing a 26 inning complete game in the longest major league contest ever, on May 1, 1920.
1893 Wily catcher Connie Mack starts a triple play when he “misses” a pop up in front of home plate.
1895 Hall of Fame slugger Sam Thompson hits his 100th career home run. He’s the fourth member of the club.
1895 The Phillies make 13 errors, but still win, 14-13 in 10 innings.
1897 Brewery Jack Taylor becomes the only pitcher to hit the ball out of the park against Cy Young. (He surrenders five other homers from pitchers, but they’re all inside the park shots).
1902 Cleveland Indians star Bill Bradley becomes the first player to homer in four straight games.
1903 In order to avoid a local ban on Sunday baseball, the Detroit Tigers play in Grand Rapids, defeating Washington, 5-4.
1907 Braves hurler Pat Flaherty becomes the first NL pitcher to smack a grand slam.
1918 Future Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski throws a 19 inning complete game, beating the Yankees, 3-2.
1920 In a bookmaking sting, the Chicago police arrest 24 fans in the Wrigley Field bleachers.
1924 Hall of Fame third baseman Pie Traynor will have just 58 homers in his career, but today makes the third straight game where he hits one. This is an inside the park shot, while the other two both cleared the fence.
1928 It’s perhaps the game with the most prestigious dueling lineups when the Yankees and A’s play today. The game includes 12 Hall of Famers, including Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Cochrane, and Tony Lazzeri. The players in the lineups have a combined 42,356 hits.
1929 Joe Cronin hits his first career home run.
1929 The Tigers top the White Sox, 6-5 in 21 innings. Ted Lyons goes the distance in the loss. George Uhle pitches 20 innings for the save, while Lil Stoner gets the save. Ted Lyons becomes the last pitcher to throw more than 20 innings in a game.
1931 Mel Ott hits two triples in one game. He’ll do it again 11 days late, but never again in his career.
1932 Babe Ruth hits the last of his 17 home runs off of Rube Walberg. That is the most homers he has against any single pitcher.
1932 Lefty Gomez has his best career Game Score: 91. His line: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB and 13 K.
1935 Night time finally comes to baseball. The Reds host the major league’s first night game. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt turns on the lights at Crosley Field from a switch at the White House.
1936 Sam Leslie hits for the cycle.
1936 Tony Lazzeri has a game for the ages, hitting two grand slams in a game – something no one had ever done before. He gets a third homer, too, for 11 RBIs in a day. He also gets a double. And he hit two home runs the day before for fiver homers in two games.
1939 Barney Pelty, pitcher, dies at age 58. In the early 20th century, he once led the AL in losses and twice in HBP.
1939 Star second baseman Charlie Gehringer, age 36 years and 13 days, hits an inside the park home run.
1939 The Dodgers all-time cumulative franchise record bottoms out at 200 games under .500 (3,903-4,103).
1940 It’s the right time for the nighttime. It’s the first night game at the Polo Grounds. The Giants win, 8-1 over Boston. It’s also the first night game at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, where the Browns lose, 3-2 to Cleveland. Bob Feller gets the win—and hits a home run along the way.
1941 The Braves sign free agent Paul Waner.
1941 10 down, 46 to go—Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak hits double digits.
1941 Minor league pitcher Hal Toenes doesn’t throw a single pitch—but gets the win anyway. He picks off a runner in the top of the ninth and then the team rallies with six runs in the bottom of the frame to win.
1942 In Japan, Nagoya and Taiyo fight for 28 innings, only to end in a tie, 4-4. Only 19 players are used in all – 10 for Taiyo and nine for Nagoya.
1942 Brooklyn releases longtime star pitcher Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons.
1946 Ernie Lombardi hits a pinch-hit, walk-off home run. Not bad.
1946 Dick Bartell plays in his last game.
1946 The Yankees announce the resignation of longtime manager Joe McCarthy.
1947 There have been plenty of pinch-hit home runs, but only one first inning pinch-hit home run. Carl Furillo hits it for the Dodgers coming to the plate for Gene Hermanski.
1949 Jackie Robinson enjoys the first of eight career multi-home run career games.
1949 Minor league pitcher Mickey McDermott fans 20 in game, including the last six batters. He gets three Ks in the third, fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth frames.
1952 Billy Martin gets in a pre-game fight with Jimmy Piersall.
1953 In the eighth inning, Brooklyn plates 12 runs before making a single out, including two different bases loaded triples.
1953 It’s the hard way to learn about gravity. “Mad Monk” Russ Meyer tosses the rosin bag into the air after the umpires eject him—and it lands on his head. He’s fine, but he looks like the Pillsbury doughboy.
1954 The White Sox sign longtime star Phil Cavarretta.
1956 Mickey Mantle goes 5-for-5 to raise his average to .421 on the year.
1957 Roy Campanella has his 22nd and final multi-home run games in his career.
1957 New Cub Frank Ernaga has one of the greatest starts to a career anyone has ever had. Not only does he homer in his first at bat, but he triples in his second. It’s all downhill from here.
1958 Hall of Fame umpire Jocko Conlan criticizes batting helmets, saying they, “are an inviting target for pitchers to throw at.”
1960 Washington signs free agent contact hitter Elmer Valo.
1963 Sandy Koufax has one of his worst days, tying a career worst Game Score of 20. His line: 0.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, and 1 K.
1964 Harmon Killebrew hits a 471 foot home run in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium reputedly the longest ever hit there. It’s in center-left off Milt Pappas.
1964 Lou Brock, still a young Cub, steals home for the first time. It comes on a double steal with Billy Williams.
1966 For the only time in his career, Jimmy "Toy Cannon" Wynn gets on base via catcher’s interference.
1967 Whoops! Mickey Mantle goes to catch a Frank Robinson blast at the wall, but it pops over his glove and lands over the fenced for a home run.
1967 Tommy McCraw of the White Sox hits three home runs in one game. He’ll end the year with 11 homers – his personal best.
1969 Ernie Banks hits the last of his 12 career grand slams.
1969 John Sipin of the Padres debuts by hitting a pair of triples. He’ll play 68 more games, and never triple again.
1970 Tony Horton of the Indians hits three home runs in one game.
1971 Reds pitcher Gary Nolan throws a one-hitter, but loses 2-1. The hit is a two-run homer by Philadelphia’s Denny Doyle.
1972 California pitcher Don Rose hits a home run in his first at bat. He gets the win, too. Then he never homers or gets another win.
1973 Bartolo Colon is born.
1973 Red Sox teammates Reggie Smith and Bill Lee get in a clubhouse brawl following an on-field fight.
1973 Willie Davis of the Dodgers hits six hits in a 19 inning game that doesn’t end until 1:42 AM.
1973 Bert Blyleven wins, pushing his career record to 48-47. It’ll be over .500 from here on out.
1978 Brad Penny, pitcher, is born.
1978 In the Florida State League, the Tampa Tarpons score 18 runs in the eighth inning. They have just nine hits that inning, but also benefit from six errors, three wild pitches, and six errors.
1979 Yankees manager Billy Martin issues a public apology to Reno sportswriter Ray Hagar, who he brawled with in November. A suit had been filed, but settled out of court.
1980 Lloyd Moseby makes his big league debut.
1982 Jay Johnstone breaks out of an 0-for-21 slump with a pinch-hit double. When he gets back to the Dodger dugout, Tommy Lasorda tells him he’s been released.
1984 Tigers ace Jack Morris notches his 17th straight road win.
1984 Phil Niekro has his 13th straight Quality Start, a personal best. He’s 8-2 in 93.2 IP and a 1.54 ERA in that span.
1988 Chicago residents have the rare chance to see three big league games in one day, as the Cubs play a daytime doubleheader at Wrigley followed by a Sox night game on the South Side.
1988 Veteran catcher Butch Wynegar appears in his last game. He was great when he first came up, but the rest of his career didn’t really go according to plan.
1988 Jamie Moyer has the longest outing of his career: 9.1 IP. He surrenders a three-run walk-off homer for a 3-0 game in a complete game loss.
1989 Yankees reliever Lee Guttermann allows his first run of the year, after starting the season with 30.2 scoreless IP.
1989 David Justice makes his big league debut.
1991 Johnny Oates manages his first big league debut. Rather fitting that it’s on May 24, as it’s the 10th anniversary of his last game as a player. So that’s a nice symbolic transition.
1992 John Smoltz sets a career record with 15 strikeouts in one game. He later ties that record, but never tops it.
1992 The Tigers sign free agent pitcher Jamie Moyer.
1993 Blame the flood. Only 15 fans in the stands for today’s Rockford-Quad City game in the Midwest League. The fans include two scouts and one mascot. The stadium is by the Mississippi River, which is flooding badly.
1993 Davey Johnson replaces Tony Perez as Reds manager. The club fired the rookie manager after just 44 games.
1993 Luis Polonia is caught stealing three times, tying an AL record.
1994 The Cardinals set a record with 16 runners left on base, losing 4-0. They had nine hits and eight walks.
1995 Dennis Eckersley gets his 300th save.
1995 Mike Blowers drives in eight runs for the Mariners.
1995 The White Sox and Rangers have a never ending doubleheader, seven hours and 39 minutes of baseball. The White Sox win the first game, 10-8, but lose the next one, 13-6. Only a few hundred fans survive the day.
1996 John Smoltz posts his 100th career win, giving him a record of 100-83.
1996 Ken Griffey Jr. hits three home runs in one game for the first time in his career. He’s 4-for-4 with a walk, five runs, and six RBIs.
1997 Seattle releases aging pitcher Dennis Martinez.
19999 Tom Glavine has his worst outing ever: 2.2 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, and 2 K for a Game Score of –1. Yes, negative one.
2000 Major league baseball hands down a flood of suspensions on the Dodgers—16 players and three coaches receive suspensions for going into the crowd at Wrigley Field the night a fan stole the hat of backup catcher Chad Krueter. The players get a total 60 games worth of suspensions, and 24 games for the coaches.
2000 Houston blows their second seven-run lead of the week. That’s never happened before in baseball history.
2000 Mark McGwire hits his 20th home run. It’s just his team’s 35th game of the season, the fastest ever.
2000 Pat the Bat Burrell makes his big league debut.
2000 Shawn Estes throws a complete game shutout and hits a grand slam. In fact, he narrowly misses a second slam, too. The Giants destroy the Expos, 18-0.
2001 Jon Lieber needs just 79 pitches for a one-hit shutout for the Cubs over the Reds.
2002 Safeco Field officials call the fire and police departments when a canister hits the roof from a plane, and lands in the street. There are fears of terrorism, but it turns out to be the ashes of an avid Seattle Mariners fan.
2002 Jeff Bagwell has his worst game, according to WPA: -0.654. He’s 0-for-6 with a GIDP as the Astros lose to the Cubs 5-4 in extra innings.
2002 Shawn Green hits five home runs in two games, tying a record.
2002 Tim Raines hits his first pinch-hit home run, which turns out to be his last ever home run.
2004 One time sabermetric darling Erubiel Durazo appears in his last game.
2006 Adam Wainwright homers in his first at bat—and on the first pitch he sees.
2006 Arizona trades Orlando Hernandez to the Mets.
2007 John Smoltz notches his 200th win, out-dueling longtime teammate Tom Glavine in the process. Smoltz’s record is now 200-139.
2011 Carlos Quentin of the White Sox smacks three home runs in one game.
2012 Reports emerge that the Steinbrenner family is looking to sell the Yankees. The family vigorously denies these reports.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.