20,000 days: Walk-off homer by a pitcherby Chris Jaffe
June 08, 2012
20,000 days ago, one of the rarest of all home runs occurred—a walk-off home run by a pitcher.
On Sept. 5, 1957, the Yankees hosted the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees were in the midst of yet another pennant-winning season; it would be their eighth in the last nine years. But today, things weren’t going their way early.
Boston took an early 2-0 lead and that lead looked like it would hold up behind the pitching of Willard Nixon. Through four innings, only one Yankee had reached second base against him, and none had made it further than that.
The bottom of the eighth got off to a tricky start as he walked the first batter, but then he got the next pair of batters out, and the runner was still stuck at first. However, with the pitcher’s slot due up next, Yankee skipper called for a pinch-hitter: Mickey Mantle, who was enjoying a night off.
Mantle drew another walk, and then so did Tony Kubek to load the bases. It was the first Yankees rally of the day. They capitalized on it, as Gil McDougald singled in a pair of runs to tie it, 2-2. And that was the score heading into the ninth.
Entering the bottom of the ninth, things got off to a good start for the Yankees as Yogi Berra led off with a single. However, rather bizarrely, Berra then tried to steal second and was thrown out easily. Then Harry Simpson flew out, and the game looked headed for extra innings.
Instead, Jerry Lumpe singled to keep the inning alive. Future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter followed that up by working the count for another walk against Nixon.
That brought to the plate Yankees relief pitcher Bob Grim, who had entered the game as a reliever after Mantle pitch hit last inning. It’s a sign of how the game has changed that even though the Yankees were down to their last out, Stengel let Grim bat. Given the choice, Stengel would rather tolerate one out from Grim than lose a pitcher who he felt was on. Even if the Yankees didn’t do it this inning, as long as Grim shut the Red Sox down, the Bronx Bombers would get on the board at some point.
After all, it’s not like Stengel expected anything from Grim at the plate. Grim was a lifetime .127 hitter and in fact didn’t yet have a hit in 1957. (Okay, he ended the year with just nine at-bats. Still, it’s September and he had no hits.)
Grim took a swing at a Nixon offering and to the stunned surprise of everyone, drove it over the fence for a three-run homer run.
In all baseball history, there have been only 33 walk-off home runs by a pitcher. This was one of them, and it happened 20,000 days ago.
Oh – and those 33 walk-off homers by a pitcher? Not only did one happen 20,000 days ago but another happened the very next day on Sept. 6, 1957—19,999 days ago. On that day, White Sox pitcher Dixie Howell belted a solo shot against Wally Burnette of the Kansas City A’s for a 4-3 win. As you can probably guess, it’s the only time baseball had back-to-back days with walk-off homers by pitchers.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
5,000 days since former Royals great Dan Quisenberry dies.
7,000 days since the largest NL regular season crowd ever—80,227—sees the Rockies' first home game.
8,000 days since Kip Gross loses two games 1,100 miles apart. He pitches for the Reds when they lose to the Pirates. Then a Triple-A game he started months earlier but was suspended with the scored tied finally ends today—and his team loses that one, too, giving Gross the loss.
15,000 days since Billy Williams bashes his 300th home run.
15,000 days since Hall of Fame outfielder Goose Goslin dies.
Also, along similar lines, at some point today it’ll be a billion seconds since Rick Honeycutt earned an ejection by using a foreign substance to doctor the ball. Umpires caught him red-handed with a thumbtack in his glove. Adding injury to insult, as he walked to the dugout Honeycutt apparently forgot the tack was still in his glove and went to wipe his brow with it, leaving a little red blood mark in his forehead. Oops.
1888 Hall of Fame starting pitcher and 300-game winner Mickey Welch legs out the only inside the park home run of his career. Making it even odder, the pitcher is George Van Haltren, who is one of the best center fielders of the 1890s. Yeah, that play is a bit backwards.
1903 The Pirates toss their sixth consecutive shutout. Deacon Phillippe gets the complete game in a 6-0 win today.
1908 The Red Sox sign amateur free agent Larry Gardner. He’ll become a high quality infielder for them.
1909 In the Pacific Coast League, Clarence “Cack” Henley pitches all 24 innings for the San Francisco Seals in a 1-0 win.
1911 Van Mungo, one of the better fastball pitchers of his day, is born.
1913 The Cubs purchase former star catcher Roger Bresnahan from the Cardinals.
1917 Umpire Bill Byron ejects John McGraw for the second time in three days. Mugsy, as McGraw hates to be called, doesn’t take it lightly and after the contest he bloodies Byron’s lip.
1920 During a long argument with an umpire in the infield, Reds outfielder Edd Roush gets so bored he lies down and actually falls asleep. He’s ejected for delaying the game.
1920 The Phillies trade Hall of Fame shortstop Dave Bancroft to the Giants for a pair of players and cash.
1921 Babe Ruth is fined $100 and held in custody until 4 p.m. for speeding on New York City’s Riverside Drive. This is especially rough for Ruth because today’s game starts at 3:15.
1925 Del Ennis, outfielder, is born.
1925 Eddie Gaedel, the little person who pinch-hit for Bill Veeck’s Browns in 1951, is born.
1925 Longtime manager Hughie Jennings fills out his last lineup card. He served as Tigers skipper from 1907-20 and since then has worked as a Giants coach. His friend and boss John McGraw is missing some games, so Jennings is filling in for the time being.
1925 Hall of Fame starting pitcher Waite Hoytdoes something odd for a pitcher, even back then—he legs out two triples in one game, which his Yankees win, 6-5. Hoyt gets only 11 triples in his entire career.
1926 Babe Ruth bashes a home run in Detroit that supposedly goes 602 feet.
1927 Tony Lazzeri smacks three home runs in one game.
1930 Babe Ruth becomes the first player to strike out 1,000 times in his career.
1932 Superstar pitcher Lefty Grove smacks a home run off another pretty good pitcher, Mel Harder.
1933 Jimmie Foxx, who homered in his last at-bat yesterday, goes deep in each of his first three times up today for a record-tying four consecutive home runs.
1935 Lou Gehrig has to leave a game with an arm/shoulder injury after a collision at first base. His consecutive games streak is in jeopardy but luckily for him the next day is a rain-out and June 10 is an open day.
1936 In the Negro Leagues, John “Neck” Stanley pitches a no-hitter for the New York Cubans against the Newark Eagles.
1938 Star Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell, just a few weeks shy of his 35th birthday, steals the only base of his career.
1938 Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon connects for his only career pinch-hit home run. It’s only his second homer overall.
1940 Dodgers reliever Carl Doyle has an impressively awful day, allowing 14 runs on 16 hits in four innings. Brooklyn loses, 23-2.
1940 Harry Craft hits for the cycle.
1944 Super fielding shortstop Mark Belanger is born.
1947 Hall of Fame second baseman Nellie Fox makes his big league debut.
1947 The Senators top the White Sox 1-0 in 18 innings in an all-time great pitchers duel. Walt Masterson of Washington throws 16 shutout innings for a Game Score of 111, while Frank Papish has 13 scoreless frames for Chicago for a Game Score of 96. Early Wynn picks up the win in relief.
1950 It’s the biggest blowout of the 20th century as the Red Sox pummel the Browns, 29-4. Boston also scored 20 runs the day before, making this the only back-to-back 20-run performances any team has had since 1900. After today, the Browns will fire team hypnotist David Tracy, who had been brought in to break the team’s “loser syndrome.”
Among other things, Boston second baseman Bobby Doerr hits three homers in one game and gets a career best eight RBIs. The win pushes the career record for Boston manager Joe McCarthy to 800 games over .500 (2,122-1,322), his all-time peak. (Soon, Boston will start a slide that will result in McCarthy’s midseason resignation and retirement from the game).
1954 Ralph Kiner enjoys the last of his 40 multi-homer games.
1955 The Brooklyn Dodgers option pitcher Tommy Lasorda to the minors to make room for bonus baby Sandy Koufax. This is a very good move.
1956 Veteran AL manager Lou Boudreau endures his 1,000th loss. His record: 1,038-1,000.
1958 Felipe Alou makes his big league debut.
1959 Britt Burns is born. He’ll be a nice young pitcher for the White Sox until a degenerative hip sidelines him.
1959 The St. Louis Cardinals sign amateur free agent Tim McCarver. All these years later and he’s still around the game.
1961 The A’s sign 18-year-old amateur pitcher Lew Krausse to a bonus deal of $125,000, reportedly a record.
1961 The Tigers lose a game 1-0 to Cleveland in epically frustrating fashion. Cleveland scores in the top of the first, and then even though the Tigers muster 10 hits on the day they can’t get to the blasted plate.
1961 Gary Geiger suffers a historically dumb mental miscue. In the bottom of the 11th inning, he hits a game-tying triple—but he thinks its’ a game-winning triple. So he starts running off the field and is tagged out. The game ends in a tie and his side loses the replay.
1962 After losing 17 straight, the expansion Mets finally win one, topping the Cubs, 4-3. That makes them 13-36 on the year. Then they lose the second game of a doubleheader, becoming 13-37.
1964 The A’s sign amateur free agent Catfish Hunter, and give him that nickname.
1964 Jim King of the Washington Senators hits three home runs in one game.
1965 Jim Bunning loses his 100th game, giving him a record of 142-100.
1965 It’s the first ever baseball amateur draft. The A’s take Rick Monday with the very first pick. After that, the following players will be taken (and later sign with their teams): Reds – Johnny Bench and Hal McRae; Yankees – Stan Bahnsen; Cubs – Ken Holtzman; Twins – Graig Nettles; Red Sox – Amos Otis; Mets – Nolan Ryan and Steve Renko; A’s – Gene Tenace and Sal Bando; Pirates – Freddie Patek.
The following drafts occur but the players don’t sign: Tigers – Andy Messersmith; Dodgers – Tom Seaver, and Cubs – Darrell Evans.
1965 Astros reliever Hal Woodeshick suffers the embarrassment of a walk-off balk as the Pirates top his team 7-6 in 11 innings.
1966 Randy Hundley becomes the only person not named Hank Aaron to ever hit a grand slam off Don Drysdale. Aaron hit two, Hundley one, and those are the only three Drysdale ever allows.
1966 In a doubleheader, Washington second baseman Bob Saverine ties a record for futility by going 0-for-12. Red Schoendienst did likewise in 1947.
1968 With one out in the fifth inning, Don Drysdale allows a run, ending his scoreless streak at 58.1 innings.
1968 Indians outfielder Jose Cardenal gets an unassisted double play. He’ll get another one in July, becoming just the fourth outfielder to pick up a pair like that.
1968 The Mets refuse to play today due to Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. They’re in San Francisco where the assassination has just occurred. They stay in their hotel and will play a doubleheader the next day.
1969 Milt Pappas allows 11 hits and walks two but gets the complete game win anyway—largely thanks to his own bat. His two-run homer is the difference in Atlanta’s 4-3 win over the Pirates.
1969 The Seattle Pilots trade starting pitcher Gary Bell to the Yankees. He’s famous as Jim Bouton’s first roommate in Ball Four.
1969 The Yankees retire No. 7 for Mickey Mantle.
1971 It’s the annual draft. These teams draft (and will go on to sign) these players: Cubs – Burt Hooton; Expos – Steve Rogers; Angels – Frank Tanana; Red Sox – Jim Rice; Dodgers – Rick Rhoden; Astros – Craig Reynolds; Royals – George Brett and Steve Busby; Phillies – Mike Schmidt; Yankees – Ron Guidry; and Cardinas – Keith Hernandez.
These teams draft players they won’t sign this year: Cardinals – Roy Smalley; Red Sox – Duane Kuiper; and Houston – Mike Flanagan.
1971 For the only time in his career, Rod Carew plays an entire nine-inning game at third base.
1973 Tommy John achieves his 100th career win.
1975 It’s a great pitcher's duel as Baltimore tops the Royals, 1-0. There are five hits in all, with four coming off Kansas City’s Steve Busby. Jim Palmer throws one of his five career one-hitters. Hal McRae gets the sole KC safety in the fourth inning.
1975 Former Orioles workhorse Dave McNally appears in his final game.
1975 Mike Schmidt suffers through maybe his worst game, going 0-for-4 with four Ks. He has four other four-strikeout games, but this is the only one in just four plate appearances.
1975 Pirates pitcher John Candelaria makes his big league debut.
1976 Once again, it’s draft day. These teams will draft and sign these players: A’s – Rickey Henderson; Tigers – Jack Morris and Alan Trammell; Red Sox – Wade Boggs and Bruce Hurst; Astros – Floyd Bannister; White Sox – Steve Trout; Cardinals – Leon Durham; Dodgers – Mike Scioscia; Mets – Mike Scott.
1977 For the fourth time in his career, Nolan Ryan fans 19 batters in a game.
1980 Well, that was odd timing. Between games of a doubleheader, the Cardinals fire manager Ken Boyer. Soon they’ll bring in Whitey Herzog to turn around the franchise’s fortunes.
1981 Lee May gets his 2,000th career hit
1981 Draft day. These teams draft—and will sign—these players: Padres – Tony Gwynn and John Kruk; Yankees – Fred McGriff; Mariners – Mark Langston and Phil Bradley; Royals – David Cone and Mark Gubicza; Dodgers – John Franco and Sid Fernandez; Reds – Paul O'Neill; Cubs – Joe Carter; Twins – Frank Viola; A’s – Mickey Tettleton.
1982 Satchel Paige, Negro League great, dies.
1983 Lou Whitaker has a career high 11 total bases as he gets two doubles, a triple, and a home run. He thus misses the cycle by a single.
1986 An Orioles win puts their all-time franchise record to 586 games under .500 (6,273-6,840), which is as close as it's ever come since the team formerly known as the Browns moved from St. Louis to Baltimore. At this point, their Baltimore-only record is 2,811-2,286. It also moves Earl Weaver to 449 games over .500, his best (1,440-991).
Today’s game is an 18-9 win over the Yankees that sets a record as the longest nine-inning contest in AL history—four hours and 16 minutes. Lee Lacy smacks three homers in it for the O’s.
1986 Five years to the day of when he was drafted, David Cone makes his big league debut.
1986 Crafty lefty Terry Mulholland makes his big league debut.
1988 The Giants trade Jeffrey Leonard to the Brewers.
1989 The Pirates use 16 batters in the first inning—but somehow lose the game anyway. They take a 10-0 lead after the first only to see the Phillies roar back to win, 15-11. This game became famous because Pirates announcer Jim Rooker jokes that if the team loses, he’ll walk home from Philadelphia from here. And when they did lose, he did walk back.
1990 Kirby Puckett laces a first-inning single off Chicago’s Jack McDowell to raise his batting average to its all-time peak, .324598 (1,313 hits in 4,045 at bats).
1991 Roberto Alomar steals four bases in one game.
1992 Former Astros reliever Dave Smith appears in his final game.
1995 Mickey Mantle receives a liver transplant.
1996 C. Arnholt Smith, the original Padres owner, dies at age 97.
1996Roberto Alomar’s best career hitting streak peaks at 22 games. He’s 40-for-76 with five doubles and six home runs for a AVG/OBP/SLG of .476/.540/.750.
1997 Second baseman Jose Vidro makes his big league debut.
1998 Sammy Sosa, in the midst of a 20-home run month, homers in his fifth consecutive game.
1999 A’s ace Tim Hudson makes his big league debut.
2001 It's probably the greatest Chicago crosstown classic since interleague play began. Carlos Lee smacks a walk-off grand slam against the Cubs for a 7-3 White Sox win. It happens before a South Side crowd of 45,936, which is a record for the park then called New Comiskey Park.
2001 Damion Easley hits for the cycle.
2001 Luis Gonzalez hits three home runs in a game for the Diamondbacks.
2001 Toronto signs free agent Tony Fernandez.
2002 Curt Schilling wins his 10th straight game, his personal best. His line in that span: 10-0, 10 G, 74.1 IP, 53 H, 23 R, 23 ER, 6 BB, 102 K, and a 2.78 ERA. Yes, he really had 102 Ks versus only six walks.
2003 Sammy Sosa gets his 2,000th career hit.
2005 Alex Rodriguez mashes his 600th home run.
2005 Detroit trades reliever Ugueth Urbina and another player to the Phillies for infielder Placido Polanco.
2006 Scott Erickson plays in his final game.
2007 Alfonso Soriano hits three home runs in one game.
2008 Rich Harden of the A’s strikes out the side against the Angels on the bare minimum of nine pitches in the first inning.
2008 It’s an ugly event for Tampa Bay. On the mound, catcher Dioner Navarro and pitcher Matt Garza get into such a heated argument that the pitching coach has to break it up. Then they nearly get into a fistfight in the dugout tunnel.
2010 Super-prospect Stephen Strasburg makes his big league debut for the Nationals and he does not disappoint. He fans 14 batters in just seven innings work, throwing fewer than 100 pitches. Not bad.
2010 Tim Wakefield passes Roger Clemens for most innings thrown by a Boston pitcher.
2011 Former Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup dies at age 71.
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.