20th anniversary: Rickey’s 1,000th stealby Chris Jaffe
May 01, 2012
Twenty years ago, one of baseball’s most impressive career milestones was achieved. It was a milestone that had never been reached before and has never been attained since.
On May 1, 1992, world-class base stealer Rickey Henderson led off for the A’s by doubling against Detroit and then immediately stealing third base. That swipe was No. 1,000 for Henderson. Yeah, that’s not bad.
This is an incredible achievement. Only three others even topped 850 steals, and two of those played before the lively ball era began. Only Lou Brock has even approached 1,000 steals, and he came fairly well short, with 938.
Henderson? Not only did he get to 1,000, but he blew past it. He ended his career with 1,406 steals. If he’d had just one more, he’d have exactly 50 percent more than runner-up Lou Brock.
As for 1,000 steals itself, in the last 20 years only two guys have even topped the 600 stolen base marker, Kenny Lofton and Otis Nixon. Neither made it to 700, let alone 1,000. Among active players, only Juan Pierre is over 500.
Some achievements get more attention; 500 homers, 300 wins, 3,000 hits come to mind. But those are far easier to attain than 1,000 steals. Actually, that’s one reason they get more attention. A one-man club like 1,000 steals isn’t much of a club. It’s Henderson’s exclusive domain.
And he first made it to that domain 20 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something happening X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim the lists.
1,000 days since Jason Schmidt appears in his final game.
4,000 days since Barry Bonds smacks three home runs in one game for the second time in his career.
5,000 days since the Blue Angels air force planes buzz Wrigley Field during a game. Video of the incident is here.
5,000 days since Barry Bonds hits his 400th home run. His original goal in baseball was to have 400 homers and 400 steals. Now he’s achieved it, and no one cares. He’ll decide to focus on homers from now on.
5,000 days since Felipe Alou manages his 1,000th game. His record: 521-479.
8,000 days since Cecil Fielder hits three homers in one game for the second time in his career.
8,000 days since the Yankees fire manager Bucky Dent.
9,000 days since Jose Mesa makes his big league debut.
15,000 days since longtime shortstop Chris Speier plays in his first baseball game.
20,000 days since Tommy Thevenow, one of the least powerful batters of all-time, dies.
Also, at some point today it will be 1,000,000,000 seconds since Charles Finley sells the A’s to Walter and Wally Haas, and Roy Eisenhardt for $12.7 million.
1878 Way back in the day, May 1 was Opening Day, so a ton of 19th-century players make their big league debut on May 1. In 1878, the following stars debuted: Hall of Famer King Kelly, third baseman Ned Williamson (who will swat 27 homers in a single season in 1884), Charlie Bennett (the best catcher of the 1880s), and slugger Abner Dalrymple.
1879 Today the following guys debut: Star middle infielder Jack Glasscock; hitting star George Gore, and versatile player Hardy Richardson. All will be among the best players of the 1880s.
1880 King Kelly hits the first home run ever on Opening Day.
1880 Several more stars make their debut: Roger Connor, who will be the all-time home run king prior to Babe Ruth; Mickey Welch, a 300-game winner; Larry Corcoran, a star pitcher; Fred Dunlap, maybe the best second baseman of the 1880s, Ned Hanlon, a good player who becomes a Hall of Fame manager, and Tom Burns, a solid infielder.
1882 Fred Pfeffer, infielder, makes his debut.
1883 The New York Giants play their first ever game. They beat Boston, 7-5. Also debuting, the Philadelphia Phillies play their first game. They lose 4-3 to Providence.
1884 Gus Schmelz, one of the game’s great innovators, manages his first game. He’ll be at the cutting edge of creating spring training, some coaching drills, and developing the sacrifice bunt.
1884 Several more players make their big league debut: Pitcher Ed Morris, the all-time complete game king; Adonis Terry, a long-lasting pitcher; Curt Welch, the best defensive outfielder of his day; and Charlie Ferguson, a great pitcher who will die young.
1884 Also deserving today but deserving his own entry is Moses Fleetwood Walker. He’s the first black player in the majors and the only one until Jackie Robinson in 1947.
1886 The NL plays its first game under “sudden death” rules in the ninth. It used to be that both teams batted in the ninth, no matter the score. Now a team won’t bat in the bottom half if they already have won the game. In the first such game, Chicago tops Cincinnati, 4-3.
1886 Al Atkinson tosses his second no-hitter, and wins 3-2.
1891 300-game winner John Clarkson surrenders an inside-the-park grand slam to Oyster Burns.
1901 Chicago White Sox Herm McFarland hits the first grand slam in AL history as Chicago tops Detroit, 19-9. The Tigers commit an even 12 errors in that loss, the AL record.
1906 The Red Sox release Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett.
1906 Phillies pitcher Johnny Lush tosses a no-hitter, beating the Dodgers, 6-0. He fans 11 in the process.
1912 University of Michigan freshman George Sisler fans 20 in seven innings.
1920 Babe Ruth hits his first home run as a Yankee. It’s career long ball No. 50.
1920 It’s the longest game in history, as the Braves and Dodgers play 26 innings and end tied 1-1. Both starting pitchers go the distance: Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger.
1924 Hall of Fame centerfielder Max Carey gets hit No. 2,000.
1924 White Sox base runner Bill Barrett steals home twice in one game versus Cleveland.
1925 17-year-old Jimmie Foxx makes his big league debut as a catcher for the A’s.
1926 19-year-old Satchel Paige debuts in the Negro Southern League, leading Chattanooga to a 5-4 win over Birmingham.
1928 Babe Ruth legs out his 100th career triple.
1929 Jimmie Foxx enjoys the first of 55 multi-home run games. In that same game, his teammate Al Simmons enjoys the first of eight career five-hit games.
1930 After playing 1,103 consecutive games, Hall of Fame infielder Joe Sewell misses a contest. He’s only the third man to top 1,000 consecutive games played.
1933 Pittsburgh shortstop Arky Vaughan hits the first of two career inside-the-park grand slams.
1934 Burleigh Grimes, the last legal spitball pitcher, wins his 270th and final game.
1936 Dizzy Dean posts his 100th career victory. He’s 100-53 in his career at this point. He also ties his career high Game Score: 87. His line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, and 7 K.
1936 The White Sox claim outfielder Dixie Walker off waivers from the Yankees.
1939 Monty Stratton, a pitcher who lost a leg in an off-season fielding accident, plays in an exhibition game.
1940 For the only time in his 457 career starts, Lefty Grove allow a leadoff home run.
1941 It’s the first night game at Griffith Stadium. The Yankees spoil Washington’s big night by winning, 6-5.
1942 Stan Musial has the first of 37 career games with more than one home run.
1943 Rubber-armed Bobo Newsom has one of his five career one-hitters. He never does get that no-hitter. Babe Barna gets the sole safety against him. Barna will end the year with 42 hits and a .187 batting average.
1944 Washington’s George Myatt gets six hits in one game. It’s the first time in franchise history anyone has done that.
1946 Brooklyn release veteran pitcher Curt Davis. He arguably has the best career by any pitcher who debuted after his 30th birthday.
1946 Before today’s Cubs-Dodgers game, Chicago’s Len Merullo and Brooklyn’s Dixie Walker have a big fight on the field. The players form a circle so no one can break up the fight.
1948 The White Sox lose to put their all-time franchise record at .500. They’ll stay under it for the next eight years: 3,547-3,547.
1949 Ted Williams smashes the ninth of his career 17 grand slams.
1949 Elmer Valo of the A’s become the first AL player to hit two bases-loaded triples in one game.
1949 Bobby Shantz makes his big league debut.
1951 Mickey Mantle hits career home run No. 1. It’s a 450-foot shot. In that same game, Minnie Minoso integrates the Chicago White Sox.
1952 Bob Lemon has the longest outing of his career: 12.1 innings. He loses as Washington tops the Indians, 2-1.
1955 Bob Feller has his 12th and final career one-hitter. It’s an odd one for him, as there are only two strikeouts and one walk. Sammy West of the Red Sox gets a seventh-inning single.
1959 Early Wynn has maybe the most dominant game of his career. He tosses a one-hitter, and the hit came with one out in the first inning by Pete Runnels. Wynn fans 14 and walks seven. Oh, and Wynn also belts a home run. Chicago wins 1-0. Yeah, he was pretty damn dominant in that one.
1959 Dick Stuart hits a nearly 500-foot home run for the Pirates.
1960 It begins! For the first time, the exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park goes off. Al Smith hits a homer to launch it for the first time.
1965 Tommy Davis breaks his ankle sliding into second base for the Dodgers.
1966 Sudden Sam McDowell tosses his second straight one-hitter. Don Buford gets a third-inning single off of him.
1967 Jimmy Piersall plays in his final career game.
1968 For only the second time ever, a pitcher is ejected for throwing the spitball. This one is especially interesting, because it isn’t during the game. John Boozer of the Phillies is tossing spitters while warming up against the Mets in Shea Stadium when umpire Ed Vargo rings him up.
1968 It’s one of the greatest pitchers’ duels of the year as Oakland’s Blue Moon Odom and Cleveland’s Sam McDowell square off. Odom retires the first 15 batters he faces but loses 3-0 to McDowell, who fans 16 batters.
1969 Hall of Fame skipper Al Lopez manages his last game.
1969 Houston’s Don Wilson no-hits the Reds. The day before, Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney had no-hit the Astros. Just nine days ago, Wilson faced the Reds and got killed, 14-0. Today, he fans 15 in a 4-0 win.
1971 For the first time in nine years, an American League game begins with back-to-back homers. Incredibly, the same pitcher who surrendered them in 1962 is on the mound here again, Jim Perry. Boston’s Luis Aparicio and Reggie Smith go deep against the Minnesota star pitcher.
1973 The Giants beat the Pirates, 8-7, thanks to one of the most incredible comebacks in baseball history. San Francisco scores seven runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. The final runs come on a three-run, walk-off double by Bobby Bonds.
1973 Jim Colborn becomes the last Expos hurler to toss nine innings in relief.
1974 Pittsburgh pitcher Dock Ellis is looking to send a message to shake things up against the Reds. Boy, does he ever want to send a message. He beans the first three batters of the game and then walks the fourth guy on four would-be bean balls. After two more attempts, he’s yanked from the game.
1974 Tom Seaver has his all-time highest Game Score of 106. His line: 12 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 16 Ks. As an added bonus, he does it against the Dodgers, who begin the day with a record of 17-6 and will win 102 games all year. Aside from a Steve Garvey homer in the fifth, Seaver doesn’t allow anyone to make it past first base against him until the 12th inning. Alas, Seaver gets a no-decision as the Mets lose in 14 innings, 2-1.
1975 Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s RBI record, as he ends the day with 2,211 RBIs to Ruth’s 2,209. Next year, the Records Committee will revise Ruth’s RBI total to 2,204, so officially the record was set on April 18, but no one knew that on May 1, 1975.
1977 Tony Perez, who steals only 49 bases in 2,777 career games, has two swipes in today’s contest. He’s nearly 35 years old, too.
1977 According to WPA, this is Carlton Fisk’s best game: 0.790 WPA. He’s 3-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs in a 6-4 Red Sox win over the A’s.
1978 Jim Bouton begins his unlikely comeback pitching with the Savannah Braves of the Southern League.
1979 Phil Niekro wins his 200th game. He’s 200-175. Though he’s already 40 years old, he’ll still win 100-plus more games.
1979 Frank Taveras of the Mets fan five times in one game.
1979 Roger Freed hits a walk-off grand slam for the Cardinals against Houston. Even by walk-off grand slam standards, it’s unusually dramatic. It’s in the bottom of the 11th with St. Louis trialing, 6-3.
1980 Bill Madlock receives a 15-game suspension and $5,000 fine for hitting umpire Jerry Crawford in the face with a glove in a recent game.
1981 Tim Raines hits his first home run, a walk-off shot in the bottom of the 13th inning. He’ll never homer that late in a game again, have just one more walk-off homer in his career.
1983 Robin Yount hits his 100th home run.
1984 Dwight Gooden becomes the first teenager to record double-digit strikeouts in a game since Bert Blyleven back in 1970.
1985 Jimmy Key becomes the first southpaw starting pitcher to win a game for the Blue Jays in 614 contests.
1985 Pitcher (and pretty good hockey player) Kirk McCaskill makes his big league debut.
1987 Tim Raines finally signs with the Montreal Expos. He tried to sign with another team in the offseason free agent market, but collusion slammed the door in his face, so he missed the first month of the year. For that matter, Bob Boone, Ron Guidry, and Bill Campbell all also sign for the first time on this day.
1988 Andre Dawson hits the last sacrifice hit of his career. It’s the only one he’ll ever have with the Cubs.
1991 The Brewers and White Sox have a 19-inning contest. It’s the longest AL game in seven years since the same two teams went a league-record 25 innings. Milwaukee wins today’s game, 10-9. Paul Molitor receives three intentional walks along the way.
1991 Nolan Ryan tosses his seventh career no-hitter. He walks two and fans 16 along the way for a Game Score of 101.
1991 He is the greatest. Rickey Henderson steals his 939th career base, passing Lou Brock for No. 1 on the list.
1992 The Dodgers decide to postpone their three-game home series against the Expos due to rioting going on after the jury in the Rodney King beating trial acquits the police.
1992 Randy Johnson walks 10 batters, his personal most. Since then, five other pitchers have walked 10 in a game, and none have walked more than that in one outing.
1995 MLB and the umpires reach an agreement, ending the ongoing lockout of the arbitrators. They’ll be back on the field on May 3.
1996 Gerald Williams of the Yankees gets six hits in a 15-inning contest.
1998 The Orioles release veteran infielder Ozzie Guillen.
2000 For the first time, a home run ball lands in McCovey’s Cove in San Francisco. Naturally, Barry Bonds blasts it there.
2000 Texas purchases the ancient Ruben Sierra from the Mexican League’s Cancun team.
2000 Todd Helton hits three homers in one game.
2001 Ramon Martinez appears in his last game.
2001 Jeff Kent enjoys perhaps the best game of his career. He’s 3-for-4 with a double, homer, walk, and seven RBIs as the Giants top the Pirates, 11-6.
2002 Rafael Palmeiro bops his 500th career double.
2003 Baltimore’s B.J. Ryan records a win despite not throwing a single pitch. He enters the game and picks off Omar Infante in the bottom of the seventh to end the frame. The Orioles rally to take the lead in the eighth, and the squad pulls Ryan for a new hurler in the eighth. Baltimore wins, 5-4 over Detroit.
2004 Barry Bonds gets four intentional walks in a nine-inning game, setting a record for a nine-inning contest. (Andre Dawson had five IBB in a 16-inning game in 1990).
2004 Frank Catalanotto of the Blue Jays gets six hits in one game, a first in franchise history.
2005 It’s the end of Johan Santana’s 17-game winning streak as the Angels top Santana and the Twins, 2-1. He allows just two hits in eight innings, but those hits are a pair of solo homers by Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Molina.
2006 Joel Pineiro becomes the first hurler in a dozen years to pitch nine innings and neither walk nor fan any batters.
2010 The Mets’ Mike Pelfrey has a scoreless-inning streak end at 27 as the Phillies clobber New York, 10-0. For the Phillies, today is Roy Halladay’s second complete-game shutout in his last three starts.
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.