50th anniversary: Hickman’s blast ends Craig’s long losing streakby Chris Jaffe
August 09, 2013
50 years ago today, Jim Hickman hit one of the most clutch home runs in Mets history. It didn’t help them in any pennant race and had no larger implications. This was still the early Mets, after all. But it was still a very cool home run. It was a walk-off home run he hit. And no one was happier for it than Hickman’s long-suffering teammate, pitcher Roger Craig.
On Aug. 9, 2013, Roger Craig to the mound for the Mets, looking for a victory. Hoping for a victory. Praying for a victory. God, how Craig wanted a victory.
That last few months had been rough for Craig. The year had begun as well as a Mets pitcher can hope, with Craig splitting his April decisions for a 2-2 record. Then he went 0-for-May. And 0-for-June. And 0-for-July. A loss on Aug. 4, dropped Craig’s record to 2-20. He really wasn’t pitching that badly, either. His ERA was just 4.16, not spectacular, but clearly not in line with a historically dreadful 2-20 record. His offensive support was non-existent, though: just 31 runs in his 19 starts in that span. 13 times the Mets scored two or fewer runs for Craig.
Hopefully, today would be different. Sure enough, the Mets scored three runs giving them an early 3-2 lead, but wouldn’t you know it – the Cubs tied it in the top of the eighth, 3-3. Fortunately, this was a half-century ago and just because a pitcher gave up a game-tying run in the eighth didn’t mean he was done for the day. Aging manager Casey Stengel kept his faith, leaving Craig in the game. Craig finished off the eighth and threw a scoreless ninth.
So it was still tied, 3-3 with the game three outs from extra inning. It looked destined for overtime, as two of the first three Mets batters made outs against Cubs pitcher Paul Toth. With the bottom of the order up, this should be easy for Toth to get the last out.
Instead, Mets shortstop Al Moran unleashed a double. This was rare for Moran. In 395 career plate appearances, he’d hit just five two-baggers, but this sure was a well-timed one. Due up next was Roger Craig. Well, no time to rely on him. Pinch hitter Tim Harkness strode to the plate in his place. The Mets would either win it here or Craig would get the no-decision. At least he wouldn’t get a 19th straight loss. The Cubs decided they’d had enough of Toth, and brought in relief ace Lindy McDaniel.
At this point, Cubs manager Bob Kennedy made a questionable move. He ordered Harkness intentionally walked. OK, it would set up the force at every base. But that didn’t matter—the Cubs needed just one out and the game-winning run was on third. Harnkess did have the platoon advantage, but if that mattered so much to Chicago, they should’ve brought in a lefty. McDaniel was a former All-Star and Harkness would hit .211 on the year.
Regardless of what the thought process was, Harkness took his base at first, bringing up Jim Hickman with the bases loaded. He immediately made Kennedy’s decision to walk Harnkess look foolish by belting a game-winning, walk-off grand slam. The 11,566 Mets fans in the Polo Grounds went crazy, but no one was happier than Roger Craig—whose 18 game losing streak was now history. That was an impressive win for the Mets—and it happened 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “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.
3,000 days since Mark Mulder throws a complete game 10-innning shutout for a 1-0 win over Houston. Roger Clemens is Houston’s pitcher. It’s the first extra-inning complete game shutout in the NL since Greg Maddux did in 1988 (about 6,000 days before this).
4,000 days since Barry Bonds his three homers in one game for the fourth time in his career.
4,000 days since Scott Rolen has a rough day, grounding into three double plays.
4,000 days since the White Sox beat the Blue Jays 8-4 in 10 innings, thanks to third baseman Joe Crede. He hits a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth and a grand slam in the 10th. Crede has seven RBIs on the day.
5,000 days since the Yankees release Chili Davis, ending his career.
7,000 days since Eddie Murray belts his 500th double.
8,000 days since Brian Downing notches his 2,000th hit.
8,000 days since Kenny Lofton makes his big league debut.
8,000 days since Toronto signs free agent Dave Parker.
15,000 days since Phil Regan, The Vulture, plays in his final game.
50,000 days since early fastball star George Zettlein appears in his last game.
1889 Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy legs out two inside the park home runs in one game off 300 game winner John Clarkson.
1899 The Cincinnati Reds purchase Sam Crawford from Grand Rapids of the Western League. Crawford becomes baseball’s all-time triple king, though almost all of them will be hit with the Detroit Tigers.
1901 Baltimore third baseman Jack Dunn has an embarrassing game, as he knocks himself unconscious with his own foul ball. He misses a week.
1902 Reds owner John Brush sells them for $150,000 to George B. Cox, Max and Julius Fleischman, and August “Gary” Hermann.
1905 In Georgia, the mother of Tigers’ rookie Ty Cobb shoots her husband (and Ty’s father) dead.
1906 Cubs pitcher Jack Taylor completes his 187th consecutive start, the all-time record.
1906 In the New England League, Lynn outfielder Tom Burke fractures his skull on a beanball. He dies two days later.
1910 Babe Adams throws a complete game shutout despite allowing 11 hits. Pittsburgh tops the Braves, 11-0.
1913 The Cubs trade pitcher Lew Richie to Kansas City in the American Association for Hippo Vaughn. This works out rather nicely for Chicago.
1915 George Cutshaw of the Dodgers becomes the first player in 13 years to collect six hits in one game.
1916 The A’s snap a 20-game losing streak, beating Detroit, 7-1. In fact, prior to this game, the A’s were 6-63. That’s not a typo: they lost 63 of 69 decisions.
1918 Reds manager Christy Mathewson suspends start first baseman Hal Chase without pay for “indifferent play.”
1919 Carl Mays first pitches for the Yankees, despite ongoing court case in which AL President Ban Johnson tried to nix the deal sending Mays to New York.
1919 The Pirates trade Casey Stengel to the Phillies for Possum Whitted.
1919 Ralph Houk, the longtime manager who won the pennant in each of his first three seasons on the job, is born.
1919 Reds pitcher Slim Sallee walks two batters. They are his only walks between July 9 and Aug. 23. He’ll famously walk barely 20 batters all year (and strike out about as many) while winning 20 games.
1921 St. Louis Browns star George Sisler gets six hits in one game, a first in franchise history. OK, so it’s a 19-inning game – six hits is still impressive. Opposing the Browns, Washington Senators first baseman Joe Judge bops out three triples, which is even more impressive.
1922 Hall of Famer Max Carey belts his 100th career triple. It takes him just 1,625 games.
1924 For the second straight day, Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley hits an inside-the-park home run. He also hit one barely more than two weeks ago. Yet he’ll end his career with seven.
1924 Pittsburgh’s star outfielder Kiki Cuyler collects six hits in one game.
1925 When Babe Ruth wrenches his back, veteran Bobby Veach pinch hits for him. He’s the only person to ever pinch-hit for Ruth. Veach flies out.
1926 Tris Speaker legs out his 38th and final inside-the-park home run.
1930 Earl Whitehill, a 200-game winner, wins his 11th straight decision, a personal best. He has a 2.15 ERA over his last 100.1 IP.
1932 The Pirates lose their 10th straight game—but they’re still in first place. Only one other team has ever done that, the 2010 Padres.
1934 Bobo Newsom, the well-traveled pitcher who ends his career with 211 wins and 222 loses, has his worst start, according to Game Score. His line: 8 IP, 20 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 4 BB, 5 K for a Game Score of –5. Clearly, the manager decided to leave him in and save his other arms for another day.
1934 The Cardinals sign Elmer Dean, the older brother of Paul and Dizzy Dean, to work as a ballpark vendor. He last just three days before heading home instead.
1936 Julian Javier, infielder, is born.
1939 Claude Osteen, bonus baby pitcher who lasted nearly 20 years in the big leagues, is born.
1939 Red Rolfe, third baseman for the Yankees, begins an 18-game scoring streak.
1941 Paul Waner hits his third and final career slam. As it happens, each slam is in a different decade. I wonder how many other players can say they hit only three slams but all came in different decades?
1942 The Cubs beat the Reds 10-8 in a messy 18-inning game. The teams combine for 25 walks, and leave 44 on base. The Reds tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, 10th, and 12th innings only to lose anyway. Stan Hack, the star third baseman for the Cubs has maybe his best game ever, going 5-for-5 with four walks and a sacrifice bunt.
1942 Ted Lyons wins his 255th game with the White Sox, passing Red Faber as franchise leader. He still is No. 1 in wins for the Pale Hose.
1942 Tommie Agee, Mets outfielder, is born.
1944 Early Wynn drops his 10th straight decision, tying his personal worst.
1945 Sal Maglie, a hurler nicknamed The Barber for his penchant for pitching inside, makes his big league debut.
1946 For the first time in history, every major league game occurs at night.
1947 The first game between two integrated lineups occurs, as Larry Doby and the Indians face Hank Thompson and the Browns.
1948 Bill Campbell, reliever, is born.
1949 The 34-game hitting streak of Boston centerfielder Dom DiMaggio comes to an end. It’s against the Yankees and brother Joe DiMaggio makes a shoestring catch to rob Dom of a hit in the eighth inning.
1949 Ted Simmons, one of the best hitting catchers of all-time, is born.
1951 The Dodgers and Giants set a record with 24 walks in a nine-inning game. Brooklyn wins 6-5. All the while, prospective commissioner-to-be Douglas MacArthur watches from the stands. (He ends up not becoming commissioner).
1952 Jackie Robinson collects his 1,000th hit.
1956 The Washington Senators get a license to sell beer at Griffith Stadium. It took until 1956 to get that?
1959 Ernie Banks belts his 1,000th career hit.
1959 Yogi Berra hits his 300th home run.
1960 Vic Power gets one of the most bizarre homers in history. He hits it to the top of the wall, it bounces back to the field of play, but instead of landing on the ground, it hits the foot of outfielder Lu Clinton, who inadvertently drop kicks it over the fence for a homer.
1961 Don Drysdale belts the only grand slam of his career, as the Dodgers top the Braves, 8-3.
1963 Juan Marichal enjoys his 13th straight quality start. His line over that span: 9-2 record, 131 IP, 89 H, 27 R, 20 ER, 25 BB, 94 K, 1.37 ERA.
1964 Jim Bunning faces the Mets. Last time he faced them, he threw a perfect game. This time, he has a no-hitter until the sixth inning. He settles for a complete game shutout win.
1966 Eddie Mathews hits a walk-off homer off Sandy Koufax. Mathews hits walk-off homers for the Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta Braves in his career.
1967 Young Reds infielder Tony Perez enjoys the first of 17 career multi-home run games.
1967 Washington’s current and former clubs meet up in a marathon game. The Twins take a 7-0 lead over the Senators, but Washington scores seven in the top of the seventh to tie it. There it stands until the 20th frame, when Washington pushes a pair across for the win.
In this game, both squads set franchise records that still stand for best one-game relief WPA score by a reliever. Minnesota’s Al Worthington has a 1.176 WPA thanks to 8.2 scoreless innings, and Darold Knowles tops him with a 1.231 WPA.
1967 Baseball/football player Deion Sanders is born.
1968 Angels pitchers plunk three Orioles in the seventh inning of a 3-0 Baltimore win.
1969 Pete Rose hits the second of three career walk-off home runs.
1969 As recounted in the book Ball Four, on this day Seattle Pilots pitcher Gene Brabender tells teammate Jim Bouton, “You’re lucky. Where I come from we just talk a little while. After that we start to hit.” Given how huge Brabender is, Bouton feels very lucky.
1969 Ken Boyer plays in his last game.
1969 Troy Percival, closer, is born.
1971 Bill Freehan hits three homers, and his Tiger teammates belt three more, but they lose 12-11 to Boston.
1971 Former Cy Young Award winner Dean Chance pitches in his final contest.
1972 Steve Carlton belts a home run and throws a complete-game shutout in the same game. It’s the second of four times he does both in one game. On this day, he fans 12 while walking one in a three-hitter.
1972 Ted Simmons, who has played without a contract all year, signs fro $75,000 through 1973.
1974 John Hiller walks 11 batters in one relief stint. No one can even tie Hiller’s achievement since 1948.
1974 Matt Morris, former pitching phenom, is born.
1975 Brian Fuentes, closer, is born.
1975 Sabermetric darling Bobby Grich walks five times in one game.
1975 Davey Lopes breaks an old Max Carey record by stealing his 32nd straight base without getting thrown out.
1976 Cesar Cedeno hits for his second career cycle.
1976 John Candelaria no-hits the Dodgers. It’s the first time they’ve been no-hit since their days in Brooklyn.
1979 Longtime Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley dies at age 75.
1979 Dennis Eckersley completes his seventh straight start.
1979 Buddy Bell endures his worst game ever according to WPA: -0.388 WPA despite going 2-for-4 with a walk. His outs came at key times and he was also thrown out trying to steal in a 3-2 loss to the Tigers.
1981 Major league baseball returns from a lengthy strike. The first game is a belated All-Star contest, which the NL wins, 5-4.
1982 Dick Williams suffers his 1,000th loss as manager. He’s 1,135-1,000 for his career thus far.
1986 For the third time in eight days, Graig Nettles strikes out to end a game.
1986 The Mets beat the Expos 10-8 in a game with a wild ending. Playing in Montreal, the Expos led 3-1 at the seventh inning stretch, and 6-1 heading into the eighth. The Mets rally for seven runs in the top of the eighth for an 8-6 lead, but Montreal ties it in the bottom half of the frame. After a scoreless ninth, New York gets two in the 10th for the win.
1987 The Indians trade Phil Niekro to Toronto.
1988 It’s the first night game at Wrigley Field. It was supposed to be yesterday, but a rainstorm nixed that one. The Cubs beat the Mets, and Rich Gossage saves his 300th game.
1988 Don Sutton pitches in his last big league game.
1988 Roger Clemens surrenders the only walk-off home run of his life. Joey Meyer of the Brewers hits it, whoever the hell he is.
1990 Shortstop Garry Templeton collects his 2,000th career hit.
1991 Hank Majeski, longtime AL third baseman, dies at age 74. He received some modest support for MVP in 1948.
1991 The Giants beat the Dodgers 1-0 in the 13th inning on the rare walk-off hit by pitch.
1992 The Brewers retire Rollie Fingers’ number (34).
1992 Orel Hershiser ties his personal worst with a Game Score of 5. His line: 4.2 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 2 K.
1994 Andre Dawson endures maybe the worst day of his career, going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts. It’s his only four-K game.
1994 The Indians release Jack Morris, ending his career.
1994 Former Brewer ace Teddy Higuera plays in his last game.
1995 Former NL ERA champion Atlee Hammaker plays in his last game.
1995 Steve Bedrosian, one-time Cy Young Award winner, last pitches in the major leagues.
1995 A bizarre record set in San Francisco’s win over the Pirates. The pitchers who factor in the decision combine for a record 25 letters in their last name. Told you it was bizarre. William Van Landingham gets the win over Jason Christiansen.
1996 Frank Thomas receives three intentional walks in one game for the only time.
1998 Dennis Martinez wins his 244th game, topping Juan Marichal for most by a Latin American pitcher.
1998 On Dog day promotion, the Expos draw 757 canines as the Expos pound the Devil Rays, 8-2.
1999 A record five grand slams are hit across baseball on this day. The batters are: Jay Buhner of Seattle, Bernie Williams of the Yankees, Mike Lowell on the Marlins, Jose Vidro with the Expos, and Fernando Tatis on the Cardinals.
1999 The Angels release Jack McDowell, ending his career.
1999 The Rockies trade Brian McRae to the Blue Jays.
1999 Umpire union chief Richie Phillips says he’s considering an NLRB injunction to stop the firing of the 22 umpires who resigned when Phillips told them to resign. Man, that was a dumb plan by Phillips.
1999 Doug Davis, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
2000 The Rockies beat the Pirates 4-3 when the tying and winning runs both score on a walk-off error.
2000 Jamie Moyer has the worst game of his life: 3.2 IP, 13 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 2 BB, 2 K for a Game Score of –9.
2000 Gary Sheffield has his worst game, according to WPA. He goes 0-for-4 with a strikeout, intentional walk, and a double play for a –0.459 WPA as the Cubs top the Dodgers, 5-4.
2001 Sammy Sosa belts three homers in a game for the third time in his career. He’ll do it six times overall, tying Johnny Mize for the most three-homer games ever.
2002 Vladimir Guerrero belts his 200th home run.
2002 Barry Bonds knocks out his 600th home run.
2002 Aaron Boone hits three home runs in one game for the Reds in a 12-10 win over San Diego.
2002 Robin Ventura has the worst game of his career according to WPA. In a 16-inning contest, he is 1-for-7 with two Ks. The second K comes in the bottom of 16th with runners on second and third and ends the game. His WPA for the day: -0.509.
2003 Carlos Beltran smacks his 100th home run.
2003 Former Tigers infielder Billy Rogell dies at age 98. He drove in 100 runs for the 1934 pennant winning Tigers. Every starter in that infield had at least 96 RBIs.
2004 The Reds trade Cory Lidle to the Phillies.
2005 The Royals suffer maybe their worst loss in a regular season game in franchise history. They lead the Indians 7-2 entering the ninth inning. Cleveland rallies to make it 7-6, but with two outs a batter hits a lazy fly ball that should end the game. Instead, its’ dropped. Cleveland ends up scoring 11 runs that inning, winning 13-7. It’s part of a 19-game losing streak for Kansas City.
2005 Kenny Rogers’ 20-game suspension and $50,000 fine for shoving two cameramen ruled excessive.
2006 Bobby Abreu plays centerfield for the final time in his career.
2008 Minor leaguer Micah Hoffpauir belts four homers for the Iowa Cubs and then flies out to left in the ninth inning.
2008 The Marlins sign free agent Paul Lo Duca.
2010 Milwaukee trades Jim Edmonds to the Reds.
2010 Seattle fires manager Don Wakamatsu.
2011 The Indians beat the Tigers 3-2 in 14 frames on a walk-off HBP. The Indians scored twice in the first inning, and Detroit came back with a pair in the top of the second – and that was all the scoring until the 14th.
2011 Todd Helton has the worst game of his career, going 0-for-4 with four Ks. He has another 0-for-4 day with four Ks, but at least he drew a walk that time.
2012 St. Louis trades Tyler Green to Houston for a player to be named later.
2012 The Indians release what’s left of Johnny Damon, who had a good run for a while.
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.