60th anniversary: Al Kaline debutsby Chris Jaffe
June 25, 2013
60 years ago today, one of the best AL players of his generation debuted—Al Kaline. One of the few people to play for 20 seasons and never change franchises, for a generation of fans, Al Kaline became synonymous with the Tigers.
His debut on June 25, 1953 came under somewhat coerced reasons. You see, he was a very green 18-year-old who had just graduated from high school earlier the month and signed with the Tigers for the then-princely sum of $35,000 less than a week earlier.
By rules at the time, that $35,000 signing made Kaline a “bonus baby," and baseball had its Bonus Rule back in those days. The rule stated that all amateurs signed for more than $4,000, the team would have to keep the player on the 25-man roster for two full seasons.
The purpose was simple—keep signing costs down by punishing teams who engaged in big bonuses. They’d have to put someone who wasn’t ready for the majors on their roster, essentially turning a 25-man roster into a 24.5-man roster, at best.
Eventually, the big leagues got rid of the rule and instead adopted the amateur draft. The problem with the bonus rule was that it hurt the development of the bonus babies, and since those were the biggest and most talented prospects in the game, a rule that hinders their progression is clearly a rule with some flaws in it.
Anyhow, just a few weeks after taking classes like any other high school student, young Al Kaline made his big league debut. He didn’t start for Detroit, but took the field as a mid-game replacement in the sixth with the Tigers trailing the A’s, 5-0.
Stationed in center, Kaline wasn’t called on to make any defensive plays at all. He came to the plate in the ninth, and flew out to end his night. It wasn’t too exciting, but that’s how things typically went for bonus babies, who wouldn’t be on the roster if it wasn’t for the rule.
Kaline would appear in just 30 games on the season, and start just four—all of which came in September. The next year he became the starting right fielder, a slot he’d fill for the next two decades. Kaline wasn’t that good in as a 19-year-old in 1954, but again—he was only on the roster because of the Bonus Rule’s two year stipulation.
Things changed completely in 1955. He had a hot start, hitting over .400 well into May. By the time the two-year limit had been reached and he could be sent to the minors, there was no reason to do so. Thus Kaline became one of the only players in modern times to never play in the minors. He ended 1955 with a league best .340 batting average for manager Bucky Harris and the Tigers. And the rest is history.
But the first step in Kaline’s Hall of Fame career was his debut—and that debut came 60 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) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since PBS first airs Ken Burns’ “Baseball: Bottom of the 10th Inning.”
2,000 days since Oakland trades Nick Swisher to the White Sox for three players.
3,000 days since Eddie Miksis dies.
4,000 days since Ichiro Suzuki has his first multi-home run game in North America.
4,000 days since Barry Bonds belts his 500th double.
5,000 days since the Mets win Game Five of the 1999 NLCS over the Braves in 15 innings. It’s one of the greatest games in history, culminating in a bottom of the 15th inning comeback and Robin Ventura’s walk-off grand slam single.
6,000 days since the Royals sign past their prime veterans Terry Pendleton and Lee Smith. Pendleton will spend his last season with the Royals. Smith will never pitch for them—or for anyone else ever again.
8,000 days since Hall of Fame reliever Rich Gossage suffers his 100th career loss. His record is 117-100.
8,000 days since Jack Clark hits three home runs in one game for Boston.
1881 George Gore steals seven bases in one game.
1885 George Strief sets a record that still stands by belting four triples in one game.
1888 Jumbo Davis makes five errors in a game for the Kansas City Cowboys. He’ll end the year with 100 errors in 628 chances.
1896 The Cleveland Spiders make a complete farce of a game. They so badly intimidate rookie umpire Stump Weidman that authorities will later arrest eight Spider players.
1898 Red Ehret, decent 1890s pitcher, appears in his last game.
1903 Ed Delahanty plays in his last game. He’ll be dead in about a week.
1903 Wiley Piatt becomes the only pitcher since 1900 to lose two complete games in one day. Pitching for the Braves, he loses 1-0 and 5-3 to the Pirates, despite allowing just 14 hits in 18 innings.
1906 First baseman Joe Kuhel is born.
1908 Larry Gardner, star infielder, makes his big league debut.
1912 The Boston Braves purchase minor league shortstop Rabbit Maranville from New Bedford of the New England League for $1,000. It’s the beginning of his Hall of Fame major league career.
1915 Babe Ruth, just a young pitcher, becomes the second person to ever homer into Fenway Park’s right field stands.
1918 Babe Ruth becomes the second person in AL history to homer in four straight games. (Bill Bradley did it back in 1902).
1918 Hall of Fame first baseman Jake Beckley dies.
1921 Yuck. The Yankees make six errors in the first inning versus Washington.
1925 Lou Gehrig’s second career homer is the first of 10 inside the park shots.
1928 Hall of Fame southpaw Eppa Rixey suffers his 200th loss. His record is 222-200 so far, but 136-100 since his 100th loss.
1928 Hall of Fame third baseman Fred Lindstrom ties a big league record with nine hits in one doubleheader.
1931 Oops. With runners on the corners, Dodger pitcher Dazzy Vance spends so much time throwing to first base to try to pick off the runner, that he completely forgets about lead runner George Watkins, who scores during Vance’s preoccupation. That proves to be the only run in a 1-0 Cardinals win.
1932 Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez wins his 11th straight decision, his longest stretch. He’s 14-1 on the year so far.
1934 Normally it’s nice when a pitcher it responsible for five straight strikeouts, but that isn’t the case today for Yankee hurler Johnny Broaca. His Ks come at the plate when he tries to hit. It’s OK, though. In the same game teammate Lou Gehrig hits for the cycle.
1934 The Cardinals select aging former star pitcher Dazzy Vance off of waivers from the Reds.
1937 Switch hitter Augie Galan becomes the first NL batter and second person overall to homer from both sides of the plate in one game.
1938 Red Ruffing wins, improving his career record to 181-180. From now on, it’ll always be over .500.
1939 They call him “Swish.” The Cubs purchase Bill Nicholson from the Senators for $35,000.
1945 Brooklyn signs free agent Joe Medwick, whose career is winding down.
1949 Former star slugger Buck Freeman dies.
1949 Gil Hodges hits for the cycle.
1950 Ralph Kiner hits for the cycle, going 5-for-6 with two home runs, and a personal best eight RBIs, helping the Pirates top the Dodgers, 16-11.
1953 White Sox manager Paul Richards is at his most hyper-managing, as he uses five first baseman in today’s contest against the Yankees. It works, as Chicago wins, 4-2. Ace pitcher Billy Pierce even plays there for two batters.
1954 Willie Mays legs out the first of six career inside the park home runs.
1954 After 10 straight game with more than one hit, St. Louis’ Rip Repulski has to settle for just one.
1959 Alejandro Pena, once led the NL in ERA, is born.
1960 Tommy Corcoran, good-glove no-hit shortstop from the turn of the century, dies.
1961 The Orioles and Angels combine to use a then-record 16 pitchers in today’s game. The O’s win 9-8 in 15 innings with each team bringing eight men to the mound.
1966 Young Astros second baseman Joe Morgan suffers a broken kneecap on a batting practice line drive. He’ll miss 40 games and Houston will lose 28 of their next 31 contests.
1967 Young pitcher Joe Niekro steals a base in just his 14th major league game. He’ll never steal another one.
1968 Bobby Bonds makes his big league debut—and boy oh boy is it ever a good one. He hits a grand slam in it, something no one had done in the 20th century. (Bill Duggleby did it in 1898).
1969 As recounted in Ball Four Pilots pitcher Jim Bouton tries to sell the team some Gatorade. They aren’t interested.
1970 Aaron Sele, pitcher, is born.
1970 Bobby Murcer enters today after homering in his last four at bats yesterday. Cleveland manager Alvin Dark is determined to make sure he doesn’t set the record with five straight, and so decides to call all the pitches in Murcer’s first at bat. Murcer pops up on a 3-1 count.
1971 Mets batter Cleon Jones draws six walks in a doubleheader against the Expos.
1971 Future Hollywood star Kurt Russell makes his professional baseball debut in the Northwestern League. He singles, doubles, and steals two bases, but his diamond dreams will be dashed by an injury in 1973.
1972 Slugger Carlos Delgado is born.
1974 Tigers workhorse Mickey Lolich completes his 11th straight start. He’s 9-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 100 IP.
1975 Mike Schmidt receives a walk-off walk from Pirates reliever Dave Guisti for a 7-6 Phillies win in 13 innings.
1976 Toby Harrah has the most memorable day of his career. He hits a walk-off grand slam for an 8-5 Rangers win over Chicago in the first game of today’s doubleheader, and that’s not even the part people remember. Instead, his claim to fame becomes the only shortstop to work both ends of a doubleheader and handle zero defensive chances. Plenty have hit walk-off grand slams, but only Harrah has done that.
1976 Javier Vazquez, pitcher, is born.
1976 Mike Phillips hits for the cycle.
1978 Rick Wise makes baseball history trivia history by becoming the first pitcher to defeat all 26 franchises then in existence. His final victim is Toronto.
1980 Can’t anyone here pitch? Five Indians pitchers combine to walk 14 Detroit batters, five coming with the bases loaded. Shockingly, Cleveland loses, 13-3.
1980 Tommy John pitches 10 innings in a complete game loss—yet doesn’t fan a single batter.
1982 Paul Maholm, pitcher, is born.
1983 Sabermetric darling Bobby Grich enjoys the last of his 13 multi-home run games.
1983 Seattle fires manager Rene Lachemann.
1984 One time Orioles star Ken Singleton gets his 2,000th hit.
1984 Bill Krueger has one of the worst starts by any pitcher ever. He allows eight runs while recording zero outs.
1985 The Yankees institute a new rule that bat boys must wear protective helmets during games. This rule is adopted the hard way, after a Butch Wynegar liner hit a batboy in the head.
1986 D’OH! Oakland’s Ricky Peters makes a dumb mistake. When teammate Jose Canseco walks with Peters on third and another A’s player on second, Peters begins trotting home, thinking the bases are loaded. Nope. He’s easily out, and the A’s lose by one.
1986 Mark Langston sets a Seattle record (since broken) with 15 Ks.
1988 Cal Ripken plays in his 1,000th game in a row.
1988 Major league baseball suspends former wunderkid pitcher Floyd Youmans for failing to comply with his treatment program for his alcoholism.
1989 The Mets have zero defensive assists in their 5-1 win over the Phillies. Philadelphia fans 13 times, hits 12 fly outs, and the other two are unassisted groundouts to first. Sid Fernandez is the winning pitcher for the Mets, a fact which shouldn’t surprise anyone who remembers the high-King flyballer.
1990 Soft tossing Scott Erickson makes his major league debut.
1991 Detroit trades former franchise stalwart pitcher Dan Petry to the Braves.
1991 Houston releases young Mark McLemore, whose career will recover rather nicely from this.
1991 Ozzie Smith has his best game ever according to WPA. He’s 3-for-5 with a stolen base and four RBIs in St. Louis’ 10-9 win over the Phillies for a 0.572 WPA.
1992 Former Seattle star first baseman Alvin Davis plays in his last game.
1995 Andres Galarraga hits three home runs for Colorado—and in three straight innings, too: the sixth through eighth.
1995 Dave Weathers has to leave despite throwing five hitless innings after getting hit by a pitch on his pitching hand by opposing hurler Tim Pugh.
1996 Mark McGwire nails his 300th home run.
1996 Jason Giambi enjoys his first multi-home run game.
1997 Chipper Jones hits his first grand slam. His second will come a mere 10 days later. And the third only five days after that.
1998 Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa hits his 19th home run of the month, breaking Rudy York’s old record of 18 in a month.
1999 St. Louis pitcher Jose Jimenez, of all people, throws a no-hitter for a 1-0 win over Arizona. Randy Johnson fans 14 but is the hard luck loser, the first of four straight starts for him where Arizona will score no runs. The game’s only run is a bottom of the ninth one coming on a broken bat single.
2000 For the second time in his career, Chipper Jones receives a walk-off walk.
2001 Baltimore claims Tony Batista off of waivers from Toronto.
2002 For the first time ever, a major league game pits two Dominican Republic born managers against each other, as Luis Pujols of Detroit and Tony Pena of KC match wits. The president of the Dominican Republic is on hand for the game, which is broadcast all over Latin America.
2002 Odalis Perez throws his second one-hitter of the year. Not bad.
2002 Toronto clobbers the Rays, 20-11, for the franchise’s first 20-run outburst since 1978.
2004 Larry Walker smashes three home runs in a game for the third time.
2004 For the only time in his career, Robin Ventura takes to the mound. He throws one scoreless inning, allowing just one hit, a Darin Erstad single.
2005 Houston retires No. 24 for Toy Cannon Jimmy Wynn.
2005 For the first time ever, a battery consists of two 42-year-olds when Seattle matches Jamie Moyer and Pat Borders together.
2006 Tampa Bay uses 32-year-old Mark Hendrickson as their starting pitcher. They didn’t use another starting pitcher that old until 2013, when 32-year-old Roberto Hernandez started for them. Between them, their oldest pitcher was 30 (James Shields throughout 2012 and one start by Jae Weong Seo on his 30th birthday on May 24, 2007).
2008 Houston suspends pitcher Shawn Chacon after he grabs GM Ed Wade by the neck and throws him to the ground prior to today’s game.
2008 41-year-old Tim Wakefield and 45-year-old Randy Johnson square off for the oldest duel since 1965, when 59-year-old Satchel Paige faced a normally aged pitcher (Bill Monbouquette, if it matters).
2010 The Cubs indefinitely suspend volatile starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano after a first inning dugout tantrum in a 6-0 loss versus the White Sox. Zambrano was upset with first baseman Derrek Lee over a grounder.
2010 Dustin Pedroia hits three home runs in one game.
2010 Arizona pitcher Edwin Jackson hurls one of the most poorly thrown no-hitters of all-time. He walks eight and throws 149 pitches.
2010 Roy Halladay first faces his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The game is supposed to be in Toronto, but due to security concerns over the G20 summit, this Blue Jays home game is in Philadelphia. Toronto still bats last, though.
2011 The Giants beat the Indians 1-0 with the only run coming on a seventh inning balk.
2012 Tampa pitcher Alex Cobb throws a complete game despite allowing eight runs versus the Royals. It is the most earned runs in a complete game since Randy Johnson did it in 1988. Also, it’s a novel promotional night in KC: Water Awareness Night to promote efficient use of water.
2012 Toronto signs free agent pitcher Jamie Moyer. It doesn’t take.
2010 Baltimore releases former star infielder Miguel Tejada.
2012 St. Louis wins an impressive comeback against the Marlins, 8-7 in 10 innings. The Cardinals plate four runs in the top of the ninth and another pair in the 10th before allowing one in the bottom of the 10th.
2012 A minor league game between Missoula and Helena has maybe the least likely ending of all—a walk-off appeal play! A would-be game-tying homer with two outs in the bottom of the 10th is nullifying because the batter missed a bag when circling the bases. Missoula triumphs, 2-1.
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.