Wednesday, August 17, 2011
10,000 days of paying Omar Vizquel to play baseballPosted by Chris Jaffe
10,000 days ago, baseball entered the Omar Vizquel Era, when the Seattle Mariners signed the teenage Venezuelan amateur free agent to a minor league contract. That move worked out pretty well. In fact, no one else playing at any level in professional baseball still plies his trade in organized baseball except Vizquel.
There are only 20-25 men who played in the majors in four decades, and Vizquel is one. Heck, that’s nothing. Only two ever played 100 games in a season in four decades: Vizquel and Ted Williams. Only four stole a base in four decades: Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Vizquel, and Teddy Ballgame.
The baseball world has changed dramatically in 10,000 days. Back then, there were only 26 franchises, and the Baltimore Orioles were the defending world champions. The Cubs had never drawn 1,800,000 fans in a season to Wrigley Field. They’ve now done that 28 times.
10,000 days ago, Kirby Puckett was a minor leaguer. Since then he made his major league debut, played, retired, won election to the Hall of Fame, and died several years ago. All the while Omar Vizquel has picked up paychecks to play ball.
For that matter, Roger Clemens was still a minor leaguer. So were Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff, and Ozzie Guillen (AKA Vizquel’s current manager). Greg Maddux was a high school student.
You know how people always make age-related jokes about Jamie Moyer? He didn’t sign his first professional contract until two months after Vizquel. 10,000 days ago, Moyer was just a college student at St. Joseph’s. A little to the north, Barry Larkin played for the University of Michigan 10,000 days ago.
You know Davey Johnson – the veteran manager of over 2,000 games who returned to the profession this year after more than a decade away from the dugout? Well, he managed his first big league game 9,999 days ago.
Stepping away from baseball for a second, 10,000 days ago, Ronald Reagan was gearing up for his reelection campaign. Margaret Thatcher ran England and Indira Gandhi ruled India. Not only did the Soviet Union still exist back then, but Mikhail Gorbachev was still just an up-and-comer. Konstantin Chernenko still ran the place.
Run-DMC was the fresh new group that had just released its debut album. Speaking of just released, Romancing the Stone was new in the theaters 10,000 days ago. Andy Kaufmann was still alive 10,000 days ago. Ditto Richard Burton, Truman Capote, and Louise Brooks. So was Marvin Gaye—well, at least he was at sunrise. 10,000 days ago Marvin Gaye’s father killed him.
And through it all, Omar Vizquel has kept on a-chooglin.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their “day-versary” or anniversary today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
The ageless wonder of the infield.
3,000 days since the Cubs release reliever Rod Beck.
3,000 days since Matt Williams plays in his final game.
4,000 days since Kenny Lofton ties a record by scoring in his 18th straight game, and boy does he ever do it in style. He steals five bases in five attempts, scoring four runs in all. He is 4-for-7 at the plate with an intentional walk. His Indians beat the Orioles 12-11 in the 11th inning on a walk-off home run by (who else?) Lofton.
5,000 days since the Indians sign Dwight Gooden and Kenny Lofton. Based on what happened exactly 1,000 days later, I’d say this worked pretty damn well for the Tribe.
6,000 days since the NLRB issues a complaint against owners for violating labor laws. This is the third such complaint issued in the last three months by the NLRB.
7,000 days since Jesse Barfield plays in his final game.
8,000 days since super-swingman Murry Dickson dies.
8,000 days since Tim Raines steals four bases in a game for the fifth and final time. It’s a little over five years since the most recent previous time he did it.
10,000 days since the Giants sign free agent Dusty Baker.
30,000 days since Ty Cobb plays in his 3,000th game.
1882 Harry Stovey, who at one point was baseball’s all-time career home run king, belts two inside-the-park homers in one game off of Jim McCormick (a 250+ game winner).
1882 Providence beats Detroit 1-0 in 18 innings. At the time, it’s the longest big league game on record. The game ends when Old Hoss Radbourn homers. Though in Cooperstown as a pitcher, Radbourn plays left in this game. Fellow Hall of Famer John Ward goes the distance for the win.
1894 Jack Wadsworth of Louisville sets an unwanted NL record, allowing 28 singles in one game against Philadelphia, who wins 29-4. Hall of Famer Sam Thompson collects six hits in the game.
1898 Matt Kilroy, 1880s phenom who once set the still-standing record of 513 strikeouts in one season (in 583 innings—it was a very different game) pitches in his last game.
1900 After Philadelphia’s Roy Thomas fouls off a dozen pitches, Cincinnati pitcher Bill Phillips punches him. He’s ejected for that punch.
1903 In a futile gesture, AL president Ban Johnson bans betting in his league’s ballparks.
1904 Jesse Tannehill tosses a no-hitter, leading the White Sox to a 6-0 win over Boston.
1907 Christy Mathewson surrenders the only extra-inning homer of his career, when Chicago’s Johnny Kling goes deep against him in the 12th for a 3-2 Cub win in one of the many showdowns between Mathewson and Cub ace Mordecai Brown.
1909 Walter Johnson defeats Chief Bender in a 1-0 (12) showdown, but gets a sore arm for his troubles. Johnson will allow 27 hits in his two succeeding starts.
1911 A’s pitcher Jack Coombs blasts a 14th inning homer off Jack Powell of the Browns.
1913 Rudy York, Tiger slugger, is born.
1914 Hall of Famer Edd Roush belts his only pinch-hit homer. It’s for Indianapolis in the Federal League.
1914 Infielder Harry Steinfeldt dies at age 33.
1915 Fritz Maisel, NYY, steals second, third, and home in the ninth inning against the A’s.
1915 The Giants release veteran centerfielder Fred Snodgrass.
1919 An overflow crowd of 31,500 in Detroit causes some to stand in roped off section on the field. Balls hit to them are ground-rule doubles, leading to 10 such blasts on the day. Washington wins, 4-2 (11).
1920 Ray Chapman, beaned by Carl Mays the day before, dies. He is the only major league fatality from a thrown pitch.
1920 Vern Bickford, Boston Brave hurler who will throw a no-hitter, born.
1924 Zach Wheat, Hall of Fame Brooklyn outfielder, hits his 23rd and final inside the park home run.
1929 Frankie Frisch legs out his 10th and final inside the park home run. It’s his first one in four years.
1929 The Yankees purchase Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez from the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals for $45,000.
1933 Joe Medwick enjoys the first of 10 multi-home run games.
1933 Earl Averill becomes the fourth player of the month to hit for the cycle.
1933 Lou Gehrig breaks Everett Scott’s all-time record for consecutive games played, with number 1,308.
1933 Lefty Gomez allows the only pinch-hit homer of his career, to Browns player-manager Rogers Hornsby. The shot ties the game 6-6 in the ninth and St. Louis wins in the next frame.
1934 Ed Coleman of the A’s belts three consecutive homers in one game.
1935 Rogers Hornsby manages his 1,000th game. He’s 478-511.
1937 Reds-Cardinals game ends at 12:02 AM—the first one to finish past midnight in major league history.
1940 Billy Herman has a horrible game, going 0-for-5 with a trio of GIDPs.
1940 Jimmie Foxx homers in his fifth consecutive game, a personal best.
1940 Ted Williams, enjoying a lousy sophomore season, blasts Boston’s writers and fans, demanding a trade to Detroit.
1941 Orioles slugger Boog Powell is born.
1943 Nick Etten singles, ending a stretch of 17 straight games without a base hit. Six times he went hitless and he either doubled or homered in the other 11.
1944 Johnny Lindell, NYY, hits four doubles in one game.
1947 Early Wynn has a nice day at the plate, singling, doubling, and homering for a personal best seven total bases—but he loses 2-1 to the A’s.
1947 Willard Brown, Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer, plays his last game in the major leagues, ending a brief stint with the Browns.
1948 Over 100,000 go to Yankee Stadium, where the body of the late Babe Ruth is on display. Elsewhere, the flags on Cooperstown’s Main Street fly at half-mast.
1948 Tommy Henrich of the Yankees belts his fourth grand slam of the year, tying a record held by Babe Ruth.
1950 Pee Wee Reese hits his only inside the park home run.
1951 Doc Crandall, the game’s first relief pitcher, dies.
1951 Frank Thomas makes his big league debut. Not to be confused with the White Sox slugger a generation later, this Frank Thomas is most famous for getting in a fight with teammate Dick Allen in 1964, and being the most dangerous bat on the disastrous 1962 Mets.
1953 Bob Kuzava allows 11 hits, but leads the Yankees to a 9-0 win over the A’s anyway.
1955 Bob Lemon loses his 100th game, giving him a 176-100 career record.
1957 Richie Ashburn makes an unwanted bit of trivia history when he fouls two consecutive balls into the face of one fan. It’s a grandmother attending the game with her grandkids.
1959 Hank Sauer plays in his last game.
1960 Ernie Banks hits the first of four walk-off home runs in his career, a shot off Don Drysdale in a scoreless game. It’s the only walk-off blast Drysdale ever surrenders.
1961 Carolina League player Chuck Westerspoon belts his seventh grand slam of the year.
1963 A perfect inning of relief for Baltimore’s Dick Hall gives his 28 straight batters retired, a streak dating back to July 24.
1964 Cardinals owner August Busch fires GM Bing Devine and business manager Art Routzong. The Cardinals will win their first world championship in 18 years this season.
1964 Chicago Black Sox Happy Felsch dies at the age of 73.
1966 For the second straight day, Baltimore scores five runs in the ninth inning to win the game. They won 6-4 yesterday and 8-4 today.
1966 Willie Mays passes Jimmie Foxx on the all-time homer list with his 535th shot, making him second to Ruth.
1967 Houston trades Eddie Mathews to the Tigers.
1967 Reggie Jackson hits his first big league home run.
1967 Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox beaned in the face by California’s Jack Hamilton.
1970 Bob Gibson allows three homers in one game against the Dodgers. Willie Davis hits two of them.
1971 In two different games, both Bill Mazeroski and Billy Williams join the 2,000 hit club. It took Maz 2,117 games to did it, but Williams did it in only 1,751 contests.
1971 Minor leaguer Burt Hooton fans 19 players in a game.
1971 Johnny Bench blasts the first of five career walk-off homers.
1971 Jorge Posada is born
1971 Voros McCracken, sabermetric hero, is born.
1972 Steve Carlton wins his 20th game of the year, and it’s also his 15th straight victory. His line in that winning streak: 15-0, 19 GS, 14 CG, 162 IP, 111 H, 32 R, 30 ER, 40 BB, 148 K, and a 1.67 ERA.
1973 Joe Morgan steals a base of the seventh straight game, his personal longest such streak.
1973 Johnny Callison plays in his last game.
1973 Willie Mays blasts his 660th and final big league home run.
1976 George Brett steals home in the 10th inning for a 4-3 Royals win over the Indians.
1976 Blue Moon Odom plays in his last game.
1977 The Phillies end a 13-game winning streak (their longest since the 19th century) by losing 13-0 to the Expos.
1979 The Expos beat the Braves 1-0 on a rare walk-off HBP of Rodney Scott.
1979 Rod Carew has his worst WPA game: -0.438 WPA by going 0-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice hit. The Blue Jays top the Angels, 6-5.
1980 Al Oliver hits four homers in a doubleheader, including three shots in the second game. That’s the second time he’s hit three homers in one contest.
1980 A Pirate victory gives manager Chuck Tanner a career record 96 games over .500 (837-741), his all-time peak. He’ll go 515-640 for the rest of his career.
1980 Detroit retires Al Kaline’s number.
1982 Gary Carter connects for his 1,000th career hit.
1982 Wade Boggs plays the outfield for the only time, as he spends four innings in left in 10-2 loss to the Angels.
1983 Dustin Pedroia is born.
1986 Pete Rose plays in his final game, fanning as a pinch hitter against Rich Gossage.
1986 In his second game as a White Sox, Steve Carlton becomes the ninth pitcher to toss 5,000th major league innings. His catcher is Ron Karkovice, who makes his big league debut in his game.
1987 Tom Glavine makes his big league debut.
1987 Reggie Jackson belts his 563rd and final home run.
1989 Cal Ripken plays in his 1,208th consecutive game, passing Steve Garvey on the all-time list.
1990 It is quite the doubleheader between the Rangers and White Sox. In the first game, Nolan Ryan has one of the best games of his career, posting a Game Score of 101 by fanning 15 in 10 shutout innings while allowing five hits and no walks. He gets a no-decision, but Texas beats Chicago, 1-0 (13). In the 17 games he lasts longer than nine innings, this is the only time Ryan doesn’t walk anyone. Heck, he walked at least one batter in 189 of the 194 times he pitched nine innings.
That line misses the most exciting part, however, as Ryan helped spark a brawl. Early in the game, Ryan beans Sox infielder Craig Grebeck, because last time they faced each other, Ryan experienced the most embarrassing moment of his career – back-to-back gopher balls to Grebeck and Ozzie Guillen. After that plunking, Sox pitcher Greg Hibbard plunk Ranger third baseman Steve Buchele, beginning a brawl.
Part of Ryan’s dominance on the day includes mastery over Sox rookie Frank Thomas, appearing in his 14th major league game. Thomas has maybe his worst day ever, going 0-for-4 with four Ks.
That’s the first game. In the second game, in one swing of the bat, Carlton Fisk sets a record for most careers homers by a catcher, and most career homers for a White Sox. In all, it was a busy day.
1992 Kevin Gross tosses a no-hitter: Dodgers 2, Giants 0. Gross walks two and fans six.
1993 Baltimore signs amateur free agent Sidney Ponson.
1994 Two workers die at the Kingdome when the basket on the construction crane plummets 250 feet. A third man is badly injured in the accident.
1994 A federal jury convicts former big league player Willie Aikens for drug dealing.
1995 Sammy Sosa blasts the 10,000th home run in Chicago Cub franchise history.
1999 Jesse Orosco appears in his 1,072nd game, the new all-time record, passing Dennis Eckersley.
1999 Jose Jimenez is sent to the minors just two months after tossing a no-hitter. Previously, only one pitcher (Bobo Holloman) had that happen to him.
1999 A. J. Burnett makes his big league debut.
2001 Jeff Frye hits for the cycle.
2001 Colorado’s Jose Ortiz homers three times in one game.
2002 Alex Rodriguez blasts three homers in a game for the second time in his career.
2003 The Angels have a Rallymonkey Bobblehead Night.
2003 The Pirates have a bobblehead night for Peanuts’ character Charlie Brown.
2004 Chipper Jones homers in his fifth consecutive game.
2004 Mark Teixeira hits for the cycle.
2004 The Giants release shortstop Neifi Perez.
2005 Lou Piniella posts his 1,500 win as manager. (1,500-1,398).
2006 Ken Griffey Jr. homers on the 12th pitch of an at bat against Jeff Weaver. It’s Griffey’s longest battle to result in a home run.
2007 Brandon Webb tosses his third straight complete game no-hitter. He’s the first pitcher to do that since Roger Clemens in 1998, and now has 42 consecutive scoreless innings.
2008 Houston retires Craig Biggio’s number.
2008 Tampa Bay intentionally walks Texas slugger Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded.
2008 R. A. Dickey of Seattle tosses four wild pitches in one inning. On a fifth wild one, the scorer charges catcher Kenji Johjima with a passed ball.
2009 Baltimore trades Aubrey Huff to the Tigers.
2009 Boston releases John Smoltz.
2009 The Nationals sign Stephen Strasburg for four years for $15.1 million. The signing comes one or two minutes before the deadline to sign draft picks ends.
2010 Jim Thome ties a major league record with his 12th career walk-off home run.
2010 The New York Mets put closer Francisco Rodriguez on the disqualified list, as he faces criminal charges for punching his father-in-law.
2010 The mother of Sadaruh Oh, Japan’s greatest player, dies at age 108. Normally I wouldn’t include a mother’s death, but she’s 108 and the mom of East Asia’s best hitter.
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.