Tuesday, February 07, 2012
20,000 days since Hank Aaron’s worst gamePosted by Chris Jaffe
Everyone has their bad days on the job. Everyone has terrible days on the job. Thus it’s no surprise that the best baseball players have absolutely rotten games. And 20,000 days ago, one of the game’s best had maybe his worst game ever
It was Hammering Hank Aaron, playing for the Milwaukee Braves against the Brooklyn Dodgers on May 6, 1957.
He should’ve been feeling good heading into the day. The day before he’d gone 4-for-5 with a double and a homer. Two days before that he’d missed the cycle by a single. The day before that he’d gone 5-for-6. Yeah, that’s pretty good. But all yins must have their yang, and today would be that day for Aaron.
It started off generically enough. In the first inning, he harmlessly flew out against a 20-year-old Don Drysdale, making just his 15th big league start.
Two innings later Aaron got another chance against Drysdale. With the Braves trailing 3-1 and a runner on first, Aaron represented the tying run. However, this time he helplessly fanned on four pitches. Well, it’s not an ideal start but he still had plenty of time left.
In the fifth, it was still a 3-1 Dodger leader when Aaron came up in a crucial situation. The Braves had two on and two out against a struggling Drysdale. This was Aaron's chance to do some damage. He quickly fell behind, no balls to two strikes, but then battled Drysdale for several pitches evening the count. Then Aaron hit one into play – only to see it turn into an inning-ending double play. No, that can’t be what he hoped would happen.
Later, in the seventh, Aaron came up a fourth time against Drysdale, and again it was a crucial situation. It proved to be the highlight of Aaron’s day. With runners on second and third and two out, Drysdale pitched around Aaron, walking him to load the bases. The Dodgers went to their bullpen and got out of the jam.
And on the game went. In the ninth, Aaron came up for the fifth time on the day. At this point, the game was tied 3-3 and Milwaukee had the winning run on first base with two out. Aaron couldn’t help him though, and an easy fly out ended the inning. To date, he’d come up with six runners on base, advanced none, and driven in none. He’d also ended two innings.
But the game went into extra innings, and wouldn’t you know it—in the 11th inning Aaron came up. (As it happens, it’s the sixth straight odd-numbered inning for him to appear in.) Again there were runners on base—first and second this time—and again there were two outs. Aaron grounded out to second base to end the inning. He was now 0-for-5 on the day with a walk.
Both teams scored once in the 12th, and the game soldiered on. It wouldn’t be an odd-numbered inning without an Aaron appearance, and sure enough he came up with two out and a runner on first in the 13th frame. This time he meekly tapped one back to pitcher Roger Craig for the ground out.
A Dodger homer in the 14th ensured there wouldn’t be another chance for Aaron to come up.
Here was Aaron’s day: seven times up, one walk, but no hits in seven plate appearances. There was at least one runner on base in six of his seven plate appearances – nine runners hoping to score in all. None of them scored, and Aaron never advanced a single one. He ended four separate innings with an out.
Yeah, that’s a bad day. He’d have four other 0-for-6 games, but this was the only one in which he also hit into a double play along the way. In all but one of them he also drew a walk (and in the remaining game he reached base on error, stole a base, and scored a run). In all, it was a perfectly miserable day that saw him blow multiple chances to help his team win.
But, being Hank Aaron, the day’s disappointment left no lingering effect. The next day he was 2-for-4 with a triple. He wound up winning the NL MVP that year.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to skim.
1,000 days since the first reversal of a home run call since baseball began officially using replay for home runs. An Adam LaRoche homer against St. Louis is overturned.
1,000 days since Gerardo Parra of the Diamondbacks homers in his first big league at bat. He becomes the 100th player to do it.
1,000 days since Ken Griffey Jr. endures his worst game ever, according to WPA. He is 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and a GIDP as Seattle falls to Texas 6-5. His WPA on the day: -0.460.
2,000 days since Ken Griffey Jr. sets a personal record. Against Jeff Weaver, he homers on the 12th pitch of an at bat, his longest battle to result in a dinger.
3,000 days since the Cardinals trade first baseman Tino Martinez to Tampa.
4,000 days since the Dodgers trade Devon White to Milwaukee for Marquis Grissom.
5,000 days since Cliff Floyd loses a home run. Though replay won’t officially be around for 4,000 more days or so, umpire Frank Pulli uses it anyway to deprive Floyd of a homer, as his Marlins end up losing 2-1 to the Cardinals.
6,000 days since Kirby Puckett enjoys his 13th and final multi-home run game.
6,000 days since Jorge Posada makes his big league debut. Less impressively, Mark Loretta also debuts on this day.
6,000 days since Albuquerque Dukes player Ron Maurer plays all nine positions during a 4-2 loss to Las Vegas.
6,000 days since Robin Ventura hits two grand slams in one game as the White Sox thrash Texas, 14-3. In all, Ventura is 3-for-5 with a double, two homers, a walk, and eight RBIs.
7,000 days since a busy day of free agent signings. The big news is Barry Bonds signing with the Giants, ending his days in Pittsburgh. In other news, the Marlins land Charlie Hough, Kansas City gets David Cone, the White Sox get what’s left of Dave Stieb, and Toronto signs Dave Stewart and also trades Kelly Gruber to the Angels.
10,000 days since George Brett hits his second and final career grand slam.
10,000 days since Baltimore’s Jim Traber makes an interesting big league debut. His on-field performance is nothing noteworthy, but he sings the National Anthem before the game.
10,000 days since Reggie Jackson lays down his first sacrifice bunt in 12 years. He’ll never do it again.
15,000 days since baseball holds its 1971 winter draft. The most notable players drafted include: Phil Garner by the A’s, John Wathan by the Royals, and Jerry Remy by the Angels. Those guys will all sign with those clubs. The most prominent guys drafted who will not sign on this occasion include: Roy Smalley, who the Red Sox drafted; Rich Dauer, who the A’s drafted, and Rick Langford, who the Cardinals drafted.
25,000 days since Joe Medwick sets a personal best by driving in six runs in one game. He’s 3-for-5 with a double and home run as his Giants torch the Dodgers, 12-0.
25,000 days ago Sweet Lou Piniella is born.
Also, at some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since Gary Carter legs out his second and final career inside the park home run.
1876 Pat Moran, one of the best managers not in the Hall of Fame, is born.
1881 The Providence Grays sign free agent pitcher Old Hoss Radbourn. This is a good move. A really good move.
1899 Earl Whitehill, 200 game winner, is born.
1899 Now that the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Dodgers have the same owners, the best Baltimore players are sent to the bigger city. Joe Kelley, Wee Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings, and manager Ned Hanlon all head north. The only stars left behind in Baltimore are John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson.
1905 In Lynn, Massachusetts A’s pitcher Rube Waddell prevents a fire by carrying a burning stove out of a store and throwing it in a snow bank.
1908 The St. Louis Browns purchase the highly talented by mentally erratic pitcher Rube Waddell from the A’s.
1921 The Chicago Cubs release former star pitcher Claude Hendrix.
1937 Juan Pizarro, pitcher, is born.
1942 The Braves purchase Ernie Lombardi from the Reds.
1949 Joe DiMaggio makes financial history, becoming the first ballplayer to sign a $100,000/year contract.
1950 Starting pitcher Burt Hooton is born.
1953 Dan Quisenberry, brilliant 1980s reliever, is born.
1957 Carney Lansford, one of the only players to participate in the Little League World Series and the actual World Series, is born.
1958 The Dodgers officially become the “Los Angeles Dodgers, Inc.”
1959 White Sox president Dorothy Rigney agrees to sell the team to Bill Veeck.
1959 Hall of Fame second baseman Nap Lajoie dies at age 84.
1962 Boston hires ex-Indianapolis Clowns scout Ed Scott as their first full-time black scout.
1979 The Dodgers sign what’s left of Andy Messersmith. He left the team a few years earlier at the very beginning of baseball free agency.
1985 Baseball owners approve of auto dealer Marge Schott gaining controlling interest in the Reds. She had been a limited partner since 1981. This decision won’t end well for anyone.
1994 The Indians sign free agent catcher Tony Pena.
1994 The White Sox sign basketball star Michael Jordan to a minor league contract.
1996 Dave Winfield, 3,000 hit man, officially retires.
1997 The White Sox sign free agent swingman Danny Darwin.
1999 El Presidente Dennis Martinez announces his retirement.
2005 Detroit signs free agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez. This works out pretty well for them.
2005 Milwaukee signs free agent Jeff Cirillo.
2008 Brian McNamee gives a seven-hour deposition to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
2009 Sports Illustrated breaks a story that Alex Rodriguez once tested positive for steroids in 2003.
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.