Tuesday, July 24, 2012
65th anniversary: Dodgers franchise reaches baseball’s sea levelPosted by Chris Jaffe
65 years ago today was a nice day for the Dodgers franchise. On the face of it, the day was nothing too exceptional.
On July 24, 1947, they won a game, their fifth in a row, topping the Reds 6-1. The win increased their lead in the NL to 5.5 games with a record of 55-36.
That’s nice, but like I said nothing special. In fact, it’s likely the Dodgers didn’t realize the significance of the day’s victory. (And if they had realized, they might not have cared much, having more pressing concerns in the midst of the annual pennant race).
But the win did something special for the franchise. That win boosted their all-time franchise record to exactly .500: 4,650 wins versus 4,650 losses. It was their first time at sea level in 38 years. They’ve been over .500 as a franchise ever since.
Brooklyn got their start as an American Association team in 1884, and switched to the NL in 1890 as the AA was entering its death rattle. They were a good team overall, and by the conclusion of 1903 had a cumulative record exactly 200 games over .500: 1,438-1,238.
Then the Dodgers entered their long winter. The decade after 1903 would be the worst in franchise history and it didn’t take long until they fell under .500 as a franchise. They first fell back to .500 in late June 1909, and after some back and forth, last hit .500 on July 7, 1909 with a record of 1,751-1,751. A five-game losing streak begun on July 8 put them under, and they couldn’t rise back up.
The team kept losing, and the Deadball death spiral didn’t end until Sept. 15, 1914 with a record of 2,090-2,235. It had taken the Dodgers just 11 years to go from +200 to -145, an amazing bad stretch.
Though they righted their ship and won a pair of pennants in 1916 and 1920, the Dodgers soon regressed into being a bad team. Legend and lore remembers the 1930s team, Dem Bums, as a historically dreadful bunch, but that really isn’t far. There weren’t exceptionally bad, they were just lousy.
It was an unsteady process, but things finally bottomed out for the franchise at the end of the decade. A loss to Pittsburgh on May 24, 1939, their ninth defeat in their last 10 decisions, but them exactly 200 games under sea level: 3,903-4,103.
But that was the team that turned things around. Under rookie skipper Leo Durocher, they won seven of their next eight and finished the year in third place with a record of 84-69. That would be the first of five consecutive winning campaigns for the Dodgers. They were above .500 in 18 of 19 campaigns beginning in 1939.
And that run of sustained brilliance kept boosting their record. When 1947 began they were just 19 games under .500 (4,595-4,614). On July 13, a 48-31 record put them on the cusp of breaking even, but a brief bad stretch pushed them back.
But then they swept a doubleheader on July 21. And won again on July 22. And yet again on July 23 to find themselves one game under .500 as a franchise.
65 years ago today, they finally cast aside their losing record. Then they kept on winning. It turned out to be a 13 game winning streak. That put them well over .500, where they’ve remained ever since. (And more to the interest of the ’47 boys, it gave them a giant lead in the pennant race).
Nowadays, the Dodgers are miles over .500. When they surged out to a 30-13 record this year, it gave the Dodgers an all-time cumulative franchise record of 10,247-9,291; 956 games over .500.
They’ve fallen back a bit since then, but it would take a quarter century of consecutive 100 loss seasons to bring them back down to .500 – a place they were last at on July 24, 1947, exactly 65 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim over things.
3,000 days since Edgar Martinez hits his 500th double.
4,000 days since Doug Mientkiewicz makes three putouts at first in the second inning for the Twins without touching the bag at all.
6,000 days since Charles O. Finley, former A’s owner, dies.
8,000 days since Mike Greenwell hits an inside the park grand slam.
20,000 days since the Giants purchase the San Francisco Seals. They’ll move them to Phoenix and take San Francisco for themselves.
1863 Hall of Fame outfielder Tommy McCarthy is born. He’s a Hall of Famer, though he doesn’t deserve his spot in the Hall.
1882 The Cubs destroy Cleveland, 35-4.
1886 Adonis Terry tosses a no-hitter for a 1-0 win.
1887 20 days after playing his last game, Pittsburgh first baseman Alex McKinnon dies of typhoid fever.
1901 Milwaukee’s Pink Hawley beans catcher Lou Criger, who is unconscious for five minutes after getting hit.
1901 The Pirates score every inning in an 11-2 win over the Reds.
1905 Tigers workhorse George Mullin surrenders his first over-the-fence home run in two years and 15 days. He won’t give up another one since July 2, 1910.
1909 Dodgers ace Nap Rucker fans 16 in a 1-0 win over the Cardinals.
1911 An AL All-Star team plays Cleveland to raise $12,914 for the family of the late pitcher Addie Joss. Appearing in the game are Walter Johnson, Smokey Joe Wood, and Hal Chase, among others.
1911 In the Eastern League, a Rochester-Newark doubleheader takes two hours and 32 minutes to complete.
1915 Nap Lajoie hits into a walk-off triple play.
1915 St. Louis purchases veteran pitcher Red Ames from the Reds.
1918 Waite Hoyt, Hall of Fame pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1920 Black Sox Eddie Cicotte wins his 200th decision. He’s 200-145 for his career.
1926 AL pitcher Alvin "General" Crowder makes his big league debut.
1926 Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig pull off a double steal.
1930 Hall of Fame outfielder Chick Hafey hits his 100th career home run.
1931 Babe Herman hits his second career cycle.
1932 Joe Cronin triples for the third consecutive game. He’s got four in this span.
1933 The Cardinals make second baseman Frankie Frisch their manager. He’ll manage various NL teams until the early 1950s.
1934 Earle Combs fractures his skull hitting the wall at Sportsman’s Park. The Yankees would’ve called up George Selkirk to take his place, but he broke his arm this very same day.
1935 Phillies pitcher Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy makes his big league debut.
1938 Gabby Hartnett draws four walks in one game.
1939 Brooklyn select outfielder Dixie Walker off of waivers from Detroit.
1940 Bill Dickey hits the last of his eight career slams.
1946 Johnny Mize smacks his only walk-off home run.
1948 Enos Slaughter hits his 100th career home run.
1948 A bus crash kills five and injures 13 members of the Duluth club in the Northern League.
1948 Pat Seerey of the White Sox becomes the first person to fan seven times in one doubleheader.
1949 Indians Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon homers twice in one game, which gives Cleveland a 7-5 win over the Senators.
1949 Stan Musial hits for the cycle.
1951 Stan Musial hits his 194th home run as a Cardinal, passing up Rogers Hornsby as all-time franchise leader. He still is, with 30 more than Albert Pujols (475 vs. 445).
1951 The Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays, makes a bare handed catch off a Rocky Nelsonline drive.
1951 Duke Snider belts his 100th home run.
1954 At the end of today’s game, the Yankees use Mickey Mantle as second baseman versus right-handed batters and at shortstop for lefties. It’s the only time he ever plays second in the big leagues.
1954 Ted Williams receives a $250 fine for spitting at A’s fans the day before.
1955 A first inning double in the second game of a doubleheader gives Duke Snider the highest batting average of his career: .309489 (1,259 hits in 4,068 at bats).
1956 Walter O’Malley clears a hurdle in getting a new stadium when the New York state assembly approves of the Brooklyn Sports Authority. The plan, obviously, won’t come to fruition and he’ll move the team to LA.
1960 Nellie Fox gets his 2,000th career hit.
1961 Frank Robinson's hitting streak peaks at 19 games, his longest career streak. He’s 36-for-73 with 10 doubles, two triples, and nine homers in that span for an AVG/OBP/SLG of .493/.542/1.055. That's a helluva 19 game streak!
1963 Jim Kaat homers while tossing a complete game shutout in a 5-0 Twins win over the Indians. It’s the only time he ever combines those two in one game. He also fans 11 along the way.
1964 Barry Bonds is born.
1965 Casey Stengel manages his last game. He’ll break his hip and have to miss the rest of the season and then retire.
1965 Sandy Koufax wins his 11th consecutive decision, his longest ever streak. His numbers in that line: 11-0, 14 G, 14 GS, 11 CG, 114.2 IP, 76 H, 33 R, 25 ER, 24 BB, 130 K, and a 1.96 ERA.
1966 Don Drysdale hits his 29th and final home run. He’ll play three more years but never get No. 30. He also tosses a complete game shutout, his fourth HR/SHO combo.
1968 Don Drysdale loses 1-0 to the Astros due to the inning from hell. Here’s what happens: BB, BB, HBP, and RBI-HBP. He hits three batters in the entire game.
1968 Hoyt Wilhelm pitches in his 907th game, passing Cy Young for No. 1 on the all-time list.
1969 Don Sutton loses his 13th consecutive decision to the Cubs.
1970 Bill Melton fans seven times in one doubleheader.
1970 Carl Yastrzemski reaches base by catcher’s interference for the only time in his career.
1970 In the 10th inning of a 1-1 game, Tommie Agee steals home for a 2-1 New York Mets victory.
1971 Ferguson Jenkins fans 14 in one game, tying his personal most.
1975 The Royals fire Jack McKeon, tabbing Whitey Herzog to replace him.
1976 Danny Murtaugh manages his 2,000th game. His record: 1,075-922.
1976 Lyman Bostock hits for the cycle.
1977 Mariners pitcher John Montague pitches 6.2 IP of perfect relief, giving him 33 consecutive batters retired over two outings. This ties an AL record.
1978 In a teary-eyed press conference, Yankee manager Billy Martin announces he’s resigning.
1978 Pete Rose’s hitting streak reaches 37 games, tying the 20th century NL record held by Tommy Holmes.
1979 Carl Yastrzemski hits his 400th homer. The pitcher is a very young Mike Morgan.
1979 Bob Stinson gets on base twice in one game via catcher’s interference. This is one of just six times that’s happened since 1920.
1979 Lee Lacy has an odd time of things. He tries to steal second and is called out. However, it was ball four when he ran, so he’s safe. Double however – he went back to the dugout after foiled stolen base attempt, and so is called out for leaving the field. Pittsburgh will protest the play. I believe this happened during the umpires’ strike when replacement umps worked the games.
1983 Alan Trammell has his only 5-for-5 day.
1983 George Brett hits his famous Pine Tar Homer. He hits a two-run homer to give the Royals a 5-4 lead off Rich Gossage in the top of the ninth, only to have the umpires nullify the homer, saying he had too much pine tar on his bat. The commissioner will later overrule the call, the Yankees will sue and lose, and then they’ll lose the game when the bottom of the ninth is finally played much later.
1984 The Mets retire Tom Seaver’s number.
1985 Bert Blyleven completes his 10th consecutive start, a career best. He’s 6-4 with a 2.24 ERA in that span.
1985 Von Hayes hits the only inside the park homer ever legged out against Nolan Ryan.
1989 Wilson Alvarez makes his big league debut.
1990 Keith Hernandez appears in his last game.
1992 Fay Vincent announces that Yankee owner George Steinbrenner may resume ownership duties on March 1, 1993.
1993 Harold Baines gets his 2,000th career hit.
1993 Mets pitcher Anthony Young loses his 27th straight decision when he walks in a run.
1993 Vince Coleman tosses a firecracker from a car, hurting a woman and two children. He’ll earn a felony charge for this.
1996 Joe Torre manages his 2,000th game. His record: 954-1,042.
1997 The Reds release aging infielder Terry Pendleton.
1998 For the second and final time in his career, Larry Walker triples twice in one game.
1998 The Mets sign free agent Melvin Mora.
1999 Tom Candiotti appears in his last contest.
1999 Mark Redman makes his big league debut.
1999 Trot Nixon hits three home runs in one game.
2000 Ivan Rodriguez breaks his thumb. He’ll be out the rest of the year for Texas.
2001 Shawn Green hits the 10,000th home run in the history of the Dodgers franchise (which includes their very early years in the American Association).
2002 Brett Myers makes his big league debut.
2002 Orlando Hudson makes his big league debut.
2003 Barry Bonds celebrates his birthday by hitting his seventh career walk-off home run. He’ll have three more in his career.
2005 For the second straight day, an Orioles game ends with Rafael Palmeiro striking out with the bases loaded. Baltimore loses by four today and lost by one yesterday.
2007 Craig Biggio hits his fourth and final career grand slam. He also announces he’ll retire at the end of this season.
2009 Oakland trades Matt Holliday to the Cardinals for prospects.
2010 Magglio Ordonez plays in his final game.
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.