December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Thursday, July 04, 2013
Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most improbable and unlikely achievements in baseball history. For it was 25 years ago that Mark McGwire hit a home run in the 16th inning—for the second straight day.
Yes, really. Yes. Really.
In back-to-back games on back-to-back days, Mark McGwire homered in the 16th inning. It’s almost impossible to describe how unlikely that is. Teams often won’t play in a 16-inning game all season, and if they do, it’s even less likely they’ll play in two. And if they play in two games that go that long, it’s pretty much a given that they won’t happen in consecutive contests.
And even if they do happen back-to-back like that, the odds are greatly against one man coming to the plate in the 16th inning both times. And for a man not only to come to the plate in the 16th inning in two straight days, but belt a game-winning homer each time? Yeah, that’s what you call bucking the odds.
Let me put it to you this way. A few years ago, I researched guys who hit homers in extra innings. I looked at a few hundred of the best sluggers in baseball history. Not only is McGwire the only person to hit homers in the 16th inning of two consecutive games, he’s the only guy I know of to have two 16th-inning homers in his entire career—and he did it in back-to-back games! It’s insane. He did in less than 48 hours what no one else has done in a lifetime.
Of course, McGwire’s feat depended heavily on circumstance. He needed the games to go on that long.
On July 3, 1988, young McGwire and his Oakland A’s teammates were playing the final game in Toronto in a series against the Blue Jays. Oakland led 6-2 early, but Toronto fought back, tying it on a Tony Fernandez double in the bottom of ninth on a rare blown save opportunity by star closer Dennis Eckersley.
The game soldiered on, and in the 12th it looked like the A’s had it wrapped up when McGwire’s Bash Brother Jose Canseco smashed a two-run homer for an 8-6 A’s edge. But those pesky Jays battled back, with Fernandez again playing the hero, this time with a two-run homer to make it 8-8. Finally, in the top of the 16th, McGwire hit a homer that gave the A’s a 9-8 lead, and this time they held on for the win.
The next day the A’s were in Cleveland, celebrating Independence Day against the Indians.
This game wasn’t nearly as dramatic. In an apparent effort to save his tired bullpen, Tony LaRussa kept starting pitcher Bob Welch in a little too long, and it backfired, as Welch surrendered a run that tied the game 2-2 in the eighth.
However tired Oakland’s bullpen might’ve been, relievers Jim Corsi and Greg Cadaret pitched brilliantly, allowing just two hits in six innings of scoreless work. Most impressively, Cadaret worked out of a 14th-inning, bases-loaded jam by striking out the last two batters to keep the game going on.
And of course it went into the 16th, when McGwire became the first, last, and only man to homer in the 16th inning on consecutive days. Teammate Stan Javier added another solo shot later for a 4-2 A’s win.
But the results weren’t the memorable part. A player hitting a homer that deep into games in two straight contests is more memorable, and that’s what Mark McGwire did 25 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball items 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.
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