Centennial anniversary: Fenway Park and Tiger Stadiumby Chris Jaffe
April 20, 2012
Exactly 100 years ago today, two of baseball’s longest-lasting stadiums hosted their first official major league baseball game: Fenway Park in Boston and Detroit’s Tiger Stadium (which back in 1912 was called Navin Field and for a stretch was Briggs Stadium). Today, Fenway Park becomes the first active big league stadium to make it a full century.
In fact, there was a third stadium that also debuted on the day. The Giants played in their revamped Polo Grounds. The Giants had played there for years, but it wasn’t a steel-and-concrete, 20th-century major league stadium until 1912. Previously it had been an old-fashioned, rickety, wooden place. (All places were like that until 1909 or so.)
Tiger Stadium would last all the way until the end of 1999. Fenway, of course, is still around. The Tigers would be 3,764-3,090 (.549) in their longtime home. That’s equivalent to an 89-73 year. The Red Sox are 4,555-3,342 (.577) at home from 1912 through Monday of this year. That’s roughly a 93-69 season.
The Tigers won their stadium debut, topping the Indians, 6-5. Boston did likewise, beating the Yankees, 7-6.
It was a long time ago. At the time, only seven pitchers had ever won 300 games. (Christy Mathewson would soon be No. 8.) Only four had ever fanned 2,000 batters. No one had ever hit 140 homers, and Babe Ruth was still a teen in Baltimore. Ty Cobb had won several batting titles but was just 25 years old for Opening Day in Detroit. The Cubs were the winningest team in major league history.
Broadening our focus, when Tiger Stadium and Fenway Park opened, the world was still recovering from news that the Titanic had sunk. Future North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung was not even a week old. The Meiji Emperor ruled in Japan, and China was getting used to post-imperial life as its last emperor had been forced to step down a few months earlier.
William Howard Taft was president, and Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were gearing up to challenge him in a three-way 1912 race. America as a whole could celebrate that, for the first time ever, there were no territories from coast to coast as New Mexico and Arizona had just become our 47th and 48th states.
It was a long time ago when those places opened for business 100 years ago today on April 20, 1912.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim the list.
4,000 days since Randy Johnson fans 20 batters in nine innings. However, the game goes into extra innings, so it doesn’t tie the nine-inning game record. Plus, in the 1960s, pitcher Tom Cheney fanned 21 batters in 16 innings, so Johnson didn’t set an extra-inning record, either. It’s a great pitching performance that falls through the cracks of the record books.
5,000 days since Alex Rodriguez belts home run No. 100.
5,000 days since the Yankees beat the Twins, pushing Joe Torre’s career record to 1,169-1,168. It’s been over .500 ever since.
6,000 days since Oakland hires Art Howe as their manager.
8,000 days since Atlanta’s Jeff Treadway hits three homers in one game.
9,000 days since Kirby Puckett has the best game of his career, tallying six hits, including two doubles and two homers. The day before he belted two homers, as well.
10,000 days since the Mariners claim Mike Morgan from Toronto in the Rule 5 draft. In that same draft, Texas gets Mitch Williams from San Diego.
20,000 days since Stan Musial gets his 600th career double.
20,000 days since Cub teammates Ernie Banks and Chuck Tanner each hit an inside-the-park home run against the Pirates in a 6-5 Chicago win at Forbes Field.
20,000 days since Gil Hodges hits his 12th grand slam, tying the NL record held by Rogers Hornsby and Ralph Kiner.
20,000 days since Giants owner Horace Stoneham says his team will leave New York after the season. He claims it isn’t contingent on the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for the West Coast.
20,000 days since A’s owner Arnold Johnson denies that he has any ties to Yankee ownership or has favored them in any trades.
1872 Paul Hines, one of the best hitters of his day, makes his debut in the National Association.
1888 Kid Gleason, pitcher/hitter who played for 20 years before managing the Black Sox, makes his big league debut.
1891 Dave Bancroft, Hall of Fame shortstop, is born.
1891 Fred Dunlap, one of the best second basemen of the 1880s, plays in his final game.
1897 Brooklyn signs veteran pitcher Sadie McMahon, who Baltimore just released.
1898 Vic Willis, Hall of Fame starting pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1903 Chief Bender, Hall of Fame pitcher for Connie Mack, makes his big league debut. Also debuting on this day is George Stone, who for a brief stretch was a great player.
1907 Buck Freeman plays in his last game. At the turn of the century, he was maybe the game’s best slugger.
1908 Henry Chadwick, the only sportswriter with a plaque in Cooperstown, dies.
1909 It’s announced that the new Pirates stadium will be named Forbes Field, in honor of General John Forbes, who founded the city.
1910 Addie Joss tosses his second no-hitter. It’s against the White Sox, who that day field the worst lineup ever no-hit.
1916 The Cubs play their first game at Wrigley Field. Previously, it had been home to the Chicago Federal League club.
1917 The Braves win, boosting the career record for manager George Stallings to 63 games over .500 (639-576), which is his high point.
1918 John McGraw wins his 1,603rd game as manager, becoming the game’s all-time winningest skipper. Previously it was Fred Clarke. McGraw’s record at this moment is 1,603-1,081.
1920 John McGraw manages his 3,000th game. He’s 1,758-1,191 in his career thus far.
1923 The Cubs, who belted six homers yesterday, swat another half-dozen today in their 12-11 win over the Pirates.
1923 Hall of Fame outfielder Heinie Manush makes his debut.
1925 Brooklyn selects pitcher Joe Oeschger off waivers from the Phillies. Oeschger is famous for pitching a 26-inning complete game on May 1, 1920.
1926 For the only time in his career, Babe Ruth scores five runs in one game. He also has five hits and eight RBIs in a 18-5 Yankee win over the Senators. Among other things, Ruth nails a two-run homer off Walter Johnson.
1932 Hall of Fame shortstop Travis Jackson gets his 100th career home run. His Giants teammate Bill Terry hits two homers in the game, the second straight game Terry’s done that.
1933 Outfielder Al Simmons somehow makes an unassisted double play versus the Browns.
1933 Carl Hubbell sets a personal best with 13 strikeouts in one game. He leads the Giants to a 1-0 win over the Braves.
1933 Lefty Grove lodges his 18th consecutive complete game.
1937 Gee Walker hits for the cycle on Opening Day.
1937 Bobby Doerr makes his big league debut.
1938 Bob Feller tosses the first of his 12 one-hitters.
1939 Star Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg hits a walk-off home run in the 15th inning off Thornton Lee of the White Sox. The Tigers triumph, 8-7.
1939 Splendid Splinter Ted Williams makes his big league debut in a Yankees-Red Sox game. It’s the only game featuring Williams and Lou Gehrig. Also playing in it are Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Bill Dickey, Joe Cronin, Lefty Grove, and Bobby Doerr. Not bad.
1941 A Boston syndicate buys the Braves from the Charles F. Adams estate for $350,000.
1941 Brooklyn players begin wearing cap liners, becoming the first team to wear any sort of protective headgear. It’s sparked by nasty beanings the year before to their teammates Billy Jurges and Joe Medwick.
1942 Braves manager Casey Stengel orders young call-up Warren Spahn to bean a batter. Spahn fails and will be sent back down to the minors for not hitting anyone.
1943 Braves manager Casey Stengel is hit by a taxi, breaking his leg. He’ll miss part of the season, and at the end of the year one Boston newspaper will nominate the cabbie for Sportsman of the Year.
1944 Elmer Gedeon becomes the first big league killed in World War II.
1946 Sherm Lollar, catcher, makes his big league debut.
1947 Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell makes his big league debut.
1948 Dodger catcher Roy Campanella makes his major league debut. Fellow Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn does likewise for the Phillies. For that matter, so does non-Hall of Fame shortstop Roy Smalley.
1951 The A’s win at Fenway for the first time since September, 1948.
1951 Gil McDougald of the Yankees makes his big league debut.
1957 Infielder (and later broadcaster) Tony Kubek debuts in the big leagues.
1961 Former Yankees first baseman and current Dodger manager Don Mattingly is born.
1964 Eddie Dyer, title-winning manger of the 1946 Cardinals, dies.
1965 Warren Spahn records strikeout No. 2,500.
1966 Hank Aaron belts his 400th home run.
1967 Tom Seaver wins his first game, a 6-1 decision over the Cubs.
1969 Darrell Evans makes his big league debut.
1973 In a special election, the recently deceased Roberto Clemente is elected into Cooperstown.
1974 Frank Robinson nails his 500th double.
1975 Pete Rose hits his third and final career walk-off home run.
1976 Mike Schmidt connects for his 100th home run.
1976 Tiger phenom Mark Fidrych makes his debut.
1977 Gary Carter becomes the first Expo to hit three homers in one game.
1979 Braves starting pitcher Rick Mahler make his big league debut.
1980 Darrell Evans hits his only career leadoff home run. It comes off veteran starting pitcher Rick Wise.
1980 Current Angels manager Mike Scioscia makes his playing debut as Dodgers catcher.
1981 Houston trades Jeffrey Leonard and Dave Bergman to the Giants for Mike Ivie. This works out better for San Francisco.
1982 The Braves become the first team ever to start the year by winning all of their first dozen games.
1983 George Brett sets a personal high with seven RBIs in a game, thanks to a three-homer performance. It’s the second time he’s gotten three homers in a game—the third time if you include the postseason. He also has a single in na 8-7 Royals win over the Tigers.
1984 Eddie Murray gets his 200th home run.
1985 The Pirates trade longtime reliever Kent Tekulve to the Phillies for fellow reliever Al Holland and a minor leaguer. Tekulve will become the second pitcher to appear in 1,000 games while Holland will be named in baseball’s 1980s drug trials.
1986 One-time A’s phenom Vida Blue wins his 200th game. His record: 200-153.
1986 Garry Maddox plays in his last game. It was once said of the Phillies centerfielder that two-thirds of the planet is covered by water, the remainder is covered by Garry Maddox.
1986 Dennis Eckersley surrenders the only inside-the-park home run of his career. It’s hit by Steve Kemp, of all people.
1987 The Brewers win their 13th straight game to start the year, becoming baseball’s first 13-0 team.
1988 The Baltimore Orioles set a new, unwanted record by dropping their 14th straight game to start the year.
1988 Tiger fans stage a demonstration to protest Mayor Coleman Young’s call to replace Tiger Stadium. On this day, its birthday, they ring the place and give it a hug.
1990 Seattle pitcher Brian Holman is one out from a perfect game when former Mariner Ken Phelps ruins it with a pinch-hit homer. It’s the last homer of Phelps’ career.
1990 Larry Walker knocks out his first career home run.
1990 Pete Rose pleads guilty to two felony counts about his taxes.
1991 The Braves franchise record reaches an all-time low of 526 games under .500 (8,105-8,631). 20 years later, they’ll get back over .500.
1991 Former infielder turned ace pitcher Bucky Walters dies.
1991 Gary Sheffield lays down the last sacrifice hit of his career. He has 9,860 more plate appearances left to go in his career.
1994 Kirby Puckett’s longest hitting streak peaks at 23 games. He’s 34-for-97 with eight doubles and a pair of homers for a .351/.400/.495 AVG/OBP/SLG line.
1994 Lima Time begins. Jose Lima first appears in a big league game.
1994 Tim Raines reaches base seven times in one game, a career best. He’s 3-for-3 with four walks (one intentional) and scores twice for the White Sox in their 8-6 win over the Brewers in 12 innings.
1995 Longtime reliever (and briefly the all-time saves leader) Jeff Reardon announces his retirement.
1995 Dodger owner Peter O’Malley donates the 1955 Brooklyn World Champions banner to the borough of Brooklyn saying, “The flag belongs in Brooklyn.”
1995 The Pirates release Tim Wakefield, who turns out to have quite a bit of gas left in his tank.
1996 After starting the season by dropping their first 14 games, the Cubs finally win one.
1997 Mark McGwire becomes the fourth man to hit a homer over the left field roof in Tiger Stadium. Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew, and Cecil Fielder did it before him.
1999 Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott agrees to sell her controlling interest in the Reds for $67 million to the Carl H. Lindner-led group.
1999 The Nolan Ryan Museum opens in Alvin, Texas.
2001 After 7,700+ career plate appearances, Barry Larkin finally connects for a grand slam.
2001 Carlos Delgado gets three homers in one game for the first time in his career.
2003 Art Howe picks up his 1,000th managerial win. His record: 1,000-963.
2004 Barry Bonds bops out an extra-base hit for the eighth consecutive game. He’s 14-for-21 with three doubles and eight homers in that span with 11 runs and 16 RBIs. Oh, and that’s despite receiving 12 walks in this period.
2006 Frank Robinson wins his 1,000th game in the dugout. His manager record: 1,000-1,095.
2006 Julio Franco becomes the oldest person ever to hit a home run. The previous record holder was Jack Quinn—a pitcher!
2007 For the first time in 13 years, Craig Biggio hits a grand slam.
2008 Toronto releases aging DH Frank Thomas.
2010 Atlanta tops the Phillies. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Philadelphia led, 3-0, but then surrendered a two-run homer by Troy Glaus, immediately followed by a pair of solo shots from teammates Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth.
2010 Tim Wakefield can’t stop the running game at all, as he surrenders nine steals versus zero caught stealings. He’s so rattled by the non-stop running against him that for the first time in nearly eight years, Wakefield commits a balk. His last one was 1,461.1 innings ago.
2010 MLB takes over operation of the Dodgers, who are hamstrung by the McCourt divorce case.
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.