Tuesday, September 04, 2012
10th anniversary: The Moneyball gamePosted by Chris Jaffe
Ten years ago today was one of the most famous regular season games of the 21st century. It was such a wild and improbable game that you’d think it came out of Hollywood script. Instead, not only did it happen but it ended up in a Hollywood script. It was the Moneyball game.
The A’s had just won 19 consecutive games—the last two on walk-off hits—to tie the record for the longest winning streak in American League history. All they had to do was defeat the lowly Kansas City Royals.
Sept. 4, 2002 got off to an incredibly good start for Oakland. The A's jumped all over KC’s Paul Byrd in the first inning for six runs. They scored four runs before the first out. The A’s kept up the pace in the early going, and after three innings the Royals trailed 11-0. With A’s stud Tim Hudson pitching, that was a seemingly insurmountable lead. Seemingly.
We all know what happened next, right? In the fourth inning the Royals turned four singles, a double, and an error by A’s shortstop (and eventual AL MVP) Miguel Tejada into five runs. Well, 11-5 is still a nice lead.
The A’s cruised into the eighth still up by that score when the wheels began falling off. Reliever Chad Bradford faced four batters in the eighth, and retired none. To be fair, one was a bad defensive decision as Tejada went for a bases loaded fielder’s choice play and all runners were safe. Later in the inning, Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney belted a home run to make it 11-10. Oakland still led, but that once mighty lead was rather slender.
In the top of the ninth, sure enough the Royals tied it up against Oakland closer Billy Koch on a two-out RBI single to left. The score was 11-11. For a moment it looked like the Royals would get the lead outright. The A’s looked completely unglued as potential winning run Luis Alicea advanced from first base to second on a wild pitch by Koch. But immediately after the wild pitch, Koch picked off Alicea to end the frame. That play got cut out of the movie; it would make what happened next seem a little less heroically climactic.
What happened next was the A’s calling on normal first basemanScott Hatteberg to pinch-hit. In the movie, this was the moment Art Howe finally learned to trust Hatteburg. In reality, Hatteberg played in 136 games that year—two-thirds at first and the rest at DH. But that’s not our main concern here.
Instead, with one out Hatteberg took the first pitch for a ball, and then swung hard on an offering from Royals reliever Jason Grimsley.
It was a pinch-hit home run for the walk-off, AL record-setting 20th consecutive win. The A’s would lose their next one, but they can never take away what happened exactly 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
1,000 days since Milwaukee signs free agent pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.
1,000 days since Texas trades Kevin Millwood to Baltimore.
2,000 days since Bowie Kuhn dies.
3,000 days since Albert Pujols clubs his third walk-off home run.
6,000 days since Opening Day 1996, which features the managerial debut of Buddy Bell as well as the playing debuts of Jason Kendall and Rey Ordonez. More tragically, umpire John McSherry suffers a fatal heart attack in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.
7,000 days since Charlie Hough suffers his 200th loss, for a 206-200 career record. He’ll retire at 216-216.
8,000 days since the A’s finish sweeping the Red Sox in ALCS, thanks in part to Roger Clemens, who gets ejected in the second inning for screaming at the umpire.
10,000 days since Art Howe plays in his last big league game.
1891 In response to critics who say he is too old to play, Chicago first baseman Cap Anson, 39, plays the entire game with a false white beard. He goes 0-for-3.
1902 Alex Hardy hurls a complete game shutout in his debut, the first 20th century pitcher to do that. The Cubs top the Dodgers, 1-0.
1902 Dave Fultz of the A’s steals second, third and home versus the Tigers.
1906 The Yankees sweep their fifth doubleheader in six days, today topping Boston 7-0, and 1-0.
1908 The Pirates top the Cubs 1-0 in 10 innings. The run scores on an RBI single with runners on second and first, which proves to be vital in the 1908 pennant race. You see, Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers tells umpire Hank O’Day that the trailing runner never touched second base, meaning he could be forced to negate the run. O’Day says he can’t say for sure if that is true—but because of this O’Day will be looking for it later this month when Fred Merkle doesn’t touch second base, and that will turn the pennant for the Cubs over the Giants.
1911 Center fielder Roy Thomas plays in his final game.
1911 Giants pitcher Rube Marquard is on fire, fanning 14 in the first seven innings, and then runs out of gas in the eighth, losing 8-7 to the Braves.
1916 Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown both appear in their last game—and fittingly, they start against each other. It’s anything but a pitcher’s duel, as Mathewson’s Reds top Brown’s Cubs, 10-8.
1922 Eddie Collins gets his 400th sacrifice hit. No one has had that many since.
1923 Sad Sam Jones of the Yankees no-hits the A’s, 2-0. He walks one and there is an error behind him. The last out against him is a bunt attempt.
1924 Bobby Veach gets his 2,000th hit.
1924 Tommy Thevenow, one of the least powerful hitters ever, makes his big league debut. Thevenow will hit two homers in his career—both inside the park.
1925 George J. Burns plays in his final game.
1928 The Boston Braves appear in the first of nine consecutive doubleheaders, the major league record.
1929 Bill McKechnie manages his 1,000th game. His record is 576-416 and counting.
1930 Lefty Grove throws nine innings in relief, his longest bullpen outing ever, allowing three runs to help the A’s beat the Red Sox 8-7. He improves to 24-5 on the year.
1931 Frankie Frisch’s longest hitting streak peaks at 23 games.
1933 Joe Hauser of the Minneapolis Millers hits three home runs, giving him 65 on the year.
1935 NL President Ford Frick gives Babe Ruth a lifetime pass to all NL games.
1937 For the first time in franchise history, Connie Mack is not manager of the A’s. Son Earle Mack handles the team instead, as Connie is out on either a scouting trip or some other team-related business.
1941 Ken "Hawk" Harrelson is born.
1941 Joe Cronin plays in the outfield for the only time in his career.
1946 Ralph Kiner suffers his worst day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three GDIP.
1950 Doyle Alexander, workhorse pitcher, is born.
1950 Royals second baseman Frank White is born.
1951 After 1,346 IP, Bob Lemon commits his first balk.
1954 Preacher Roe, pitcher, appears in his last game.
1955 Gus Weyhing, 19th century pitcher, dies.
1960 A virus hospitalizes White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox, ending his consecutive games streak at 798 games.
1961 NL star pitcher Johnny Antonelli appears in his last game.
1961 Joe Horlen, AL pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1962 Houston finally beats Philadelphia. The Phillies had won the previous 17 encounters.
1964 Ken Boyer hits his fifth and final career walk-off home run.
1964 Lou Piniella makes his big league debut. He won’t catch on in the majors to stay until 1969, though.
1965 Ken Holtzman makes his big league debut.
1967 Ernie Banks belts his fourth and final walk-off home run. It’s an 11th inning solo shot off Don Sutton, who becomes 0-7 lifetime against the Cubs at this point.
1968 Mike Piazza is born.
1970 Brooks Robinson has a personal high 12 total bases in one game by going 5-for-5 with a double and two home runs.
1971 Jim Palmer surrenders a leadoff home run to Del Unser. In 382 remaining career starts, Palmer will never allow another leadoff homer. This was No. 3 for him, though.
1971 Ben Oglivie makes his big league debut.
1972 Jim Bibby makes his big league debut.
1972 Luis Tiant throws his fourth consecutive complete game shutout. Incredibly, it’s the second time he’s done that. His numbers in this stretch: 36 IP, 16 H, 7 BB, 31, and of course 0 R/ER.
1973 There’s something about Sept. 4 for an early-1970s Luis Tiant. Today he lasts 12 innings for a complete game 2-1 win over Baltimore. His WPA is 1.005, a personal best.
1973 Fergie Jenkins walks in a run. It’s the only time he does it between July 19, 1968 and April 12, 1979, a stretch over 2,900 innings.
1974 Jimmy Wynn mashes his fifth and final career walk-off home run.
1974 Royals pitcher Dennis Leonard makes his big league debut.
1976 Speedster Willie Wilson makes his big league debut.
1976 Alfredo Griffin, shortstop, makes his big league debut.
1978 The White Sox sign free agent Ron Kittle, who will later win a Rookie of the Year Award for them.
1978 Terry Kennedy makes his big league debut.
1978 Ozzie Smith hits his only home run in 583 games with the Padres.
1979 Negro Leagues Hall of Famer Turkey Stearnes dies at age 78.
1980 Rickey Henderson steals his 100th career base. He debuted the year before.
1980 Hubie Brooks makes his big league debut.
1980 Twins reliever Pat Neshek is born.
1982 Jim Palmer has his fifth and final one-hitter. It’s the second time a Twins third baseman gets the only hit against him. Gary Gaetti does it today, just as Mike Cubbage did it on Aug. 10, 1976.
1982 Luis Tiant appears in his final game.
1982 Jim Palmer wins his 11th straight decision, a personal longest winning streak.
1982 Toronto’s franchise record bottoms out at 226 games under .500: 331-557.
1984 Kevin Mitchell makes his big league debut.
1984 Three True Outcomes God Rob Deer makes his big league debut.
1985 Gary Carter hits two homers for Montreal, giving him five in the last two days.
1986 Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg dies.
1990 Luis Gonzalez makes his big league debut.
1991 Lou Gehrig’s 1938 road jersey sells for $220,000 at an auction.
1991 Jim Thome makes his big league debut.
1991 In the season finale for the Rochester Red Wings, teammates Tommy Shields and Shane Turner both play all nine positions. They win 8-0 over Syracuse in the International League.
1991 The Statistical Accuracy Committee decides to put Roger Maris’ 61 homer season atop of Babe Ruth’s 60 home run season. The asterisk is no more.
1992 Roberto Kelly of the Yankees sets a baseball record by reaching base via catcher’s interference for the seventh time on the year. Previously, Pittsburgh’s Dale Berra held the record.
1992 Toronto laces 10 straight hits in a 16-5 win over the Twins.
1993 Jim Abbott throws a no-hitter for the Yankees, 4-0 over Cleveland. He walks five and fans three.
1995 Kirby Puckett has his 13th and final multi-home run game.
1995 Jorge Posada makes his big league debut.
1995 Mark Loretta makes his major league debut.
1995 Robin Ventura hits two grand slams in one game for a 14-3 White Sox win over the Rangers.
1995 Ron Maurer of the Alburquerque Dukes plays all nine positions in a 4-2 loss to Las Vegas.
1996 The Reds sign free agent pitcher Mike Morgan.
1997 Philadelphia’s Bobby Estalella hits three home runs in one game.
1998 Barry Bonds reaches base for the 15th consecutive plate appearance, an NL record.
1998 The Yankees record their 100th win on the year. It’s the earliest any team has ever done that.
1998 Paul Molitor endures his 98th consecutive game without a home run, his longest drought. He’ll get one next time.
1999 Pedro Martinez fans 15 Mariners in eight innings of shutout ball.
2000 Boston retires Carlton Fisk’s number (27).
2001 Cal Ripken belts his 600th double.
2001 Josh Beckett makes his big league debut.
2002 The Cubs trade Bill Mueller to the Giants.
2004 Jim Edmonds hits his 300th home run.
2005 Jeff Kent smashes his 15th and final career grand slam.
2007 Joey Votto makes his big league debut.
2009 Roy Halladay throws a one-hitter in a 6-0 Blue Jays win over the Yankees.
2010 Texas signs what’s left of pitcher Mark Prior.
2011 Joe Maddon manages his 1,000th big league game. His record is 507-493.
2011 Carlos Beltran, at age 34, hits his second triple in thee days. It’s the second time this year he’s done this.
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.