Monday, May 20, 2013
5,000 days since Eric Milton’s no-hitterPosted by Chris Jaffe
5,000 days ago, one of baseball’s most impressive pitching achievements occurred, though for various reasons it was one of the least impressive examples of this most impressive achievement.
On Sept.11, 1999, Twins pitcher Eric Milton threw a no-hitter, defeating the Angels, 7-0.
Looking at Milton’s line, there seems to be no reason to minimize his achievement. Not only was it a no-hitter, but it was a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts. So it’s not like he relied very heavily on his defense. The outing wasn’t littered with line drives or anything. Also, Milton walked just two batters, so it’s not like he had terrible control but was lucky with balls in play.
Yet, it’s still one of the least impressive no-hitters of recent times. While Milton did dominate the Angels lineup that day, the issue is exactly who was in that lineup. It was September, and just like all teams, the Angels had several minor leaguers called up to the big league squad.
The best Angels hitters that season were first baseman Darin Erstad, DH Mo Vaughn, and outfielders Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon. None of them played on Sept. 11, 1999. In their place stood Jeff DaVanon, a 25-year-old who made his big league debut a few days earlier; Todd Greene, a journeyman backup with a career .286 on-base percentage; Steve Decker, a .221 career hitter who was one week away from the end of his unmemorable career; and Matt Luke, a backup playing in his third and final season.
So half of the day’s lineup consisted of scrubs standing in for stars.
As an added bonus, there were other starters missing the day, as well. Gary DiSarcina and Randy Velarde were never great-hitting middle infielders, but each was good enough to play in over 1,000 games.
In this game, Velarde sat while someone named Trent Durrington played second base. Durrington played in 140 major league games—and had 46 hits. DiSarcina’s replacement at short was Andy Sheets, who hit .216 in 356 games. Finally, the normal catcher, Matt Walbeck, had the day off while a man named Bret Hemphill worked the plate. Hemphill had the least impressive career of them all: just three hits.
So seven of the nine batting order spots consisted of fungible players. There are literally minor league lineups with more impressive talent on display.
There were two starters in the game, with one a name worth knowing: third baseman Troy Glaus. While he’d develop into a fine hitter and All-Star, in 1999 the young Glaus was a .240 hitter, albeit one with power. The most dangerous hitter facing Milton was outfielder Orlando Palmeiro. When Orlando Palmeiro is your most dangerous weapon, you’ve got a pretty weak lineup.
Still, Milton did dominate and no-hit them. He still deserves credit, and he did throw a gem. Saying it’s one of the least impressive no-hitters shouldn’t overlook the key point, that it was a no-hitter. And it was a no-hitter 5,000 days ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their “day-versary” or anniversary. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since Houston wins a marathon 16-inning game over the Phillies, 4-2. Roy Oswalt plays left field in the last inning for his new Phillies team.
1,000 days since a U.S. army skydiver gets stuck on the flagpole during a pregame jump before a Rangers contest. Oops.
2,000 days since Tampa trades Delmon Young to the Twins for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.
4,000 days since Albert Pujols enjoys his first three-double game.
4,000 days since St. Paul Saints promo guru Mike Veeck gives away seat cushions for tonight’s game. On one side is the likeness of commissioner Bud Selig, and on the other side the likeness of union head Donald Fehr. Fans can decide which face to sit on.
4,000 days since Tampa Bay minor leaguer Nick Bierbrodt is shot three times while getting fast food at a drive in.
5,000 days since Barry Bonds bangs out his 2,000th hit.
7,000 days since US Sen. Howard Mezenbaum holds a 2.5-hour hearing on MLB’s anti-trust exemption.
8,000 days since the Tigers trade Dan Petry to Atlanta.
8,000 days since Houston releases Mark McLemore.
8,000 days since Ozzie Smith enjoys his greatest game according to WPA, going 3-for-5 with a stolen base, strikeout, and a run for a 0.572 WPA in a 10-9 Cardinals win against the Phillies.
9,000 days since Willie Upshaw plays in his last game.
9,000 days since Orel Hershiser sets a record with 59 straight scoreless innings when he hurls 10 scoreless frames in a 16-inning Padres-Dodgers contest. San Diego eventually wins, 2-1. There is a moment of controversy as a run apparently scored on an error with Hershiser just shy of the record, but the umpire ruled that the runner had violated the rules and so was out anyway.
10,000 days since Hall of Fame owner Bill Veeck dies.
15,000 days since Steve Carlton enjoys the best Game Score of his career: 98. He fans 14 in a complete-game shutout one-hitter. The hit is the first batter, Chris Speier. Carlton also walks a batter.
15,000 days since Don Sutton wins, pushing his career record over .500 (86-85). It always will be over .500 from here on out.
15,000 days since Garry Maddox, super glove in center field, makes his major league debut.
50,000 days since Davy Force gets six hits in one game. He’s the first person in the National League to do so.
1871 As the National Association, the first major league, begins its inaugural season, several star players make their debut, including Levi Meyerle and Dick McBridge.
1878 Jim McCormick, pitcher who wins over 250 games, makes his big league debut.
1887 Larry Corcoran, once a star pitcher, appears in his final game.
1897 Bill Hutchison, tremendous ace pitcher workhorse from the early 1890s, appears in his final game.
1900 George Grantham, a very well-rounded player, is born.
1912 The Detroit Tigers currently are on strike to protest the suspension of Ty Cobb for attacking a fan. Today, American League honcho Ban Johnson threatens all the Tiger players with lifetime suspensions if they don’t return to play. In reply, Cobb asks his teammates to end their strike.
1912 Due to a court decision, Mrs. Schuyler F. Britton gains complete control over the St. Louis Cardinals franchise.
1914 Dolf Luque, terrific pitcher who wins over 200 games, makes his big league debut.
1916 John McGraw wins his 1,427th game, passing Connie Mack for second place all-time behind only Fred Clarke. Mack and McGraw have gone back-and-forth since late 1915 for the No. 2 spot, but now McGraw will stay on top of Mack for the next 20-plus years.
1919 Babe Ruth connects for the first of 16 career grand slams.
1921 Hal Newhouser, Hall of Fame pitcher, is born.
1922 Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel were suspended to start the year for engaging in an off-season barnstorming tour that violated league rules. Today, their suspensions finally end.
1922 The Yankees lose one in horrible fashion. One out from a 2-1 win over the Browns, a would-be final out is dropped for an error. Fans don’t notice the error, and they charge the field. Eventually it’s cleared, but the Yankees are completely thrown by the combination of error and mayhem, surrendering seven runs for an 8-2 defeat.
1922 It took long enough, but Tris Speaker finally hit his first grand slam. He’ll hit three more in his remaining seasons.
1925 It’s another tough Yankees loss, and another big moment for Tris Speaker. The Indians score six runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Yankees, 10-9. Speaker scores the winning run from first on a single.
1928 Yankees Hall of Famer Earle Combs hits an inside-the-park grand slam off Sam "Dolly" Gray of the Browns.
1929 Hall of Fame pitcher Jesse Haines posts his 14th straight win, his longest ever streak. His numbers in that time: 15 G, 14 GS, 120.2 IP, 100 H, 34 R, 28 ER, 36 BB, and 43 K for a 2.09 ERA.
1931 Star third baseman Ken Boyer is born.
1932 Paul Waner doubles four times in one game.
1938 Bucky Walters suffers his worst start: 3.2 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, and 4 K for a Game Score of 4.
1940 For the second time in his career, Pinky Higgins belts three home runs in one game.
1941 Lefty Grove notches his 20th consecutive win at home. He’s the first pitcher to do that.
1945 Bucky Walters first made it to the majors as a position player, and today he hits like one, swatting two homers in one game.
1945 One-armed outfielder Pete Gray records four hits in eight at-bats for the Browns in a doubleheader and makes several outstanding catches.
1946 Outfielder Bobby Murcer is born.
1947 Today’s Pirates-Braves game features 22 hits, all singles. The Pirates win, 4-3.
1948 For the second time since 1920, a reliever walks 11 batters in one outing. It’s Mickey McDermott. This has happened just once since then. In all, McDermott’s Red Sox team walks 18 Indians batters in eight innings. That’s the most walks in a non-extra-inning game. The Indians win, 13-4.
1948 For the second and last time, Joe DiMaggio hits for the cycle. He hits two homers, just like he did in his first cycle.
1949 Don Newcombe, star Dodgers pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1951 Richie Ashburn has a great day, get four hits in each game of today’s Phillies’ doubleheader. Philadelphia sweeps the day versus the Pirates, 17-0 and 12-4.
1952 In their first season in Milwaukee, the Braves—in just their 13th home game of the season—top 1952’s attendance mark from their last season in Boston.
1953 It might be Red Schoendienst’s greatest game, as he goes 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, and six RBIs. He also draws a base on balls and scores three times.
1956 Frank Robinson receives the first of his 198 career hits-by-pitch.
1956 Chuck Stobbs uncorks the wildest pitch in history. It lands 17 rows up and 30 feet wide of home plate along the first-base side.
1958 It’s taken him the better part of a decade, but Mickey Mantle finally legs out his first inside-the-park home run. No. 2 will come barely over two weeks later. He’ll end his career with four of them.
1958 The Cardinals trade Alvin Dark to the Cubs for Jim Brosnan.
1959 The Yankees lose, falling into last place for the first time in 19 years. (Well, not including 0-1 records and really early things like that).
1960 St. Louis signs free agent Curt Simmons.
1962 Young Cubs infielder Ken Hubbs gets eight hits in a doubleheader versus the Phillies.
1962 In just the 34th game of his career, future Hall of Famer Lou Brock hits his first grand slam. He’ll play another 2,582 games, but never hit another.
1963 Long-lasting pitcher David Wells is born.
1964 Houston picks up Don Larsen from San Francisco.
1965 Todd Stottlemyre is born.
1967 Willie McCovey does something he’ll never do again, lay down a sacrifice hit. He has over 6,100 more plate appearances left.
1968 For the second time in his career, Jim Fregosi hits for the cycle.
1969 Baseball historian Lee Allen dies at age 54.
1970 Rod Carew hits for the cycle, giving him a personal-best 10 total bases in one game.
1971 At a baseball game, singer Peter Cetera (from the band Chicago) gets beaten up by a gang of hooligans. He’ll need five hours of emergency surgery as a result.
1971 According to WPA, it’s the best relief stint in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise when Mike Marshall throws six scoreless innings for a 0.832 WPA.
1971 Just three days before his 65th birthday, future Negro Leagues Hall of Famer Martin Dihigo dies.
1973 Phil Niekro posts his 100th career win. He’s 34 years old but has over 200 more wins left in his arm.
1974 Kent Tekulve, the second pitcher to appear in 1,000 games, makes his big league debut.
1975 The Indians trade Jim Perry and Dick Bosman to the A’s for Blue Moon Odom and cash.
1976 Sparky Anderson helms his 1,000th game. His record is 602-397 so far. Not bad, not bad at all.
1976 One day after he homered three times in one game, Carl Yastrzemski goes deep twice in today’s contest.
1976 The same day Yaz is on a power surge, plenty of other players are doing their own hard hitting, as the Red Sox and Yankees get in a major fight. It begins at the plate when Lou Piniella gives a hard slide to Carlton Fisk, and Fisk responds by intentionally tagging Piniella hard. After the benches clear, Red Sox hurler "Spaceman" Bill Lee and Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles go at it, with Lee injuring his arm in the melee.
1976 Ramon Hernandez, catcher, is born.
1978 Boston signs amateur free agent Bob Ojeda.
1978 Willie Stargell rocks the longest bomb ever hit in Stade Olympique—and possibly all of Canada—when he smashes one 535 feet off Wayne Twitchell.
1979 Don Sutton wins his 210th game as a Dodger, passing up Don Drysdale as all-time franchise win leader. He still is all of these years later.
1980 Austin Kearns is born.
1980 Tommy John will throw over 2,500 innings after his famous surgery and only allow one grand slam in all that time, but it comes here. Richie Hebner of the Tigers swats it.
1983 Ricky Nelson hits a ball in Seattle that sticks in the speaker at the Kingdome. As per the stadium ground rules, it’s a strike.
1983 Steve Carlton passes up Walter Johnson with his 3,511th strikeout, second only to Nolan Ryan, who passed Johnson earlier this same season.
1984 The Cardinals retire No. 14 for Ken Boyer, who would be celebrating his 53rd birthday today, except he died over a year previously.
1984 Roger Clemens wins his first game.
1985 Major League Baseball has its first rainout of the year. It comes after 458 games, the latest ever for the year's first rainout.
1988 For the second time this year, Bob Welch is called for three balks in one game.
1988 Roger Clemens throws 10 innings in one game, his only time with more than nine.
1989 Sparky Anderson manages his 3,000th game, for a record of 1,714-1,284.
1989 Manny Trillo appears in his last game.
1990 Edgar Martinez has the first of 22 multi-home run games. He sets a personal best with a 0.723 WPA. He’s 4-for-5 with a triple and single alongside the pair of home runs. He leads Seattle to an 8-7 win over Cleveland.
1991 Jeff Reardon records his 300th save.
1991 California signs what’s left of former starting pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.
1991 Pete Runnels, a former two-time batting champion, dies at age 63.
1993 Rafael Palmeiro hits his 100th career home run.
1994 Robin Ventura plays shortstop for seven innings. It’s his only time ever there.
1995 Chipper Jones’ sixth career home run is a walk-off blast. He’ll hit another walk-off six weeks later; not a bad way to start a career.
1995 For the second time this year, Toronto’s all-time franchise record hits .500 (1,416-1,416). The Blue Jays fall back below that mark in their next game and have been under .500 ever since.
1999 That’s just Robin Ventura being Robin Ventura. He becomes the first player to smack a grand slam in both halves of a doubleheader. Ventura leads the Mets to an 11-10 and 10-1 sweep over the Brewers.
2000 Roberto Alomar receives the rare walk-off walk.
2001 Barry Bonds homers twice in one game, giving him five in two days.
2001 Jason Varitek hits three home runs in one game.
2002 Brady Anderson appears in his last game.
2006 Barry Bonds hits his 714th home run, tying Babe Ruth for second-most ever.
2006 An old Joe DiMaggio uniforms sells at an auction for $195,500 to someone with too much money.
2006 Josh Beckett has a great day for the Red Sox, as he not only pitches seven solid innings, but smacks a home run and an RBI single. He’s the first Boston pitcher to homer in a game since Marty Pattin in 1972.
2006 The lesser Alex Gonzalez appears in his last game.
2006 Ken Griffey Jr. smacks the last of his 15 career grand slams.
2007 The longest hitting streak Jorge Posada ever has peaks at 15 games.
2007 For the first time, but not last time, Andruw Jones goes 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. He isn’t aging that well at all.
2008 Mike Piazza announces his retirement.
2009 Astros manager Cecil Cooper makes a bonehead move, submitting the wrong lineup card. Michael Bourn is called out for batting out of turn as a result.
2009 Pitcher Scott Schoeneweis’ wife is found dead of a drug overdose in their home, leaving him in sole custody of four kids, all under the age of 16.
2010 The Reds take an 8-0 lead on the Braves but lose, 10-9, surrendering seven runs in the bottom of the ninth. Laynce Nix ends the game on a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam with the team down by three. It’s just the second time someone has hit a pinch-hit homer like that. The other was on July 8, 1950.
2010 Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez flirts with his second no-hitter of the year, giving up just an infield single before leaving in the seventh due to leg cramps. Right now, he’s 8-1 with 0.99 ERA.
2012 Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer fans 15 batters, all in seven innings. He gets the win against the Pirates.
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.