Land of 10,000 coincidencesby Chris Jaffe
April 20, 2009
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column for THT titled "Land of 1,000 coincidences." Based on Burt Solomon's book Baseball Timeline and a collection of historic dates I had on hand, that article noted occasions when something interesting happened in the world of baseball and the real world at the same time. (Advance warning: there is a chance that some of the dates from my file might be a little off. As far as I know they're correct, but I rarely double-check them.)
However, the 10 items in that column just scratched the surface. There are a whole bunch of others worth noting. In this column, I'm aiming at broad coverage, so I won't spend nearly as much time on each item as the previous work did. Just a brief summation as to what happened. These coincidences aren't meaningful enough to string out for too many columns, so depth on analysis will be sacrificed in the name of quantity.
Hope you find some of these items interesting. In some cases, items that happen around the same time are included because—hey, close enough:
September 11-12, 1906: A good day for non-violence, and a bad day for violence
On the 11th, Gandhi coined the term "satyagraha," which means "truth force"—the guiding principle of his non-violent political action. The next day, John McGraw played his last baseball game.
October 1-2, 1908
On the first of the month, the first Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line. The next day Ed Walsh and Addie Joss hooked up for what was arguably the greatest pitchers' duel ever. Walsh fanned 15 but lost 1-0 to Joss, who threw a perfect game. Added bonus: the game had repercussions in the pennant race.
April 12, 1912: All too sinkable
On this day, poetry's most famous double-play combination—Frank Chance, Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker—took the field together one last time. As they did, the Titanic zipped along the North Atlantic, on the way to its demise.
April 1-2, 1914: Genuine class?
Alec Guiness was born the day after Rube Waddell died.
April 22, 1915: Crimes against humanity
The same day that the Germans launched their first massive gas attack on the western front, the Yanks debuted their pinstriped uniforms.
April 20-24, 1916: A (terrible?) beauty is born
In April 1916, the Cubs opened in their new park, Wrigley Field. A couple days later, Patrick Pearse and friends staged the Easter Rebellion in Ireland.
July 22, 1923: How old is Bob Dole?
So old that he was born on the day Walter Johnson fanned his 3,000th batter.
October 15-16, 1923: Leviathans emerge
Having existed as one of the American League's lesser Mickey Mouse organizations for the first two decades of the century, the Yankees came into their own on October 15, 1923 by claiming their first world title. The next day witnessed the founding of the Walt Disney Corporation.
May 5, 1925: Changing times
On this day, Georgia Peach Ty Cobb announced he would prove that he could hit homers if he wanted to. He proceeded to belt three long balls that day (and another pair the next day). Meanwhile, in Dayton, Tennessee, authorities arrested schoolteacher John Scopes for teaching evolution. Scopes wasn't the only person being challenged at his job. This day marked the 1,307 consecutive game in which Everett Scott played. The team benched him the next day.
June 30, 1934: Germans on the march
As the Night of the Long Knives began in Germany, Lou Gehrig hit three triples in one game for the Yankees.
1941: While you were hitting
The following events occurred during Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak: the birth of Bob Dylan, the British sank the Bismarck, Lou Gehrig and Kaiser Wilhelm II died, Rudolph Hess made his bizarre personal journey to Scotland, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and Warner Brothers debuted the cartoon: "The Heckling Hare." (That's the one where Bugs and the dog scream while falling to earth for seemingly hours before pulling up just before impact.)
December 7, 1941: Gee, I wonder what the big news story was the next day?
On this day, Lefty Grove retired. If you don't know what else happened, you didn't look very closely at the date for this one.
April 16, 1945
While Soviets begin the assault on Berlin, Jackie Robinson and two other Negro Leaguers (including Sam Jethroe) perform a tryout for the Red Sox.
Want to know how long it's been since the Cubs played in a World Series game? It wasn't until 11 days after the conclusion of the 1945 Fall Classic that French women were first able to vote in national elections.
October 1, 1949: Chairman Mao celebrates in his own way
As the Yankees celebrated Joe DiMaggio Day, Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People's Republic of China.
October 5, 1949: The beginning of something big
On this day, Casey Stengel first appeared in the World Series as a manager. That same day, in a small town in Kansas, writer Bill James entered the world.
June 17-18, 1953: Crush them
On June 17, the Red Sox clobbered the Tigers 17-1. For most teams, a 17-run game would be significant, but for this squad it was merely a dress rehearsal. The next day, Boston scored 17 runs in one inning, en route to a 23-3 demolition. Speaking of brutal, one-sided affairs, the Soviet Union sent a division of troops into East Berlin at this time to quell a workers uprising.
April 12, 1955: A cure for humanity and a plague for Kansas City
On the same day authorities declared Jonas Salk's cure for polio safe and effective, the Kansas City A's had their home opener. They won the game over the Tigers giving them a record of 1-0. Hopefully, fans didn't get too used to it That was their only winning record of the season, and they never had a winning record in their 13 campaigns in town.
May 13, 1958
On this day, in the middle of a tour of Latin American countries, protesters mobbed the car of US Vice President Richard Nixon. It was pretty serious, as they smashed windows and at one point started rocking the car as if they intended to overturn it. In more positive news, Stan Musial recorded his 3,000th hit that day.
September 20, 1958
On this day, a crazy woman stabbed Martin Luther King Jr. in the chest and Hoyt Wilhelm no-hit the Yankees.
March 1, 1959: Teddy Congressman?
Ted Williams breaks a collarbone on this day. More dramatically, supporters of Puerto Rican independence opened fire on the floor of the US Congress, wounding five. Oh, as if that wasn't enough, the US performed its Castle Bravo nuclear test in the Pacific Ocean this day. That one was particularly memorable because the wind changed direction after the test, dumping nuclear fallout on local natives and some Japanese fishermen. (This nuclear incident is prominently featured in the movie "Atomic Café.")
May 1, 1960: Bill—next time use shorter rockets
The White Sox debuted their exploding scoreboard on this day. Elsewhere in the world, the USSR began a major Cold War crisis by shooting down the U2 plane piloted by Gary Francis Powers.
October 12, 1960: We will bury you!
While speaking before the UN General Assembly, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev became so irate that he took off his shoe and started banging it on the podium to make his point. That same day, the Yankees crushed the Pirates 12-0 in the World Series. Despite this, the Yankees would be as successful in that Series as communism was in the USSR.
Willie Mays found himself in the middle of numerous of these coincidences. Willie Mays Night occurred on May 3, 1963, the same day Birmingham began using police dogs and fire hoses on civil rights protesters. He hit his 300th home run on August 27 of that year, the same day that NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois died. Finally, on May 11, 1972, he was traded back to New York (as a Met) the same day the Rolling Stones released "Exile on Main Street" in their old stomping grounds of England.
September 15, 1963: Three Alous and four girls
The greatest tragedy of the civil rights movement happened on this date when a Klansman threw a bomb in a church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young black girls. Meanwhile, west coast fans got to see Felipe, Jesus, and Matty Alou play together at the same time.
June 21, 1964: Mississippi Bunning
At the outset of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, civil rights workers James Cheney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were killed by Klansmen outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Up north, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning threw a perfect game.
April 16-17, 1964: Debuts good and bad
On April 16, New York dedicated the new Mets venue, Shea Stadium. That same day the Rolling Stones debut was released. The next day Shea hosted its first baseball game while in Detroit Ford unveiled the Mustang.
July 2-3, 1965: Context
I have little interest in getting involved in the whole Dick Allen whirligig, but here is an interesting one. On July 3, 1965, Allen got into an on-field, pre-game fight with teammate Frank Thomas. The fight had racial undercurrents, as Allen thought Thomas treated some black teammate inappropriately and Thomas muttered that Allen was some sort of Muhammad Ali type. The day before, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which dealt with fair employment, went into effect. The lawyers were revving up the first round of lawsuits just as Allen and Thomas got into it.
June 12-13, 1967: Forward progress
On June 12, Hank Aaron connected for his 2,500th hit. That same day, the Supreme Court handed down its Loving decision, declaring that states had no right to declare interracial marriages illegal. The next day, LBJ announced NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall would be his next appointment to the Supreme Court.
1968: While you were blanking
The following events happened during Don Drysdale's memorable scoreless inning streak in 1968: Paris' streets peaked in violence in anti-government protests, Vietnam peace talks began, Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell were born on the same day, the Beatles started work on the White Album, Helen Keller died, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, and Bob Gibson began a streak of 10 consecutive complete games in which he allowed a grand total of two runs to score.
February 4, 1969: Fearless leaders
In the 1,000 coincidences article I joked about how appropriate it was that Bud Selig took control of the Brewers the same day that AMC introduced the Gremlin. This one might be even better though: MLB named Bowie Kuhn its commissioner the same day Yassar Arafat became head of the PLO.
August 10, 1969: Menaces to society
On this day, the ever-volatile Billy Martin had one of his most memorable incidents. In his rookie season as manager, the Twins skipper beat up highly talented young pitcher Dave Boswell (who won 20 games that year). That night, the Manson Family murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home. (The night before, the Manson clan killed Sharon Tate and four others.)
April 10, 1970: An unwanted end and an unwanted beginning
On this day, Paul McCartney announced the breakup of the Beatles. That same day, Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium opened up. Of all the multi-sport facilities, this was arguably the least regarded, a dubious distinction if ever there was one. (Its turf was the stuff of infamy—just ask former Bears wide receiver Wendell Davis.)
June 17, 1972: Only in the '70s
Charles Finley held his Mustache Night for the Oakland A's the same day that the Committee to Re-Elect the President had its Break Into the Democratic Headquarters Night at the Watergate.
September 1-2, 1972: Showdowns
On the first: Bobby Fisher beat Boris Spassky in the most famous chess match of all time. The next day, Milt Pappas mouthed off to rookie ump Bruce Froemming in one of the most famous near-perfectos ever ended. After retiring the first 26 batters, Pappas walked No. 27 and has blamed Froemming for it ever since.
September 8, 1978: Massacres, rhetorical and otherwise
While the Red Sox were in the midst of getting swept by the Yankees in the "Boston Massacre" (which was part of Boston's blowing a seemingly insurmountable mid-summer lead to New York), Iranian governmental forces massacred protesters in Tehran's "Black Friday."
July 15-17, 1979: Malaise forever!
Two days after Jimmy Carter gave the most famous speech of his presidential career, the ill-fated "malaise" speech, the American League lost its eighth consecutive All-Star game to the National League.
While you were striking
During the 1981 players' strike, the following events occurred: medical professionals formally recognized the existence of AIDS, Steely Dan broke up, Microsoft restructured to incorporate as a business in Washington, child Adam Walsh disappeared, Prince Charles and Diane wedded, Congress passed President Reagan's tax cuts, and MTV debuted.
December 16, 1983: Who's next?
The Who announced their break up the same day that George Steinbrenner fired Billy Martin. Then again, considering how many times he fired Martin the real trick might be to find an event that didn't happen on one of those occasions.
1974-87: But the sun is eclipsed by...Rick Burleson?
Rick Burleson had a nice major league career for himself, lasting 14 years. The entire time he played, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album was on the charts. It finally fell off after a 741-week run in April 1988, by which time Burleson was gone.
August 31, 1990: Coming together
On this day, Father and Son Griffey played together in the same lineup for the first time with Seattle. Meanwhile, East and West Germany signed a treaty as part of their road to unification.
November 3, 1992: A winning combination
On this day, Bill Clinton won election to the White House, the start of eight generally successful years for himself, as he dominated Washington. That same day, the Yanks traded for Paul O'Neill. He would also be a vital part for a winning team that dominated the decade.
December 9, 1992: One of these will turn out well
On this day, US/UN forces entered Somalia and the Braves traded for Greg Maddux.
October 3, 1993: San Francisco Giants down
This was a big day. In the real world, Boris Yeltsin had the army fire on the Russian Parliament in Moscow to resolve some rather extreme government gridlock. In Somalia, a US Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Mogadishu, beginning a very nasty battle for US forces. In baseball, the last pre-wild card pennant race came to a close and Atlanta finished off a major comeback against the San Francisco Giants.
July 16-22, 1994
On July 19, a piece of the roof fell off in Seattle's Kingdome prior to a game. Fortunately, no one was hurt. As a roof piece collided with earth, a much more serious series of collisions happened in Jupiter, as the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 began crashing into it.
May 5, 1996: Yes, I'm aware one of these events is fictional
On this day, Reds owner Marge Schott made some rather remarkable comments sympathetic of Adolf Hitler. She was roundly denounced as intolerant for this act. Meanwhile, on the TV cartoon the Simpsons, Mayor Quimby decided to blame the town's budget crisis on the existence of immigrants and called on the city to vote them out of town.
The source book I used ends with 1996, so I have nothing more recent. Hopefully you enjoyed some of these items.
References and Resources
A major resource for this was Burt Solomon's The Baseball Timeline: The Day-by-Day History of Baseball from Valley Forge to the Present Day. New York: Avon Books, 1997.
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.
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