This annotated week in baseball history: May 31-June 6

This week, Richard gives every day its due, looking back at a piece of history from every day, spanning the years to bring the interesting historical events of May 31 through June 6.

Having done it for nearly two years, I can honestly say I don’t miss the day-to-day writing life. While I am impressed by those who manage it—our own Craig Calcaterra being among the best—I rather prefer having a week to pick a topic, do a little background research, and so on.

Nonetheless, I was feeling a little nostalgic this week for my past routine, so I have decided to pick an event from each of the last seven days and give it a brief treatment. Some of these could merit full-column entries, others might be a stretch at even short length. But we’ll do ‘em all this week.

May 31: Nicknames Abound!

I am a sucker for a good nickname, possibly due to having grown up in an era where nicknames are criminally underused. (His play has helped, but I really enjoy seeing Nick Swisher on the Yankees because it allows one to deploy the “Swishilisious” nickname.)

Back in the glory days of nicknames, they were plentiful and May 31 is no exception. Major Leaguers born today include Socks Seibold, Peaches Davis and Tippy Martinez. For good measure, today is also the birthday of Jackie Brown (I assume no relation to the Elmore Leonard character) and Rikkert Faneyte.

June 1: It’s Clobberin’ Time!

Some days, as the cliché goes, you’re the bug and some days you’re the windshield. On this day in 1923, the Phillies—playing at home, no less—were the bug. They lost 22-8 to the Giants. While I’m sure the Phillies hitters weren’t happy to waste a perfectly good offensive output just to cut their margin of defeat to “only” 14 runs, they had a better day than the pitching staff.

Those pitchers, in fact, managed the dubious distinction of being the first bunch of 20th century pitchers to allow a team to score in every inning. This is still a rare event; it has happened only once in the 21st century, by the Yankees during their beatdown of Toronto 17-6 in April of 2006.

June 2: Ouch

On this day in 1996 the late Darryl Kyle became the first pitcher since 1988—and at the time only the second Senior Circuit hurler—to hit four batters in one game since the HBP was tracked in earnest. All said, 17 pitchers have hit four batters in a game, with the most recent being Livan Hernandez in July of 2005 (weirdly, the pitcher prior to that was his half-brother Orlando Hernandez who did it on June 3 that year).

While four remains the single-game high for an individual player, at least six teams have topped it. Most recently, the Angels—fueled by Scott Schoeneweis’ four—managed to plunk five Oakland A’s. The A’s, not feeling terribly charitable, hit two batters themselves, making for a lot of sore players after the game.

June 3: Different Kind of Ouch

Sometimes a player’s sufferings on the field are mental rather than physical. Such was the fate of Pedro Martinez on this day in 1995. Pedro threw a perfect game for nine innings, only to see his Expos teammates fail to score off of San Diego’s Joey Hamilton.

In the top of the 10th, on his 96th pitch—and with the Expos now holding a 1-0 lead—Pedro gave up a double to Bip Roberts. And promptly got lifted for Mel Rojas! Rojas tried but failed to blow the lead and Pedro had to settle for nine scoreless innings and joining Harvey Haddix as players who had thrown nine-inning perfect games with nothing in the history books to show for it.

June 4: He Said to Play It Louder

Phil Linz, born on this day in 1939, never played in more than 112 games, never hit .300, had 11 career home runs and a lifetime .606 OPS. Yet people everywhere know Linz because of, as he puts it, “the harmonica thing.”

Indeed, Linz’ attempts to teach himself the harmonica after a Yankee loss—and manager Yogi Berra’s subsequent displeasure at same—earned the infielder enough money on the lecture circuit in 1964 to open a nightclub. He has also appeared on the Charlie Rose show, and can even be blamed for Berra’s firing after the ’64 World Series.

That’s quite a lot for a bit of musical ambition.

June 5: Goodbye, Rainouts

Assuming Target Field, new home of the Minnesota Twins, opens on schedule next season, that will mean that within the past 15 years 15 teams have replaced their homes. That includes places with unsurpassed history like Yankee Stadium and those places missed only by the four-legged creatures that inhabited them, like the Vet.

Growing up in this era of stadium expansion, I can only imagine what the reaction must have been to Toronto’s SkyDome—now the Rogers Centre—when it opened on this date in 1989. It was the first new park since 1982 and only the fifth since 1966. But it was unlike any other place one could watch baseball. It had a hotel! And a Hard Rock Café! And, most incredibly of all, a roof that opened and closed! For a time, it seemed SkyDome would be the model of parks in the future.

Instead, Camden Yards opened just a few years later and while SkyDome’s features continue to be imitated (one can eat at a Hard Rock Yankee Stadium these days) the retro trend took over.

June 6: And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

One of the great things about going to a baseball game, at pretty much any level, is that you are guaranteed to see something you haven’t before. (In fact, the lower the level, the crazier the thing is likely to be.) Fans who went to see the Red Sox host the White Sox in 1996 managed to see two things they likely had not seen before. First, Boston’s John Valentine hit for the cycle, starting things off with a bang by hitting a home run in the first inning.

Later in the first inning, after Chicago starter Joe Magrane issued two walks (meaning his first inning to that point was walk, home run , walk, walk) Tim Naehring came up and hit a ground ball to Robin Ventura. Ventura stepped on third, threw to Ray Durham at second who continued to play to Frank Thomas at first. Five-four-three, a triple play. It was only the second time—the last in 1931—that a game saw both a cycle and a triple play.

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