100th anniversary: Christy Mathewson’s 300th win

A hundred years ago today, one of the game’s greatest talents achieved one of the game’s great milestones.

On June 13, 1912, New York Giants ace Christy Mathewson chalked up career win No. 300. He was just the eighth pitcher to reach that lofty milestone, and the first in more than a decade. Cy Young, the seventh guy to win 300, had done it back in 1901.

However, calling it a “lofty milestone” is both true and anachronistic. It’s true because it is a great milestone, but it’s out of time because people didn’t pay too much attention to career milestones back then. As Bill James noted in the original Historical Abstract, career milestones became a bigger deal with the opening of the Hall of Fame a quarter century after Mathewson’s achievement.

That said, it was a great achievement. Mathewson’s win was 3-2 over the Cubs, the Giants’ main rival during Mathewson’s career. It would have been perfect if it had come against Mordecai Brown, Mathewson’s longtime peer and nemesis, but he was injured in 1912.

Mathewson entered the 1912 season with a career record of 289-134. I don’t know exactly what his record was 100 years ago today, but the Giants had lost two of his starts earlier in the year. He was probably 11-2 or so, giving him a record of 300-136 upon win No. 300.

Ever since, no one has had a record that good upon winning hisr 300th game. Lefty Grove came close, with a mark of 300-138 when he did it in 1941. He’s the only one even close. Roger Clemens was 300-155 and Pete Alexander 300-157. Mathewson benefited not only from being a great pitcher, but also playing on a great team.

That’s 164 games over .500. Hardly anyone has ever been that high up at any point in his career, let alone when he won No. 300. Cy Young did. Since he lasted forever and pitched in a ton of games, Young ended his career nearly 200 games over .500, the all-time champ.

Alexander made it to 164 games over .500, barely. He peaked at 169 games over .500, which he first reached with a record of 371-202. He retired at 373-204. Since then, only one more man has done it—Clemens. He peaked at 171 games over .500, a level he hit several times, ranging from 339-168 to 354-183.

But Mathewson did it the day he won his 300th contest—and that happened exactly 100 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other 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 prefer to just skim the lists.

Day-versaries

4,000 days since the Rangers release Ken Caminiti.

6,000 days since the Giants sign free agent Shawon Dunston.

6,000 days since the A’s trade Todd Stottlemyre to the Cardinals.

8,000 days since authorities sentence Pete Rose to five months in jail for not paying his taxes.

15,000 days since Peter Cetera, singer in the band Chicago, gets beaten up by hooligans at a baseball game. He needs five hours of emergency surgery as a result.

15,000 days since what WPA considers to be the best relief stint in the history of the Expos/Nationals franchise. Mike Marshall throws six innings of scoreless relief for a WPA of 0.832.

15,000 days since Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer Martin Dihigo dies just three days shy of his 65th birthday.

20,000 days since slugger Jim Gentile makes his big league debut.

Anniversaries

1878 Bill Bergen, the worst hitting player of all-time, is born.

1885 George Wood hits for the cycle.

1888 Hall of Fame slugger Ed Delahanty connects for his first home run.

1905 Christy Mathewson pitches a no-hitter, the second of his career. It allows the Giants to top Mordecai Brown and the Cubs, 1-0.

1912 Pirates manager Fred Clarke notches his 1,314th career win, making him the all-time leader in manager victories. He passes Ned Hanlon, who previously passed Cap Anson, who had passed Harry Wright. Clarke will keep the title for a bit until John McGraw and Connie Mack surpass him.

1913 John McGraw manages his 2,000th game, giving him a career record of 1,304-906. They had a lot of ties back then.

1914 200-game winner Sad Sam Jones makes his big league debut.

1917 The National League suspends John McGraw for 16 games for assaulting an umpire on June 8.

1918 Cliff Heathcote hits for the cycle.

1921 Hall of Fame Senators outfielder Sam Rice has perhaps his greatest game at the plate. He’s 5-for-5 with two doubles and a home run—but his team loses 10-6 to the Indians.

1921 Babe Ruth returns to the mound against the Tigers, pitching five innings and getting the win. Best of all, he strikes out Ty Cobb, who had made some remarks about how Ruth used to be a more complete player when he pitched. Oh—Ruth also belts two home runs in game, the second of which travels approximately 460 feet.

1922 Boston Red Sox ace Mel Parnell is born.

1924 The Yankees win when the Tigers have to forfeit. A fight among fans in the stands leads to a riot and 1,000 spill onto the field. The cops arrive but can’t restore order.

1927 40-year-old Eddie Collins hits his last triple.

1929 Pie Traynor legs out his 100th career triple in just 1,101 games. He also got No. 99 in this contest.

1930 Two Hall of Fame outfielders are traded for each other, with a 20-game winner thrown in as well. The Browns send pitcher General Crowder and Heinie Manush to the Senators for Goose Goslin.

1934 Billy Urbanski does something rare—he has six plate appearances in the game but zero at bats. He walks four times and lays down a pair of sacrifice bunts.

1936 Bill Nicholson makes his big league debut.

1937 Joe DiMaggio bonks out three home runs in one game.

1938 The Phillies, as they are wont to do in these days, trade/sell their best player away. They send pitcher Bucky Walters to the Reds for two players and $50,000. Walters will be the best pitcher in the league for a few years in Cincinnati.

1939 Lou Gehrig checks into the Mayo Clinic to find out what is wrong with him.

1940 The Cleveland Indians rebel against manager Ossie Vitt, charging him with disparaging conduct, excessive criticism, and rude demeanor. The press will get hold of the story and label the club the “Cleveland Crybabies.” Vitt survives the rebellion but won’t manage the team too much longer.

1943 Ken Chase has one of the worst relief stints of all time, walking 11.

1945 Red Sox rookie sensation Boo Ferriss tops the Washington Senators, 6-5. He has now beaten all the other AL squads in his first start against them.

1947 Fenway Park hosts its first night game. Only Tiger Stadium and Wrigley Field are now without lights.

1948 The Yankees retire Babe Ruth’s number. It’s the last time he ever appears in the House That He Built. The emcee for the event is Mel Allen. How about that?

1952 Ernie Whitt, 1980s Blue Jays catcher, is born.

1952 Over his entire career, Phil Rizzuto fans once every 17 plate appearances, but today he goes down swinging three times in three PA.

1953 The St. Louis Browns trade starting pitcher Virgil Trucks and Bob Elliott to the White Sox for two players and $75,000.

1954 Bucky Harris becomes the third manager to work 4,000 games, joining Connie Mack and John McGraw in the club. Harris’ record is 1,954-2,015.

1956 Milwaukee Brave Danny O’Connell gets three triples in one game.

1957 A nasty brawl erupts in today’s White Sox-Yankees game. Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar buzzes the head of Chicago outfielder Larry Doby. In response, Doby screams that if Ditmar does that again, “I’ll stick a knife in your back.” That starts the brawl, which lasts a half-hour. Yankees infielder Billy Martin goes after Doby for what he said. Outfielder Enos Slaughter’s jersey is badly torn in the melee.

1957 Ted Williams enjoys his third game with three homers in it. Game No. 2 was barely over a month ago.

1958 Pee Wee Reese has what WPA considers his best game: 0.885 WPA. He’s 2-for-4 with a run, double, RBI, and walk in the Dodgers 5-4 win over the Pirates. His big blast is a two-run, walk-off double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. It’s one of the last moments of glory for Reese, whose career has just 31 more games left.

1962 Sandy Koufax has a memorable day, smacking a solo home run off Warren Spahn. It’s a key blast, as the Dodgers top the Braves by one, 2-1.

1963 For the first time in more than two years, Sandy Koufax balks. He’ll never do it again.

1964 The A’s sign amateur free agent Joe Rudi.

1964 Pittsburgh signs amateur free agent Al Oliver.

1967 Tommy John has the best Game Score of his career (a mark he’ll tie twice): 89. His line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, and 9 K.

1968 Pete Rose plays at first base for the first time.

1971 Troubled Angels outfielder Alex Johnson accuses utility man Chico Ruiz of pulling a gun on him in the locker room.

1973 For the first time, the Dodgers field an infield of Steve Garvey at first base, Davey Lopes at second, Bill Russell at short, and Ron Cey at third. They’ll spend more games together than any other infield quartet in baseball history.

1975 The Indians trade Gaylord Perry, who won the Cy Young Award for Cleveland in 1972, to the Rangers for $100,000, and three players.

1975 Darrell Evans suffers through the worst game of his career, going 0-for-5 with two Ks and a pair of GIDPs.

1976 The Braves trade veteran infielder Darrell Evans to the Giants for Willie Montanez and three other players.

1976 For the only time in his career, Phil Niekro attempts to steal a base. Niekro, 37, fails in the attempt, which comes a half-inning after the opposing pitcher belts a home run off him. An attempt at revenge? It looks like that was Niekro’s goal.

1976 Starting pitcher Rick Langford makes his big league debut.

1979 200-game winning knuckler Joe Niekro wins his ninth straight decision, the longest winning streak of his career.

1980 Willie Stargell enjoys the last of his 36 multi-home run games.

1984 The Cubs and Indians stage a six-player trade. The Indians get Joe Carter while the Cubs get Rick Sutcliffe. Carter will have the longer career, but Sutcliffe will go 16-1 for the ’84 Cubs and win the Cy Young Award.

1985 Earl Weaver comes out of retirement to manage the Orioles again. He should’ve stayed retired.

1986 Cory Snyder makes his big league debut with the Indians.

1988 For the first time in three years and 39 days, Jim Rice hits more than one home run in a game. He never does it again. Yeah, he fell off a bit there at the end.

1988 A Yankees win gives manager Billy Martin a record 242 games over .500 (1,252-1,010), which is his high water mark. He’ll manage just eight more games, going 1-7 in them.

1989 Jack Clark fans four times, giving him a record nine in two days.

1989 John Dopson balks four times in one game in Boston.

1989 Terry Puhl appears in his 1,403rd game, breaking the all-time record for most games by a Canadian-born player previously held by Jack Graney. Puhl’s mark will later be topped by Larry Walker.

1990 Willie Wilson steals his 600th career base.

1990 Steve Avery makes his big league debut.

1990 Baseball owners approve of the sale of the Padres from Joan Kroc to Tom Werner and others for $90 million.

1992 Carney Lansford joins the 2,000-hit club.

1993 Former 20-game winner Mike Boddicker appears in his last game.

1993 Everyday Eddie Guardado makes his big league debut.

1994 Jose Canseco smashes three homers in one game. It’s the second time he’s done that.

1994 In a shocking development, Ryne Sandberg announces his retirement. He’ll later unretire, but won’t be very special upon his return.

1995 Edgar Martinez plays a full game at third base for the final time.

1998 Travis Lee enjoys what WPA says is the best game ever by an Arizona Diamondback. He goes 3-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in a 7-4 win over the Cardinals. His WPA: 1.044. He homers in the seventh and eighth innings, both times turning a Cardinals advantage into an Arizona lead.

1998 Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones hit back-to-back home runs in consecutive innings for the Braves.

1999 Cal Ripken gets six hits in one game and he and his teammates score an Orioles record 22 runs in a 22-1 shellacking of the Braves. Ripken has two homers, a double, and a half-dozen RBIs. Will Clark has perhaps the best game of his career, going 4-for-4 with three doubles and one home run. He scores four times and drives in five.

1999 It’s scary in Houston. In the eighth inning of a game against the Padres, Astros skipper Larry Dierker suffers a grand mal seizure in the dugout and has to go to the hospital. The game is suspended with Houston up 4-1. Dierker will miss several weeks but recover to resume his duties.

2003 John Olerud gets his 2,000th hit.

2003 Roger Clemens has a real milestone day. In one game he picks up strikeout No. 4,000 and more importantly win No. 300.

2004 Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets strikes out the side in the third inning against Houston on the bare minimum nine pitches.

2005 Tampa releases veteran catcher Charles Johnson, which ends his career.

2006 Ever heard of Tinker to Evers to Chance? Well today the Royals field perhaps the least poetic sounding double play trio ever, as Tony Graffanino, Mark Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz play short, second, and first respectively in a game against the Angels.

2007 The Rockies release Steve Finley.

2008 Baltimore releases slow-working pitcher Steve Trachsel, which ends his career.

2009 Miguel Tejada gets his 2,000th career hit.

2009 Torii Hunter hits three homers in one game for the Angels.

2010 In Chicago’s Crosstown Classic, the teams threaten a double no-hitter, but ultimately both hurlers fall short. The South Side’s Gavin Floyd gives up the game’s first safety with two outs in the seventh when Alfonso Soriano doubles. Ted Lilly preserves his no-hitter until the ninth when a Juan Pierre single ruins it.

2010 Yankees veteran Jorge Posada smacks a grand slam for the second consecutive game.

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Comments

  1. InnocentBystander said...

    Love when you include stuff like the entry about the 2006 Royals. Thanks for writing these.

  2. kds said...

    1304 wins + 906 losses + “They had a lot of ties back then”  >>>  2000 games managed.  I get 1188 W 774 L 38 Ties.

  3. Chris J. said...

    kds – right.  That should be 1,188-774.  (The 1,304-906 record is both an error and a typo on top of it – I was looking at Fred Clarke’s 1,314-906 record when he became the all-time win leader the year before).

  4. ajnrules said...

    I was looking at the newspaper account of Mathewson’s 300th win, and that ninth inning was a nail-biter. Tommy Leach led off with a triple and could have scored had the third base coach not been so conservative. Still, you got a runner at third with no outs. Mathewson just induced a grounder that failed to score Leach, struck out Vic Saier, and snared a Baltimore Chop by Johnny Evers and threw to first for the final out.

  5. Steve I said...

    Someone should compare Ryne Sandberg to Home Run Baker – compare him pre/post-retirement the way James did with Baker in the Historical Abstract.

    IIRC, Baker went from being a .700-range winning percentage player (based on Runs Created) to .600 (after the the first sit-out) to .500 (after the second).

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