Ten years ago, Jason Giambi had perhaps the greatest game of his life. It was certainly the most clutch at-bat he ever had in a regular-season game, and it served as his New York Yankee coming out.
In the offseason, Giambi moved from Oakland to the greener pastures of the Bronx. The 2000 AL MVP became a free agent after the 2001 season and signed a big payday with the Yankees, who had won four of the previous six world titles. They could pay him the most and give him the best chance at October glory.
In New York, he got off to a slow start in the first week of the year. Though he soon recovered, the pressure was on. He was playing well, but not MVP-well, and the Yankees ended April a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. For the Yankees, that wasn’t up to snuff.
At the quarter post, Giambi had eight homers with a .286 batting average and .385 on-base percentage. That’s nice, but not what the Yankees were paying for. He needed a big day, and that’s when the calendar turned to May 17, 2002.
The Yankees hosted the upstart Minnesota Twins that day. Early on, it looked like a laugher, with New York holding a comfortable 8-3 lead. Then Minnesota stormed back with a six-run inning and kept their 9-8 lead until the ninth. At that time, veteran Yankee Bernie Williams belted a game-tying homer to send things into extra innings.
Neither team could break the stalemate. It went on inning after inning, with the score still knotted, 9-9. Four innings passed with neither team able to score a run.
So far, Giambi had been a complete non-factor. He had an early double and an extra-inning single, but neither safety led to any runs. After 13 frames, he was 2-for-5 on the day. Not bad, but nothing memorable.
The 14th would be very memorable. First, Minnesota broke the deadlock in the top of the inning. Behind four singles, a walk, and an error, Minnesota scored thrice to seemingly ice the game with a 12-9 lead.
However, the Yankees weren’t about to give up. In the bottom of the frame, three of the first four Yankees reached base, loading them up with just one out.
With the bases loaded, Giambi strode to the plate with the game on the line. He didn’t make anyone wait, bashing the first pitch out of the park for a game-winning, walk-off grand slam.
Walk-off grand slams are inherently cool. A walk-off slam with a team trailing by three is even cooler. A walk-off slam with a team trailing by three in the 14th inning? Yeah, that’s the coolest of all. And it’s what Jason Giambi did exactly 10 years ago today.
Giambi ended up hitting well over .300 with a superlative OBP and 41 homers in 2002, but then his performance fell off. Based on his numbers, his contract probably wasn’t worth it, but then again, the Yankees can afford to overpay. And no one can ever take away what happened on May 17, 2002.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to skim over things.
5,000 days since Jeff Bagwell finally hits his first career grand slam. It’s his 218th home run.
5,000 days since McGwire sets the new all-time single-season home run record when he smashes his 62nd homer of 1998. In that same game, J.D. Drew makes his big league debut.
5,000 days since Eric Chavez makes his big league debut.
8,000 days since the Braves hire Bobby Cox as their new manager.
9,000 days since Len Barker plays in his final game.
15,000 days since Dodger skipper Walter Alston becomes the ninth manager to win 1,500 games.
1882 Charlie Buffinton, a pitcher who would go on to win around 200 games, makes his big league debut.
1887 Pud Galvin, the first pitcher to win 300 games (and also the first to lose 300), gives up the only grand slam of his career.
1892 Louisville Colonels (a major league team back then) sign Hughie Jennings. He’ll go on to a Hall of Fame career.
1893 Mickey Welch, a 300-game winning pitcher, plays his final game.
1903 Cool Papa Bell, Negro Leaguer and Hall of Famer, is born. Legend has it he was so fast he could turn the switch off and get into bed before the room was dark. There’s truth to that legend, of a sort. Staying at one motel, he realized there was a short in the wiring causing a delay from switch to lights. Taking advantage of that, he bet his roomie he could beat the speed of dark—and then he did. And that’s how one legendary story began.
1912 The Red Sox have the official dedication of Fenway Park. They could’ve done it earlier, but management figures if they have one day for its grand opening and another for the dedication, they can sell more tickets. It’s a good idea, but Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. It doesn’t rain enough to cancel the game, but it does rain enough to dampen attendance.
1913 The grandstand section of Comiskey Park collapses. Oops.
1913 Washington purchases veteran pitcher workhorse George Mullin from Detroit.
1915 Zip Zabel of the Cubs pitches the longest relief stint ever: 18.1 innings. He gets the win in a 19-inning, 4-3 Chicago triumph over Brooklyn.
1920 The New York Times reports that at the end of the year the Giants will evict their Polo Ground tenants, the Yankees. This report will be rescinded a few days later, but the Yankees aren’t long for the Polo Grounds either way.
1921 Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes allows a personal-high 18 hits in one game. His line: 9 IP, 18 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
1921 Iron man infielder Everett Scott plays his 700th straight game.
1927 Bob Smith of the Braves becomes the last pitcher to toss over 21 innings in game: 22 IP, 20 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 9 BB, 5 K. Unfortunately for him, it’s all for naught as the Cubs win, 4-3, and Smith gets pegged for the loss. The Cubs were just three days off an 18-inning game, too. In this game, the Cubs used three pitchers; most notably, Bob Osborn pitching 14 innings of shutout relief for the win.
1929 Pete Alexander loses his 200th game. He’s 366-200 for his career at this point.
1934 Former Phillies great Chuck Klein returns to the Baker Bowl for the first time since becoming a Cub. He bangs out two home runs.
1939 It’s the first time a baseball game is televised: Princeton against Columbia in the Baker Bowl.
1940 Chuck Klein gets his 2,000th hit in only 1,576 games played. He is one of the fastest to get there.
1941 May 17, 1941 is a legal holiday in the state of Pennsylvania and city of Philadelphia to honor longtime A’s owner and manager Connie Mack.
1944 Boston’s Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr hits for the cycle.
1945 For the fourth straight day, rain causes the postponement of all AL games.
1947 Ellis Kinder gets very lucky, or is almost extremely unlucky, depending on how you look at it. While he’s pitching at Fenway Park, a seagull flies by and poops on the mound, narrowly missing him.
1957 Pascual Perez, Braves pitcher, is born.
1958 Stan Williams, a hard-throwing pitcher known for aiming at people’s heads, makes his big league debut.
1959 In the second game of a doubleheader, Harmon Killebrew hits his fifth multi-home-run game of the month. Not bad, especially given it’s only midway through the month.
1959 Jim Perry, pitching in relief, surrenders the only walk-off walk of his career. And he can’t blame his fellow pitchers: he’s the guy who loaded the bases this inning, too.
1959 A Roberto Clemente home run ball juuuuuust misses hitting the Wrigley Field scoreboard. It flies a little to the left of it. To this day, no home run ball has ever hit it.
1960 The Dodgers release long-time right fielder Carl Furillo.
1961 Stan Williams out-duels Braves ace Warren Spahn and himself in 2-1 victory over 11 innings. He holds the Braves to only four hits but walks 12 batters while striking out 10. It’s one of only six times in the last 90 years a pitcher walks 12 and still gets the win.
1961 Roger Maris hits his first Yankee Stadium home run of the year and No. 4 overall. It’s a slow start, but he’ll pick up the pace as the year continues.
1961 Veteran hitter Walt Dropo appears in his last big league contest.
1963 Bob Allison becomes the first Twin to belt three home runs in one game.
1963 Don Nottebart tosses the first no-hitter in Astros history (or Colt .45s, as they were called back then): Houston 4, Philadelphia 1. He walks three while fanning eight in the game.
1965 Dodgers skipper Walter Alston wins his 1,000th game: His career record is 1,000-754.
1965 New York Mets release former Yankee legend Yogi Berra.
1969 Pants Rowland, manager of the 1917 White Sox world champion club, dies at age 90.
1970 Hank Aaron laces out his 3,000th career hit. It’s only taken him 2,460 games. He’s the ninth person to have 3,000 hits, and the first to combine 3,000 hits with 500 homers (though Willie Mays will join him in the 3,000 hit club later that year).
1971 Johnny Bench hits his 100th home run.
1971 Atlanta’s Ralph Garr homers twice in extra innings of one game, in the 10th and 12th innings.
1971 The Red Sox sign free agent pitcher Luis Tiant, whom the Braves cut two days previously. Tiant will go 1-7 for the Red Sox this year but then turn things around dramatically, going 96-58 over the next five seasons.
1971 One of the most famous blooper plays in baseball history occurs. Washington infielder Tom McCraw hit a pop-up to shallow left-center, and three Cleveland defenders converged to catch it but instead ran into each other. John Lowenstein, Vada Pinson, and Jack Heidermann ran into each other at full speed, and all had to leave the game after the play. McCraw got an unlikely inside-the-park home run out of it.
1974 Hank Aaron gets his first sacrifice hit since July 27, 1961, when he bunts over Dusty Baker against Dodger reliever Mike Marshall in the eighth inning of tied game. Aaron went 7,863 consecutive plate appearances between sacrifices.
1975 Phillies reliever Gene Garber ties a modern record by recording his third win in three days.
1977 After reaching on a fielder’s choice in his 3,176th career plate appearances, Oakland A’s catcher Earl Williams steals second, his first ever stolen base. The embarrassed pitcher-catcher combination is Ron Guidry and Thurman Munson. Making this especially odd, Guidry’s a lefty, so you’d figure he could do a better job holding the runner. Then again, when the runner hasn’t stolen a base in over 3,000 trips to the plate, you probably aren’t thinking of him as a threat.
1977 In the very same game that Earl Williams steals his first base, his teammate Vida Blue pitches 13 innings, the longest outing of his career, but gets stuck with a no-decision as the game keeps going on. His line: 13 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. The Yankees win in 15 frames, 5-2.
1978 Carlos Pena is born. In the internet era, he has transformed from hot prospect, to disappointment, to washout, to comeback player, to aging vet.
1978 Lee Lacy sets a record with his third straight pinch-hit home run.
1979 Games don’t come much wilder than this: Phillies 23, Cubs 22 (10). Philly led 7-0, and then the Cubs came back to make it 7-6. Then the second inning began—really, that’s how it started. The Phillies scored the game’s next 10 runs, but the Cubs came back behind a trio of Dave Kingman homers, but still lost.
Yes, it was windy in Wrigley that day. The wind blew out so strongly to straightaway center that supposedly Phillies announcer Richie Ashburn said, “Get the married men off the field!” at the beginning of his broadcast.
1982 Dixie Walker, star outfielder from the 1940s, dies.
1985 On the 12th anniversary of the play that ruined his promising playing career, Bobby Valentine manages his first game in the majors.
1985 After 990 career at-bats, Jack Perconte hits his first home run.
1985 St. Louis trades outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Royals.
1986 Fred McGriff makes his big league debut.
1988 Greg Maddux has the longest outing of his career: 10.2 innings and 167 pitches. He gets the loss.
1992 Wade Boggs gets his 2,000th hit in only 1,515 games. That’s even faster than Chuck Klein.
1993 Dave Winfield hits his 500th double.
1993 Seattle’s Mike Blowers hits a grand slam in his second consecutive game.
1994 Veteran skipper Buck Rodgers manages in his last game.
1994 It takes 12 pitches, but it’s well worth it for Kenny Lofton. On the dozenth pitch of an at-bat against Cal Eldred, he smacks a home run. It’s the only time he took more than eight pitches to homer.
1996 Jermaine Dye, MVP of the 2005 World Series, makes his big league debut.
1996 In just the 92nd game of his career, Jason Giambi lays down his second, and last, career sacrifice hit. Giambi does advance the runner, but that just allows the opposition to intentionally walk Mark McGwire, which in turn sets up an inning ending GIDP. Giambi has had over 8,100 PA since then without any sacrifice bunts.
1997 Kenny Lofton enjoys his only 5-for-5 game. He had four other five-hit games, but all with six at-bats.
1998 David Wells tosses a perfect game in Yankee Stadium in a 4-0 win over the Twins.
1999 Larry Walker hits his only inside-the-park home run.
1999 Edgar Martinez scores five runs in a game for the only time in his career.
2000 Cal Ripken passes up Hank Aaron by grounding into his 329th double play, the new record.
2002 Erubiel Durazo hits three homers for Arizona in one game.
2005 Mike Hargrove manages his 2,000th game. He’s 1,011-987 for his career so far.
2007 Curt Schilling allows seven doubles in one game. For most pitchers that would be a personal high, but not Schilling. He once allowed nine doubles in one game.
2007 John Mabry plays in his last game.
2009 Ivan Rodriguez hits his 300th home run.
2009 Joe Maddon screws up filling out the lineup card, forcing Tampa to go without a designated hitter. As a result, pitcher Andy Sonnanstine gets an RBI double in a 7-5 win over the Indians. Go figure.
2010 Arizona releases veteran reliever Bob Howry.
2010 The Red Sox and Yankees have a titanic battle. The Yankees go up 5-0 only to see Boston storm back to a 9-7 lead. The Yankees get a pair of two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth to win it, though, 11-9.
2010 Forget walk-off homers. In the bottom of the 11th of the Rays-Indians game, Tampa shortstop Jason Bartlett does something much rarer. He lays down a walk-off sacrifice bunt to win the game, 4-3. Most walk-off sacrifices are actually defensive errors, but this is the genuine thing, a sac with runners on the corners in which the winning run scores. It’s not a physical error by Indians pitcher Jamey Wright, who has a brain fart and throws to first for the fielder’s choice despite the winning run scoring.
2011 Legendary Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew dies at the age of 74.