Ten years ago today, it was not a fun day to be Jason LaRue. For at least one inning, it was a flatly miserable time to be Cincinnati backstop Jason LaRue.
On Aug. 14, 2002, the first inning of the Reds-Diamondbacks game was the kind of thing that gives catchers nightmares.
Pitching for the Reds that day was young Jared Fernandez. That’s a name that should make the blood run cold for any backstop. It’s not that Fernandez was mean or cruel or evil. No, Fernandez was something much worse—a knuckleball pitcher.
And as all catchers across all baseball history can attest, nothing is harder to catch than a knuckleball. Former defensive specialist catcher Bob Uecker once quipped that the best way to catch a knuckler is wait for it to stop rolling and then pick it up. For LaRue, that line wouldn’t be a joke but sad reality.
Leading off the top of the first, Arizona’s Tony Womack hit one to left for a single. This was bad news. Now any ball LaRue didn’t stop would cause Womack to advance.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for that to happen: two pitches to be exact, and he was on second thanks to a Jason LaRue passed ball. Making it even worse, the next batter hit a grounder that could’ve maybe been a double play, but ended up as a runner-advancing productive out.
Then Junior Spivey singled in Tony Womack for an unearned run. Fortunately for LaRue, Fernandez soon picked off Spivey so for a few minutes LaRue wouldn’t have to worry about any passed balls.
But then Fernandez walked Matt Williams. And the pressure was back on LaRue. Things didn’t go well.
Two pitches after the walk, a knuckler got away from LaRue for a passed ball. Williams went to second. On the very next pitch, it happened again. Williams scooted to third and LaRue now had three passed balls on the day – and it was still just the first inning.
Two pitches later the ball made it to the backstop again, allowing Williams to score. At least this time it wasn’t a passed ball. This time it was a wild pitch, so LaRue was still at three passed balls on the inning. But in a single five-pitch plate appearance, three balls went to the backstop allowing a runner on first to score. Yeesh.
Oh, and that run scoring wild pitch? It came on ball four, so there once again was a runner on first base. Fortunately for LaRue, the misery soon ended as Steve Finley flew out on the second pitch to end the inning.
After that, LaRue settled down. I don’t know if he just cleared his head or got a bigger glove or Fernandez eased up on the knuckler or what, but there were no more passed balls. There was one more wild pitch, but no more passed balls. That inning was like a scary story for catchers. It’s the sort of things backstops tell each other around the camp fire at midnight. And it happened exactly 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball 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’d prefer to just skim through things.
3,000 days since Matt Clement hits three batters in one inning.
3,000 days since Barry Bonds hits his 10th of 10 career walk-off home runs.
3,000 days since Mariano Rivera gets his 300th save.
7,000 days since Ken Griffey Jr. hits his 100th home run.
7,000 days since Mike Piazza enjoys the first of 37 career multi-home run games.
15,000 days since Darrell Evans hits the first of six career walk-off homers for himself.
30,000 days since Herb Pennock posts a win despite a Game Score of 8, the lowest Game Score by a wining starting pitcher in the 1930s. His line: 7.1 IP, 16 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, and 3 K
1888 Tim Keefe’s 19 game winning streak comes to an end.
1895 The Baltimore Orioles win, putting Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon’s career record over .500 (363-362). He’ll be over .500 for the rest of his days.
1898 Boston sells former star pitcher Jack Stivetts to St. Louis.
1902 Tommy Leach, Pirates infielder, hits two inside the park home runs in one game.
1912 Paul Dean, Dizzy’s brother (nicknamed Daffy), is born.
1912 A’s infielder Stuffy McInnis hits two inside the park home runs in one game.
1913 The Cubs trade former star pitcher Ed Reulbach to Brooklyn.
1914 Jake Daubert, who is hobbled with an ankle injury, lays down a record six sacrifice bunts in a doubleheader versus Philadelphia at Ebbets Field.
1916 The Giants purchase Hall of Fame outfielder Ross Youngs from Sherman in the Western Association for $2,000.
1919 Yankees manager Miller Huggins helms his 1,000th game. His record in that time is: 460-540.
1922 In an exhibition game, Lizzie Murphy plays two innings at first base against the Red Sox, becoming the first woman to compete against big leaguers.
1925 Freddie Lindstrom hits two triples in one game for the only time in his career. Despite that, he ends the day with zero runs scored and zero RBIs. That’s tough to do. He also has a caught steaingl, so barring reaching on a fielder’s choice he apparently tried to steal home.
1929 Lefty Grove goes 17 innings, his longest ever start, leading the A’s to a 5-3 win over the Indians. He faces 77 batters, and allows 20 hits – but all are singles. That’s the most hits allowed in a game without an extra base hit in the lively ball era. Grove will throw a complete game victory four days later. The winning blast is a Jimmie Foxx homer in the top of the 17th.
1930 200-game winner Earl Whitehill is halfway there, as a win today gives him a career record of 100-86.
1930 Hall of Fame skipper Earl Weaver is born.
1932 Dizzy Dean fans six batters in a row, one shy of the then-record.
1933 Jimmie Foxx drives in a personal best nine runs in Philadelphia’s 11-5 win over the Indians. Foxx is 4-for-5 while hitting for the cycle.
1935 Tigers pitcher Schoolboy Rowe has a double, triple, and three singles in an 18-2 win over The Senators.
1937 Detroit star second baseman Charlie Gehringer collects a personal high 12 total bases in one game with two singles, a double, and two home runs. It’s in one of two blowout victories Detroit has on the day over the Browns: 16-1 and 20-7.
1937 Joe Horlen, pitcher, is born.
1937 Pie Traynor appears in his final game.
1938 Hank Greenberg has maybe his worst game ever, going 0-for-4 with four Ks.
1939 30,000 see the first night game at Comiskey Park. The Sox top the Browns, 5-2.
1943 Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Kelley dies.
1945 Lou Boudreau breaks his ankle in a collusion at home plate.
1946 It’s the first time separate admission is charged for both games in a doubleheader. It’s a Giants-Dodgers twin billing at Ebbets Field.
1952 The Browns trade star pitcher Ned Garver to Detroit in an eight-player trade.
1953 White Sox star pitcher Billy Pierce throws his third consecutive complete game shutout. He’s allowed 11 hits and five walks while fanning 21 in this period.
1954 Leo Durocher suffers his 1,000th loss as manager for a 1,268-1,000 career record.
1954 1970s phenom pitcher Mark “Bird” Fidrych is born.
1955 Duke Snider endures his worst known game according to WPA. He’s 1-for5 with a GIDP for a –0.473 WPA in a 3-2 Dodgers loss to the Phillies.
1955 Yogi Berra reaches base six times in one game, a personal best. He has three hits, two walks, and a HBP.
1958 Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts resigns.
1958 Vic Power steals home twice in one game, with the second one coming in the 10th inning for a 10-9 Indians win over the Tigers.
1959 It’s a wild one as the Reds top the Phillies 15-13 despite being down 8-0 early.
1960 Bill White hits for the cycle.
1960 Fred Clarke, Hall of Fame leftfielder and for a brief while the game’s all-time winningest manager, dies at age 87.
1962 Mark Gubicza, pitcher, is born.
1963 The Red Sox sign amateur free agent Jim Lonborg.
1964 The Angels suspend Bo Belinsky for attacking sportswriter Braven Dyer.
1964 Frank Robinson steals three bases in one game for the only time in his career.
1965 Griffith Park demolished, ending its half-century-plus existence.
1965 The Phillies lose 1-0 in 10 innings on a walk-off error. Ouch.
1965 The Red Sox all-time cumulative franchise record hits .500 (4,924-4,924), and they’ll stay below this record for the next four years.
1968 Montreal officially gets an NL franchise.
1971 Atlanta purchases Tony LaRussa from Oakland.
1971 Bob Gibson has a dominating outing, fanning 10 and collecting three RBIs at the plate in a 11-0 Cardinals win over the Pirates.
1973 Rod Carew gets his 1,000th hit in style, going 5-for-6 to move up from 995 to 1,000 career safeties.
1973 Graig Nettles gets his 100th career home run.
1973 Jerry Royster makes his big league debut.
1975 Phil Niekro hits his only career triple.
1977 Bill Travers becomes the first pitcher to allow 14 runs in one game since 1947. His line: 7.2 IP, 18 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 4 BB, and 4 K for a Game Score of –13.
1979 Joaquin Andujar pitcher to hit an inside the park home run since 1970. No one’s hit one since then.
1981 Mike Schmidt gets his 300th career home run.
1981 Jeff Burroughs hits three home runs in one game.
1981 Bob Brenly makes his big league debut.
1981 Steve Bedrosian makes his big league debut.
1982 Atlanta ends an 11 game losing streak, and that puts them 1.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
1982 Pete Rose passes Hank Aaron for most PA in a career with his 12,365th trip to the plate today.
1983 Pete Rose, despite being 42 years old, steals two bases in one game. He’s done that once a year since 1979.
1984 Clay Buchholz is born.
1984 The White Sox retire No. 11 for former shortstop Luis Aparicio.
1985 Keith Hernandez suffers through his worst game ever according to WPA. He’s 0-for-5 with two Ks and a GIDP. The GIDP is a game-ender that comes with the bases loaded in a 2-1 Mets loss to the Phillies. One of his Ks was a K-CS double play. His WPA on the day: -0.755.
1986 Pete Rose gets his 4,256th and final career hit.
1990 George Bell ties a record with three sacrifice flies in one game.
1990 Luis Polonia hits an inside the park grand slam for the Angels in a 9-5 win over the Yankees.
1991 Dave Winfield hits his 400th career home run.
1991 For the second straight day Fred McGriff hits a grand slam.
1993 The Yankees retire No. 44 for Reggie Jackson.
1996 Eddie Murray has his 31st and final career multi-home run game.
1996 Andre Dawson announces he’ll retire at the end of the season.
1996 Roger McDowell appears in his final game.
1997 The Angels release Eddie Murray.
1998 Jim Leyland manages his 2,000th game. His record is 987-1,011.
1998 Baltimore’s Chris Hoiles hits two grand slams in one game, a 15-3 win over the Indians.
1998 The Dodgers retire No. 20 for Don Sutton.
1998 St. Louis releases aging third baseman Gary Gaetti.
1999 Pee Wee Reese dies.
2001 Craig Biggio hits his third leadoff home run in four days.
2002 Ellis Burks gets his 2,000th career hit.
2003 Travis Hafner this for the cycle.
2004 Rod Beck appears in his last game.
2005 The Giants release longtime starting pitcher Kirk Rueter.
2006 For the first time in over eight years Bobby Abreu lays down a sacrifice bunt, ending a streak of 5,591 PA without one. He’ll get another one 16 days later.
2006 Chipper Jones gets three home runs in one game. Along with a single, he has a personal best 13 total bases on the day.
2006 Pedro Martinez balks for the first time since Sept. 4, 1997.
2006 Tampa releases one-time Padres uber-prospect Sean Burroughs.
2007 Bobby Cox sets a record with his 132nd career ejection.
2007 Infielder Jose Offerman is arrested on two counts of second degree assault. As a Long Island Duck, he was hit by a pitch and attacked the pitcher and catcher with a bat, resulting in a broken finger and concussion.
2008 Tom Glavine appears in his last game.
2008 Mark Kotsay hits for the cycle.
2008 Pablo Sandoval makes his major league debut.
2009 Felix Pie hits for the cycle. It’s the third cycle in the majors of the month.
2011 Just four days after his big league debut, Arodys Vizcaino has a nearly impossible line of 0.2 IP with 3 Ks. There was a dropped third strike in his outing.
2011 Cody Ross of the Giants hits a two-run homer, ending a team-wide streak of 22 straight homers with no runners on base. It’s San Francisco’s first non-solo home run since July 6.
2011 Here’s a weird one: Atlanta pitchers fan 18 Cubs and walk none, but lose anyway, 6-5. In the same game, Braves star Dan Uggla’s 33 game hitting streak comes to an end.