Ten years ago today, Mike Cameron had one of the greatest days of any player in history. He tied a record and had a chance to break it.
On May 2, 2002, Cameron and his Mariners teammates played on the South Side of Chicago against the White Sox.
Seattle entered the game in a bit of a slump, having dropped five of its last six. That said, thanks to an extremely hot start, the Mariners’ record was still 18-9, the second best in baseball. Clearly, the team that won 116 games the year before had some talent.
It didn’t take long to realize this was going to be Seattle’s night. Two pitches into the game and the Mariners led 2-0, as White Sox pitcher Jon Rauch plunked Ichiro Suzuki and served up a gopher ball to Bret Boone with his first two offerings.
That brought up Cameron for the first time. He worked the count, looking for his pitch, and found it on the fourth offering he saw. Crack! Gone. Cameron launched one over the fence, and now Seattle led, 3-0.
Rauch couldn’t stop the bleeding. His day came to an end before the inning did as Seattle batted around and kept on going. Boone came back up and hit his second home run of the game—and of the inning. That put Boone in the record books for going deep twice in an inning. So why is this entry about Cameron and not Boone?
Well, in part it’s because of what happened next. Cameron came up against Sox reliever Jim Parque and worked the at-bat for seven pitches, again looking for one he liked. Again he found it. Again it was a homer.
Okay, this was new. Several players had belted two homers in one inning before, but never had two guys done it in one game, let alone the same inning, and certainly not back-to-back. Yet that’s just what Boone and Cameron had done.
The inning ended with a 10-0 Seattle lead. The game was done, but Cameron’s performance was just getting started.
In the top of the third, Cameron faced Parque again. Boom. For the third time, Cameron knocked one out of the ballpark. He was just one swing short of tying the record for most homers in a game—and it was only the third inning!
Well, two innings later, Cameron came to the plate again. Parque was still on the mound and threw his best stuff to Cameron. Yet again, Parque’s best stuff wasn’t enough. Not on this day. Cameron connected and made the history books with his fourth homer of the game.
It was just the top of the fifth. Cameron was guaranteed at least one more time to the plate; quite possibly two. There was no drama in who would win the game, but quite a bit of drama in Cameron’s performance.
In the seventh, Parque left the game (and wouldn’t pitch in the majors again for three months), and Mike Porzio came in to mop up. He first faced Boone, whom he walked. That brought up Cameron.
Okay, cue the drama. First pitch—called strike. Cameron was going to wait for his pitch. The second offering was a ball to even the count. The third pitch plunked Cameron. Oops. Yeah, Porzio really didn’t have good control. So no history this time, but the game wasn’t over.
Sure enough, Cameron had another chance as he came to the plate with two on and no outs in the ninth. Porzio was still in the game but still having control problems. In fact, he’d walked each of the two batters he faced this inning. But the big event was Cameron. This was it, now or never to make history.
Cameron took the first pitch for ball one. Then he did the same for ball two. He was still going to wait for his pitch. The third offering was also outside, bringing the count to 3-0.
Well, now, that put Cameron in a nice position. Porzio would have to try to make the strike zone on this one. There was no margin for error, so the next pitch would probably be something nice and straight. If Cameron was ever going to swing away, now was the perfect time.
True, but there was another angle. A hitter isn’t supposed to swing on a 3-0 pitch. He should make the pitcher prove he can find the strike zone instead of trying to help him by swinging away. Sure, everyone wants to have the big swing, but the team is better off in the long run if you practice discipline and patience.
Porzio pitched, and this one was in the strike zone—and Cameron took it for strike one. He was too much of a professional hitter to go against his training there. A disappointment for the fans in the seats, but the at-bat wasn’t over. The next pitch came, and Cameron fouled it off.
Now, with a full count, Porzio threw another one. Cameron swung and connected for a hard-hit ball. But, alas, this ball wasn’t high enough and certainly wasn’t placed well enough. It went for a line out.
Cameron didn’t get his fifth homer. That said, four homers in one game is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And he did it 10 years ago today on May 2, 2002.
Aside from that, today many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you prefer to skim the lists.
5,000 days since Arizona signs amateur free agent Vicente Padilla. He’s since become one of the only 10 pitchers to record a victory against all 30 teams.
9,000 days since Jay Buhner makes his big league debut.
9,000 days since Brewer ace Teddy Higuera allows a run, ending a scoreless inning streak at 32 innings.
15,000 days since Steve Stone makes his big league debut.
20,000 days since the birth of Clint Hurdle.
20,000 days since Ron Northey hits his ninth career pinch-hit home run, tying a big league record. It’s a two-run shot for the Phillies.
20,000 days since Steve Trout, pitcher on both sides of Chicago, is born.
1876 Ross Barnes hits the first home run in NL history.
1881 It’s the big league debut for Jerry Denny, who will later become the last person to field his position without a glove.
1881 Jim Whitney, a very good pitcher with rather dismal teammates, makes his big league debut.
1882 The American Association debuts. It should not be confused with the modern minor league; it was a rival to the NL. It’s the first time there have been two rival major leagues.
1887 Eddie Collins, arguably the greatest second baseman of all time, is born.
1887 It’s the big league debut for Gus Weyhing, a 200-game winner who is still No. 1 all-time with 277 hit batsmen.
1901 Cubs purchase Rube Waddell from the Pirates. It doesn’t take.
1901 It’s the first AL forfeit. The White Sox lose when manager Clark Griffith has his team stall, hoping nightfall will scrub the game from the books.
1901 The Red Sox have a nine-run second inning and a 10-run third inning during a 23-12 win.
1917 It’s baseball’s “double-no-hitter.” In arguably the greatest pitchers duel of all-time, Cincinnati’s Fred Toney and Chicago’s Hippo Vaughn hold the opposing squads scoreless through nine innings. The Reds touch Vaughn for two hits and a run in the 10th, which is why I had to put quotation marks around “double no-hitter.”
1919 A Washington Senators win pushes the career record of veteran manager Clark Griffith to 170 games over .500 (1,371-1,201), his all-time peak.
1920 Eddie Collins gets his 2,000th hit. It took him 1,727 games.
1920 The first game in the Negro National League played.
1921 George “High Pockets” Kelly of the Giants raps his seventh home run of the year. He won’t keep up the pace, but please note that Babe Ruth hit “only” his sixth homer on the year this same day. Ruth will end the season with 59 homers, while Kelly will lead the NL with 23.
1922 Harry Heilmann gets his 1,000th career hit.
1923 Dazzy Vance fans 15 men in 10 innings but loses, as he also allows 15 hits, four walks, and six runs (all earned). That said, the entire NL averages 2.8 strikeouts per nine innings that year, so Vance was pretty impressive that day.
1923 A notable Senators-Yankees game occurs. First, New York infielder Everett Scott plays his 1,000th consecutive game, the first person ever to do so. Second, Walter Johnson throws his 100th complete-game shutout that day, and he’s still the only person to do so.
1924 Hall of Fame pitcher Herb Pennock steals the only base of his career.
1924 In the Pacific Coast League, San Francisco outslugs Salt Lake City, 30-14.
1930 The Des Moines Demons in the Western League’s Class A ball become the first team to play in a park with permanent lights.
1932 Bill Terry’s best hitting streak peaks at 24 games. He’s 45-for-104 with eight doubles, four triples, and six home runs.
1937 Catcher Mickey Owen makes his big league debut.
1939 Lou Gehrig rests, ending his consecutive games streak and with it, his career. He walks out to give the umpire the day’s starting lineup for the Yanks, and when the fans realize he isn’t going to play, they give him a standing ovation—fairly rare back then. Mind you, this was on the road, too. In that game, Tigers pitcher (and future big league manager) Fred Hutchinson makes his big league debut.
1939 Hall of Famer Mel Ott hits the third of his four career walk-off home runs.
1939 Gates Brown, pinch hitter extraordinaire, is born
1942 The Browns lose 11-10 to the Red Sox. They lead 10-8 entering the bottom of the ninth but allow three runs, with the big blast being a two-run homer by Ted Williams. Rather incredibly, losing pitcher Elden Auker throws a complete game despite allowing 11 runs on 17 hits in a game his squad could’ve won. It was a different time.
1943 Schoolboy Rowe, pitcher for the Phillies, hits pinch-hit grand slam. Phillies win 6-5 in 12 innings.
1944 Phillies pitcher Charley Schanz has a great day all around. He takes a no-hitter into the seventh. A home run with a man on ends it and gives the opposing New York Giants the lead. No problem. Schanz hits a bases-loaded triple later, so he and the Phillies win the game.
1944 Ted Williams commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Air Corps and given his wings.
1946 Ted Williams hits the first of three career walk-off home runs.
1947 Bob Feller throws his third consecutive complete-game shutout. It’s also a one-hitter, his 10th such performance. In his last three games, his overall line is: 27 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 12 BB, 27 K. Yes, only five hits: a one-hitter, a three-hitter, and then another one-hitter. Not bad.
1948 Duke Snider hits his first career home run, which happens to be an inside-the-park version. He later hits one over the fence that game, making this the first of 34 career multi-home run games.
1949 Don Newcombe’s first start is a complete-game shutout.
1952 Ted Williams reports for duty at Camp Willow Grove, Pa., for active duty as a marine fighter pilot.
1953 Carlos Bernier, Pirates, triples in three straight at-bats. In 11 at-bats, he’ll tally four triples, two doubles, and two singles.
1954 Keith Moreland, current Cubs radio color guy, is born
1954 Stan Musial has a performance for the ages. He hits three home runs in the first game of a doubleheader, and then two more in the nightcap. Five homers in a day is a record shared with others. In the first game, he also singled, giving him a career-high 13 total bases in one game.
1956 Giants 6, Cubs 5 (17) in a record-setting game. The teams combine to use 48 players (25 Giants, 23 Cubs), a record. There are 11 intentional walks, a record. And Cubs batter Don Hoak fans six times, also a record. Added bonus: Each time it comes against a different pitcher.
1957 Hank Aaron ties personal record with five hits in one game.
1957 Robin Roberts fans 13 batters, his personal best. 9 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K. Phillies beat Cubs, 4-2.
1957 Roy Campanella has his worst game according to WPA: -0.617 WPA. He is 0-for-7 with a K and GIDP as St. Louis topped Brooklyn 3-2 in 16 innings. It’s the third-worst one-game WPA by any Hall of Fame batter.
1959 Frank Robinson hits for the cycle as Reds demolish LA, 16-4.
1959 Harmon Killebrew hits two homers in a game for the second day in a row. He’ll do it again exactly one week later, too.
1959 Super contact hitter Ray Mueller appears in his last big league game.
1959 The last time a Phillies reliever pitched nine innings in a game: Gene Conley: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K.
1960 Hank Aaron hits bunt single off Mike McCormick in the second inning, raising his career batting average to its all-time peak: .324203 (1,160 hits in 3,578 at bats).
1960 Willie Mays’ best hitting streak maxes at 23 games. He’s 41-for-86 with 10 doubles and four home runs in it. His batting line: .477/.559/.733.
1961 Billy Williams connects for the first of eight career grand slams.
1963 Indians trade Jim Perry to Twins.
1967 Fergie Jenkins has his 11th consecutive Quality Start, his best such streak. His line in that period: 7-2 record, 88.2 IP, 57 H, 22 R, 20 ER, 18 BB, 64 K, and a 2.03 ERA.
1968 The White Sox release Ken Boyer.
1968 Gaylord Perry pitches his 17th straight Quality Start. His line in that stretch: 9-5 record, 150.2 IP, 98 H, 24 R, 21 ER, 45 BB, 115 K, 1.25 ERA.
1969 Al Lopez resigns as White Sox manager for health reasons. He’ll live until 2005.
1972 Vida Blue ends his holdout from the A’s, signing for $63,000.
1975 The Cubs trade Burt Hooton to the Dodgers.
1976 Dan Bankhead, major league baseball’s first black pitcher, dies.
1976 Jose Cardenal gets six hits in a 14-inning game for the Cubs.
1979 Bobby Bonds connects for career home run No. 300.
1980 Longtime Cardinals infielder Jose Oquendo first plays in the big leagues.
1987 Thanks to collusion, this is the first game Tim Raines plays all year. He goes 4-for-4 with a triple, home run, three runs scored, four RBI, a walk, and a stolen base. Expos 11, Mets 7 (11).
1988 Mark Grace makes his big league debut.
1989 Orel Hershiser pitches his 15th straight regular-season Quality Start. His numbers in those starts: 11-3, 9 CG, 7 SHO, 127.2 IP, 15 R, 12 ER, 27 BB, 92 K, 0.85 ERA.
1989 Having pitched exactly 2,101 innings, Bob Welch surrenders his first grand slam.
1990 Gary Carter hits the only pinch-hit home run of his career.
1995 It’s an ugly Opening Day in Tiger Stadium. In the first game there since the players’ strike, fans run on the field, and others toss batteries, cans, and baseballs. Manager Sparky Anderson blasts them after the game, saying it’s the worst thing he’s ever seen, and that they ain’t real fans.
1995 Hideo Nomo makes his big league debut. He isn’t the first Japanese player in North America, but this kicks off the current wave of East Asians coming to America’s big leagues.
1995 Roberto Alomar hits his only walk-off home run.
1995 The Royals retire Frank White’s number.
1996 A quake of 4.8 on the Richter scale halts Mariners-Indians game in Cleveland. It resumes the next night.
1997 Randy Johnson wins his 16th straight game. His numbers: 177 IP, 118 H, 50 R, 48 ER, 63 BB, 234 K, and 2.44 ERA.
1998 Jeff Kent gets his last sacrifice. He has 6,433 more plate appearances in his career.
1999 Rafael Palmeiro gets his 2,000th hit.
2000 Kerry Wood pitches in his first game since elbow surgery. He allows only one run in six innings, and helps his own cause with a home run.
2000 Gary Sheffield grounds into three double plays in one game.
2001 Greg Maddux has his greatest game ever. He fans 14 in a two-hit shutout over Milwaukee for a 1-0 win and a Game Score of 96. It’s his 100th complete game.
2002 Sammy Sosa homers twice in a game for the second straight day.
2003 Mo Vaughn plays his last game.
2003 Edgar Martinez gets career hit No. 2,000.
2005 The Giants’ all-time record peaks at 1,504 games over .500 (9,976-8.472). That’s still their best. Even with the 2010 championship, they’ve been a tad under .500 since then.
2005 Boston signs veteran hitter John Olerud.
2006 Andre Ethier makes his big league debut.
2007 Jarrod Saltalamacchia of Atlanta sets a major league record with the longest last name: 14 letters. The previous record was a 15-way tie with a 13-letter last name.
2009 According to WPA, Carlos Beltran has his worst game ever. He’s 2-for-5 with a K, a HBP, and GIDP for a –0.424 WPA. He scores so low because the GIDP comes in the top of the 10th inning with runners on the corners and only one out. To be fair, he nearly had much higher WPA score. In the eighth inning he singled with a runner on second, but that guy was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. As it is, the Phillies top Beltran’s Mets, 6-5.
2010 Zack Greinke falls to 0-3 on the year in six starts despite a 2.27 ERA. Today, he and the Royals lose 1-0.