10 years ago today came one of the most well-known home runs in baseball history, when Barry Bonds set the new single-season record by cranking out his 71st shot of the season. Then later that day he cranked No. 72, and hit one more later that season to finish the year with 73.
There’s a lot that can be said about this homer, and seemingly all it centered on steroids. That’s a subject I have little interest in talking about. I will say a few things, and if you want to draw your own steroids analogy, have at it.
First, the home run record is one of the only ones for which the single-season minor league record isn’t as high as the single-season major league ones. In the original Bill James Historical Abstract, James noted that only with triples was the single season major league record bigger than its minor league counterpart. Then came Mark McGwire.
At least McGwire was widely foreseen as a man that could set the record. As a rookie, he astonished baseball by belting 49 homers, a new record for a newbie. His career then faltered, but he caught his second wind. His 58 homers in 1997 led to discussion even before 1998 began that he could do it.
Bonds? Well, he was certainly well-respected as a player, but he was never put in the same class as McGwire. Or perhaps I should say McGwire was never put in the same class as Bonds. McGwire was the great pure slugger, but Bonds was the great all-around player. He could hit, he had power, he drew walks, he had speed, and he was good on defense.
When he made the majors, Bonds’ goal was to be the first member of the 400/400 club with power and speed. He achieved it in late 1998, and no one really cared. Homers were the attention getting item. So Bonds shifted focus and became the home run machine. Up to that point, he’d topped 40 homers three times, with a career high of 46.
In 1999, he belted only 34 homers—but played a mere 102 games. The next year he went deep 49 times despite missing almost 20 games.
Then came 2001. The great lost stat on the season? All the attention on his 71 homers obscures that Bonds had only 49 singles in 664 plate appearances. That’s tough to do. Among other things, Bonds had the incredible ability to hit the ball in the air, not the ground. That led to 107 extra base hits.
Bonds never topped 50 homers again, let alone 70, in part because pitchers wouldn’t give him anything good to hit. He set walk record after walk record, but he’s still on the books with the most homers hit in a single season. Though he ended with 73, his record-breaking 71st is his most famous, and it happened 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events have their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event happening X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
1,000 days since the Cubs sign free agent Milton Bradley.
1,000 days since Dave Roberts, a pitcher in the 1970s, dies.
4,000 days since the Pirates hire Lloyd McClendon as their manager.
4,000 days since the Yankees top the Mets 6-5 in Game Two of the World Series. It was a 6-0 lead entering the top of the ninth.
6,000 days since Opening Day 1995 in Detroit is marred by fan misbehavior. Some run on the field, others throw batteries, cans, and balls. Sparky Anderson declares it to be the worst thing he’s ever seen and that they ain’t real fans.
6,000 days since Hideo Nomo makes his North American debut.
6,000 days since Roberto Alomar belts the only walk-off homer of his career.
6,000 days since the Royals retire Frank White’s number.
7,000 days since Charlie Hough wins his 200th decision for a 200-186 overall record.
7,000 days since a 38-year-old Gary Carter hits his first triple in four years.
7,000 days since Jose Canseco sets a record by walking in seven consecutive plate appearances.
10,000 days since the birth of Joakim Soria.
1858 Long John Reilly, one of the only players to hit for the cycle three times, is born.
1889 For the first time, a pennant race is determined on the last day of the year. The Giants beat Cleveland while fifth-place Pittsburgh top 49-game winner John Clarkson to give New York the pennant.
1889 Jim Bagby Sr., a 30-game-winner in 1920, is born.
1901 In a Giants-Dodgers doubleheader, Christy Mathewson umps the first contest and pitches in the second.
1907 Philadelphia’s Rube Vickers tosses a five-inning shortened-game no-hitter. This comes after a 12-inning relief appearance as the A’s sweep Washington in a doubleheader.
1908 Iron Man Joe McGinnity pitches for the final time in the big leagues. In it, he allows his only pinch-hit home run, an inside the park shot.
1912 The Yankees play their last game at Hilltop Park, defeating Washington, 8-6.
1916 Fred Snodgrass, star defensive center fielder most remembered for a muff in the 1912 World Series, plays in his final game.
1918 Eddie Grant, a major league infielder turned infantry battalion captain, dies in fighting in the Argonne Forest in WWI.
1921 The Yankees play in their franchise’s first World Series game, and beat the Giants 3-0. It’s also the first World Series game broadcast on the radio.
1922 In a weird moment, umpire George Hildebrand calls Game Two of the World Series for darkness even though there are 45 more minutes of sunshine and the Yankees and Giants are tied 3-3 after 10 innings. Hildebrand says there is too strong a haze. It’s the last tie in World Series history.
1923 Babe Ruth hits the fifth out of 10 career inside the park home runs.
1924 In Game Two of the World Series, the Senators beat the Giants 4-3 after an exciting ninth inning. Washington leads 3-1 after eight, only to see the Giants tie it in the top of the frame, but Washington rallies for the walk-off win.
1931 In Game Three of the World Series, Burleigh Grimes has a no-hitter going until the eighth inning, as his Cardinals top the A’s 5-2. Philadelphia ends the day with only two hits.
1935 In a nice pitchers’ duel, the Tigers top the Cubs 2-1 in Game Four of the Fall Classic.
1937 In the Rule 5 draft, Washington claims Dutch Leonard from Atlanta of the Southern Association.
1939 Monte Pearson tosses a two-hit complete game shutout in Game Two of the World Series for a 2-0 Yankees victory over the Reds.
1941 The Yankees win one of the most incredible World Series games ever. Down 4-3 with two outs in the ninth in Game Four, Yankee outfielder Tommy Heinrich apparently strikes out to end the game on a Hugh Casey spitball – but it gets away from Brooklyn catcher Mickey Owen. Heinrich takes first, and sparks a four-run Yankee rally for a 7-4 win. Think: They win after the 27th out. Not bad.
1942 For the only time between 1926 and 1955, the Yankees lose a World Series. The Cardinals top the Yankees 4-2 in Game Five to claim the world title. St. Louis scored twice in the top of the ninth to tie it. The Yankees win the other 14 Series they play in from 1927-53.
1944 In their only World Series, the St. Louis Browns make six misplays on one dink bunt. First the fielders freeze when approaching it, then the guy who picks it up bobbles it, then he tosses it into right, then it rolls through the legs of the outfielder, when he picks it up he drops it, and when he does toss it he throws it wildly. Ouch. The Browns lose the game 3-2 in 11 innings.
1945 Claude Passeau tosses a complete game one-hit shutout for a 3-0 Cubs win over the Tigers in Game Three of the World Series.
1947 The Dodgers top the Yankees 8-6 in Gave Five of the World Series. In the most famous moment, Al Gionfriddo makes a great catch at the wall to rob Joe DiMaggio of what might’ve been a home run. Red Barber’s call of that play later inspired Chris Berman’s “Back back back back” home run call.
1949 Bill James, sabermetrician, is born.
1949 Allie Reynolds tosses a complete game two-hit shutout as the Yankees beat the Dodgers 1-0 in Game One of the World Series. The only run scores when Tommy Heinrich belts a walk-off home run. It’s only the fifth Yankee hit of the game.
1950 In Game Two of the World Series, Allie Reynolds and Robin Roberts both go the distance in a 10-innning contest, which the Yankees win, 2-1.
1952 The Dodgers top the Yankees 6-5 in 11 innings in Game Five of the World Series. Carl Furillo and Andy Pafko both make great catches in extra innings to rob the Yankees of would-be home runs. In the 10th, umpire Art Passarells badly blows a call, saying a man is out when the photo shows the opposite—but this doesn’t affect the game’s final.
1953 The Yankees top Brooklyn 4-3 in Game Six to finish the World Series. The Yanks led 3-2 after eight innings, but the Dodgers tied it in the top of the ninth, but then the Yanks rally to capture their fifth consecutive world title.
1954 Marilyn Monroe files for divorce from Joe DiMaggio.
1954 Oscar Charleston, Negro League great, dies.
1957 In one of the sloppiest played World Series games ever, the Yankees walk 11 batters, but that’s OK because the Braves leave 14 men on base. Both marks set records. The Yankees win 12-3 in Game Three.
1958 The Braves win Game Four to go up three games to win over the Yankees when Warren Spahn tosses a two-hit complete game shutout for a 3-0 win. It’s Milwaukee’s last win of the year.
1959 The A’s release Murry Dickson.
1959 The Dodgers overcome a White Sox comeback in Game Four of the World Series. The Sox score four in the top of the seventh to tie it, 4-4, but the Dodgers score in the eighth for a 5-4 victory.
1961 The Indians trade Jimmy Piersall to the Senators for three players.
1962 The Cardinals release Red Schoendienst.
1962 The Giants top the Yankees 2-0 in Game Two of the World Series thanks to Jack Sanford tossing a three-hitter complete game shutout.
1963 There are only seven hits total when LA beats the Yankees 1-0 in Game Three of the World Series. Don Drysdale gets the win with a three-hit shutout.
1966 In the top of the first inning in Game One of the World Series, the Orioles score three runs. That’s more than they’ll let the Dodgers score all series, as they win the first game of a one-sided sweep.
1967 Jim Lonborg tosses a one-hit shutout to give the Red Sox a 5-1 win over the Cardinals in Game Two of the World Series.
1969 In Game Two of the ALCS, Dave McNally fans 11 in an 11-innings complete game shutout for a Game Score of 97. The Orioles beat the Twins, 1-0 (11).
1970 The Reds top the Pirates 3-2 thanks to a late score in the bottom of the eighth in Game Three of the NLCS.
1975 In Game Five of the NLCS, the Reds claim the pennant by beating the Pirates 5-3 in 10 innings. The Reds came from behind to take the lead in the eighth only to see the Pirates tie it in the bottom of the ninth.
1978 Tommy John hurls a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 Dodger win over the Phillies in Game Two of the NLCS.
1979 The Angels push two runs across the plate in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win over the Orioles in Game Three in the ALCS.
1980 The Dodgers top the Astros for a third straight game, forcing a one-game playoff for the NL West.
1981 The Braves release Gaylord Perry.
1981 The Tigers release the Bird, Mark Fidrych.
1981 The Pirates release Luis Tiant.
1984 In a pitchers’ duel, both teams get only three hits as the Tigers top the Royals 1-0 in Game Three of the ALCS. The Royals also commit three errors on the day.
1985 The Galbreath family comes to an agreement to sell the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1986 Don Sutton tosses his 5,000th inning.
1986 Earl Weaver manages his last game, as the regular season comes to an end.
1988 The A’s top the Red Sox 1-0 in Game One of the ALCS. The Red Sox tied it in the bottom of the seventh but the A’s went ahead to stay a half-inning later.
1989 Jeff Smulyan purchases the Mariners from George Argyros.
1991 The Cardinals have a bad day on the bases, going 0-for-5 in stolen base attempts against the Cubs. Chicago wins, 3-2.
1993 Bob Watson becomes baseball’s first black GM when the Astros name him to that position.
1996 In Game Four of the ALDS, the Orioles top the Indians in 12 innings, 4-3. This ends the series as the Orioles advance to the ALCS against the Yankees.
1996 The Cardinals rally from a 4-1 deficit to the Padres for a 7-5 win in Game Three of the NLDS to finish a sweep.
1997 The Indians top the Yankees in Game Four of the NLDS, 3-2 by scoring a run off Mariano Rivera in the eighth to tie it, and get another in the ninth off Ramiro Mendoza for the win. This keeps the LDS alive, and the Indians will win the next game en route to their last AL pennant.
1999 The Yankees top the Rangers 8-0 in Game One of the ALDS. Last year these teams faced off in the LDS, and the Rangers got only 13 hits in all three games, so they’re picking up right where they left off here.
2001 Devon White plays in his last big league game.
2001 The Toronto Blue Jays host their first doubleheader since 1989. They haven’t hosted one since then.
2003 The Red Sox top the A’s 5-4 in Game Four of the ALDS to force a fifth and final game. Boston scored twice in the bottom of the eighth for the win.
2006 Five different Cardinals pitchers combine for a 2-0 four-hit win over the Padres I Game Two of the NLDS.
2007 Boston beats the Angels 6-3 on a walk-off home run in Game Two of the ALDS.
2007 It’s the game of Joba Chamberlain’s nightmares. His performance is affected by a bizarre bug invasion in Cleveland, and the Indians beat the Yankees 2-1 in 11 innings in Game Two of the ALDS.
2007 The Pirates fire Jim Tracy.
2008 It takes 12 innings, but the Angels top the Red Sox 5-4 in Game Three of the ALDS.