110 years ago was a landmark day in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. On Aug. 22, 1903, their all-time cumulative franchise record hit .500, and it’s been over .500 ever since.
On Aug. 22, 1903, the Pirates beat their in-state rivals, the Phillies, 7-4. With that win, the Pirates had 1,409 wins and 1,409 losses since their establishment in 1882.
Wait, 1882? Don’t the Pirates often trace their history back to 1887, not 1882? They often do, but 1887 is the year they joined the NL. From 1882-86, the Pirates were in the American Association, which was the rival big league to the National League at the time. The Pirates aren’t unique in having jumped. In fact, four of the eight pre-expansion NL teams actually began in the AA: the Pirates, Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers.
At any rate, aside from parts of their debut campaign in 1882, the Pirates’ all-time record had always been under .500. It was two steps backward, one step forward in those early years. Things completely fell apart in 1890, when they experienced one of the worst seasons in history, going 23-113, 90 games under .500 for just that one year.
Their all-time record reached its historical low point in June 1892, 207 games under .500. But since that was their low point, it means they started to get better after that. However, it was still slow going. By the end of 1899, they were still 160 games under .500 in their franchise history (1,067-1,227). But then they caught a nice break. The NL contracted that year, and the Pirates were the big winners. When the Louisville club ceased to exist, the Pirates got several stars, most notably shortstop Honus Wagner.
The Pirates finished in second place in 1900. In 1901, they won their first pennant as again league dynamics helped them out. The AL came into existence that year, and raided NL teams for players, but didn’t take any Pirates. As the only team with its core in place, the Pirates became a dynamo. They not only won a pennant in 1901, but in 1902 set a record with 103 wins (in a 140-game season).
Though the AL finally began raiding the Pirates for talent after 1902, what was left was still enough for a third pennant. Which is how on Aug. 22, 1903, a franchise that just three and a half years earlier stood 160 games under .500 was now 1,409-1,409.
The Pirates won their next 10 decisions to give them a cushion over .500. They nearly went back to it in 1904 (just two games over .500 after one losing streak) but stayed above .500. With Honus Wagner anchoring a star-studded team, the Pirates posted an unbroken series of winning campaigns from 1899-1913. By that time, they were well over 300 atop .500.
That is a might nice lead to have. They were a contending team in much of the 1920s and 1930s, pushing their record northward of 500 games over .500. The franchise peaked on Sept. 13, 1946: 582 games over .500 (4,904-4.322). The Pirates tied that mark two games later, but then fell backward.
As bad as they were in the early 1950s, they stayed over 190 games ahead of .500 the entire time. They bottomed out at 191 games in July 1958. Then began a 20-year glory stretch, culminating on Aug. 17, 1980 with the Pirates 544 games over .500.
After some ups-and-downs, they ended their 1990-92 division three-peat glory stretch 544 games over .500. As bad as the next 20 years were, 544 provides a powerful cushion. Heading into this year, the Pirates were still more than 100 games over .500. And with a young team and a solid record, they should stay over .500 for the foreseeable future.
But to build up that cushion, the Pirates first had to make it to .500, and they did so exactly 110 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
4,000 days since the Mariners top the Royals 16-9 in 11 innings. Folks, it was 8-8 after 10 frames.
5,000 days since Colorado trades Vinny Castilla to the Rays.
5,000 days since two teams blow it. Houston loses young prospect pitcher Johan Santana to the Marlins in a Rule 5 draft, but Florida immediately flips Santana to the Twins for Jared Camp. Somewhere, wherever that might be, Jared Camp can tell people he was once traded straight up for Johan Santana.
5,000 days since the Rockies, A’s and Brewers engage in a three-way trade that sends Jeff Cirillo to Colorado.
5,000 days since Tampa signs free agent Greg Vaughn.
7,000 days since Jim Thome enjoys his first multi-home run game.
8,000 days since Dwight Evans—less than two weeks from the end of his career—receives a special treat in his last game against Boston. Now an Oriole, the longtime Red Sox wins the game with a walk-off walk.
20,000 days since Indians minority owners Hank Greenberg and Charles and Andrew Baker sell their share of the club to majority owner Bill Daley. Their plans to gain full control of the team had failed, so they’re cashing out.
20,000 days since Red Schoendienst is diagnosed with tuberculosis. He’ll appear in just five games in 1959.
25,000 days since Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis is born.
1857 Hall of Fame skipper Ned Hanlon is born.
1886 A stray dog tears the pant leg of Cincinnati’s Abner Powell, causing him to miss a fly ball. The missed fly ball becomes a game-winning, inside-the-park home run.
1889 Wally Schang, a borderline Hall of Fame-caliber catcher, is born.
1891 Black Sox outfielder Happy Felsch is born.
1892 Ben Sanders throws a no-hitter, winning 6-2.
1905 Detroit forfeits to Washington. The Tigers refused to play after a lengthy argument. Washington was up 2-1 at the time.
1908 Early in the day, the Reds turn down John McGraw’s offer to trade them aging veteran Iron Man Joe McGinnity. Then, still with the Giants, McGinnity tosses nine innings of relief to beat the Reds, 5-1.
1910 Honus Wagner goes 7-for-7 in a doubleheader with three doubles and a homer.
1912 Honus Wagner hits for the cycle.
1915 Hall of Famer Edd Roush hits an inside-the-park, walk-off home run for Newark in the Federal League.
1917 Brooklyn beats the Pirates, 6-5, in 22 innings. It’s the third straight extra-inning game between the two teams. Pittsburgh’s Carson Bigbee goes 6-for-11 in the contest.
1920 Pitcher Ernie Shore plays his last game. He is famous for one of the great relief performances in history. Years earlier a young Babe Ruth started a game for Boston, let the first batter reach base and then was ejected for arguing with the umpire. Shore came in, picked off the runner and retired the next 26 straight batters. For decades, that was listed as a perfect game. But today, Shore isn’t perfect. Today he’s merely making his curtain call.
1923 Babe Ruth connects for his 1,000th career hit.
1923 White Sox pitcher Sloppy Thurston strikes out the side on nine pitches in the 12th inning against the A’s. Then the Sox lose in the 13th.
1926 After three straight rainouts, Connie Mack goes to the court for a special injunction so he can play a game on Sunday, which normally isn’t allowed in Pennsylvania.
1933 Hank Greenberg has the first of 35 multi-home run games. He also gets the first of his six career walk-off home runs.
1933 Cubs president Bill Veeck Sr. (whose son becomes a Hall of Famer owner), urges a midsummer series of interleague games and proposes a split season.
1933 Brooklyn purchases knuckleball pitcher Dutch Leonard from York in the New York-Pennsylvania League.
1934 Rudy York makes his big league debut.
1934 Pitcher Wes Ferrell blasts two home runs for Boston in a 3-2 win over the White Sox. The second home run is a walk-off shot, making him one of the few pitchers to end the game by hitting a dinger.
1937 Dizzy Dean has perhaps his best day at the plate ever, going 3-for-4, including a three-run homer in St. Louis’ 9-7 win over the Pirates. Dean goes the distance, posting a line of: 9 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 0 K.
1938 Carl Hubbell has an operation to remove bone chips. He’s done for the year.
1938 Preacher Roe makes his big league debut.
1939 Carl Yastrzemski, legendary Red Sox left fielder, is born.
1944 Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser has his worst Game Score: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, and 4 K for a Game Score of 12.
1946 Baseball owners approve a move to a 168-game schedule. The change will be rescinded next month.
1948 Brooklyn pulls off a triple steal, with Jackie Robinson swiping home. The team steals eight bases on the day.
1949 The Yankees purchase Johnny Mize from the Giants for $40,000.
1950 Pitcher Ray Burris is born.
1951 Yankees hurler Tommy Byrne walks 16 Red Sox in a 13-inning game. Boston wins 3-1 despite stranding 22 runners.
1951 Jackie Robinson has his best known WPA game: 0.786 WPA. He goes 5-for-6 with a double, a run, and three RBIs in Brooklyn’s 8-7 win over St. Louis.
1954 Ernie Banks enjoys the first of 42 multi-home run games.
1956 Mickey Mantle belts one that comes within 20 feet of clearing Yankee Stadium. It lands 20 rows into the upper left field stands.
1957 Stan Musial is sidelined upon tearing a muscle and chipping a bone in his shoulder. This will end his consecutive-games-played streak.
1958 Early Wynn loses his 200th decision. He’s 245-200 on his career so far. He’ll go 55-44 from here on out.
1958 Nellie Fox plays his 98th consecutive game without striking out. He’s 116-for-396 in that stretch for a .293 average.
1958 Dummy Taylor, pitcher, dies at age 83. He led the NL in losses in 1901 with 27, but later won 21 games in 1904.
1958 The A’s trade Murry Dickson to the Yankees. Dickson is one of the longest lasting swingman pitchers in baseball history.
1959 Frank Robinson belts three homers in one game.
1960 The Cubs sign amateur free agent Lou Brock. If I recall correctly, Buck O’Neil is the scout.
1960 Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer and the Cubs team sue Billy Martin for over $1 million over a fight Martin started 17 days earlier that resulted in a broken cheekbone for Brewer. It’ll be settled out of court with Martin paying $25,000.
1961 Roger Maris knocks out his 50th home run. He’s on the fastest homer pace in history so far.
1963 Al Lopez manages his 2,000th game. He’s 1,164-825 in his career so far.
1966 Andy Etchebarren saves teammate Frank Robinson from drowning at a pool party for the Baltimore Orioles.
1968 Heinie Groh, Hall of Fame-caliber third baseman, dies at age 78.
1969 Jim Palmer throws three wild pitches in one game but gets the complete-game win anyway.
1969 Luis Tiant fans 16, his most ever in a nine-inning game.
1970 In a 16-inning game, Don Sutton steals the only base of his career. It happens in the seventh inning with the game tied, 1-1. The opposing Pirates beat Sutton’s Dodgers, 2-1, later on.
1971 Reggie Jackson hits an inside-the-park, walk-off home run. It’s his fourth and final inside-the-park homer and second of 10 walk-offs.
1971 Pete Rose bashes his 100th career home run.
1971 For the only time in his career, longtime leadoff man Lou Brock scores five runs in one game.
1972 The Tigers and A’s brawl, setting up bad blood in that year’s ALCS showdown between them.
1973 Padre catcher Fred Kendall hits two triples in one game.
1973 The Indians sign amateur free agent Alfredo Griffin.
1973 George Cutshaw, deadball era NL second baseman, dies at age 87.
1974 Salem outfielder Alfredo Edmond in the Carolina League dies from an on-field collision with a teammate. It’s a massive skull fracture.
1974 The Cardinals sign amateur free agent Tommy Herr.
1976 The Angels lead the Yankees, 8-0, heading into the bottom of the ninth. Stunningly, the Yanks tie it but lose, 11-8, in 11 innings anyway.
1976 Jeff Weaver, pitcher, is born.
1976 Randy Wolf, pitcher, is born.
1976 Reggie Jackson launches a pinch-hit grand slam. It’s the second of two career pinch-hit slams for Mr. October.
1978 Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood plays in his last game.
1978 Ron LeFlore sets an AL record with his 27th consecutive successful stolen base.
1979 Johnny Bench hits his 325th home run as a Red, passing Frank Robinson as the all-time franchise leader. Bench is still the Cincinnati homer king.
1979 Dave Parker belts his 1,000th career hit.
1979 Phil Niekro completes his 200th complete game.
1980 Eddie DeBartolo Sr. reaches an agreement with Bill Veeck to buy the White Sox for $20 million. Baseball owners will nix it, fearing the Italian DeBartolo has Mafia ties. Instead, DeBartolo becomes the owner of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers for their 1980s dynasty.
1981 Steve Bedrosian runs out of the dugout for his first big league start—and hits the railing, bruising his forearm and swallowing his tobacco. He’s hurt and sick all game.
1982 The Cubs retire Ernie Banks’ No. 14.
1982 The Cardinals win a game in incredible fashion: a walk-off steal of home in the bottom of the 12th by backup catcher Glenn Brummer. You don’t see that happen too often. There were two outs and two strikes when he broke for home and reputedly the ball was right down the middle for strike three, but the ump was so caught up in calling Brummer safe that he didn’t make a call on the pitch.
1983 The Cubs replace manager Lee Elia with Charlie Fox. Ironically, the man who once declared that 85 percent of the world works, the other 15 percent go to Wrigley Field, won’t be able to go to Wrigley because he isn’t working anymore.
1984 Graig Nettles homers for the sixth straight game. He’s 10-for-18 in that span.
1986 Mark McGwire makes his major league debut.
1988 Craig Biggio hits his first home run.
1989 Marquis Grissom makes his big league debut.
1989 Paul Assenmacher fans four batters in one inning.
1989 The Blue Jays beat the Tigers, 3-2 (14), on a walk-off error. Here’s the blow-by-blow in the bottom of the 14th: walk, sacrifice hit, intentional walk, groundout forcing the trailing runner, stolen base by the new trailing runner, and an error by the pitcher.
1991 John Kruk gets hit by a pitch for the first time in 2,682 at-bats.
1991 Reggie Sanders makes his big league debut.
1995 After more than 7,700 plate appearances, Tony Gwynn hits his first grand slam. He’ll get two more in his career.
1996 Andruw Jones records the first of 43 (and counting) multi-home run games.
1997 Torii Hunter makes his big league debut.
1997 Houston pitcher Mike Magnante strikes out the side versus the Rockies on the minimum nine pitches in the ninth inning.
1998 Ivan Rodriguez hits his 100th home run.
1999 Mark McGwire hits a 504-foot home run against the Mets.
2000 Eric Karros belts two home runs in one inning.
2000 Eric Byrnes makes his big league debut.
2001 The White Sox top the Royals, 13-12, despite the Royals scoring seven runs in the first inning.
2001 Sammy Sosa hits three homers in one game for the fourth time in his career. It’s also the second time he’s done it in two weeks. Sosa also leaves this game in the sixth inning.
2002 The Cubs trade Tom Gordon to the Astros.
2003 The Giants win, giving manager Felipe Alou a winning record (768-767). He’ll stay over .500 from this point on.
2003 The Yankees trade Sterling Hitchcock to the Cardinals.
2004 Craig Biggio hits his only pinch-hit homer. It comes with the Astros trailing the Cubs, 11-2, in the bottom of the sixth inning.
2004 Sterling Hitchcock makes his last big league appearance on the mound.
2004 Larry Walker hits his second grand slam of the week. It’s the seventh and last one of his career.
2006 Bobby Abreu hits his 200th career home run.
2006 Albert Pujols belts his fifth career grand slam. He gets two homers on the day for a personal-best seven RBIs. Despite his performance, the Mets beat the Cardinals, 8-7. So yes, Pujols drove in all of St. Louis’ runs in that game.
2006 Arizona trades Shawn Green to the Mets.
2006 Dustin Pedroia makes his big league debut.
2006 The Orioles’ Nick Markakis connects for three home runs in one game.
2007 Barry Bonds hits his 600th double.
2007 Albert Pujols homers for the fifth consecutive game.
2007 The Rangers set a post-1900 record by beating the Orioles, 30-3. (At the game, working in an official capacity for MLB.com, is original THT writer Larry Mahnken).
2009 The Cardinals win their 10,000th game (including their days in the American Association from 1882-91).
2010 Cubs manager Lou Piniella retires on a down note as his Cubs lose, 16-5, to the Braves.
2012 Texas Ranger Adrian Beltre hits three homers versus the Orioles.