120 years ago, one of baseball’s most prestigious clubs gained a new member. On Sept. 21, 1892, John Clarkson won his 300th game.
He was just the fifth member of the club. In fact, the club itself was still in the process of being established. The first man to join was Pud Galvin, and he’d done it just four seasons earlier, near the conclusion of the 1888 campaign.
In June 1890, Galvin gained a roommate when Tim Keefe made it to 300 wins later. Less than eight weeks later, Keefe’s longtime teammate Mickey Welch made it three 300 game winners. In 1891, Charley Radbourn joined them—just two Months before the first anniversary of Keefe’s 300th win.
Clarkson’s entrance assured it was a club, but it also ended the rapid rise in membership. They were all the winningest pitchers of the 1880s, an era whose circumstances made it easier to pick up 300 wins.
Back then, pitchers worked 50 feet from home plate, and for various reasons the nature of the game back then allowed them to throw far more innings—500 innings was common and 600 not unheard of. In 1893, the lords of baseball moved pitchers back to the present distance of 60 feet and six inches. Immediately, 500 inning-seasons ended, and 400 innings quickly became quite rare, and then extinct.
That 1880s herd could stock up an incredible amount of innings in a short amount of time, and that led to huge numbers of wins. It wasn’t easy to get to 300. Most pitchers blew their arms out after just a few years. But if you could last a little over a decade of quality pitching, you had a chance to make it to 300.
This is not to say that John Clarkson was merely a workhorse. He was arguably the best pitcher of the day. His 53-win 1885 is second only to Radbourn’s famous 59-win campaign in 1884. Clarkson led the league in ERA in 1889 and was among the league leaders in almost every year from 1884 to 1892. In fact, he was among the league leaders in almost everything—ERA, strikeouts, wins, shutouts—you name it, and Clarkson was among the best at it. Most notably, WAR says he was the best player in the entire NL four times: 1885, 1887, 1889 and 1891.
Because he was so good and pitched at a time when arms racked up a tremendous number of innings per year, Clarkson was barely 31 years old when he won No. 300: 31 years, two months, and 20 days to be precise.
However, despite his youth and talent, Clarkson was pretty much through. 1892 would be his last 20 win season (and this was a time when 30 wins were still common). It was also his last year with a winning record. He’d lasted long enough to win 300, but he couldn’t last much longer. That’s what happens when you throw such an absurd number of innings.
But make it to 300 Clarkson did, and he did it 120 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 through things.
3,000 days since Arizona defeats Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, ending his streak of 84 consecutive save opportunities successfully converted.
4,000 days since Curt Schilling throws a complete game three-hit shutout for Arizona in Game One of the 2001 NLDS for a 1-0 win over St. Louis.
6,000 days since Alex Rodriguez smacks his first grand slam.
6,000 days since Bill Mueller makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since Lou Piniella manages his 1,000th game. His record if 527-473 at the time.
15,000 days since Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field. It’s the first time Santo tells the public that he has diabetes. The Braves beat the Cubs, though, 4-3.
15,000 days since pitcher Rick Wise hits two home runs in one game. One of the homers is a slam. It’s the second time this year Wise has belted two homers in one game. In the first one, he threw a no-hitter, too.
1880 300-game winner Mickey Welch surrenders two inside the park home runs to Harry Stovey, who at one point in time was baseball’s all-time career home run king. (He’ll be passed by Roger Connor, who will be passed by Babe Ruth, and then Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.)
1881 Ross Barnes, one of the greatest hitters of his day, plays his final game.
1895 First baseman Harry Davis makes his big league debut. For a little while, he’ll be the all-time career AL home run king.
1896 Connie Mack resigns as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates effective at the season’s conclusion. Then he’ll move to the Western League, which will later evolve into the American League.
1901 An Indians-Senators doubleheader features 22 errors.
1901 The Cubs beat the Braves 1-0 in 17 innings in a game in which there are no extra base hits.
1904 Wildfire Schulte, starter for the 116-win 1906 Cubs, makes his big league debut.
1907 Dode Paskert first plays in the majors.
1907 Fred Merkle debuts in the big leagues.
1908 Hall of Famer Frank “Home Run” Baker first plays in the big leagues.
1910 Elden Auker, who will be the last living man to have surrendered a home run to Babe Ruth, is born.
1911 Rookie sensation Pete Alexander hurls his fourth consecutive shutout. His numbers in that span: 36 IP, 14 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB and 22 K.
1913 Johnny Kling, catcher on the 116-win 1906 Cubs, plays his last game.
1919 The Dodgers beat the Reds 3-1 in a game that takes 55 minutes to play. Slim Sallee throws only 65 pitches in the loss.
1920 Assistant Illinois state’s attorney Hartley Replogle announces he’ll subpoena players, owners, manager, and gamblers about the 1919 World Series fix.
1923 Clarence Blethen slides into second base to break up a double play—but forgets his false teeth are in his back pocket. He bites himself in the butt as a result.
1925 Rube Benton, 1910s pitcher, dies at age 47.
1925 Pirates outfielder Kiki Cuyler sets an NL record with his 10th consecutive hit.
1927 Zack Wheat, Hall of Fame outfielder, plays his final game.
1927 Ty Cobb lasts mans the center field position.
1928 Hard-hitting pitcher Red Ruffing belts a three-run homer, giving his Boston Red Sox a 5-3 win over the Browns.
1931 Jimmie Foxx hits the first of two pinch-hit grand slams in his career.
1934 In the first game of a Cardinals-Dodgers doubleheader, St. Louis ace Dizzy Dean pitches a three-hitter. Then his brother Paul Dean throws a no-hitter in the second one. Diz famously quips afterwards—”Paul, if you told me earlier you were going to do it, I’d have thrown a no-hitter, too.”
1935 Walk-machine Max Bishop plays in his final game.
1938 Game at Braves Field in Boston cut short by hurricane. The umps call it when a pop fly goes into the right field stands.
1939 For the first time in the 20th century, an NL game is moved to a different town. A Phillies-Dodgers doubleheader goes to Brooklyn to help the Dodgers reach a million fans on the year.
1942 Fastball pitcher Sudden Sam McDowell is born.
1946 The Indians play their last game in League Park, losing 5-3 to the Tigers in 11 innings.
1948 The Reds release longtime ace pitcher Bucky Walters.
1950 The Indians end one early, scoring 15 runs in the first inning against the A’s. It’s one of the last games Connie Mack manages, too.
1952 The Braves play their final home game in Boston, losing 8-2 before 8,822 fans to the Dodgers. It’s their second largest home crowd of the year.
1955 After seven years, Trader Frank Lane steps down as White Sox GM.
1956 Al Kaline reaches base for the 44th straight game, easily his longest such streak. He’s 76-for-208 with 36 walks in that spell.
1956 Mickey Mantle hits a monster shot at Fenway Park, going 450-500 feet, landing off the back wall in center.
1956 Hard-luck pitcher Turk Farrell makes his big league debut. In 1962 he’ll go 10-20 despite a terrific ERA.
1957 Ted Williams belts the 15th of his 17 career grand slams.
1957 The Indians take Hoyt Wilhelm off waivers from the Cardinals.
1958 Dale Long catches the ninth inning of a Cubs loss to the Dodgers, making him one of the few lefties ever to catch in the big leagues.
1958 Veteran first baseman Dee Fondy plays his last game, ending his career with exactly 1,000 hits.
1958 Yogi Berra plays his only full game at third base.
1959 Cardinals pitcher Danny Cox is born.
1959 Ernie Banks reaches base safely six times in one game for the only time. He goes 4-for-4 with two walks.
1960 In the bottom of the fourth inning, Don Drysdale loads the bases with no outs, then fans three straight batters to get out of the inning without allowing any runs. It’s the second time he’s done that. The first time was slightly over a year ago.
1960 The Milwaukee Braves release young catcher Elrod Hendricks. He’ll end up playing in the major leagues until 1979.
1962 Sandy Koufax returns to the mound after missing time with a circulatory disorder in his pitching hand. The Cardinals knock him out in the first inning.
1963 Slugging first baseman Cecil Fielder is born.
1963 Harmon Killebrew belts three home runs in one game.
1963 Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan makes his major league debut.
1965 Jim Pagliaroni has the best one-game WPA performance by a Pittsburgh batter that we know of. He goes 3-for-4 with a homer, two runs, three RBIs, a walk and a strikeout in the team’s 6-5 win over the Mets for a 1.284 WPA.
1965 Former baseball player Socks Seibold dies.
1965 Frank Lary, pitcher, last appears in a big league game.
1966 Only 440 fans attend a 9-3 Cubs win over the Reds at Wrigley Field.
1966 Former Red Frank Robinson has his seventh multi-home run game of the year, as he leads the Orioles to a pennant title and wins a Triple Crown for himself.
1968 Ted Simmons makes his big league debut.
1969 Bill Buckner makes his big league debut.
1969 Willie McCovey gets on base six times in one game for the only time in his career. He has two walks (one intentional) and four hits.
1970 The Cubs select Hoyt Wilhelm off waivers from the Braves.
1970 Vida Blue pitches a no-hitter. Aside from a walk to Harmon Killebrew in the fourth inning, it’s a perfect game.
1971 Cubs third baseman Ron Santo belts his 300th career home run. It’s off Tom Seaver.
1971 AL owners vote 10-2 to allow Senators owner Bob Short to relocate the team to Texas.
1971 One-time star Reds pitcher Jim Maloney plays in his final game.
1972 Scott Spiezio, infielder, is born.
1973 The Mets hit .500 and reach first place in the NL East. It is a weird divisional race.
1975 Doug Davis, pitcher, is born.
1975 Gaylord Perry wins, giving him a career record of 215-174. Incredibly, his brother Jim Perry also has a career record of 215-174 at this moment. Jim pitched in his last game nearly seven weeks ago, but Gaylord will stick around nearly another decade and win over 300 games in all.
1975 Jim Rice breaks his arm in a Tigers-Red Sox game.
1977 Veteran pitcher Jerry Koosman suffers his ninth straight loss, his worst losing streak. It’s even worse than that—this is loss No. 20 of the season for him.
1978 The Cubs use 27 players in a 4-3 loss to the Pirates in 14 innings.
1978 Gaylord Perry becomes the third pitcher to beat all 26 teams. Rick Wise and Mike Torrez did it before him.
1979 Lou Brock steals his 938th and last base.
1979 The Pirates purchase Dock Ellis, formerly a star pitcher in Pittsburgh, from the Mets.
1979 Toothpick affecionado U L Washington homers from both sides of the plate in one game for his first and second career home runs.
1983 Richie Zisk, the Polish Prince, plays in his last game.
1983 Gaylord Perry makes his last appearance in the big leagues.
1984 George Brett hits his second career grand slam. He’ll never have another one.
1984 Orioles rookie Jim Traber sings the National Anthem before the game and then makes his big league debut.
1984 Reggie Jackson gets his first sacrifice hit since Sept. 23, 1972. It’s the last one of his career.
1986 Philadelphia pitcher Marvin Freeman records his first career victory on the same day his daughter is born.
1986 Padres pitcher Jimmy Jones makes a debut for the ages, retiring 27 of the 28 batters he faces. The only thing standing between him and a perfect game is a triple hit by, of all people, opposing pitcher Bob Knepper.
1987 John McNamara wins his 1,000th game as a manager. His career record: 1,000-1,076.
1987 Arbitrator Thomas T. Roberts rules that baseball owners colluded in the 1985 free agent market.
1987 Sacio Kinugasa, the Lou Gehrig of Japan, announces he’ll retire at the end of the year.
1989 Murry Dickson, maybe the best swingman pitcher of all-time, dies.
1989 Tim Raines ties a career high with four stolen bases in a game. It’s his fifth time in all, and first one in over five years.
1990 San Diego fires Jack McKeon as its manager.
1993 Braves and Expos use a combined 13 pinch-hitters in a game that Atlanta wins, 18-5.
1993 Veteran starting pitcher Charlie Leibrandt appears in his last big league game.
1996 Eddie Murray blasts his 19th and final career grand slam.
1996 Christie’s Fine Art Auctions sells a Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card for $640,000.
1996 Vladimir Guerrero belts his first career home run.
1997 Barry Bonds legs out his third and final career inside the park home run.
1997 Brad Radke throws 10 innings for the Twins, the last time they have a pitcher record more than 27 outs.
1998 Carlos Beltran hits two triples in one game for the only time in his career.
2001 For the first time since 9/11, baseball returns to New York City. President Bush throws out the ceremonial first pitch (and it’s a good one!) and then the Mets beat the Braves, 3-2.
2001 Albert Pujols connects for his first career grand slam.
2004 Ichiro Suzuki gets his fourth five-hit game of the year, and his second of the month.
2008 Carlos Delgado gets his 2,000th hit in his 2,002nd game. He does it in style, going 4-for-5 with a double and home run.
2009 Houston fires its manager, Cecil Cooper.
2010 Jim Edmonds pops his Achilles rounding third base on a home run trot, ending his career. Edmonds joins Ted Williams, Albert Belle and Todd Zeile as prominent players who homered in their last at-bat.
2010 Omar Vizquel plays in his 100th game of the year, becoming only the second player to ever play 100 games in a season in four different decades. Ted Williams is the other one.
2011 For the first time all year, Adam Dunn’s strikeout total is larger than his batting average: 167 to .166.