15,000 days ago, the Padres and Pirates faced off in a humdinger of a game. It had great pitching and plentiful comebacks, and then it sent all the folks in Three Rivers Stadium happy with a walk-off win for their team.
July 15, 1971, was the first game after the All-Star break, and the matchup appeared to be lopsided in favor of the home team. The Pirates entered the game with a record of 57-41, by far the best record in the NL, and only a half-game behind Oakland for the best record in either league. Facing them, the visiting Padres possessed the worst record in the big leagues at 33-58.
So you’d figure this would be a good opportunity for a mighty team to whip the hell out of one of the lesser teams of this earth. It wouldn’t be nearly so simple.
Evening the field was Dave Roberts. He was by far the best pitcher on the Padres staff and would end the season with a sparkling 2.10 ERA though only a 14-17 record thanks to San Diego’s anemic offense. Facing him was Pittsburgh’s Steve Blass, a fine young pitcher in his own right.
So it shouldn’t be too surprising that the game began as a hard-fought pitchers’ duel. Rallies were scarce and runs non-existent as the game entered the seventh still knotted up, 0-0.
San Diego broke the deadlock in the top of the seventh, turning a pair of singles, an intentional walk, and a passed ball into a 1-0 lead.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, that was still the score. With one out, the Pirates began a rally, though. First, Bob Robertson walked, and manager Danny Murtaugh lifted the potential game-tying run for pinch-runner Vic Davalillo. That move immediately paid dividends when Jose Pagan singled Davalillo to third. Now Pittsbugh had two outs to advance a guy 90 feet to stay alive.
The next out was enough. Gene Alley hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the run, and the game moved into extra frames, now tied, 1-1.
Onward it went, with no serious rallies until the 13th inning, when Ivan Murrell bopped a one-out, pinch-hit home run to give San Diego a 2-1 lead. Once again, Pittsburgh needed to score a run before making three outs to stay in the game.
Once gain they did just that. After San Diego reliever Al Severinsen fanned the first two batters in the bottom of the 13th, up to the plate came Willie Stargell. And he did exactly what you’d expect Willie Stargell to do, smashing a game-tying home run to keep the game alive.
And again, onward the game went. No one scored in the 14th or the 15th. In the 16th, though, San Diego took another lead. After a pair of singles put runners on the corners with one out and Nate Colbert—the only dangerous Padre batter—at the plate, Pittsburgh brought in a new reliever, Jim Nelson. Alas, Nelson immediately threw a wild pitch that brought home the lead run. He prevented any more from scoring, but once again the Pittsburgh entered the bottom half of an inning needing to score one run before making three outs.
And once again they did just that. This time Richie Hebner was the hero, as his one-out home run tied it, 3-3.
Onward the contest continued, but not that much onward. In the 17th, the Pirates finally ended it. With one out, veteran star Roberto Clemente came up and did what veteran stars are supposed to do, sending everyone home happy with a walk-off home run.
After four hours, 12 minutes, and three do-or-die comebacks, the Pirates had won the game. Given the resilience they showed on this day, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that they would win the world championship in 1971, rallying from a two-games-to-none deficit in the World Series to win it all in seven games. But no individual game showed them striving quite as much as the win over the Padres 15,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many events today celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things:
2,000 days since Luis Gonzalez gets hit No. 2,000.
3,000 days since the A’s retire No. 9 for former slugger Reggie Jackson.
3,000 days since Zack Greinke makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since a Yankees-Brewers game is interrupted when 100 seagulls swoop down onto the field.
8,000 days since George Steinbrenner is banned for his efforts against Dave Winfield. Robert E. Nederlander becomes managing general partner of the Yankees.
8,000 days since John Tudor appears in his last game.
30,000 days since Dazzy Vance suffers his 100th career loss. He’s 154-100 for his career so far.
Also, and along these lines, at some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since Shane Victorino was born.
1867 Cupid Childs, star second baseman in the 1890s, is born.
1877 A catcher’s mask is first used in the NL. Mike Dorgan uses it after St. Louis’ starting catcher has his cheek smashed on a foul tip and Dorgan has to replace him.
1885 All games in New York City are cancelled for the funeral of former president U. S. Grant.
1886 Pete Browning hits for the cycle.
1888 George Bradley, star pitcher in the early NL, plays in his last game.
1889 Jack Glasscock hits for the cycle.
1896 The Phillies purchase second baseman Nap Lajoie from Fall River in the Northeastern League for $1,500.
1896 A record 37 singles are hit in one game, and Baltimore and Washington each have exactly as many runs scored as singles hit: Baltimore 21, Washington 16.
1903 Cleveland forfeits to Detroit when umpire Tom Connolly ignores Cleveland’s complains about the beaten-up, blackened baseball still being used, and Indians second baseman Nap Lajoie throws it over the stands in protest.
1903 Iron Man Joe McGinnity wins both end of a doubleheader for the Giants, 6-1 and 4-3, over Brooklyn.
1904 Longtime rival managers Ned Hanlon and Frank Selee square off against each other for the 200th time.
1909 Bill O’Hara swipes second, third and home in the eighth inning of a 3-0 Giants win over St. Louis.
1913 Cecil Travis, star shortstop before WWII, is born.
1914 The White Sox purchase Happy Felsch from the American Association’s Milwaukee club for $12,000 and two players. Outfielder Felsch will be one of the eight Black Sox.
1914 Tris Speaker, center fielder, pulls off his second unassisted double play of the year.
1918 It’s announced that Ebbets Field will be a government storehouse for the war once the season ends on Sept. 2.
1920 George Sisler hits for the cycle.
1920 The Tigers top the Yankees in 73 minutes in the shortest nine-inning game in AL history.
1921 Rogers Hornsby gets his 1,000th hit. It took him just 806 games to do.
1921 Luke Stuart of the Browns becomes the first player in AL history to homer in his first career at-bat.
1922 The Pirates get 46 hits in a doubleheader against the Phillies. Shortstop Rabbit Maranville has a record 13 plate appearances on the day. Pittsburgh sweeps, 19-8 and 7-3.
1923 The Red Sox send two players and $4,000 to Danville of the Three-I League for pitcher Red Ruffing.
1925 The Giants dump hard drinking Hack Wilson on Toledo. Wilson will later return to the majors and be a star slugger for a few years.
1926 200-game winner Earl Whitehill fans 12 in one game, his personal best.
1927 Pirates manager Donie Bush benches star outfielder Kiki Cuyler and fines him $50 for not sliding. He’ll use Cuyler sparingly the rest of the year, and Cuyler will be traded in the offseason to the Cubs.
1929 Sunny Jim Bottomley legs out his 100th career triple.
1929 Herb Pennock records his 200th win. His record is 200-134 so far for his career.
1931 Pirates hitting star Paul Waner gets his 100th career triple.
1931 Bobby Burke tosses a no-hitter.
1931 Charlie Root, the all-time winningest Cub, endures his worst Game Score: 10. His line: 1.1 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, and 0 K.
1934 Brooklyn releases former star slugger Hack Wilson, who has drank his way out of the game.
1934 Former Dodger manager Wilbert Robinson dies.
1936 Slugger Frank Howard is born.
1937 For the second straight game, Joe Medwick uncorks two home runs in one contest. As it happens, today is his 10th and final multi-home run game. He’ll play 1,255 more games and never do it again.
1943 For the only time in his Hall of Fame career, second baseman Joe Gordon lays down two sacrifice bunts in one game.
1946 Bob Feller tosses his eighth career one-hitter. A seventh-inning bloop single by Frankie Hayes is the only safety. In this game, Feller also faces his 1,000th batter of the year, a damn impressive total given that it’s still just early August.
1947 Jose Cruz is born.
1950 Longtime NL manger Frankie Frisch loses his 1,000th decision. His record: 1,082-1,000.
1952 Billy Pierce has his 12th straight Quality Start, his longest such stretch. He has a 1.68 ERA in this span.
1952 Bob Neighbors, a shortstop for seven games in 1939, is killed in Korea. He’s the only former big leaguer to die in the war.
1956 Hank Aaron has a hitting streak peak at 25 games, a career best that he’ll tie six years later.
1957 Walter O’Malley officially announces that the Dodgers will play in Los Angeles next year.
1959 For the first time in his career, Bob Gibson records more than 27 outs in one game as he tosses 10 innings today. He’ll have 25 career games with at least 28 outs.
1961 Gary Geiger hits an inside-the-park grand slam.
1963 Dodger batters Frank Howard and Moose Skowron hit back-to-back pinch-hit homers against the Cubs, but Chicago holds on to win, 5-4.
1963 Pete Rose gets on base via catcher’s interference for the first time in his career. He’ll end his career with 29 times on base this way, an impossibly high total. I’ve looked it up for many players, and no one comes close to 29 times.
1963 Ron Karkovice is born.
1964 The Angels sign a contract to move from Los Angeles to Anaheim in 1966.
1966 A Red Sox-Indians game is delayed four times by fog.
1969 Mets starting pitcher Jerry Koosman notches his 16th consecutive Quality Start, his longest such streak. He has a 1.71 ERA in this span.
1969 Thurman Munson makes his big league debut.
1970 Giants pitcher Skip Pitlock hits an inside-the-park home run in a 6-5 win over the Astros.
1970 Tony Perez has a career-best six RBIs, going 3-for-5 with two homers.
1970 The Yankees retire No. 37 for Casey Stengel.
1972 The Yankees sign a 30-year lease starting in 1976 to play at Yankee Stadium.
1972 Tommy John fans a career-high 13 batters.
1973 Orlando Cepeda belts four doubles in one game.
1974 Tonight’s Royals-Twins game is briefly interrupted to broadcast the resignation speech of President Richard Nixon. The Twins win, 3-2 in 14 innings.
1976 The White Sox wear shorts for one game before revolting. They beat the Royals, 5-2.
1977 Tommy John has a great game, tossing a complete-game shutout and hitting a homer in a 4-0 Dodger triumph over the Reds.
1978 For the only time in his 4,000-plus plate appearances, Doug Flynn gets hit by a pitch. It’s the most trips to the plate for someone with just one hit-by-pitch since 1920.
1979 A’s pitcher Matt Keough loses, dropping his record to 0-14.
1980 For the only time in his career, Jim Rice steals two bases in one game.
1982 For the second time in his career, Doug DeCinces hits three homers in one game. The first time was just five days before.
1983 Billy Martin manages his 2,000th game. His record is 1,091-908.
1983 Tom Candiotti makes his big league debut.
1985 Oscar Gamble plays in his final game.
1987 Steve Carlton notches his 329th and final career victory.
1988 It’s the first attempted night game at Wrigley Field. I say attempted because it’s rained out. 91-year-old Cubs fan Harry Grossman throws the switch turning the lights on. The first batter for the Phillies in the top of the first homers. The game also features perhaps the last appearance of Morganna, The Kissing Bandit.
1988 Rick Reed makes his big league debut.
1990 Pete Rose reports to federal work camp in Marion, Illinois.
1991 In a 4-0, 14-inning win over the Blue Jays, the Tigers fan 21 times.
1992 Oakland’s uber-closer Dennis Eckersley blows his first save opportunity in nearly a year (since Sept. 10, 1991).
1993 Albert Belle gets two RBIs on one sacrifice fly during Cleveland’s 6-0 win over Baltimore.
1994 Rich Gossage appears in his last game.
1996 Willie McGee gets his 2,000th hit.
1996 Luis Castillo makes his big league debut.
1997 Manny Ramirez hits his 100th homer.
1997 Mark McGwire hits his first home run for the Cardinals.
1997 Randy Johnson fans 19 in a complete-game shutout. It’s his second 19-K game of the year for the Mariners.
1998 Paul Molitor steals his 500th base.
1999 Pedro Martinez notches his 100th win for a career record of 100-49.
1999 Harry “The Hat” Walker dies.
1999 Black Jack McDowell appears in his last game.
2000 Joel Pineiro makes his big league debut.
2002 Delino DeShields appears in his final big league contest.
2004 It’s the second-longest game ever at the Metrodome: A’s 6, Twins 5 (18).
2004 Tim Wakefield allows six homers but gets the win anyway, 11-9, Boston over Detroit.
2005 Former big league manager Gene Mauch dies.
2006 Oakland tops Texas, 7-6, on a walk-off unassisted double play by A’s catcher Jason Kendall. He catches strike three for one out and there’s interference by the batter for a second out when Kendall tries to make a throw on a base runner. It’s the fourth unassisted double play of Kendall’s career.
2007 Bruce Bochy wins his 1,000th game, giving him a record of 1,000-1,038.
2007 The Dodgers are shut out for the third straight game, something that hasn’t happened to them since the 1966 World Series.
2007 According to WPA, this is the worst game of Andruw Jones’s career. He’s 0-for-4 with a pair of GIDP for a –0.570 WPA.
2010 Boise Hawks manager Jody Davis is suspended six games and fined for pulling his team off the field and taking a forfeit. Davis claims that rain made the field conditions unsafe, but the umps disagree.