Last year I wrote a column on the coolest home run hitters of all-time. These refer to people who hit especially fun or interesting homers, such as inside-the-park ones, walk-off homers, grand slams, pinch hit ones, etc.
Well, today marks 20,000 days since the coolest homer of them all. Exactly that many days ago, Roberto Clemente blasted the first, last, and still only inside-the-park, walk-off grand slam.
Think about what that entails for a second. For an inside-the-park grand slam to be a walk-off blast, the team must be down by exactly three runs. Any more, and the game goes on. Any less, and the batter won’t come around the score. That’s why it’s such a dang rare play. Added bonus: From what I know, Clemente actually blew through the third base coach’s stop sign to dash to the plate. It’s good to have confidence sometimes.
That said, while awesome it was a bit reckless of Clemente. There were no outs, and the pitcher clearly was flailing that inning. It was a risk, but it paid off. It was only his 11th career homer and his next walk-off wouldn’t come for over a decade.
Aside from that 20,000-day marker, several other notable baseball events celebrate their “day-versaries” and anniversaries today. First the day-counting stuff:
I’ll put the stuff that seems (to me) more interesting in bold.
5,000 days since the Dodgers traded Pedro Astacio to the Rockies for Eric Young.
9,000 days since Robin Yount’s 2,000th hit.
9,000 days since George Foster played his last game.
9,000 days since the best one-game WPA performance ever by an Astros hitter: 1.015 WPA by Jose Cruz. He went 2-for-3 with a double, home run, and two walks while scoring two runs and driving in three. Houston 7, St. Louis 6.
50,000 days since Happy Jack Chesbro, Hall of Famer, was born. He shouldn’t be in Cooperstown, but he sure was good for a while.
1891 MLB debut: Ted Breitenstein. He was a great pitcher in his prime constantly stuck on terrible teams that gave him no run support.
1892 Washington released Hardy Richardson, an inductee into the Hall of Merit.
1901 Cleveland pitcher Rock Baker surrenders 23 singles in 13-1 loss to Chicago. I bet his FIP was much better than his ERA after that game.
1901 Last game in hellish four-game series for Senators in Detroit. After blowing leads in each of the first three games, most notably a nine-run lead in the ninth in the fist one, they blow an 11-5 lead late in the game. Tigers score three in the bottom of the 8th and another trio of runs in the ninth for a 12-11 win.
1902 Monte Cross, who will hit only three homers all year, gets two in one game—both inside-the-park shots.
1902 Red Lucas, pitcher, was born.
1906 Two different player-managers steal home in one day, the only time that ever happened. Fred Clarke of the Pirates did it in a 10-1 demolition of the Cardinals. More dramatically, Chicago’s Peerless Leader Frank Chance did it in the ninth inning for the game’s only run in 1-0 Cub victory over the Reds.
1909 MLB debut: Russ Ford, godfather of the emery ball. He’ll go 26-6 this year for the Yankees.
1915 Ty Cobb steals home, the first of six times he’ll do it this year.
1929 Hack Wilson hits his 100th home run. He’ll end the year with 137 in his career, the 10th-most ever at that point in time.
1929 Red Sox play their first home game on Sunday, and lose 7-3 to A’s. They play at Commonwealth Park, as Fenway is near a church that’s protesting this desecration of the Lord’s commandment.
1930 First night game in history of organized baseball, as Muskogee beats Independence in Independence, KS.
1930 Bill Terry, Hall of Famer with 56 stolen bases in his entire career, gets two in one game.
1931 MLB debut: Dixie Walker.
1931 This is the only time after 1925 that Joe Sewell plays second base. He replaces Jimmy Reese there in the midst of a 14-inning affair.
1934 Bad day for Goose Goslin, who hits into four double plays.
1938 Joe Glenn of the Yankees hits into walk-off triple play against Lefty Grove of the Red Sox. Earlier that same game, Grove became the first pitcher in the 20th century to amass 500 strikeouts at the plate. Pud Galvin had done likewise in the 19th century.
1940 100 homers: Johnny Mize.
1949 Here’s a weird one: Giants manager Leo Durocher charged with assault by Giants fan after a 15-2 loss to the Dodgers. Durocher will be suspended but ultimately absolved, and Commissioner Chandler (no fan of Durocher, to put it mildly) will criticize the lax security.
1951 MLB debut: Bob Friend. He’s the only pitcher in the last 100 years to lose 200 games without winning 200. He was also one of the worst-hitting pitchers of his generation, though his main problem was that his teammates didn’t hit well, either.
1953 A 17-minute brawl between Browns and Yankees, led by St. Louis’ Clint Courtney, who helped start a fight between the teams in 1952, too. The main event is Courtney vs. (who else?) Yankee infielder Billy Martin.
1956 Frank Robinson’s first home run.
1957 Frank Robinson’s worst WPA game: 0-for-4 with a walk and two GIDPs in Cincinnati’s 3-2 loss to the Braves. WPA: -0.555.
1960 Tom Browning was born. He won 20 games as a rookie and tossed a perfect game. Oh, and during a Reds-Cubs game, he once left the bullpen in full uniform to watch a game from a rooftop across the street. Weird.
1961 40-year-old Warren Spahn tosses his second career no-hitter. He wins 1-0 on first-inning single by Hank Aaron. It’s an unearned run for opposing starter Toothpick Sam Jones, who fans 10 and walks five while allowing five hits in complete-game loss.
1963 Hall of Fame umpire Tom Connolly dies.
1964 Barry Larkin, 2012 inductee into the Hall of Fame, born.
1964 On either April 28 or April 29, Mets announcer Lindsey Nelson broadcasts from a gondola hung from apex of the Astrodome. I’ve heard both dates.
1966 100 home runs: Bill Mazeroski. 100 in the regular season, that is.
1966 Braves trade Bobby Cox to the Cubs.
1971 George Brunet’s last MLB game. He’ll keep pitching in the minors for quite some time. As noted in a Steve Treder column on him, Brunet went on to have a very lengthy minor league career even after his fairly lengthy MLB career ended.
1971 Twins sign free agent Tom Kelly. This works out well down the road.
1973 100th time Leo Durocher and Gene Mauch manage a game against each other.
1976 Bert Blyleven’s worst Game Score (7). He’ll tie that at some point, but here’s his line on this day: 4.2 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.
1985 Cesar Cedeno’s 2,000th hit.
1985 Bert Blyleven gives crowd in Baltimore the finger after being lifted in game by Indians. He was a great pitcher, but not the most likable of ballplayers. He supposedly once gave a talk to some Little Leaguers, and began by saying he had an idea to make them look more like big leaguers. He then gave then a wad of tobacco to put in their mouths.
1985 Yankees hire Billy Martin as manager for the fourth time. This ties Pittsburgh’s Danny Murtaugh for most times hired to run one club. In Murtaugh’s case, it’s because he had heart problems that kept forcing him out of the dugout. He kept working for the organization in one capacity or another. With Martin? This is why George Steinbrenner had such a bad reputation in the 1980s.
1988 Andre Dawson was thrown out at first by 130 feet. He thought the ball was caught and trotted back to the dugout. Oops.
1988 Orioles lose, falling to 0-21 on the year.
1988 Twins release Steve Carlton.
1990 Frank Tanana wins his 200th game (200-189).
1991 Jack Morris wins his 200th game (200-153). As it happens, Tanana and Morris were teammates once upon a time.
1991 Rob Dibble fires ball into the stands at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, hitting teacher Meg Porter. He apologizes two days later and receives a three-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.
1994 Mark McGwire fans with the bases load to end a game for the only time in his career. BOS 4, OAK 1.
1995 For the second straight day, game ends with Rafael Palmerio whiffing with the bases loaded against Rick Aguilera.
1995 MLB debuts: Jason Schmidt and Mark Grudzielanek. Schmidt was one of those guys who looked like he could’ve had a much longer career if his arm hadn’t blown out. Grudzielanek had a career you (or at least I) expected to be over a decade before it was.
1997 Bobby Abreu hits his first homer. Gets No. 2 as well that day.
1997 MLB debut: Derrek Lee.
1999 Tony Gwynn’s 500th double.
1999 Tom Glavine faces 40 batters in one game, his most ever: 9 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. He wins, 5-4.
1999 Second time Larry Walker belts three home runs in one game. He gets eight RBI in 9-7 Colorado win over St. Louis.
2001 Geoff Jenkins hits three homers in one game, and collects six RBI in Brewers’ 8-4 win over the Expos.
2001 Victory puts Cincinnati Reds all-time franchise record 408 games over .500, the most it’s ever been: 9,173-8,765. This includes their time in the American Association in the 1880s.
2004 Derek Jeter sets a new personal worst, seven straight games without a hit: 0-for-28, three walks, and eight strikeouts in that stretch.
2004 Fourth time Steve Finley bangs out three homers in a game.
2006 Kevin Menchof the Texas Rangers homers in the seventh straight game.
2006 Steve Howe dies.
2006 Baseball reaches tentative six-year deal with striking minor league umpires.
2007 The only game all year in which both teams toss fewer than 100 pitches: LA-SD. It won’t happen again in MLB until June 2, 2010, when the Indians and Tigers do it.
2008 Frank Thomas, one month shy of his 40th birthday, triples. I can’t even fathom that one. It’s been six years and four days since his last one. I have trouble envisioning that one, too.
2009 Mets release Freddy Garcia.
2010 Luke Hughes of the Twins homers in his first career at-bat.