20,000 days ago was a big day for two slam-dunk Hall of Fame baseball players: One made his debut and the other hit his first homer.
First, the debut: It was arguably the pitcher with the best-regarded peak in history: Sandy Koufax. Now, I should note the previous sentence refers to his place in the popular consciousness of fandom, especially Baby Boomer fandom, rather than any sort of analytical methods or my own personal opinion.
I will say this about Koufax: As a kid I saw a list of winners of the pitchers’ Triple Crown, those who topped the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts in one year. Koufax did it three times in four years—1963, 1965, and 1966—a feat no one else approached. (At least that was the case back then, I’m too lazy to check on nowadays). I know there are park factors and defense—but damn, that’s impressive.
Anyhow, 20,000 days ago the teen-aged bonus baby first stepped on a mound for two innings of mop-up relief pitching against the Milwaukee Braves. The first batter, Johnny Logan, singled off him, but a little later Koufax notched the first of his 2,396 strikeout victims, Bobby Thomson.
Meanwhile, that same day down in the nation’s capital, a third baseman with a ferocious swing who was just five days shy of his 19th birthday connected for his first career homer. When Harmon Killebrew connected off Billy Hoeft of the Tigers, it was the start of something good for him. Eventually. It didn’t mean anything that day, as the Senators were trailing 13-0 when Killebrew went deep, and they ended up losing 18-7.
One fact I love about that game: The opposing manager was Bucky Harris. Bucky Harris began managing in the 1920s, yet Killebrew still got to play in a game against him.
The following baseball events are also celebrating their “day-versaries” today:
7,000 days since the A’s signed Rich Gossage
8,000 days since Bob Welch allowed his first grand slam. He pitched exactly 2,101 innings before allowing this shot to Rance Mullinks. Welch allowed only one other slam in his career.
50,000 days since the major league debut of Tommy Bond. You probably never heard of him, but he could pitch back in the day. Bill James listed him among the 100 best pitchers ever in the New Historical Abstract and called him the best hurler of the 1870s.