20,000 days since key moments for two future Hall of Famers

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.

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Comments

  1. Greg Simons said...

    Koufax’s ERA+ ‘62-66
    142
    159
    188
    160
    190

    Pedro Marinez’s ERA+ ‘97-‘03
    219
    163
    243
    291
    190
    202
    211

    Pedro only pitched 116.2 innings in 2001, so his 2.39 ERA was “bested” by Freddy Garcia’s 3.05.

    Koufax was an awesome pitcher, but his home park and era made him look even better.  Not trying to compare them directly, but Todd Helton received a similar benefit from Coors Field.

  2. Chris J. said...

    Minor glitch: this should go up tomorrow.  Not a big deal, as I’m probably the one who cares (and certainly the only one brain damaged enough to do the math counting back), but Monday is 20,000 days since this happened.

  3. Chris J. said...

    NON-MINOR GLITCH:

    This is off by a year.  DAMMIT.  20,000 days ago puts us in 1956.  These guys did their acts in 1955.

    These actions are all 20,364 days ago (20,365 days as of tomorrow). . . oh, that doesn’t make me happy with myself.

  4. J Larick said...

    Actually, Koufax from ‘62-‘66 DID have the best 5-year peak of any pitcher ever, at least in a couple of ways:

    1)5 consecutive seasons leading league in ERA (everybody pretty much knows that one)

    2)Record of 27-24 when Dodgers gave him less than 3 runs in a game to work with (only pitcher in history to have a winning record over 5 years with poor support – not as well known – if this gets out Murray Chass’ head may explode).

  5. J Larick said...

    Greg:

    Not arguing Pedro’s sheer dominance or that Koufax had substantial help from Dodger stadium.  Both valid points.

    The thing that actually intrigued me was that Koufax at his peak seemingly could win games no one else could.

    Over his 5 year peak from ‘62-‘66, Sandy was 27-24 in games where the Dodgers gave him 2 runs or less to work with.  In 9 of those losses he received zero runs of support, so when given even just 1 or 2 runs per game he was 27-15.  Imagine winning almost 2/3 of your games even when the team gives you very poor run support.  Even adjusting for context – in Dodger Stadium in the ‘60s – a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s era – 1 or 2 runs a game is poor support. To win under those conditions is impressive.

    I’m limited on space here so I can’t go into more on this for now but I’ve actually done extensive research on all the great pitchers in history and how they did with poor run support – and how they did when they got decent support – and there’s actually some fascinating results that I never anticipated.

    How about these 2 seasons for Pedro, for example:

    1999 – overall W-L was 23-4.
    Record with 2 or less runs: 1-4.
    Record with at least 3 runs/game: 22-0. Perfection!

    2002 – overall W-L was 20-4.
    Record with 2 or less runs: 1-4.
    Record with at least 3 runs/game: 19-0.
    More perfection!

  6. Greg Simons said...

    That is quite an impressive performance by Koufax.  It would have been great to see what his career numbers would have been like had he been able to pitch another decade.

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