20,000 days since the White Sox reached MLB’s equator (5/16/11)

20,000 days ago, the White Sox passed one of those invisible lines that no one really notices, but tells you something about the franchise as a whole.

20,000 days ago, the White Sox passed one of those invisible lines that no one really notices, but tells you something about the franchise as a whole.

On that day, the White Sox hit the equator of franchise records: .500. I don’t mean they had a .500 on the season, but the franchise’s entire cumulative mark hit .500: 4,210 wins and 4,210 losses. A win the next day put them over .500, and they’ve been over ever since—20,000 days later, which is nearly 55 years to you normal-counting folks.

They began 1956 with an overall franchise record six games under .500, and first got to .500 on June 16. Then they bounced back and forth for another two months, generally staying over .500. 20,000 days ago a 5-2 loss to the Tigers on August 12 dropped them to 4,210-4,210, but instead of falling under, the Sox exploded for a nice five-game winning streak and ended the year by winning 29 of their last 48.

Then they had a winning season in 1957. And again in 1958. And they won the pennant in 1959. And had another quality season in 1960. And 1961. And … every year through 1967. (In fact, they had 17 straight winning seasons, beginning back in 1951.) By the end of 1967, they were 226 games over .500, which gave them more than enough cushion to keep them over .500. They bottomed out on September 11, 1989 at just 25 games over .500 (6,857-6,832) but have rallied since then once guys with names like Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura blossomed. They’ve been a fairly good franchise ever since.

While the White Sox are rarely considered to be one the game’s marquee franchises like the Yankees or Dodgers, the South Side bunch has had its share of success. It won the league’s first pennant and had the most regular season victories of any AL squad until the Black Sox scandal broke at the end of 1920. (Their peak remains 314 games over .500 set back on September 27, 1920.)

They faltered after that, bottoming out exactly 30 years after their peak—September 27, 1950—at 109 games under .500, but then began their resurgence. Frankly, 109 games under ain’t bad for a low water marks. Even the mighty Yankees hit their low point at 134 game under .500 (though to be fair that’s including their Baltimore years in 1901-02 at the franchise’s outset). Of all pre-expansion AL teams, the highest lowest mark belongs to the Cleveland Indians of all teams: just 41 games under .500. That’s what happens when a team has its better years earlier.

Only one team has never gone .500 for their overall franchise record. Believe or not, it’s the Cubs. As bad as they’ve been in the last 70 years—they were even better in their first 70 and were especially good in the very early period.

So Chicago can celebrate 20,000 days since either of their teams last hit .500—and both have been above ever since.

While that’s the nice round number “day-versary” plenty of other baseball events have their baseball day-versaries and anniversaries today as well. Here are some of them (I’ll bold the better ones if you just want to skim):

Day-versaries

1,000 days since the Padres trade Greg Maddux to the Dodgers.

As it happens, that’s the only day-versary I have.

Oh, I have something like that though: at some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the debut of ESPN. Not exactly a baseball thing but ESPN certainly has been involved with baseball.

Anniversaries

1891 Jim Mutrie manages his 1,000th game. His record: 596-370 (ties were more common back then).

1897 Cleveland hosts its first Sunday game, or at least tries to. The police arrest everyone in the first inning. The players and umpire make bail. When it goes to court, the test case becomes rookie John Powell, who on June 10 is found guilty of violating ordinances on observing the Sabbath. It’s be another 14 years until Sunday ball comes to Cleveland.

1902 Indians sign free agent Elmer Flick, a Hall of Famer.

1902 The first time a deaf-mute pitcher faces a deaf-mute batter when Dummy Hoy leads off against Dummy Taylor.

1905 MLB debut: Ed Reulbach, who will become the No. 2 pitcher on the Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs behind Mordecai Brown.

1909 White Sox trade Gavvy Cravath, Nick Altrock, and Jiggs Donahue to Senators for Bill Burns. Cravath will eventually becomes one of the leading sluggers in the late deadball era (with the Phillies) and Altrock—one of the game’s great clown princes—becomes its first five-decade player. Bill Burns becomes one of the guys banned from baseball for gambling. If you’ve ever seen the movie Eight Men Out, he’s the retired ballplayer portrayed by Christopher Lloyd who helps set up the fix.

1912 AL president Ban Johnson suspends Ty Cobb for beating a crippled heckler in the stands the other day. The Tigers meet and decide to strike in support of Cobb.

1914 Giants pitcher Jeff Tesreau comes one out from a no-hitter against the Pirates, only to have a single by Joe Kelly ruin it. Tesreau is one of the many pitchers in history who was really good for a brief while before blowing his arm out.

1914 MLB debut: Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann

1917 Bob Groom throws no-hitter: Browns 3, White Sox 0. It’s actually a little controversial as the official scorer originally ruled a Sox got on the first base by a base hit, but changed it to an error after the game. The day before, his teammate Ernie Kolb threw a no-hitter against the very same White Sox. They were consecutive games, though: Groom threw in the second half of a doubleheader.

1921 Hall of Famer Edd Roush laces his 1,000th hit. It took him 876 games.

1921 A fan named Reuben Berman is ejected from the Polo Grounds for not retuning a foul ball to the field of play—which you were supposed to do back then. He’ll sue for $20,000 and it’s because of him that everyone can keep fouls nowadays.

1924 Bill Terry hits his first career home run—and his second too. It’s the first of seven career multi-home run games for him

1924 Candy Cummings, Hall of Famer credited with inventing the curve, dies.

1925 Frankie Frisch gets his 1,000th hit. It took him only 770 games, so in your face, Mr. Roush.

1927 New York Yankee Bob Meusel swipes second, third, and home in third inning versus Detroit.

1928 Billy Martin born.

1932 Yankees record their fourth straight shutout, the first team to do so since 1906. But the 1932 AL is harder to do this in than either league backing 1906.

1933 Cecil Travis has a record-setting debut, going 5-for-5.

1937 Negro Leaguer Hilton Smith tosses a no-hitter for the Kansas City Monarchs. The only base runner he allows is a walk, who gets rubbed out in a double play.

1939 First night game in the AL: Indians beat A’s 8-3 in 10 innings at Shibe Park. Due to poor weather, only 15,109 see it.

1942 Hall of Fame second baseman Billy Herman gets his 2,000th hit in only his 1,506th game played.

1945 Ted Williams goes 8-for-9 in doubleheader versus the Tigers with a pair of homers and a double—9 RBIs in all.

1946 Cardinals pinch runner Jeff Cross steals home in the 10th inning, letting St. Louis beat the Braves 9-8. A week ago the Braves won a game on an extra-inning steal of home. In today’s game, Cardinal Enos Slaughter went 4-for-4 with two home runs and a double for a personal best 11 total bases in one game. He scored four times and drove four in.

1947 Johnny Mize scores a run for the 16th consecutive game.

1948 Reds take early 8-1 lead on the Cubs, but lose 13-11. Ouch.

1949 Rick Reuschel, one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball history, born.

1951 Mickey Mantle hits his first homer in Yankee Stadium.

1953 Rick Rhoden, best hitting pitcher of his generation (and a pretty good golfer, too), born.

1953 Weird one that works: White Sox use pitcher Tommy Byrne as a pinch hitter for Vern Stephens with the bases loaded against New York’s Ewell Blackwell. He responds by hitting a grand slam home run. No wonder they called Sox manager Paul Richards the Wizard of Waxahachie.

1953 Bill Bruton of the Braves leads off the game with a single against Philadelphia’s Curt Simmons. That’s all the Braves will get on the day, as Simmons retires the next 27 batters in a row.

1954 Ted Williams enjoys his second career 5-for-5 game. It’s also WPA’s favorite Teddy Ballgame day: 0.924 WPA as he scores twice with 5 RBIs. He gets a double and two homers in his hits. Despite that, the Red Sox lose, 9-8 to Detroit.

1955 Jack Morris, winningest pitcher of the 1980s (heard that one before, have ya?), born

1957 The Copacobana Incident: Yankees including Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra, and Johnny Kucks go out to celebrate Martin’s birthday. Long story short, everyone mentioned ends up getting fined and the Yanks decide they’ll unload Martin sooner rather than later.

1965 Joe Morgan hits the first of his 13 career leadoff home runs. This one is off Juan Marichal, not a bad way to start.

1965 Speaking of a nice start, a teenaged Jim Palmer picks up his first win on this day. He also hits his first home run that ties the game up at 4-4 in the fourth inning. Jim Bouton surrendered it. Orioles beat the Yankees, 7-5.

1966 Veteran manager Charlie Dressen has a heart attack, his second in two years.

1967 Carl Yastrzemski hits his 100th home run.

1967 Philadelphia voters approve $13 million bond to build a new stadium. Meanwhile, the team itself plays its record 13th straight errorless game. Then they release veteran pitcher Bob Buhl.

1968 Frank Howard posts his third multi-home run game in four games. Not bad. He’s got seven homers in that stretch, tying an AL record.

1969 The highest scoring 11th inning ever. The Seattle Pilots score six runs in the top of the 11th, then give up five in the bottom half of the frame, but hang on to win, 10-9.

1970 Gaylord Perry wins his 100th game (100-88). On a semi-random sidenote, while he pitched with the Giants he had far worse run support than his longtime teammate Juan Marichal did. From 1964-71 while there were both rotation mainstays, Marichal’s run support was 20 percent better than league average (once you adjust for park). Perry’s run support was actually a bit below average. If he had Marichal’s run support, he would’ve won #100 much sooner than he did. At any rate, from this point onward, Gaylord Perry will be 214-177 (.547) in his career, better than his .532 pace through 100 wins.

1970 In his 14th season of MLB, Bill Mazeroski gets his first pinch hit.

1970 Carl Yastrzemski hits one of the longest balls ever at Fenway. His hot goes out of Fenway to the right of the flagpole. Previously, only Jimmie Foxx and Moose Skowron had ever done that.

1972 Speaking of historic blasts, Greg Luzinski hits a homer that “rings” the Liberty Bell hanging in dead center field in Philly’s Veterans Stadium, estimated at 500 feet away. Despite that shot, the Phillies lose 8-1 to the Cubs.

1972 Rick Monday hits three homers in one game.

1975 The 200th time Walter Alston and Danny Murtaugh ever manage a game against then. Since then, only Chuck Tanner and Dick Williams have ever done likewise—though Tony LaRussa & Dusty Baker should do it later this year.

1975 With two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a 0-0 Orioles-Angels game, Baltimore second baseman Bobby Grich hits a walk-off home run against Frank Tanana.

1975 In his ninth appearance in the big leagues, Dennis Eckersley surrenders a walk-off walk to lose the game. He’ll never do that again.

1975 The Reds lose their sixth straight to fall to 18-19. From here on out, they’ll play 90-35.

1978 Tigers 4, Mariners 2 (16). Tiger relief ace John Hiller tosses six innings of scoreless relief, and Steve Foucault lasts the final three innings for the win. Tiger Ralph Houk always liked leaving his relievers in for as long as he could, and boy did he ever in this game.
1978 Atlanta Braves sign comeback “kid” Jim Bouton, out of baseball since 1970.

1978 White Sox trade Claudell Washington to Rangers for Claudell Washington and Rusty Torres.

1979 NL approves the sale of the Astros from Ford Motor Company to John McMullen for $19 million.

1979 Rick Reuschel celebrates his birthday by walking the game’s leadoff batter, something he hadn’t done since August 2, 1975 (131 starts previously), and wouldn’t do again until July 12, 1985 (119 starts later).

1981 Astros infielder Craig Reynolds hits three triples in one game.

1983 Twins hit four home runs in the ninth inning, getting six runs, but still lose the game 7-6.

1984 Jim Palmer, who is 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA, is asked by the Orioles to retire and get another job elsewhere in the franchise. He declines, hoping to catch on with another team instead.

1984 Dave Winfield hits the first of two career walk-off home runs.

1984 Steve Carlton hits the only grand slam of his career. It’s off Fernando Valenzuela and helps Philly win 7-2 over the Dodgers. One week later the same pitchers face each other again, but this time Valenzuela wins in 1-0 game.

1987 Bert Blyleven loses his 200th game (232-200).

1987 The Milwaukee Brewers, who began the year winning their first 13 games, drop their 10th in a row. Mighty streaky club, that 1987 Brewer squad. Fittingly for a team that started the year 13-0, they lose this game 13-0. Victorious Royals starting pitcher allows only one hit, a bunt single.

1990 According to WPA, Tony Gwynn has his worst day ever: -0.388 WPA by going 1-for-5 with a GIDP and a RBI.

1990 While WPA hates Gwynn’s May 16, 1990, Mark McGwire has his best ever WPA game: 0.968 WPA. He goes 3-for-4 with two runs, three RBIs, a double, two homers, and an intentional walk, as Oakland beats the Indians 7-6.

1991 Minor league team Calgary Canons hits three grand slams in 22-7 win.

1993 Rafael Palmerio gets his 1,000th career hit in his 921st game. He’ll pick up the pace later on in his career.

1993 Randy Johnson almost pitches a no-hitter. Lance Blankenship single in the ninth with one out is the only one he allows.

1993 Kenny Rogers has the worst start of his career: 1.2 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Game Score: -2.

1994 Curt Schilling loses his seventh straight decision, the worst stretch of his career.

1994 Willie Wilson plays his last big league game

1994 Sammy Sosa tallies the last sacrifice hit of his career. He has 7,706 remaining plate appearances, but no sacrifice hits.

1996 Sammy Sosa hits two home runs in one inning. Who needs a sacrifice hit when you can do that?

1996 Weird day for Tony Phillips. First he’s picked off in the ninth inning. As bad as that was, things get worse for him afterwards. When he gets back in the clubhouse, he finds out a fan is pressing charges against Phillips for battery. Apparently they got in a shoving match the day before. I’d love to know the back story, but that’s all I got.

1997 Craig Biggio hits his 100th home run.

1997 Ageless wonder of the world Gary Gaetti gets his 2,000th hit.

1997 Alan Benes almost throws a no-hitter. After 26 outs, Michael Turner hits a double off him. He doesn’t even get the win, as the scoreless game goes into extra innings, with Benes’ Cardinals losing 1-0 in 13 innings. The opposing starting pitcher was Greg Maddux, and the two teams combine to strikeout 33 times.

1998 Mark McGwire crushes the longest home run of his career: 545 feet at Busch Stadium.

2000 It’s Chad Kreuter Hat Night at Wrigley Field, as some twerp rips the hat off the head of Dodger back up catcher Kreuter and runs away. Several Dodgers go into the stands to get it back, causing much confusion, a delay of game, and several suspensions.

2001 Sammy Sosa celebrates the eighth anniversary of his last SH but hitting his 400th home run.

2006 Matt Lawton plays his last game. He was one the Twins’ best players at the turn of the century before they got good. He, Torii Hunter, and Jacque Jones formed the “Soul Patrol” – one of the best defensive outfields ever.

2008 Jayson Werth, Philly, hits three home runs in one game.

2010 Mariano Rivera allows his first grand slam in eight years, to Minnesota’s Jason Kubel.

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Comments

  1. Hizouse said...

    Chris, I enjoy these.  Could you elaborate a little on how you come up with the lead item every day?

  2. Chris J. said...

    Hizouse—

    I just look for a big round number marker.

    For days?  I just have an excel file tell me how long Day X was, that scan the list of events.  I’ll figure a month in advance.

    I probably should start looking at June soon.

  3. Chris J. said...

    That 1978 item should say the Sox traded Bobby Bonds to the Rangers.  Man that one looks weird as written.

  4. Chris J. said...

    Catherine,

    Thanks for the corrections.  I’ve fixed the info in my files.

    Much obliged.

    Chris

  5. Catherine Groom Petroski said...

    I’m writing to correct your comments about the 2 no-nos the Browns won against the Sox in May, 1917. (“1917 Bob Groom throws no-hitter: Browns 3, White Sox 0. It’s actually a little controversial as the official scorer originally ruled a Sox got on the first base by a base hit, but changed it to an error after the game. The day before, his teammate Ernie Kolb threw a no-hitter against the very same White Sox. They were consecutive games, though: Groom threw in the second half of a doubleheader.”)

    The controversy actually revolved around the first of the Browns’ two no-hitters, the one pitched on Saturday, April 5, 1917 by Ernie Koob (not Kolb).  It was Koob’s game that was ruled a no-hitter after the conclusion of the game. 

    The games were not consecutive games, though they were on consecutive days.  As the last clause quoted above says, Groom’s no-hit came in the second game of a doubleheader on the following day.  Writing in the Chicago Tribune of May 7, 1917, the dean of Chicago baseball writers, I.E. Sanborn led his story,

    “Boots, bones, and a genuine no-hit pitching performance by Bob Groom licked the de luxe White Sox in both ends of today’s [5/6/17] double-header before a crowd of 20,000 bugs.  The scores were 8 to 4 and 3 to 0.”

    Sanborn goes on to say, “There was no flaw in Groom’s no-hit game.  It was free from taint or suspicion which will always cling to the postmortem thing handed Koob yesterday by expunging a hit that had already been recorded.” 

    But there was something else remarkable about Groom’s no-no. 

    Sanborn says, “Groom really pitched eleven innings without a hit.  He succeeded Plank in the eighth of the first game and did not allow a swat…”

    Bob Groom was my paternal grandfather.

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