This may be hard for a younger fan to understand, but Ted Williams was every bit as unpopular, in his time, as Albert Belle . . . Ted Williams was despised everywhere in the American League, including Boston for at least the first half of his career. He took constant actions to reinforce that relationship. He splattered water coolers, including glass ones. He made obscene gestures at fans, carried on decades-long vendettas against selected reporters, sometimes didn’t treat his family well, sometimes didn’t hustle or even make any show of hustling in the field or on the bases, was obsessed with his own success, was contemptuous of coaches and some managers, and alternated, in his dealings with the fans, between rugged charm and uncharted rudeness.
Bill James, New Historical Abstract, page 652.
20,000 days ago today, Ted Williams had one of those days that explained why he was so widely maligned while simultaneously revealing his impressive abilities as a player.
It was a Red Sox-Yankee game typified by great pitching, not hitting, as it went into extra innings tied 0-0. Yankee legend-to-be Don Larsen was having an outstanding day. In his 10+ innings pitching, he allowed only four hits—three to Boston right fielder Jackie Jensen. Ted Williams could manage no more than a walk against him. Boston starter Willard Nixon matched Larsen frame-for-frame, though.
For Williams, the fun began in the 11th inning in the still-scoreless game. With two outs and no one on in the top of the 11th at Fenway, Williams misplayed a Mickey Mantle fly ball, allowing the young star to scamper to second base. Fans clearly didn’t think much of Williams’ defense; they booed him loudly. Williams didn’t react to it right then and there—but he wasn’t the kind of man to forgive and forget.
Yogi Berra came up next and lined one to left over Williams’ head. Teddy Ballgame redeemed his previous screw up by making a over-the-shoulder catch to retire the side and end New York’s scoring threat. Now was the time for Williams to show the fans what he thought of them.
As he made his way toward the dugout, he spat at some of his detractors in the stands. Then, as he reached the top of the dugout, he spat at the press box for good measure. Then, once in the dugout, he spat toward the Yankee dugout. The New York players mocked Williams a bit before the game, because he’d had two previous spitting incidents in the last month at Fenway. He was going to show them Ted Williams was going to do what he wanted.
And the inning was still only halfway over.
As upsetting and potentially unsettling as the top of the inning may have been for Williams and Boston, the Yanks played the bottom of the inning like a team out of sync. Boston’s first two batters of the inning reached on back-to-back infield errors. Then Don Larsen walked Red Sox second baseman Billy Klaus to fill the bases with no outs. And guess who was coming up next? Yes, the Splendid Spitter himself—Teddy F. Williams.
The Yankees’ manager had seen enough of Don Larsen and inserted Tommy Byrne in relief. Calling on Byrne was an interesting choice. While Byrne, a southpaw, gave the Yankees a platoon advantage on the left handed leftfielder, Byrne had a weakness that played right into one of Williams’ main strengths: he had terrible control In his career, Byrne walked 1,037 men in just 1,362 innings. He’s the only pitcher in baseball history to pitch less than 1,700 innings and walk over 1,000 batters. Conversely, Williams had one of the greatest batting eyes in history, drawing a base on balls over 2,000 times in 10,000 PA.
You know how this plays out, right? Yeah, ball four, batter take your base, all runners advance one base—Red Sox win 1-0 on a walk-off walk in the 11th inning to Ted Williams right after he made a bad play in the field and had multiple instances of poor sportsmanship between innings.
Williams wasn’t quite done yet. With a flurry of emotions coursing through him—booed for one misplay, vindicated on another, and then silencing his critics with the game winning plate appearance—a teed-off Williams flipped his bat 40 feet in the air as he made his way to first base.
The Red Sox won—and fined Williams $5,000 for his actions. After all, it was Williams’ third spitting incident at Fenway in under a month.
Hell of a ballplayer, that Ted Williams. But also at least a little bit of a jackass.
That event has a nice big round number attacked to it today—a 20,000 “day-versary” but many other baseball events celebrate their day-versary and anniversary today as well. Here are some of the most prominent, with the better ones in bold for those who wish to skim.
1,000 days since Mark Kotsay hits for the cycle.
1,000 days since Tom Glavine plays in his last game.
1,000 days since MLB debut for Pedro Sandoval
4,000 days since a great Pedro Martinez-Roger Clemens pitching duel. Martinez and the Red Sox win 2-0 on a two-run ninth inning homer by Trot Nixon. The two pitchers combine to allow nine hits while fanning 22 batters (including 13 for Clemens).
5,000 days since Vladimir Guerrero hit his first career walk-off home run.
5,000 days since Curt Schilling fanned 16 batters in eight innings. That’s his highest number of K’s in under nine innings of work.
8,000 days since Bruce Hurst lasted 10 IP with the Padres, the last time any San Diego hurler has lasted more than nine innings in a game.
9,000 days since Tom Seaver pitched his last game.
9,000 days since White Sox Joe Cowley tossed one of the worst thrown no-hitters of all-time. He walks seven and says after the game he just felt fortunate to get out of the sixth inning, in which he walked the bases loaded with no outs. Sox win, 7-1 over the Angels. He’ll only play eight more games in his major league career.
9,000 days since Barry Bonds had possibly his worst day in the big leagues: 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. He had two other four-K games without a hit, but this was the only one with five outs in all made on the day.
15,000 days since Al Kaline had maybe his worst day at the plate: 0-for-4 with a career-high tying three Ks, and a GIDP.
15,000 days since Reds’ ace pitcher Jim Maloney tore his Achilles tendon while running the bases. He’ll never pitch again.
1891 Tony Mullane, a career 280+ game winner, allowed two inside the park home runs in one game. This was the third time it happened to him in 16 days. Only happens to him two other times in his decade-plus long career.
1897 Washington catcher Duke Farrell threw out eight would-be base stealers. His team lost anyway, 6-3 to Baltimore.
1903 Charlie Gehringer, Hall of Fame second baseman, born
1904 After six innings of hitless ball today, Cy Young finally allowed a hit, ending a still-record stretch of 23 innings without that happening to him.
1919 Pitchers duel: Yankee-Senators game ends tied 0-0 after 12 innings. New York can muster only two hits against (who else?) Senators ace Walter Johnson. New York pitcher Jack Quinn allows 10 hits (including one to Johnson) and four walks, but none come around to score. For Quinn, it’s his first complete game shutout in five years. He came up as a Yankee in 1909, went to the Braves in 1913, and then the Federal League in 1914-15. Then he went to the minors and was still trying to re-establish himself at age 35 with the Yankees again. He does and will stay in the big leagues until 1933, at which time he’s 49 years old, the oldest real MLB player of all time.
1920 Hall of Famer Ross Youngs hit three triples in one game
1922 Hall of Fame umpire Nester Chylock born.
1923 Hall of Fame spitballer Burleigh Grimes won his 100th game (100-79).
1923 Pacific Coast Leaguer player Pete Schneider hit five home runs and 14 RBIs one game, a 35-14 win for his squad.
1923 Phillies beat Cards 20-14 as the two teams combine for a record 10 homers and 79 total bases. Philly’s Cy Williams hit three homers in the game.
1924 Moses Fleetwood Walker, MLB’s only black player before Jackie Robinson, dies.
1925 Ray Schalk catches ball dropped from the top of Tribune Tower, 460 feet up.
1930 Indians get 27 hits and score in every inning accept the eighth in 25-7 win over A’s. They do it without hitting a single home run.
1931 Hall of Famer Chuck Klein belted his 100th career home run. Less than 40 people had ever done that.
1932 Wild Bill Hallahan lives up to his nickname, with three wild pitches in one inning
1932 13-year-old eighth grader Joe Schulz steals second and third bases as a pinch runner in a Texas League game. If you’ve ever read Ball Four, yes this is the same Joe Schulz who managed the Seattle Pilots.
1936 Mel Ott is a one-man wrecking crew, leading Giants to 13-12 win over the Phillies. He went 3-for-5 with a double, home run, a career-high 8 RBIs, and scored three runs.
1937 MLB debut: Old Reliable Tommy Heinrich.
1939 Milt Pappas born
1940 Yankees fall into last place after loss to Boston Red Sox.
1941 Dodgers release Paul Waner
1944 Hal Trosky stole home in 16th inning of White Sox’s 4-2 win over the A’s.
1945 Hall of Famer George Kell hit his only inside the park home run. As it happens it’s his second career homer.
1946 First night game at Braves Field. Giants win 5-1 before 37,407, the largest crowd there in 13 years. It’s also the 1,000 game ever helmed by Braves skipper Billy Southworth, who ended the night with a 629-356 record.
1949 White Sox score in every inning in 12-8 win over The Red Sox at Comiskey. So I assume they didn’t get a chance to bat in the ninth then.
1949 Red Sox release Denny Galehouse
1950 Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut introduces legislation for the observance of National Baseball Day.
1950 Ted Williams booed for making errors in both games of doubleheader in Boston, and gives the crowd “an insulting gesture.”
1951 Indianapolis Clowns play their season opener with a new player: teenaged Hank Aaron.
1952 Bob Lemon scored his 100th win: 100-61
1955 Ernie Banks hit his first career grand slam. He’ll hit five this year and 12 in his career.
1955 Indians release Hal Newhouser
1956 Danny Kravits hit walk-off grand slam for Phillies in 6-5 win over Pirates. He’ll only hit 10 homers in his entire career.
1963 Sandy Koufax tossed his second no-hitter. He allowed two walks and fanned only four as Dodgers beat Giants 8-0.
1970 Phil Niekro allowed a career high 19 base runners (10 hits, six walks, 2 HBP, and 1 ROE), but the Braves still beat the Cubs.
1972 Tom Seaver wins his 100th game: 100-55.
1973 Gene Mauch managed his 2,000th game: 924-1,073.
1974 Jimmy Wynn, Dodger, hit three home runs in one game.
1975 Tom Seaver celebrated the three-year anniversary of his 100th win by posting his 150th win: 150-90.
1975 Francisco Cordero, closer, born
1976 Steve Carlton wins his 150th game: 150-120. Not bad, but he’s no Tom Seaver.
1977 Ted Turner manages the Braves for a day, they lose 2-1 for the 17th straight loss. It’s a strange day to manage, as the opposing Pirates win their 11th straight that day—and that’s the longest winning streak opposing manager Chuck Tanner ever had. Also in that game, Phil Niekro lost his seventh straight decision, a career worst. His numbers in that spell: 0-7, 9 GS, 4 CG, 58 IP, 72 H, 43 R, 40 ER, 35 BB, 41 K, and a 6.21 ERA. I love that he still has four CG in it.
1978 Gaylord Perry, who balked only six times in his 5,000+ IP career, balked twice in one game.
1979 Yankees purchase Jim Kaat from Phillies.
1980 Pete Rose, age 39, steals second, third, and home in one inning. He’s the first NL player to do that since Jackie Robinson in 1954.
1982 Dwight Evans triples twice in a game
1982 Gaylord Perry tosses his 5,000th inning.
1984 Tigers set a record with the best 30-game start ever: 26-4. (1955 Dodgers went 25-5, the previous best).
1985 Davey Concepcion gets his 2,000th hit.
1986 Bill Almon hits a walk-off inside-the-park home run, something that hasn’t happened in MLB in seven years.
1990 Yankees trade Dave Winfield to Angels. Winfield, exercising his 5-10 rights, initially rejects it, but lets it go through five days later.
1992 WPA’s favorite Larry Walker game: 0.898 WPA: 2-for-2 with four walks (2 IW), three RBIs, one run, and a stolen base as he leads the Expos to a 6-5 win over the Dodgers.
1994 MLB debut: Jeff Cirillo.
1996 Al Leiter tosses a no-hitter, the first by a Marlin, as they win 11-0 over the Rockies. Leiter walks two, and fans six.
1998 Ivan Rodriquez laces his 1,000th career hit.
1998 MLB debut: Randy Winn
1998 Kerry Wood fanned 13, giving him a record-setting 33 Ks in two games.
1999 Mirror image: Bobby Jones faces off against Bobby Jones when Mets and Rockies play. It’s the first time in MLB history opposing starters have the same first and last names. They have different middle names, as Bobby J. is a Met, and Bobby M. a Rockie.
2000 Lou Piniella manages his 2,000th game. (1,036-964).
2000 Brewers 14, Cubs 8 in the longest nine-inning game in NL history: four hours and 22 minutes.
2001 A’s 7, Red Sox 6. This was an odd loss because in the bottom of the ninth the would-be tying run would’ve scored—accepts a trailing run tries to advance and is called out for an inning and game ending double play before the man on third can score.
2001 Rick Ankiel, one day after tossing five wild pitches, is sent to the minors to work on his control.
2003 Rafael Palmerio bangs out his 500th home run.
2003 Marlins fire Joe Torborg and hire Jack McKeon
2004 Houston wins, putting Jimy Williams 130 games over .500 (887-757), his all-time peak.
2004 Pittsfield, MA city officials release a 1793 bylaw that they claim is the oldest written reference to baseball.
2004 Manny Ramirez celebrates his first day as an American citizen by leading teammates out of the dugout waving American flags.
2004 Fernando Vina plays his last MLB game.
2005 Red Sox win second straight game on a walk-off home run.
2006 Bill Mueller plays his last game
2007 Phil Garner loses his 1,000th game as a manger: 943-1,000
2010 Johnny Cuerto tosses a near no-hitter: third inning single deflects off an infielder’s glove and that’s the only hit he allows in 9-0 Reds win over the Pirates.