20th anniversary: Hal McRae loses his mind

Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the all-time great managerial meltdowns. It’s so good,that you just have to say the name and most baseball fans old enough to remember can fill in the blanks on their own.

That manager was Hal McRae.

Does this one sound familiar to anyone out there in reader-land yet?

McRae was in the midst of what now sounds like one of the most thankless jobs in baseball: managing the Royals.

However dismal a chore that might sound like to readers in 2013, it must have sounded different to McRae when he landed the position during the 1992 season. After all, it was a place where McRae had played and starred for many years. Now he’d manage before the fans who had cheered for him.

And his memory of the team was of a beautifully run, model franchise. After all, in the 1970s 1980s Kansas City typically contended and seemingly always had a winning record. Please note this wasn’t ancient history, either. They had won 92 games in 1989 and posted a winning record in 1991. In fact, that very season, McRae took over after a slow start and helped them rally to a 82-80 end record. They flopped badly in 1992, 72-90, but hoped to bounce back in 1993.

At any rate, on April 26, 1993, the Royals lost a game 5-3 to the Tigers, dropping their record to 7-12. This wasn’t the Royals record McRae expected.

Then came the post-game conference. It started off fairly generically, with McRae holding court in his office. Then a reporter asked a question McRae didn’t like. And history was made.

The question was whether he’d considered using the aging George Brett as a pinch hitter in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded. Something inside McRae snapped.

First he called it a “stupid a** f***ing question.” Well, that’s a nice little quote. But before anyone could go on, he got up, and started throwing things. Just whatever was in front of him on the desk. He screamed some more at the reporter, threw some more objects—most notably his phone, which caught a reporter in the face, drawing blood.

McRae chased everyone out of his office, followed them out, and screamed at them some more before concluding, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

It was over—but as it happened, McRae’s managing career wasn’t. He survived the incident and actually led the Royals to a winning record in 1993, and then again in 1994. The club let him go after those back-to-back winning records—and the Royals have had just one winning season since.

McRae even found work managing another team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He lasted two years, but after a horrible 106-loss season in 2002, the club let McRae go. He hasn’t managed since, and isn’t likely to ever again.

But he had one moment people won’t forget—and it happened 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since a three-team trade sends Ryan Ludwick to the Padres, Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals, and a minor league to St. Louis.

1,000 days since Arizona trades Chad Qualls to Tampa.

1,000 days since the Cubs trade Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers.

1,000 days since the Indians trade Kerry Wood to the Yankees.

1,000 days since Houston trades Lance Berkman to the Yankees.

1,000 days since the Royals send Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to the Braves.

1,000 days since Pirates trade Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers.

1,000 days since Carlos Gonzalez has a great day. Not only does he hit for the cycle, but he caps it off with a walk-off home run.

1,000 days since Dan Uggla hits his 144th home run for the Marlins, passing Mike Lowell as all-time franchise leader.

3,000 days since Detroit signs free agent Magglio Ordonez.

3,000 days since the Brewers sign their old star third baseman, Jeff Cirillo.

4,000 days since Jimmy Carter throws out the first pitch in the Cuban League All-Stars game. Fidel Castro coaches him as he warms up.

5,000 days since Lou Piniella records his 1,000th managerial victory. His record is 1,000-926.

5,000 days since Pirates player Dale Sveum homers from both sides of the plate during a 12-6 win over the Reds.

50,000 days since the first pair of brother big-leaguers make their debut, Art Allison and Doug Allison. (Well, it happened before in the National Association, but that was only sort of a major league at best).

Anniversaries

1872 Jim O’Rourke, Hall of Famer, makes his National Association debut.

1884 Joe Quinn, member of 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134) makes his big league debut. He actually had a good career, but I only know of him from his final, sad season on the saddest of all teams.

18887 Denny Lyons gets six hits in a game for Philadelphia in the American Association.

1888 It’s the last game for leading slugger of the 1880s, Charley Jones. He’s the best player whose death date is completely unknown to us.

1892 Brickyard Kennedy, a pretty good pitcher for Brooklyn in the 1890s, makes his big league debut. He’s still among the team’s career leaders in wins.

1898 Hall of Famer Elmer Flick makes his major league debut. The Tigers once offered to trade Ty Cobb for Flick straight up, only to have Flick’s team refuse. That’s the story I heard, anyway.

1900 Hack Wilson, Hall of Famer who had a mighty nice age-30 season, is born.

1902 One day after blowing a 13-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth against Detroit, Milwaukee blows another one. Milwaukee led 6-2 in the middle of the eighth but lost 6-5 in regulation.

1902 In his big league debut, future Hall of Famer Addie Joss throws a complete game one-hit shutout over the Browns. Jesse Burkett‘s single ruins it for him.

1904 Ty Cobb makes his pro ball debut. He plays for the Augusta, Ga., team at age 17.

1905 Cubs outfielder Jack McCarthy throws out three guys at the plate in one game, each completing a double play as Cubs triumph over Pirates 2-1.

1906 Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon loses his 1,000th game. His record is 1,184-1,000.

1909 Doc Powers, still an active player, dies at age 38 of stomach illness—more specifically, the gangrene caused by a botched surgery on it. Yikes!

1912 Hugh Bradley becomes the first player to homer over Fenway’s Green Monster (which isn’t yet all-green yet, but never mind that).

1917 Sal Maglie, star Giants pitcher, is born.

1917 Virgil Trucks, great Tigers pitcher, is born.

1925 Ill-deserving Hall of Famer Rube Marquard wins his 200th game. He’s 200-169 so far.

1927 Jimmie Dykes gets his 1,000th hit in his 1,004 game. In exactly 1,004 more games, he’ll get No. 2,000. Seriously.

1927 Woody English, a very good- hitting shortstop who peaks early, makes his big league debut.

1929 Hall of Famer Jesse Haines sets personal bests with his 10th straight Quality Start and 10th consecutive complete game. He has a 1.40 ERA in 90 innings.

1931 Lou Gehrig loses a home run in odd fashion. He hits the ball out of the park, it bounces back to outfielder Sam Rice, and the Yankee runner on base thinks it’s caught. So he goes to the dugout instead of scoring. Ultimately, Gehrig is credited with an outside-the-park triple.

1932 Babe Herman, never known for his wits in the stadium, outdoes himself. He takes his seven-year-old son to the park and forgets to bring him home. The team secretary saw the urchin and brought him home for Herman.

1934 Al Simmons gets his 2,000th hit in only his 1,393th game. No one else has done it in less than 1,400 games.

1935 Dolf Luque, terrific pitcher for the Reds in his prime, appears in his last game.

1940 The Senators purchase Zeke Bonura from Giants for $20,000.

1941 Wrigley Field becomes first ballpark with an organ. Typically, the Cubs lose, 6-2.

1944 Bucky Walters enjoys his best Game Score: 94. His line: 13 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K in complete game 1-0 win over Cardinals. I’m not sure which is less likely these days: a pitcher throwing 13 innings or a team fanning only three times in 13 innings.

1945 Paul Waner appears in his last game.

1946 Giants pitchers Ace Adams and Harry Feldman defect to the outlaw Mexican League.

1947 Famous Amos Otis is born.

1948 The Indians and White Sox engage in a wild slugfest, won 12-11 by Cleveland in 14 innings. Lou Boudreau is the star that day, going 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles and a pair of homers. He scores two runs and drove in four. He also has two walks—but is caught stealing once.

1951 The Yankee franchise record hits 1,000 games over .500: 4,275-3,275. This includes the 1901-02 years in Baltimore. They’ve been over 1,000 games over .500 ever since.

1953 Bob Lemon, age 32, steals his first career base. He’ll get his second, and last, stolen base four months later.

1955 Al Kaline hits the first of six walkoff homers.

1955 Bob Turley ties the record for most walks in a regular season complete game one-hitter: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 9 BB, 10 K. And yes, I have to say “regular season” as a qualifier because Bill Bevens walked 10 in his 1947 World Series one-hitter.

1955 The A’s sign pitcher Vic Raschi as a free agent.

1955 Mike Scott, pitcher, is born.

1959 It’s probably Billy Pierce‘s best day at the plate: 3-for-4 with a double and triple (and this from a man who only had 17 extra-base hits in his career). He also had a GIDP.

1959 Legendary Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh belts his first home run.

1959 Willard Schmidt, Reds pitcher, is hit by a pitch at the plate twice in one inning, a first. Reds beat Braves 11-10.

1961 The first of Roger Maris‘ 61 home runs on the year highlights a bizarre Yankees-Tigers game. Yanks lead 6-0, but Detroit then storms to a 11-8 lead, only to falter and allow the Bronx Bombers to win 13-11 in 10 innings. Among other things, it’s Mickey Mantle‘s favorite WPA game: 0.737 WPA. He goes 2-for-6 with three runs, two homers, four RBIs, and a reached on error. Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford isn’t so fortunate. He sets his personal high in runs allowed: 10, though only six are earned, in his 6.1 IP.

1964 Sonny Siebert pitches in his first big league game.

1969 The Baseball Record Committee, which had earlier decided to up Babe Ruth‘s home run total to 715 because of a shot listed as a triple, decides to flip back to 714 homers. And it’s been 714 ever since. The back story is that he never should’ve been credited with 715 in the first place, as a rules committee falsely thought it had the authority to retroactively change a playing rule. The hit in question went over the fence to score a base runner with the winning run, at which point the game ended, according to the rules then, so Ruth could not score an additional run.

1970. Star pitcher Bob Gibson fans 15, which is impressive but not his most: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 15 K.

1971 Tom Seaver throws his 19th straight quality start, the first of two times he did that in his career. His numbers in the stretch: 13-4 W-L, 163.1 IP, 99 H, 21 R, 18 ER, 31 BB, 164 K and a 0.99 ERA. A 0.99 ERA. Yeah, yeah, it’s selective endpoints, but it’s a zero freaking nine-nine ERA over enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Tom sure was terrific.

1972 Bobby Bonds bashes the first of seven career walk-off home runs. It’s in the 10th inning of an 8-6 Giants win over Philadelphia.

1974 Indians trade Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow and a third guy to Yankees for Fritz Peterson and three other guys. Advantage: Yankees.

1974 Legendary bad hitter Mario Mendoza makes his big league debut, to the delight of AL pitchers..

1974 Hank Aaron hits his 15th grand slam, passing Willie McCovey and Gil Hodges for a NL record. (McCovey will later pass Aaron, though).

1978 Joe Crede, third baseman, is born.

1980 Steve Carlton sets the 20th century NL record by pitching his sixth one-hitter.

1980 This is the only time Willie Randolph triples twice in a game.

1981 Carlton Fisk plays third base for the last time.

1985 Tony Gwynn ruins Orel Hershiser‘s perfect game. Gwynn walks in the first inning and singles in the fourth—and that’s it for San Diego: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, 5 K for Hershiser.

1985 Buddy Bell belts his 2,000thi hit.

1986 Ball Night in Arlington Stadium: fans throw them on the field in the top of the ninth when the home team pitchers do this: BB, WP, PB, 1B, 1B, and HR. Yoikes.

1986 Speaking of bizarre tops of the ninth in the AL West: On April 26, 1986, the Twins enter the top of the ninth leading the Angels 6-1, but leave it down 7-6, which is the final. Not only that, but the wind tore a hole in the Metrodome roof earlier, delaying the game for nine minutes. Given how things worked out, I’m sure the Twins wish the problem with the roof had been worse.

1987 Rick Reuschel, one of the most underrated pitchers in history, allows his first grand slam in 12 years. It’s the third grand slam Reuschel’s ever allowed and the first NOT hit by Mike Jorgensen. Lance Parrish blasted it. (Yes, Jorgensen hit both of the other two).

1987 It’s WPA’s least favorite Jim Rice game; 0-for-6, 1 GIDP for a -0.485 WPA in Boston 5-3 loss to Texas in 13 innings.

1990 Nolan Ryan has one of his best games: a complete game shutout one-hitter with 16 strikeouts. The only hit was a second-inning single by Ron Kittle, of all people. It’s Ryan’s 12th one-hitter, tying Bob Feller for the all-time record. Ryan also walked two batters.

1991 It’s the last game for crazy man Tony Bernazard.

1992 Ozzie Smith, at age 37, steals three bases in one game.

1993 Milwaukee purchases former ace pitcher Mike Boddicker from the Royals.

1995 Red Sox signs free agent Tim Wakefield. This works out.

1995 Bruce Bochy manages his first game. He’s been calling the shots in either the San Diego or San Francisco dugout ever since.

1995 Several players make their big league debuts, most notably: Bobby Higginson, Edgardo Alfonzo, Ray Durham and Troy Percival.

1995 The first Pirates game after the strike is held up for 17 minutes as fans toss wooden sticks onto the field to protest the lack of a 1994 World Series. (It’s flag day, which is where the sticks come from).

1996 Milt Gaston dies at age 100. The former pitcher went 97-164 in his career.

1997 Andruw Jones‘ first walkoff home run. He had seven, as of the end of 2010.

1997 Derek Lowe makes his big league debut.

1997 Pete Schourek becomes the only pitcher to ever club a homer off Curt Schilling.

1997 Roberto Alomar thrice homers in one game. In all, he’s 4-for-4 with six RBIs and a sac fly.

1997 Mark McGwire walks five times in one game, three times intentionally. He also gets a pair of hits.

1997 Ryne Sandberg‘s 267th homer while playing second base allows him to pass Joe Morgan for most ever at that position.

2000 Vladimir Guerrero belts his 100th home run.

2001 Hideo Nomo just misses his second no-hitter of the year—not bad, especially given that it’s still only April. A bloop single by Torii Hunter in the seventh is the only one he allows in 2-0 Boston win over Minnesota.

2001 Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone resigns.

2002 The Rockies fire Buddy Bell. Clint Hurdle makes his managerial debut.

2002 Brad Lidge first appears in a big league game.

2002 Odalis Perez faces 27 batters in a one-hit complete game. Corey Patterson‘s bad-hop infield single is all the Cubs can muster against him in a 2-0 LA victory.

2003 Jeff Bagwell gets his 2,000th hit.

2005 Alex Rodriguez hits three home runs in one game and gets 10 RBIs. That’s the most RBIs in a game by a third baseman since at least 1920, probably ever. He’s 4-for-5 on the day.

2006 Mike Piazza smashes his 400th homer.

2006 Tampa walks 14 batters, but still wins 4-2 over Yankees.

2007 Boston win puts Terry Francona‘s career managerial record over .500 (578-577). It’s been over .500 ever since.

2008 2,000 hits: Vladimir Guerrero.

2008 Matt Morris plays in his last game.

2008 Mark Redman, Colorado, allows 10 runs in the first but keeps on pitching, something that hasn’t happened in over a century. He allows no more runs over the next five innings.

2009 Omar Vizquel becomes the third 42-year-old to play shortstop: Luke Appling, Honus Wagner, and Vizquel.

2010 Josh Johnson fans 12 in a three-hitter while getting three hits with three RBIs at the plate in 10-1 over Padres.

2010 Brewers win their 22nd straight game over the Pirates. Today’s final: MIL 17, PIT 3

2010 Phillies sign Ryan Howard for way too much money: five years for at least $125 million.

2011 White Sox super-sub Brent Lillibridge has the game of his life. With the Sox leading the Yankees 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, and two Yankees on base, Lillibridge makes back-to-back outstanding defensive plays in outfield to snuff out a Yankees rally and end the game.

2012 The Tigers release longtime franchise stalwart Brandon Inge.

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Comments

  1. Jim G. said...

    I’m not sure where you got your game info for the 1902 Brewers/Tigers game, but 1. Why did the Brewers have a run taken away? 2. Those Brewers only year of existence was 1901, moving to St. Louis and turning Brown in 1902.

  2. Jim said...

    I remember Hal McRae as a good hard nosed player and not for losing his temper because of a stupid question asked by an idiot media member.  Sorry to be so redundant.

  3. Carl said...

    I remember Hal McRae for being a rascist jerk claiming the SS had intentionally missed George Brett’s pop up so a white man could win the batting crowm.

    My second memory of one of my least-favorite all time players (based on #1) is of a dirty take out slide of Randolph in the final game of the 1976 play-offs.

  4. Dave Cornutt said...

    In that Odalis Perez 2002 game, Patterson singled to lead off the 7th.  But the next batter, Chris Stynes, grounded into a DP to erase Patterson, which is how Perez faced the minimum. 

    In that game, Kerry Woods started for the Cubs and got rocked, being pulled after five runs in 5.1 innings.  But the even better bit was the classic Carlos Zambrano performance that followed Wood’s: it went single, wild pitch, double, reached on error, double, double, showers.  5 batters faced, no outs, 7 total bases.

  5. Neil said...

    Carl, Hal McRae accused the Twins of intentionally botching Brett’s pop-fly, and he thought it was because Brett’s white and McRae’s black. He definitely didn’t say anything racist.

    Brett didn’t take any offense to what McRae said, and he was the guy’s teammate …

  6. Carl said...

    Neil,

    I consider claiming that a caucasian SS intentionally let a pop up go because a caucasian batter hit it, to be a rascist comment.  McRae was claiming that either an African-American SS would have caught the ball, or that the same caucasian SS would have caught the ball had McRae been caucasian.

    I remember watching the game and it was a brutal sun that afternoon.  There was zero reason to bring the race card into the picture.  Also, at the time, McRae made 2 obscene gestures at the Twins dugout and had to be physically restrained from getting in to a fight w the Twins caucasian manager, Gene Mauch.

    Being angry because your caucasian teammate got a gift hit? Yeah, real class.

    As for Brett, he just kept his mouth shut and showed class.  If I recall correctly, he even offered to share the batting title.

    The fact that almost 20 years later that same player was hot headed enough to be throwing a phone and hitting an innocent reporter showed he had not matured a whole lot in the interim.  I remember that at the time he was hired, I couldn’t believe the organization woudl hire suggest a rascist.

  7. Drew said...

    Carl,

    Bringing up race is not “playing the race card”, nor does bringing up race make you a “rascist” [sic].

    This article did reveal one true racist, however. Hint: he can’t spell.

    Drew

  8. Marc Schneider said...

    Drew,

    That’s a very unfair comment.  Without knowing anything about Carl, what he said does not suggest he is a racist. Perhaps calling the comment “racist” is not correct but, whether you agree with it or not, it is not unreasonable to suggest that McRae’s attributing racial motives to the Twins botching the fly ball at least exhibits some racial animus. Personally, I would not go so far as to call McRae a racist-he could hardly have managed big league teams if he hated white people-but I remember the comment and, as far as I can tell, he made it without anything to substantiate it.

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