25,000 days ago, Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was born. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I have some vague memories of him. I remember watching clips of Cub games, when the crowd would always cheer wildly for the old black guy on the mound.
Why shouldn’t they cheer wildly? To an eight-year-old like myself he was just another veteran pitcher. But to those with longer memories, he was part of Cub folklore, as he won 20 games six consecutive seasons for the Cubs—from 1967-1972. He won the 1971 Cy Young Award and anchored the not-quite-good-enough 1969 team that blew an 8.5 game lead on the Mets in less than two months, only to finish eight games behind—well out of the postseason.
While most famous as a Cub, he also pitched for the Phillies, Rangers and Red Sox. In fact, he still owns the Rangers’ team record for most wins in a season: 25, achieved in 1974. No other hurler’s won more than 21 games in a year for that franchise, now in its 50th season.
One other factor about Jenkins: he is the only Canadian-born player in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
That leads to a question: what would an all-time all-Canada team look like? I had a few minutes of fun and put together this 25-man roster:
C George Gibson
C Russell Martin
1B Justin Morneau
1B Joey Votto
2B Pop Smith
SS Arthur Irwin
3B Corey Koskie
3B Pete Ward
IF Frank O’Rourke
RF Larry Walker
CF Jeff Heath
LF Jason Bay
OF Tip O’Neill
OF Terry Puhl
PH Matt Stairs
SP Ferguson Jenkins
SP Kirk McCaskill
SP Ryan Dempster
SP Russ Ford
SP Erik Bedard
RP Reggie Cleveland
RP John Hiller
RP Paul Quantrill
RP Jesse Crain
RP Eric Gagne
There are a lot of recent guys on this team. The most striking factor, though, is the complete lack of talent with up-the-middle position players. I put Jeff Heath in center because I needed someone in center; he’s really a left fielder. Consider all their good outfielders and corner outfielders—and they have a lot of good outfielders. I didn’t even have room for George Selkirk or George Wood, who were both pretty good.
The middle infield is fairly weak. Smith and Irwin are the only notable ones I found. Backup infielder Frank O’Rourke is a name I remember from my stat-nerdy childhood. Looking through the late, great Neft/Cohen Encyclopedia, I figured the worst batting in a season ever by a person listed as a starter came from O’Rourke, when he hit .122 for the 1912 Braves. He only played 61 games, but he still spent more time at short than anyone else.
Shortstop Irwin can also manage, as teams hired him as skipper a half-dozen times. He also led the most interesting life of anyone here. He was a bigamist whose double marital life didn’t come to light until he died at sea, by falling off a boat he was on and drowning in the Atlantic Ocean.
Jenkins is the best player though. His only competition is outfielder Larry Walker.
Aside from Jenkins’ “day-versary” today, many other events celebrate a day-versary or anniversary today. Here are some, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
1,000 days since Cristian Guzman hits for the cycle
2,000 days since the Marlins traded Luis Castillo to the Twins
2,000 days since the Cubs sign middle reliever Bob Howry
4,000 days since Mark McGwire got his 12th and last career stolen base
9,000 days since Vince DiMaggio died
9,000 days since one-time Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt played his last game
10,000 days since the Padres signed free agent relief ace Rich Gossage
1845 Lip Pike, 1870s star player, born
1858 Tip O’Neil, member of the all-Canadian team listed above, born
1882 Curry Foley hits for the first cycle in MLB history
1887 Harry Stovey, at one point the game’s all-time home run king, hits a leadoff inside-the-park home run. It’s the second and last time he began a game this way.
1893 New York Giants sign King Kelly, one of the biggest baseball stars of the 1880s.
1894 Joe Judge, first baseman, born
1899 Louisville hurler Deacon Phillippe walks two in no-hitter over the Giants.
1906 Martin Dihigo, Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer, born
1914 A win by the Pirates pushes manager Fred Clarke 458 games over .500 for his career (1,481-1,023), which is his all-time peak. He’ll go 121-158 from here on out before leaving the dugout. Fun fact: at one point Clarke was the game’s all-time winningest manager.
1919 Longtime Tigers manager Hughie Jennings lodges his 1,000th win: 1,000-833
1921 Babe Ruth hits reputedly the longest home run ever at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, estimated at 500 feet.
1922 Babe Ruth earns one of his five suspensions in 1922. After called out trying to stretch a single into a double, he tosses dirt in the umpire’s face and goes after a heckling fan. He’s ejected, fined $500, and suspended one game. He’ll also lose his captaincy of the Yankees, a title he was awarded only six games earlier.
1922 Sam Rice, who hits 34 home runs in well 10,246 career PA, homers for the second straight day. Unlike yesterday, today’s home run is an inside-the-park shot.
1922 Supreme Court rules against Federal League in its case against organized baseball, as the court rules 9-0 that baseball is a sport and not interstate commerce, and thus not subject to normal anti-trust laws.
1926 Miller Huggins, Hall of Fame skipper, manages his 2,000th game (1,058-922)
1929 Dizzy Dean signs control with Houston Buffaloes, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team.
1929 One of the best hitting pitchers of all-time, Hall of Famer Red Ruffing has a great day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs.
1932 Ernie Lombardi, famous as one of the slowest ballplayers of all-time, hits his fourth triple of the month. He’ll slow up as he gets older.
1934 Indians trade ace hurler Wes Ferrell to the Red Sox.
1935 Babe Ruth’s last moment of glory. He goes 4-for-4 with three home runs – the last three of his career. He ties his personal best for total bases in one game (13) and homers. His team loses anyway: Pirates 11, Braves 7. Random fact: as great as Ruth’s achievement was, it’s arguably not the greatest one to occur on this day. Also on May 25, 1935, Jesse Owens sets five world records and ties a sixth and the Big Ten track and field championships.
1939 Yankee pitcher Red Ruffing wins his 200th game: 200-184 for his career. He lost 100 games before winning 60.
1939 Bob Feller tosses his 2nd career one-hitter. He’ll end his career with a record 12 one-hitters. He fans 10 and walks six in this one. His Indian teammate Ken Keltner bangs out three home runs in his support
1941 Luke Appling, Hall of Fame White Sox shortstop, plays his 447th straight game without hitting a home run. He’ll get one next game. He’ll also get one many years later in an Old Times Game at age 81 (I think). Reputedly, that Old Timers Game garnered him more fan mail than anything else in his career.
1950 Ken Keltner plays his last major league game
1951 MLB debut: Willie Mays
1953 Ralph Kiner becomes the 12th member of the 300 home run club. All 12 are in the Hall of Fame: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, and Chuck Klein.
1954 Bob Knepper born
1954 Whitey Ford surrenders three triples in one game, but the Yankees win anyway, 9-3 over Washington
1954 Yankee reliever Joe Page plays his last game
1954 Willie Mays sets a personal best, scoring five runs in one game. He’ll do it twice more, both in 1964.
1955 Charlie Dressen manages his 1,000th game: 527-467.
1956 Minor leaguer Tommy Brown of the Nashville Volunteers reaches base for the 20th consecutive time up: 10 hits and 10 walks.
1960 Don Drysdale, a very good hitting pitcher, has maybe his worst day at the plate: 0-for-4 with 4 Ks. It’s his only 4-K game.
1961 Pitchers duel: LA 1, STL 0. It’s Sandy Koufax versus Bob Gibson. Koufax: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K. Bob Gibson: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K. (Lindy McDaniel pitched the ninth for St. Louis). Though both become iconic pitchers, each is still trying to establish themselves. The loss gives Gibson a career record of 8-12, while the win gives Koufax a career record of 41-42. A Tommy Davis home run accounted for the day’s scoring. St. Louis All-Star third baseman Ken Boyer has according to WPA his worst game ever: 0-for-4 with 2 Ks and a –0.427 WPA.
1964 Groundbreaking begins for St. Louis’ new stadium, Busch.
1965 Don Drysdale, who never threw a no-hitter in his career, has his only complete game one-hitter. Curt Flood of the Cardinals hit a leadoff single in the first inning, but that was it. Aside from an error but LA’s shortstop, no one else go on base all day against Drysdale.
1969 Jim Bunning wins his 200th game: 200-151.
1969 Angels fire Bill Rigney after a loss today. He was the first manager in team’s history and until Mike Scioscia their longest-lasting one in franchise history. The loss also gives Bill Rigney a career record 92 games under .500, his all-time worst (957-1,049).
1971 Reggie Jackson hits the first of 10 walk-off home runs in his career. He’ll have two more by the end of 1971.
1971 Carl Yastrzemski draws five walks in one game. He went 1-for-1 otherwise, but the Senators prevail over the Red Sox, 6-5.
1973 Joe Pepitone plays his last game
1973 Todd Walker, second baseman, born
1973 Jim Perry has his best game ever according to WPA: 11 IP, 5, H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K. It’s a no-decision but his longest outing ever. WPA: 0.969.
1974 Hall of Fame skipper Dick Williams manages his 1,000th game: 570-429.
1975 Fat man Mickey Lolich wins his 200th game: 200-160
1976 Tom Seaver losses his 100th game: 173-100. He earns that loss, too, by allowing a career-most 18 base runners (15 hits, three walks) in just six innings.
1977 In only their 42nd game in franchise history, the Toronto Blue Jays pick off four base runners in one game. They lose to Oakland anyway, 6-5.
1979 Tom Seaver has his worst start ever: 2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K for a Game Score of 8.
1980 Dodgers lose 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion to the Cubs. They lead 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth only to suffer through this sequence: ground out, double, single (lead runner advances to third), fly out, and error by the shortstop that allows the tying and winning runs to score. You rarely ever have the tying and winning runs score on a walk-off error.
1981 Bill Stein, TEX, gets a hit for the seventh straight pinch-hit appearance.
1981 Dan Okrent article on a then-unknown Bill James appears in Sports Illustrated: “He Does It By the Numbers“.
1981 Carl Yastrzemski plays in his 3,000th game.
1982 Fergie Jenkins, the greatest Canadian in baseball history, gets his 3,000th strikeout.
1983 Pittsburgh pitchers Jim Bibby and Jim Wynn walk seven straight batters, tying a 74-year-old record.
1985 Marathon game: Royals 2, White Sox 1 (17). Both teams scored one run in the eighth inning.
1986 George Brett gets his 2,000th career hit in only his 1,659th game played.
1986 Carlton Fisk fans four times in one game for the only time in his career: 0-for-5 with IW and HBP.
1989 Tommy John plays his last game. He began his MLB career in the Kennedy administration, becoming one of the only major leaguers to play under seven different US presidents.
1990 Kevin Mitchell homers three times in one game.
1991 Bob Welch walks the first batter of the game, something he’d gone 172 straight starts without doing. He’ll do it three more times in 1991.
1994 WPA’s favorite Randy Johnson start: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. He wins a 1-0 CG SHO for a WPA of 0.867.
1997 Twins retire Kirby Puckett’s number.
2002 MLB debut: pitcher Aaron Harang.
2003 Ron Gant plays his last game
2004 Ivan Rodriguez has his worst game ever – so sayeth WPA: 0-for-5 with a GIDP as KC beats the Tigers 4-3. His WPA: -0.518.
2007 MLB debut: Brewer slugger Ryan Braun.
2008 In a doubleheader, Omar Vizquel ties and breaks the record for most games played at shortstop with 2,584 in his career
2009 Alex Rodriguez has his fourth career 5-for-5 game.
2009 Freddy Sanchez, Pirate, gets six hits in one game.