Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most improbable and unlikely achievements in baseball history. For it was 25 years ago that Mark McGwire hit a home run in the 16th inning—for the second straight day.
Yes, really. Yes. Really.
In back-to-back games on back-to-back days, Mark McGwire homered in the 16th inning. It’s almost impossible to describe how unlikely that is. Teams often won’t play in a 16-inning game all season, and if they do, it’s even less likely they’ll play in two. And if they play in two games that go that long, it’s pretty much a given that they won’t happen in consecutive contests.
And even if they do happen back-to-back like that, the odds are greatly against one man coming to the plate in the 16th inning both times. And for a man not only to come to the plate in the 16th inning in two straight days, but belt a game-winning homer each time? Yeah, that’s what you call bucking the odds.
Let me put it to you this way. A few years ago, I researched guys who hit homers in extra innings. I looked at a few hundred of the best sluggers in baseball history. Not only is McGwire the only person to hit homers in the 16th inning of two consecutive games, he’s the only guy I know of to have two 16th-inning homers in his entire career—and he did it in back-to-back games! It’s insane. He did in less than 48 hours what no one else has done in a lifetime.
Of course, McGwire’s feat depended heavily on circumstance. He needed the games to go on that long.
On July 3, 1988, young McGwire and his Oakland A’s teammates were playing the final game in Toronto in a series against the Blue Jays. Oakland led 6-2 early, but Toronto fought back, tying it on a Tony Fernandez double in the bottom of ninth on a rare blown save opportunity by star closer Dennis Eckersley.
The game soldiered on, and in the 12th it looked like the A’s had it wrapped up when McGwire’s Bash Brother Jose Canseco smashed a two-run homer for an 8-6 A’s edge. But those pesky Jays battled back, with Fernandez again playing the hero, this time with a two-run homer to make it 8-8. Finally, in the top of the 16th, McGwire hit a homer that gave the A’s a 9-8 lead, and this time they held on for the win.
This game wasn’t nearly as dramatic. In an apparent effort to save his tired bullpen, Tony LaRussa kept starting pitcher Bob Welch in a little too long, and it backfired, as Welch surrendered a run that tied the game 2-2 in the eighth.
However tired Oakland’s bullpen might’ve been, relievers Jim Corsi and Greg Cadaret pitched brilliantly, allowing just two hits in six innings of scoreless work. Most impressively, Cadaret worked out of a 14th-inning, bases-loaded jam by striking out the last two batters to keep the game going on.
And of course it went into the 16th, when McGwire became the first, last, and only man to homer in the 16th inning on consecutive days. Teammate Stan Javier added another solo shot later for a 4-2 A’s win.
But the results weren’t the memorable part. A player hitting a homer that deep into games in two straight contests is more memorable, and that’s what Mark McGwire did 25 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball items today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
1,000 days since the Braves top the Giants, 5-4 in 11 innings, in Game Two of the 2010 NLDS. The Giants have the bases loaded with one out in the 10th but ground into a double play to end the inning.
4,000 days since 20,000-plus fans show up at Fenway Park for “Ted Williams: A Celebration of an American Hero.”
5,000 days since Game Three of the 1999 World Series sees the Braves blowing a 5-1 lead to the Yankees, losing 6-5 in 10 innings.
8,000 days since Hank Majeski dies.
8,000 days since the Brewers trades Candy Maldonado to Toronto.
8,000 days since the big league debut of Jose Hernandez.
8,000 days since the Giants top the Dodgers, 1-0 in 13 innings, on a walk-off hit-by-pitch. It’s the first walk-off HBP in a 0-0 game since the 1970s.
15,000 days since respected manager Gene Mauch suffers his 1,000th loss.
15,000 days since former big leaguer Del Bissonette kills himself at age 72.
20,000 days since the Braves top the Yankees, 4-3 in 10 innings, in Game One of the 1958 World Series.
50,000 days since Danny Murphy, second baseman and right fielder, is born.
1859 Hall of Fame 300-game winner Mickey Welch is born.
1880 George Mullin, workhorse pitcher from early 20th century, is born.
1881 Mickey Welch celebrates his 22nd birthday by tossing two complete-game victories for Troy over Buffalo (which are both major league cities back then), 8-3 and 12-0.
1884 Louisville pitcher Guy Hecker throws two complete games in one day.
1900 Cub fans celebrate a doubleheader by firing their guns in the air whenever the team scores a run. They manage to rattle the visiting Phillies into blowing a ninth-inning lead.
1900 Giants player Jack Doyle slugs umpire Robert Emslie, causing fans to pour onto the field and authorities to arrest Doyle.
1904 New York’s Happy Jack Chesbro sets a then-AL record by winning his 14th straight decision. He’ll win 41 games this season, the 20th-century record.
1904 Bump Hadley, pitcher, is born.
1905 It’s the first 20-inning game in baseball history as Boston’s Cy Young and Philadelphia’s Rube Waddell both go the distance. Waddell’s A’s win on an error, hit-by-pitch, and two hits in the final inning. The game is the second part of a holiday doubleheader.
1905 Charleston Sea Gulls pitcher Bugs Raymond throws two no-hitters today in the South Atlantic League.
1908 Hooks Wiltsie pitches a 10-inning no-hitter. His only base runner is opposing pitcher George McQuillan, who Wiltsie plunks with two outs in the ninth. Wiltsie’s Giants top the Phillies, 1-0.
1908 Chicago’s Mordecai Brown hurls his fourth consecutive shutout.
1910 Hall of Famer Elmer Flick appears in his final game.
1912 George Mullin celebrates his 32nd birthday by throwing a no-hitter. He also gets three hits and two RBIs in a 7-0 Tigers win over the Browns. It’s the second game of a doubleheader. In the first game, Ty Cobb stole second, third, and home in the fifth inning.
1913 Star pitcher Smokey Joe Wood sets a batting record for pitchers by belting two doubles in one inning.
1916 The Browns and Red Sox battle for 17 innings in a scoreless tie before darkness falls.
1922 Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler plays in his 36th straight game without striking out. He’s 65-for-145 in that span for a .448 average.
1922 Shortstop Heinie Sand handles 18 chances for the Phillies in a game against the Giants.
1923 Dazzy Vance wins, putting his career record at 25-24. It’ll be over .500 for the rest of his career.
1924 For the first of 39 times in his career, Ted Lyons records at least 28 outs in a game.
1924 Hall of Fame hurler Eppa Rixey wins, pushing his career record to 157-156. It will stay over .500 for the rest of his career.
1925 Herb Pennock and Lefty Grove engage in a big pitchers’ duel that Grove loses in 15 innings. Pennock throws a 15 inning, complete-game shutout for a 115 Game Score while Grove allows one run on 14 hits and five walks for a Game Score of 85.
1927 Edd Roush joins the 2,000 hit club. It takes him just 1,636 games to join it.
1928 Charlie Root, the winningest Cubs pitcher of all-time, suffers through his seventh consecutive loss, his worst such slump.
1928 The Yankees lead the AL by 12 games, the most ever on July 4 in the pre-divisional era. They are 53-17 at the moment.
1929 Chuck Tanner, long-lasting manager, is born.
1929 I don’t what’s going on, but Cub slugger Hack Wilson is in a bad mood. After singling, he jumps in the Reds dugout and decks Ray Kolp. Later, at a train station, he fights Kolp’s teammate, Pete Donohue.
1930 George Steinbrenner is born.
1931 Dazzy Vance wins, putting his career record an all-time high of 60 games over .500 (172-112). In the last eight years, then, he’s gone 147-88.
1932 In the International League, Baltimore’s star slugger Buzz Arlett hits four homers in one game. He did the same thing five weeks previously.
1932 200-game winner Earl Whitehill enjoys the best Game Score of his career: 86. His line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, and 3 K. It’s his only complete-game one-hitter. Goose Goslin got the hit against him. Today is also the only time Goslin starts a game at third base.
1932 There’s a nasty brawl in today’s Yankees-Senators doubleheader. Washington’s Carl Reynolds crashes into New York catcher Bill Dickey in a play at the plate, and an enraged Dickey responds by assaulting Reynolds, breaking his jaw. Dickey will be suspended for several weeks for his actions.
1933 Jimmie Foxx homers four times in one doubleheader against the Red Sox.
1934 Negro League legend Satchel Paige wins two games—in two different cities. He no-hits the Homestead Grays in Pittsburgh and then drives to Chicago to defeat the American Giants in 12 innings.
1938 The Phillies debut in Shibe Park, the home of the A’s. In a doubleheader, they lose their first game but win the second.
1939 Gabby Hartnett, a 38-year-old catcher, legs out an inside-the-park home run. Added bonus: it’s a pinch-hit shot.
1939 Hank Leiber smashes three home runs in one game.
1939 Jim Tabor belts three homers in one game, including two grand slams. He adds a fourth homer in the other half of a doubleheader, too.
1939 It’s Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. Gehrig tells the crowd that he considers himself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth, as the Yankees retire his number. He is the first person ever to have his number retired.
1940 In the American Association, Ab Wright hits five homers and a triple in a doubleheader, all but one of the homers coming in the second game.
1940 Former star center fielder Wally Berger plays in his final game.
1944 Oriole Park, built for Baltimore’s Federal League team in 1914, burns down.
1945 Somehow, the Yankees play an entire game with zero defensive assists recorded.
1946 Johnny Mize smashes his 200th home run.
1946 The Boston Braves sign amateur free agent Alvin Dark.
1947 Bucky Harris becomes the sixth manager to win 1,500 games. His record is 1,500-1,562.
1947 Jackie Robinson’s best hitting streak peaks at 21 games.
1947 Lou Boudreau’s best hitting streak maxes out at 19 games.
1947 Morganna the Kissing Bandit is born.
1948 18-year-old Johnny Antonelli makes his big league debut.
1948 Roy Campanella belts his first home run—and then gets No. 2, too.
1949 Billy Pierce suffers through his seventh straight loss, his worst-ever stretch.
1950 At the Polo Grounds, a fan is shot dead from a .22 caliber gun from the nearby housing projects. This inflames fears people already had about going there to watch a game.
1951 Dodgers manager Charlie Dressen is ejected from both ends of a doubleheader against the Giants. His Brooklyn club sweeps the games. Afterwards, to his ever-lasting regret, Dressen utters to the press, “The Giants is dead. They’ll never bother us again.” The Giants, of course, will win the pennant that year.
1952 Braves slugger Eddie Mathews hits the first of his eight career walk-off home runs.
1955 Charlie Grimm loses his 1,000th decision as skipper. His record: 1,212-1,000.
1960 Mickey Mantle becomes the 18th member of the 300-home run club.
1960 Baltimore signs free agent slugger Bobby Thomson.
1961 Willie Mays becomes the 19th member of the 300-home run club.
1961 Billy O’Dell sets a record (since broken) with 13 strikeouts in a relief appearance. He fans 13 in nine innings for the Giants, who beat the Cubs, 19-3.
1961 Harmon Killebrew legs out his only inside-the-park home run.
1961 Milwaukee purchase veteran pitcher Johnny Antonelli from the Indians.
1961 Julio Becquer hits a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam for the Twins in a 6-4 win over the White Sox. For a long time, it’s the only walk-off slam in Twins history.
1961 Orlando Cepeda has a career-high eight RBIs. He’s 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a home run in a 19-3 Giants win over the Cubs.
1962 Mickey Mantle, who homered twice in yesterday’s game, does it again in the second game of today’s doubleheader.
1962 Willie McCovey has one of the greatest games of his career, going 3-for-3 with two home runs, two sacrifice flies, and a personal-best of seven RBIs. He’s also caught stealing once.
1963 Jose Oquendo is born.
1964 Manny Jimenez hits three home runs in one game for the A’s but never gets a shot for a fourth one when rain cuts the game short after six innings. The team does its fireworks display despite the bad weather.
1966 Houston signs future Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts.
1966 Ron Santo’s best hitting streak peaks at 28 games. He only has 39 hits in the 28 games.
1967 It’s the first Niekro vs. Niekro game as Phil tops Joe, 8-3, when Atlanta plays Chicago.
1967 Sparky Lyle makes his big league debut.
1967 The Mets, having lost 19 straight to Juan Marichal, finally beat him for the first time in franchise history.
1967 Vinny Castilla is born.
1968 Andy Messersmith makes his big league debut.
1969 Mickey Lolich wins his ninth straight decision, his longest stretch.
1970 Roberto Clemente, who homered twice in yesterday’s game, does it again in the first game of today’s Pirates doubleheader.
1970 St. Louis uses three pinch hitters in the eighth inning—and all strike out.
1971 Bruce Kison, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1972 A would-be no-hitter by Tom Seaver is foiled with one out in the ninth by San Diego’s Leon Lee. It’s the only hit they get against the Mets ace.
1973 Ron Santo belts his sixth and final walk-off home run. It’s a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th for a 3-2 Cubs wins.
1974 Luis Tiant loses his 100th decision, giving him a career record of 129-100.
1977 Boston sets a record by hitting eight home runs in game.
1977 The Kansas City Royals’ all-time franchise record hits .500 (682-682). It’s the 13th time it’s been there over the last 12 months, but after today it will stay over .500 for 25 years straight.
1977 Rangers owner Brad Corbett walks into the press box, breaks into tears, and calls his players “dogs on the field and dogs off the field.”
1979 Today is the closest Steve Carlton ever comes to a no-hitter. He allows only one hit, a seventh-inning single by Elliot Maddox. He never does throw a no-hitter.
1979 Dwight Evans hits his 100th homer. It’s a walk-off home run, too.
1982 The largest crowd in minor league history, 65,666, sees a game and fireworks display at Denver’s Mile High Stadium.
1983 Dave Righetti throws a no-hitter for the Yankees over the Red Sox.
1984 Jim Rice has the greatest game of his career. He caps off the only five-hit game of his career with a walk-off grand slam for a 13-9 Boston win over Oakland.
1984 Phil Niekro fans his 3,000th batter.
1984 Orel Hershiser fans 11 batters, the most he ever has in a nine-inning game.
1985 The Mets and Braves begin a game that will last 19 innings, ending at 3:55 a.m. the next day. The Mets win, 16-13, but the highlight is Braves reliever Rick Camp homering on an 0-2 count with two outs and no one on to tie the game in the bottom of the 18th. Keith Hernandez hits for the cycle in the game, as well. After the game ends, the team has its fireworks display. It awakens frightened nearby residents, some of whom call the cops to report that Libyan terrorists were bombing the city.
1986 San Francisco signs free agent pitcher Steve Carlton, who the Phillies just cut.
1986 Rich Gossage wins his 100th decision. His record is 100-85.
1987 Phil Neirko gets a win, giving him and brother Joe Neikro 530 combined wins, one more than Gaylord and Jim Perry had.
1988 Charlie Hough fans four batters in the first inning.
1988 At age 36 years, nine months, and one day, Dwight Evans hits the only inside-the-park home run of his career.
1988 After working today’s Cubs-Giants game, veteran NL umpire Lee Weyer dies of a heart attack at age 51.
1989 Kevin Tapani makes his big league debut.
1992 Jeff Blauser homers, the 1,776th home run ever hit on July 4.
1992 Larry Walker gets the assist on the rare 9-3 ground out, nailing Tony Fernandez of San Diego. A few days earlier, Fernandez was caught stealing twice in one inning, so he’s really having a bad week.
1993 The Astrodome hosts the first Mexican League game in a major league stadium. Jalisoc tops Monterrey, 2-1.
1993 Oops. Matt Turner surrenders the rare walk-off balk as the Braves top Florida, 4-3.
1994 Will Clark receives the only walk-off walk of his career. Texas 4, Detroit 3.
1996 Curt Schilling has a personal-best game at the plate with three RBIs.
1996 The Yankees purchase Darryl Strawberry from St. Paul in the Northern League.
1998 Chipper Jones lays down his third and final sacrifice bunt. He never had another one.
1999 It’s one of the most ghastly injuries in memory as Jason Kendall ruins his ankle. The Pirates catcher bunts in the fifth trying to break up a Steve Woodard perfect game and hits the bag awkwardly, absolutely destroying his ankle. He lies there, with his foot hanging awkwardly and wrongly from his leg.
2000 Jon Garland makes his major league debut.
2000 In his first big league at-bat, Keith McDonald hits a pinch-hit home run. Not a bad way to start a career.
2000 Shane Halter catches in relief in today’s game, meaning that over the course of his career he’s now played all nine positions, including pitcher.
2001 50 fans are stranded on the Ferris Wheel at Comerica Park for two hours in a Tigers-Royals game until firefighters and emergency workers rescue them.
2001 A parachutist at Milwaukee’s Miller Park breaks his ankle when he misses the opening in the retractable roof and lands on a beam several hundred feet over the ground.
2002 The Royals lose a heartbreaker to the A’s, 3-2, with two runs scoring on a walk-off error. The error came right after a walk and hit by pitch, too.
2002 Don Baylor manages his last game.
2003 Bobby Abreu gets his 1,000th hit.
2003 Moises Alou hits three home runs in one game.
2004 Barry Bonds draws his 2,191st career walk, passing Rickey Henderson as all-time leader.
2005 Frank Robinson manages his 2,000th game. His record: 963-1,036.
2006 Ryan Zimmerman enjoys the best one-game WPA any batter has ever had for the Expos/Nationals franchise: 0.965 WPA. He’s 2-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base and a home run as the Nationals top the Marlins, 6-4.
2007 San Diego tops Florida, 1-0, on a walk-off error.
2008 Albert Pujols hits his 300th home run. He’s the 117th man to do this.
2008 Coors Field hosts its highest-scoring game since it got the humidor: Rockies 18, Marlins 17.
2010 Drew Stubbs of Cincinnati hits three home runs in one game.
2011 If you include the 1871-75 National Association as a major league, baseball has its 200,000 game (Reds-Cardinals, based on the day’s start times).
2012 Houston trade aging outfielder/first baseman Carlos Lee to the Marlins.