Thirty years ago today, Tom Seaver had one of his most terrific performances. No, it wasn’t his no-hitter. That was 33 years ago. And it wasn’t his near perfect game—that was over 40 years ago. And it wasn’t the time he fanned 19 Padres—including 10 in a row—in one game. That occurred within a year of the near-perfecto.
No, Tom Seaver’s May 8, 1981 performance doesn’t rank in that upper-most echelon of his best remembered performances, but in its own way it was just as impressive and dominant.
Thirty years ago today Seaver tossed a complete game shutout. But this was a special shutout, unique among the 61 in his 61 career. You see, he not only prevented the opponents from scoring, but he also hammered a home run against them. It’s the only time Seaver combined a home run and shutout in one game.
Seaver’s Reds led the Houston Astros 2-0 in the seventh inning when Seaver faced a young Dave Smith with two outs and Ron Oester on first. Seaver uncorked his 12th and final career longball to double the Cincinnati lead, 4-0. Smith pitched for 13 years in the majors, but this would be the only time another pitcher went deep on him. It was only the second home run of any sort he’d allowed in the majors.
It’s a good thing Seaver went deep because while he shut out Houston, he was not especially sharp, surrendering a half-dozen hits and issuing an equal number of bases on balls while fanning only four. His Game Score or 73 tied his lowest mark in any of his 61 complete game shutouts. (Of course “worst CG SHO” is like saying warmest part of Antarctica. He still had a good game.)
While that’s an event having a nice round number anniversary, plenty of other baseball events experience anniversaries and “day-versaries” today (a day-versary is an event that happened X-thousand days ago). I’ll give the day-versaries first, because I’m the only person who is damn fool enough to figure them out:
1,000 days since Reds trade Adam Dunn to Diamondbacks
5,000 days since MLB debut for Magglio Ordonez
9,000 days since Gordon Beckham born
15,000 days since A’s use gold bases in their opener. MLB later declares this illegal.
50,000 days since Topsy Hartsel, outstanding leadoff hitter, born
70,000 days since George Wright, Hall of Famer, born
1850 Ross Barnes, great hitter in 1870s, born
1853 Dan Brouthers, one of the best hitters in the 19th century, born
1878 Paul Hines starts a triple play, a pretty neat fact given that he plays center field. He catches the ball, runs to third base for the second out and tosses it to second base for the last out. It was a very different game back then.
1890 MLB debut: Kid McGill, age 16. He’s one of the youngest players in history.
1893 Edd Roush, Hall of Famer interviewed in The Glory of Their Times, born.
1895 Dan Brouthers celebrates his 32nd birthday by having the Louisville Colonels (then a major league team) purchase him from Baltimore for $500.
1896 While Billy Nash of the Phillies argues with an umpire over a called strike, Cubs pitcher Clark Griffith takes advantage of the fact that Nash is still standing in the batter’s box to throw the ball at Nash’s bat. The ball doinks off it for a double play.
1899 Harry Wolverton hits walk-off grand slam: Cubs 8, Spiders 7.
1901 Turkey Stearnes, Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer, born
1901 Amos Rusie makes his first start in over two years: bombed in 14-3 loss.
1902 Here’s a weird one: Cubs beat Giants 10-5 but afterward it’s discovered that the plate is 15 inches closer to the mound that it’s supposed to be. The Giants protest, and the game (and yesterday’s game) will be replayed.
1905 Jesse Burkett, Hall of Famer, hits lead-off, inside-the-park home run.
1906 Chief Bender would hit only six home runs in his Hall of Fame pitching career, but two come in this game off Jesse Tannehill. Added bonus: both are inside the park home runs. Extra added bonus: Bender wasn’t pitching in this game. Due to injuries, A’s manager Connie Mack put Bender in left field in the sixth inning, and he hit both dingers as a position player.
1907 Pete Alexander tosses the first of his 90 CG SHO.
1912 Umpire Brick Owens hit in head by infield throw, knocking him out. His wife, sitting in the stands, faints when this happens. But you don’t get the name “Brick” unless you’re tough and he’s back the next day. No word on if his wife watched the game in the stands, though.
1921 Ty Cobb hits home run, triple, and two doubles—but no single, so no cycle.
1922 Bob Hasty of A’s is bombed for four triples in one inning by the Indians.
1922 Sam Beardon buys controlling interest in the St. Louis Cardinals.
1926 Three-alarm blaze at Fenway Park burns down the grandstand roof and left field bleachers. There won’t be any more left field bleachers until the 21st century.
1929 Frankie Frisch legs out his 100th career triple
1929 Carl Hubbell throws no-hitter versus a very tough Pittsburgh Pirate offense (. I once determined it was the third most impressive lineup ever no-hit. Giants win 11-0. He walks one but two reach on error (both in the ninth).
1929 Mel Ott hits his second and final inside-the-park home run. His first one was his first career home run. This is No. 24 of 511.
1930 Fred Lindstrom hits for the cycle—and his homer was an inside-the-park one.
1934 White Sox name Jimmy Dykes as their manager, and he’ll last a dozen years.
1935 Ernie Lombardi clubs four doubles in one game, all in consecutive plate appearances.
1936 37-year-old Kiki Cuyler hits hits 19th and last inside-the-park home run.
1937 Bobo Newsom, 200-game winner with a losing career record (211-222), hits his only career home run.
1937 Mike Cuellar, pitcher, born
1939 Cards top Dodgers 1-0 as Pepper Martin steals home in the sixth inning.
1939 Chicago Cub Phil Cavaretta breaks his leg sliding into second base.
1940 Reds get 27 hits in 23-2 demolition of Dodgers. Harry Craft hits for the cycle.
1941 Red Ruffing goes 3-for-3 with a home run in 5-4 Yankee win over Indians. He may have done more damage at the plate, but was taken out in the sixth, as he allowed 12 base runners while making only 17 outs.
1942 In a Navy Relief Fund exhibition game between the Dodgers and Giants, everyone—even the players and umpires—pays their way into the stadium, as all proceeds go to the war effort.
1947 AP breaks the story that the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly are talking of boycotting Dodgers game because of Jackie Robinson. This likely amounted to little more than some guys muttering in the clubhouse, and was never a real plan, let alone one involving the entire team.
1948 Hal Newhouser loses his 100th game (132-100)
1953 Charlie Grimm wins his 1,000th game as manager (1,000-845)
1955 Phil Cavaretta plays his last game
1957 Kansas City A’s lose, putting Lou Bourdreau’s managerial record under .500 (1,083-1,084) and it will stay under from here on out.
1958 Reds enter ninth inning trailing 8-2 at Wrigley Field, but score eight runs to beat the Cubs.
1960 Fourth inning single gives Willie Mays his highest career batting average: .318970 (1,325/4,154).
1961 Announcement that the new NL team will be called the Mets
1961 Yanks trade Ryne Duren to Angels
1963 Bob Buhl, pitcher, singles. It’s his first hit since 1961—and yes, he played all 1962.
1963 Wilie Stargell mashes his first MLB home run.
1963 Stan Musial sets record by hitting his 1,357th extra base hit. Babe Ruth had “only” 1,356.
1964 Willie Mays homers off Phil Ortega, the only hit Mays ever managed off Ortega in 19 plate appearances.
1965 New record longest game in organized baseball viewed by a paid attendance of 386: Elmira Pioneers 2, Springfield Giants 1 (27). It was 0-0 for 25 innings, but incredibly they both scored in the 26th.
1966 Last game at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Giants win, 10-5.
1966 Frank Robinson hits the only ball ever to completely leave Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
1968 Catfish Hunter throws a perfect game and fans 11 in the process. The losing team was the Minnesota Twins, whose lineup featured Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Tony Oliva. Damn. It’s also Catfish Hunter’s 11th straight Quality Start, his longest streak ever. His record in those games: 5-5 W-L, 89 IP, 55 H, 22 R, 20 ER, 19 BB, 66 K, 2.02 ERA. 5-5 with a 2.02 ERA? Welcome to the 1968 American League.
1973 Ralph Miller, last living 19th century player, dies
1973 Willie Stargell hits home run off Andy Messersmith that completely leaves Dodger Stadium. It’s only the second time that’s happened— and we’re still waiting for Time No. 3. The first time? That was also Stargell, back in 1969.
1979 Infamous game in Kansas City, as Texas starting pitcher Ed Farmer beans Frank White and Al Cowens in the same game. White has to leave with a broken right hand bone and Cowens with a broken jaw. Cowens in particular clearly thinks this was intentional, as the next time he faces Farmer, he charges the mound. On a ground out. In extra innings. Despite the fact that Cowens is now a Tiger and Farmer now a White Sox.
1981 MLB debut: Steve Sax.
1982 Adrian Gonzalez born
1984 Kirby Puckett has a heckuva MLB debut, going 4-for-5. He’s only the 12th person to debut with a four-hit game.
1984 The longest game in AL history begins: White Sox 8, Brewers 7 (25). Comes to an end the next day.
1985 Seattle’s Mike Moore no-hits Rangers for eight innings, then is driven from the game after allowing four hits in the ninth. Mariners prevail, 4-2.
1987 First of 67 multi-home run games for Mark McGwire.
1988 Chris Chambliss plays his last game.
1990 Andre Dawson hits his only walk-off home run as a Cub, giving him at least one walk-off home run in three different decades. It’s also his best WPA game: 0.813 WPA. 3-for-5, two homers, two runs, three RBIs, an intentional walk, and a K as Cubs beat Braves, 10-8.
1991 Howard Spira found guilty of trying to extort money from George Steinbrenner.
1992 Jim Leyland manages his 1,000th game: 516-482 record.
1992 Astros pitcher Butch Henry has a memorable first major league hit: a three-run inside the park homer. But Houston loses, 6-3.
1993 Terry Mulholland pitches 10 innings for the Phillies, the last time a pitcher went over nine innings for them in one game.
1994 Andy Van Slyke goes 8-for-9 in doubleheader versus the Cubs.
1995 MLB debut: Jason Giambi.
1997 Randy Johnson loses, ending a 16-game winning streak
1997 MLB debut: Cory Lidle
1998 Mark McGwire hits his 400th home run
2000 Second straight game Craig Biggio HBP twice
2000 Marlins lose to Braves on walk-off balk. It’s 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth when this happens: single, error on botched pick off, out, out, intentional walk, runner advances to second on defensive indifference, balk. What an ugly inning.
2001 Randy Johnson fans 20 batters in nine innings—but then the game goes 10 innings. Records are normally different for nine- and extra-inning games, so Johnson doesn’t tie the Kerry Wood–Roger Clemens record, but Tom Cheney once fanned 21 in 16 innings, so Johnson isn’t there either.
2003 Giants sign amateur free agent Pablo Sandoval.
2004 Sammy Sosa strikes out for the 2,000th time. It took him 2,042 games.
2004 Texas Ranger Alfonso Soriano gets six hits in a game—the first time that happened to any batter in that franchise’s history.
2008 Jim Thome steals his first base since Sept. 25, 2002.
2009 Dom DiMaggio dies
2009 Alex Rodriguez returns to baseball following hip surgery. He homers on the first pitch he sees.
2010 Milwaukee’s Jody Gerut hits for the cycle. It’s an unlikely one as not only is Gerut having a terrible season, but before the game Brewers manager Ken Macha flipped a coin to determine if Gerut or Corey Hart should start in right field.
2010 Mark Teixeira 2010 hits three homers in a game. It’s the third time he’s hit three home runs in a game. Each time he’s done it while playing for a different team, too.