30th anniversary: old timer Luke Appling homers

30 years ago today, a Hall of Fame shortstop hit perhaps the most famous home run of his life. No, it wasn’t Ozzie Smith. Nor was it Cal Ripken. It wasn’t Robin Yount in the midst of his first MVP season. It wasn’t even Paul Molitor playing well out of position. It was none of those guys.

So who was the Hall of Fame shortstop that belted a home run on July 19, 1982?

Luke Appling—old aches and pains himself.

Wait—what? Luke Appling? He played back in the 1930s! He retired at age 43 after playing 50 games in 1950. What the hell is he doing hitting a home run in 1982?

Well, it was at an Old Timers Game. Nowadays, the Yankees are pretty much the only team hosting Old Timers Games, but that didn’t used to always be the case. I have some vague memories as a kid of seeing a Cubs Old Timers Game.

And the trend in Old Timers Games arguably peaked in the 1980s, when Cracker Jack company, maker of that famous ballpark food, decided to sponsor an annual Old Timers Game in the nation’s capital in RFK Stadium. It didn’t last long, just from 1982-85, but it did exist for those years.

And by far the most memorable moment in the Cracker Jack Old Timers Classic came in its inaugural edition on July 19, 1982. In that game, 75-year-old Luke Appling connected on an offering from the comparatively youthful 61-year-old Warren Spahn. The ball went over the fence set up for the occasion at 250 feet.

OK, so the homer was only 250 feet—but cut the man some slack, he’s 75 years old and still able to power the ball over a fence. Not bad, not bad at all. Especially not for a singles hitter like Appling, who nailed just 45 homers in his 10,254 big league at bats.

In fact, the home run created more attention for Appling than anything else. He later recounted that he received a tremendous amount of fan mail and letters from autograph seekers. He put it all in a big pile and went after it, doing as much as he could in a day before getting tired out. Then he’d get back to it the next day, taking bites out his mountain of letters each day.

Appling said that after a few weeks or months, he started coming across some letters that said “Hey, you didn’t respond to my earlier letter? What are you some kind of stuck up jerk?” – or words to that effect. Apparently, they’d sent the second letter before he could respond to the first.

But Appling eventually got to them all. The attention from his home run eventually faded away, and Appling went on with life. He lived nearly another 10 years, dying in January 1991 at the age of 83.

But they can never take away the homer he hit 30 years ago today.

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

Day-versaries

4,000 days since Vanity Fair publishes an interview with Pete Rose’s former friend Tommy Gioiosa, who alleges that Pete Rose bet on baseball, used a corked bat, and did drug deals.

5,000 days since Hal Newhouser dies.

5,000 days since the Braves trade Denny Neagle, Rob Bell, and Michael Tucker to the Reds for Bret Boone, and Mike Remlinger.

6,000 days since Kevin McClatchey and his group of investors purchase the Pirates from Pittsburgh Associates.

7,000 days since Rafael Palmeiro hits his 100th home run.

8,000 days since Charlie Hough spends the day in control hell, walking 10 batters. That ties the mark for most walks in one day by a big league pitcher since 1977.

8,000 days since a Brewers-Blue Jays game in Toronto is delayed for 35 minutes due to a giant swarm of gnats on the field.

15,000 days since the professional debut of young Kurt Russell in the Northwestern League. He singles, doubles, and steals two bases. He’s a baseball prospect until an injury forces him into a new profession – acting. He does OK for himself in that line of work.

30,000 days since Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft appears in his final game.

Anniversaries

1873 Harry Davis, first baseman and at one point the all-time AL career home run leader, is born.

1883 Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers gets six hits in one game.

1888 Cap Anson refuses to play an exhibition game against International League team Newark because it has some black players, George Stovey and Fleet Walker. Stovey feigns illness and the club benches Walker so the game goes on.

1896 Bob Meusel, member of 1927 Yankees, is born.

1897 Big league debut for Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner.

1904 Mark Koenig, also a 1927 Yankee, is born.

1907 Mordecai Brown hits his only career over-the-fence home run. It’s all fellow Hall of Famer Iron Man Joe McGinnity.

1909 Neal Ball, Cleveland Indians shortstop, pulls off the rare unassisted triple play.

1910 Cy Young invents the 500 win club. He’s still the only member, and the only one even remotely close to it.

1911 The St. Louis Cardinals get incredibly lucky off the field. Their manager complains about the train they’re riding, causing the team to leave it. Afterwards, the now Cardinal-free train gets in a wreck, killing 18. The section St. Louis players had been on is damaged beyond all recognition.

1914 The Miracle Braves climb out of last place with a 3-2 win over the Reds. They’ll win the world title this year.

1916 Phil Cavarretta, longtime Cub, is born.

1919 Tris Speaker debuts as Indians manager.

1924 George Burns, Cleveland player, gets six hits in a game.

1924 St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Herman Bell wins both ends of a doubleheader, 6-1 and 2-1 over the Braves. He allows no hits until the eighth in the first game, and none until the fifth in the second one.

1927 Giants honor their longtime manager with John McGraw Day at the Polo Grounds. The Cubs spoil it by winning, 8-5.

1928 Babe Ruth enjoys his seventh multi-home run game of the year. He won’t have another one for 11 months and two days.

1929 Rogers Hornsby hits his 33rd and final inside-the-park home run. No one’s had that many since. This one is off Pete Alexander in the first inning.

1933 Brothers Wes and Rick Ferrell each homer in the same game for the only time. Rick hits his off brother Wes, in fact.

1936 Big league debut for the teenaged wonder of the world, Bob Feller.

1939 Arky Vaughan hits for his second cycle, and it’s no ordinary one. He gets two home runs, tying his personal best of five hits in a game.

1940 Cubs and Dodgers get in a fight when Cub pitcher Claude Passeau flings his bat at Brooklyn pitcher Hugh Casey.

1941 George McQuinn hits for the cycle.

1942 Enos Slaughter hits a walk-off inside the park home run in the bottom of the 11th. That’s a pretty snazzy clutch homer. Aside from being one of five walk-offs, and four insiders, it’s also the latest he ever homered in a game.

There is a definite ugly aspect to this blast, though. Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser runs headfirst into the wall at Sportsman’s Park trying to get it, and ends up with a concussion bleeding from his ears. That’s why Slaughter is able to dash all the way around the bases. Yeah, that’s an ugly side to it.

1942 Red Ruffing tosses a complete game shutout and hits a three-run homer in the same contest. It’s the only time he ever combines a home run and shutout. He’s 3-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs in the Yankees’ 12-0 win over Chicago.

1945 Umpire George Magerkurth deals with heckler Thomas J. Longo in a way the league would not approve of—he walks over and punches him out.

1946 AL umpire Red Jones is bothered by a voice in the Sox dugout that he can’t identify, so he solves the situation by running all 14 men on the bench.

1946 Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser has his worst day at the plate: 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. It’s his only five-strikeout day.

1947 Willard Brown, Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer, makes his major league debut for the Browns. They’re just trying to raise ticket sales and soon will dump Brown and fellow Negro League Hank Thompson when the hoped-for surge of interest doesn’t materialize. Hank Thompson gets another chance with the Giants, but Brown never does.

1948 Joe Gordon, Hall of Fame second baseman, hits his 200th home run.

1950 The Yankees purchase Elston Howard from Negro League team the Kansas City Monarchs.

1950 The Braves sign Bucky Walters as a free agent. Walters was a great pitcher for a stretch, but is well past his prime now.

1951 Jayson Stark, former mustache man and ESPN baseball writer, born.

1952 Red Sox manager Joe Cronin announces that outfielder Jimmy Piersall will miss the rest of the year on doctor’s advice due to mental problems.

1955 Vern Law of the Pirates has the best-known one-game WPA by any pitcher. His line:18 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12K, but he gets a no-decision as it takes the Pirates 19 innings to beat the Braves, 4-3. (Yeah, that’s right, it was 2-2 after 18 but ends 4-3. Fun 19th inning). Law is the last pitcher to last over 16 innings in a start. Young outfielder Hank Aaron has his only game with at bats, going 1-for-8.

1955 In the Southern League All-Star Game, Jim Lemon of Chattanooga clouts four home runs.

1957 On Gil Hodges Day in Ebbets Field, the man of the hour records his 1,000th RBI. In the second game of a doubleheader, Johnny Roseboro laces his first career home run.

1958 Ted Williams hits the third and final walk-off home run of his career.

1958 The Milwaukee Braves sign teenaged knuckleballer Phil Niekro.

1959 Enos Slaughter has the last of nine career multi-home run games.

1960 Juan Marichal makes his big league debut with one of the greatest starts in history: a complete game one-hitter with 12 strikeouts. An eighth inning single by Clay Dalrymple breaks it up. Marichal’s Game Score of 96 is the best he’ll ever have in a nine-inning game.

1960 Relief pitcher Phil Regan, AKA “the Vulture” makes his big league debut.

1961 On either this day or some day shortly before (my sources conflict) Ford Frick makes his asterisk comments about what happens if Roger Maris hits his 61st homer after the 154th game marker.

1961 Big league debut for Al Downing, the man who later surrenders homer No. 715 to Hank Aaron.

1961 Carl Yastrzemski makes two errors in one game for the only time in his career.

1963 Harmon Killebrew belts his 200th home run.

1963 Roy Sievers belts his 300th home run.

1963 The best hitting streak of Willie McCovey’s career maxes at 24 games.

1964 Luis Tiant makes an impressive big league debut. He tosses a four-hit complete game shutout over the Yankees and Whitey Ford.

1965 The San Francisco Giants sign what’s left of Warren Spahn.

1965 The Mets sign amateur free agent Jim Bibby.

1966 Robin Roberts records 28 outs in a game for the 25th and final time. He lasts 11 innings, but gets a no-decision.

1966 Bryon Browne of the Cubs fans five times in 18-inning game against the Reds. All five Ks are to Jim Maloney. Browne than fans three more times the next day, setting a two-game record.

1966 Joe Torre smashes his 100th home run. He also gets No. 99 today, which is his third and final career grand slam.

1968 Mickey Mantle hits his first triple in exactly 25 months. It’s the last one of his career.

1969 International League game in Buffalo supposedly suspended for “threatening weather.” Reality: knife-wielding gang takes over the clubhouse during batting practice. Well, that is threatening.

1972 Gaylord Perry wins his 150th career game. His career record is 150-116. He’ll go 164-149 the rest of his days.

1972 Steve Carlton wins 3-2 after pitching 11 innings, tying his longest career outing.

1973 After throwing a no-hitter in his previous start, Nolan Ryan nearly does it again. He lasts until the 8th inning when Baltimore’s Mark Belanger (of all people!) singles. Ryan fans 13, while Oriole start Mike Cuellar fans a dozen Angels.

1974 Cleveland’s Dick Bosman no-hits the A’s, 4-0. Oakland only has one base runner, who reaches on an error in the fourth inning. The error is by Bosman himself.

1974 Bruce Bochte makes his major league debut.

1975 The St. Louis Cardinals issue six intentional walks in one game, a record for a nine-inning game. Added bonus: they do it in eight innings, as they lose on the road, 5-2 to the Giants. None of the intentionally walked men score, though. No. 8 hitter in the order Doug Rader is intentionally walked in each of his first three times to the plate.

1975 Thurman Munson hits a RBI single in the first inning, but it’s nullified because the pine tar in his bat goes beyond 18 inches. The Yankees lose 2-1 to the Brewers.

1977 Japan’s Sadaharu Oh draws his 2,057th career walk, one more than Babe Ruth had.

1978 In the top of the fourth, Nolan Ryan loads the bases with no outs, then fans three straight batters to escape without allowing a run. It’s the third time he’s done that in his career. He never does it again.

1978 Pete Rose keeps his hitting streak alive—but barely. The Phillies retire him in the eighth inning, still hitless. Then his teammates have an offensive surge, allowing him to get on with a ninth inning bunt single.

1979 Rick Ankiel is born.

1980 An Angels loss gives manager Jim Fregosi a career record under .500 (183-184). It’ll stay under .500 for the rest of his dugout days.

1982 Tony Gywnn makes his major league debut, doubling in his first trip to the plate.

1983 For the first time in five years and one day, Tom Seaver picks off a runner.

1984 Orel Hershiser has his best Game Score, 92 while tossing a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts. It’s his third consecutive complete-game shutout. In those three games Hershiser allows 11 hits and three walks in that time while fanning 29.

1985 White Sox beat the Twins, 1-0. This is one of only three 20th century games that contain all three following elements: 1) a 1-0 score, 2) two Hall of Fame starters pitchers tossing complete games (Tom Seaver and Bert Blyleven in this case), and 3) the only run coming when a Hall of Famer homers (Carlton Fisk). The other games are the famous Juan Marichal-Warren Spahn duel that ending in 16 innings on a Willie Mays home run, and game Warren Spahn lost to Jim Bunning due to a Bunning home run.

1985 Texas trades longtime infielder Buddy Bell to the Reds.

1986 Ron Darling, Tim Teufel, Bob Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera are all arrested in an early morning fight with off-duty cops working as security at a Houston bar. Yeah, that sounds like the ’86 Mets alright. That day, the Astros win, 5-4. The Mets scored four in the top of the ninth to tie it, but Houston gets the final run in the bottom of the ninth.

1987 Minnesota retires Rod Carew’s number.

1987 Wade Boggs has his worst game, according to WPA anyway. He’s 0-for-6 with a pair of Ks, as the Red Sox lose to the A’s 5-3 in 11 innings. Boggs makes an out to end the ninth and 11th innings, with both outs occurring with runners on first and second base.

1988 In Japan, Hanshin Tigers GM Shingo Furuya kills himself. He’s only been there six weeks but been heavily criticized.

1988 Jose Cruz play in his last game.

1988 Here’s a weird one: Rick Sutcliffe has the rare unassisted pickoff. Brett Butler wanders too far off the bag at first with a runner on second.

1989 Carlton Fisk nails his 2,000th career hit.

1989 Joe Carter has his fourth career three home run game. He’ll end up with five of them, one shy of Johnny Mize’s all-time record (later tied by Sammy Sosa).

1990 Pete Rose sentenced to five months in jail for not paying his taxes.

1991 The Royals lose 17-0 to Detroit, the worst loss in franchise history.

1991 White Sox third baseman has maybe the best game of his life, going 4-for-6 with two doubles, two home runs, three runs, and six RBIs in the team’s 14-3 beating of the Brewers. It’s the first of 21 multi-home run games for Ventura.

1993 It’s the big league debut for Raul Mondesi.

1994 For the first time ever, a game at the Kingdome postponed, as four tiles fall to the field during Mariners-Oriole game.

1998 Carlos Delgado becomes the first player to launch a ball into the Skydome’s fifth deck.

1998 Slap hitter Elmer Valo dies.

1999 For the second straight day, Scott Rolen homers twice in one game.

2000 It’s the big league debut for the talented and troubled Milton Bradley.

2000 The Rangers trade Esteban Loaiza to the Blue Jays for Michael Young and another player. This move works well for Texas.

2001 Jeff Kent belts the first of two career walk-off home runs.

2001 The Rockies trade Todd Walker to the Reds.

2002 Vladimir Guerrero gets his 1,000th hit.

2002 Kenny Lofton collects his 100th home run.

2002 Robin Ventura, who has just 23 HBP in his career, has two in one game.

2004 Pacific Coast League player Tagg Bozied hits the worst walk-off grand slam ever. How can a walk-off slam be bad? Simple: he jumps for joy at home, and ruptures a tendon in his left knee in the process. He’ll never make it to the big leagues.

2004 The Mariners send Rich Aurilla to the Padres as part of a conditional deal.

2006 Greg Maddux loses his 200th game for a career record of 325-200. It comes in a Wrigley Field duel with fellow 300-game winner, Roger Clemens. Houston wins, 4-2. I was at that game. Not great pitching, but the best fielding performance by a pitcher I’ve ever seen. Maddux had a slew of assists, and at one point got a standing ovation for his glove work. Don’t see that too often for pitchers.

2008 Longtime sportswriter Jerome Holtzman dies at age 81.

2008 A New York-Penn League game sees a pinch hitter face the game’s first ambidextrous pitcher. The pitcher is set to pitch with one arm, so the hitter faces him to get the platoon advantage, so the pitcher switches to the other arm, so the batter switches sides of the plate. And so on. Finally, the umps decided the batter needs to declare how he’ll hit before the at bat begins.

2008 Evan Longoria wins the battle versus Roy Halladay, nailing a grand slam on the 10th pitch of an at bat. It’s the first slam Halladay has allowed in five years.

2009 The Angels beat the A’s 1-0 in 10 innings on a Bobby Abreu homer. Brett Anderson gives it up in a complete game loss. He had a perfect game until the seventh—when Abreu singles.

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