Thirty years ago today, a new club began in baseball, the 2,000 strikeout club. Sure, many pitchers had achieved 2,000 Ks, but in 1983—for the first time ever—a batter struck out for the 2,000th time.
Striking out that many times takes some doing. When Jackson began, the game’s all-time strikeout champion was Mickey Mantle, with over 1,500. That was huge back in those days, as only eight men had ever struck out 1,000 times prior to 1967.
But things were changing. No one had struck out 1,000 times until Babe Ruth, and the 1920s and ’30s were very low strikeout times in general. World War II also hindered admittance to the club because many of the best players were serving overseas.
Strikeout rates went up in the 1950s and then further in the 1960s. By and large, they’ve been on an upward trend ever since. Thus, while there were only eight men who had fanned 1,000 times by Opening Day, 1967, by the time Jackson had reached that mark in 1975, he was one of 44 members.
And Jackson kept on whiffing. He fanned at least 100 times in 18 of his 21 seasons. The three times he didn’t were his abbreviated 35-game rookie season, the strike-shortened 1981 season, and his last year, when he fanned 97 times in 336 at-bats. Jackson swung for the fences and was willing to take the big miss to get the big blast.
By the late 1970s, Willie Stargell had overthrown Mantle to become the all-time whiff king. During 1982, Jackson passed up Stargell, and has been the strikeout leader ever since. Stargell retired just shy of 2,000 Ks, showing the way for Jackson to set the milestone.
Jackson did it in appropriate fashion, I suppose. May 13, 1983, began with Jackson sitting on 1,997 punchouts. Twins starter Frank Viola fanned him twice to put Jackson on the cusp of history. In the bottom of the 11th, Minnesota reliever Len Whitehouse got the historic strike three for Jackson’s 2,000th strikeout.
In the years since, despite the ever-increasing strikeout rates, Jackson remains No. 1 in batter strikeouts, and there are just five others over 2,000. Andres Galarraga was one of the first men to join Jackson over 2,000 Ks, but barely as Galarraga retired with 2,003 strikeouts.
For a while it looked like Sammy Sosa might pass him up, but Sosa aged poorly in the early 21st century, and he never got to Jackson’s 2,597 punchout total. Jim Thome likely would’ve passed Jackson up this year had any team signed him, since he’s just 49 back: 2,548 Ks to Jackson’s 2,597. But Thome went unsigned, preserving Jackson’s record.
Two active players are the others over 2,000. For a long time it looked like Adam Dunn might break the record, as he is the all-time king of the three true outcomes: home run, walk, or strikeout. But he’s having a horrible 2013, after a rotten second half in 2012, which came after a historically futile 2011. He still needs 500 more Ks and isn’t likely to get there.
That just leaves Alex Rodriguez. He is 37 years old and 564 whiffs behind Reggie. If A-Rod can recover from his hip injury and be productive enough at the plate to last several more years, he has a chance. That said, it’s not necessarily a good chance. Over his last five seasons, he fanned fewer than 564 times. He’s likely to play less as he gets older, and so he’d need to last until he’s 43 or older. That’s tough to do.
There’s no one else on the horizon that looks likely to catch Jackson. Miguel Cabrera would be the next person with any sort of shot, but he just completed his third straight year with under 100 punchouts.
Reggie Jackson is still the strikeout king, and he looks to remain so for quite some time. And the strikeout king fanned for the 2,000th time, 30 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happens X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since the mother of Sadaruh Oh dies at age 108. Normally I wouldn’t include a player’s mother’s death, but … 108 years old!
1,000 days since the Mets put closer Francisco Rodriguez on the disqualified list. He is facing criminal charges for punching his father-in-law, and he injured his thumb in the process, too.
1,000 days since Jim Thome ties a record with his 12th career walk-off home run. He’s since broken the record.
2,000 days since the Brewers sign intense veteran catcher Jason Kendall.
4,000 days since the Royals hit three straight home runs in the 11th inning.
4,000 days since the Phillies all-time record bottoms out 1,243 games under .500 (8,360-9,603). They’ll tie it five days later but never go lower.
4,000 days since Carlos Beltran has his greatest game according to WPA. He’s 3-for-5 with a pair of homers and a walk in a 10-7 Royals win over Texas for a 0.916 WPA.
5,000 days since Pedro Martinez fans 15 Seattle Mariners in eight scoreless innings.
8,000 days since former pitcher Dave Dravecky has his arm amputated.
8,000 days since Robin Ventura connects for the first of 18 career grand slams.
15,00 days since Dick Tidrow makes his big league debut.
20,000 days since Eddie Mathews gets his 1,000th hit.
20,000 days since Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon has two assists in the seventh inning of a game against the Reds.
60,000 days since the Knickerbockers become the first team to wear uniforms for a game: straw hats, white shirts, and blue trousers.
1886 Larry Gardner is born. He’ll be a star infielder for the Red Sox and arguably the best third baseman of his day.
1896 Elton “Ice Box” Chamberlain pitches in his last game. Aside from having a memorable nickname, he won 157 games, including a 32-win season.
1899 Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty connects for four doubles in one game.
1901 300-game winner Gettysburg Eddie Plank makes his big league debut.
1902 Outfielder Davy Jones jumps from the Browns to the Cubs. He’ll later switch to the Tigers, where he’ll play for many years.
1911 Pete Alexander pitches eight inning of hitless relief in a 16-inning, 5-4 Phillies win over the Reds. It’s the longest game of the 1911 NL: three hours and 45 minutes.
1911 Ty Cobb belts his first grand slam. It gives Detroit a 10-1 lead, but they blow it, losing 13-11 to Boston.
1912 Bob Ewing pitches in his last game. Though he didn’t make it to the majors until he was nearly 30, he won 124 games, mostly with the Reds, including a 20-11 season for them in 1905.
1912 It’s a prank with a big future ahead of it. Western Union operator Lou Proctor jokingly inserts his own name in the box score of a Red Sox-Browns game, and that will allow him to make the original MacMillan Encyclopedia.
1918 Connie Mack manages his 3,000th game. His record: 1,566-1,384.
1919 Charlie Robertson makes his big league debut. He’ll throw a perfect game in his short career.
1921 The Cardinals lose, dropping their all-time franchise record to its lowest point, 458 games under .500 (2,493-2,951).
1921 A jury acquits Bernie Kauff, who was accused of throwing games. He’ll be banned for life anyway.
1923 Joe Sewell, the hardest player to strike out in history, strikes out twice in a game. It’s the first of two times he does that.
1929 It’s the first time ever that both teams have all their players with uniform numbers on their backs. The Indians top the Yankees, 4-3.
1929 Bill Doak, veteran spitballer, appears in his last game.
1933 Johnny Roseboro, Dodgers catcher, is born.
1934 Lou Gehrig hits the 15th of his record 23 career grand slams. It’s just three days since No. 14.
1934 Chuck Klein belts his 200th home run. It’s just three years and two days since No. 100. He’s the eighth person ever to reach 200 homers.
1934 Hank Greenberg records two sacrifice hits in one game for the only time in his career.
1934 Leon Wagner, Daddy Wags, is born.
1937 Angry at a balk call, Dizzy Dean leaves the mound, only to return when the crowd chants his name. He isn’t cooled down when he comes back, though; he throws at the next batter.
1939 The St. Louis Browns trade the well-traveled Bobo Newsom and three others to the Tigers for a half-dozen players.
1940 The Indians release veteran pitcher Willis Hudlin.
1940 Johnny Mize hits three home runs in a game. It’s the third time he’s done that.
1942 Joe DiMaggio gets his 1,000th hit.
1942 Braves pitcher Jim Tobin has a historical day, becoming the only pitcher to smack three home runs in one game. He needs them, as it gives him a 6-5 win over the Cubs.
1943 Cubs pitcher Pat Malone dies at the stunningly young age of 40.
1944 Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1946 The Yankees become the first team to start flying to their games on a regular basis. Some of the team, including veteran pitcher Red Ruffing, opt to take the train instead.
1947 For the second time in his career, Bobby Doerr hits for the cycle.
1950 Bobby Valentine is born.
1950 The Red Sox release Piper Davis, their first black minor leaguer. He was leading his Class A team in hitting at the time of his release.
1950 Longtime batter Juan Beniquez is born. He’ll play 17 years in the major leagues.
1952 Ron Necciai of the Briston Twins in the Appalachian League fans 27 batters in a 7-0, no-hit win. He hits one, walks one, and one batter reaches on error. Another hitter reaches on a passed ball on a swinging strike three, so one person was able to ground out.
1952 For the only time in his career, Mickey Mantle plays third base. He fields four balls and makes two errors.
1955 For the first (but not last) time, Mickey Mantle homers from both sides of the plate in one game. He gets three homers in the day in all, the only time he ever does that. He’s 4-for-4 with a single.
1956 Duke Snider hits his fifth and final grand slam. He has about 170 or so homers left, but no other slams.
1956 Eddie Mathews plays both ends of a doubleheader despite having glass shards deeply lodged in his face. A woman threw something at him the night before while partying. Somehow, he goes 4-for-8 in a doubleheader.
1956 For the third time in his career, Warren Spahn belts a home run while throwing a complete-game shutout. The Braves destroy the Reds, 15-0.
1958 Stan Musial gets his 3,000th career. It takes him just 2,301 games.
1958 Willie Mays has a great day, going 5-for-5 with a pair of homers and a pair of triples. It’s also the second straight day he has two homers in a game.
1959 Warren Spahn wins his 250th game.
1959 The White Sox purchase veteran outfielder Larry Doby from the Tigers for $30,000.
1960 The Tigers top the A’s, 4-3, on a 14th-inning walk-off error.
1960 Dick Groat of the Pirates becomes the first NL player in seven years to get six hits in one game.
1962 Carl Yastrzemski legs out the first of his three career inside-the-park home runs.
1964 The Reds purchase hard-throwing Ryne Duren from the Phillies.
1965 Milt Pappas picks up his 100th win, for a 100-65 career record.
1965 25-year-old Angels reliever Dick Wantz dies following surgery from brain cancer.
1965 Hard-throwing pitcher Jose Rijo is born.
1965 Catfish Hunter makes his big league debut.
1965 Yankee infielder Horace Clarke plays in his first major league game.
1969 Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, drives in his 1,500 run during a 19-0 whumping of the Pirates.
1969 Rod Carew circles the bases for his sole career inside-the-park home run.
1972 The Brewers and Twins complete yesterday’s curfew-limited 22-inning game (21 innings played yesterday, one today), and then begin today’s regularly scheduled game, which goes 15 innings. The Twins win it, 5-4.
1972 Mets pitcher Buzz Capra throws a shutout and drives in the only run in a 1-0 victory.
1973 Willie Mays, in his final season, goes on the DL with a sore shoulder.
1973 Jerry Reuss has the best start of his career: a three-hit, complete-game shutout with a dozen whiffs. His Game Score is 91, his all-time best.
1976 An Indians ball girl named Debbie Brandt dresses in white to be a fairy godmother. She’s there to counteract the Red Sox using a witch to put a curse on Cleveland just prior to a Boston triumph over the Indians. Fairy godmother Brandt sprinkles fairy dust on the glove of Rick Manning, but it doesn’t work, as he makes two bad misplays in the field.
1976 For the sixth straight game, George Brett gets at least three hits.
1978 Giants pitcher Barry Zito is born.
1979 Mike Schmidt cranks out his 200th career home run.
1980 Boston star Fred Lynn hits for the cycle.
1980 Ray Knight smacks two home run in the fifth inning for the Reds.
1982 The Cubs record their 8,000th franchise win, a 5-0 shutout over Houston.
1985 Tony Perez’s eighth and final pinch-hit home run is his sole pinch-hit grand slam.
1986 Tim Raines‘ longest hitting streak maxes out at 17 games. He’s 29-for-70 during the run.
1988 The Royals sign free agent first baseman Bill Buckner.
1989 Kirby Puckett clubs four doubles in one game.
1990 Former All-Star catcher Jody Davis appears in his last game.
1993 George Brett hits his 300th home run in a Royals-Indians game marred by a bench-clearing brawl that began when Albert Belle charged the mound. Belle will be suspended for three games.
1993 Paul Molitor enjoys his best game according to WPA. He’s 2-for-5 with a double, homer and four RBIs in Toronto’s 6-5 win over Detroit. Molitor’s WPA is 1.000 even.
1994 Tim Salmon gets his 13th consecutive hit. Not bad.
1998 The Braves ties a record by getting a home run in their 25th consecutive game.
1999 The Mexico City Tigers crack three grand slams in a 16-5 win. Julio Franco has one of the slams.
2000 Mike Trombley surrenders three homers without recording a single out. It’s just the fourth time any hurler has done that.
2000 The Mets release the aging Ricky Henderson.
2000 Ken Griffey Jr. has his best game ever according to WPA: 1.011 WPA. He’s 3-for-4 with a double, hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and two homers in the Reds’ 8-7 win over Houston.
2001 Jeff Kent hits his 200th career home run.
2002 Jeff Kent draws a walk-off walk.
2007 Fred Lewis hits for the cycle.
2009 For the first time ever, a reviewed home run call is reversed. It’s an Adam LaRoche shot for the Pirates against St. Louis. It’s just the 14th reviewed call overall.
2009 Nice start! Arizona’s Gerardo Parra becomes the 100th player to homer in his first plate appearance.
2009 Ken Griffey Jr. celebrates the ninth anniversary of his best WPA game with his worst WPA game. In a 6-5 Seattle loss to Texas, he’s 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts and a GIDP for a –0.460 WPA.
2009 Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game hitting streak comes to an end.
2010 Mat Latos not only nearly throws a no-hitter but also drives in the only run in a 1-0 victory. In the sixth inning, he allows the only hit of the game, an infield single to third, where the batter was just ever so slightly ahead of the throw to first.
2010 The Royals hire manager Ned Yost.
2011 Harmon Killebrew issues a statement that he’s entering hospice care for his final days.
2012 There are only three walk-off grand slams in all of 2012, but two of them come on this day. Joey Votto hits one for a 9-6 Reds win over the Nationals, and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton hits the other in an 8-4 victory over the Mets. The Marlins score six times in the bottom of the ninth in a stunning comeback.