Thirty years ago today, one of the game’s All-Stars pulled of a nightmare play. It’s the sort of thing that could’ve—and nearly did—cost him the worst kind of lasting infamy in the game.
On that day, the Brewers played the Baltimore Orioles. In the third inning Simmons made one of the worst mistakes you can commit—he lost track of the outs. With runners on first and second and one out, Simmons caught strike three for the inning’s second out and promptly rolled the ball back to the mound because he thought the inning was over.
No, it wasn’t. And both runners advanced a base, and immediately scored when the next Baltimore batter singled. Oops. Well, one of those runs would’ve come home anyway, but not both. Making it even worse, due to rain the game ended in a 2-2 tie after nine innings. Thus, if Simmons hadn’t made his bonehead play, Milwaukee would’ve won.
Let’s look at some history for a second. There is a precedent for a play like this. In 1908, young Giants first baseman Merkle didn’t advance to second when a teammate scored a walk-off run against the Cubs. Due to his play, the game ended in a tie, and the season ended in a tie between the Giants and Cubs necessitating a replay of the Merkle game, which the Cubs won to take the pennant. Merkle’s gaffe cost the Giants a win and the pennant, and earned him the nickname “Bonehead.” Now, Simmons had made a screw-up that turned a win into a tie.
Still, it didn’t look very important at the time. On June 16, both Milwaukee and Baltimore were scuffling, barely over .500. So a game had been cost, but it didn’t look like a pennant was up for grabs.
Yeah, but then the season kept going on. The Brewers immediately got hot, winning 22 of their next 28 and landing safely in first place. By late August, it looked like they had the pennant sewed up with a 6.5 game lead.
Then Baltimore got hot. Suddenly, that big lead wasn’t so big anymore. Oh, and the season was going to end with a four-game Brewers-Orioles series in Baltimore. It was originally going to be a three-game series, but they had to schedule a fourth one to make up for the Bonehead Simmons game that ended in a tie. Making things perfect, heading into the series, Milwaukee had a three-game lead, so Baltimore could win the division with a sweep.
Ted Simmons’ nightmare scenario had a very serious chance to become a reality.
The Brewers came to town on Oct. 1 and in barely over 24 hours proceeded to lose three games, evening the AL East division race. Milwaukee lost one game on the first day and then a doubleheader the next day—and one game in that doubleheader was the Simmons makeup.
Fortunately for Simmons, reality doesn’t always like to follow the dramatic story lines, and the Brewers won the last game in a 10-2 laugher to take the division. Simmons’ screw-up could be forgiven and forgotten about. But no one knew that 30 years ago today when Simmons first thoughtlessly rolled the ball to the pitcher’s mound after the second out in the inning.
Aside from that, many other events 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 rather just skim.
1,000 days since the Cubs suspend outfielder Milton Bradley for the rest of the year after he criticized the team in the papers.
4,000 days since Greg Maddux wins his 250th career decision.
4,000 days since Atlanta signs free agent Ken Caminiti.
5,000 days since Kevin Brown dominates Game Two of the 1998 NLCS, allowing only three hits in a complete game shutout in a 3-0 Padres win over the Braves.
7,000 days since Mike Hampton makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since the Orioles somehow end up with three runners on third base at the same time. On a bases loaded flyout, the guy on third stays put, the runner on second advances, and somehow the runner from first (apparently not realizing it was a flyout) goes all the way to third.
15,000 days since Clete Boyer plays in his final game.
15,000 days since A’s phenom Vida Blue has his 10th consecutive win and 11th straight Quality Start. His numbers in that stretch: 11-0, 11 GS, 10 CG, 94 IP, 50 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 30 BB, and 93 K for a 0.96 ERA. On the entire season, he’s 10-1 with a 1.03 ERA.
30,000 days since Lefty Gomez has his major league debut.
1884 Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke hits for the cycle.
1885 Henry Larkin gets six hits in one game while hitting for the cycle. It’s the third cycle in the last five days in the majors.
1886 The first black organized league, the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists, begins with the Memphis team topping New Orleans, 3-1.
1893 Veteran pitcher Tony Mullane is traded by Cincinnati to Baltimore.
1894 Hall of Fame batter Ed Delahanty gets six hits in one game.
1894 First baseman Fred Tenney makes his big league debut. He’ll last about 15 years in the majors. In fact, Fred Merkle’s moment of infamy in 1908 comes when he fills in for Tenney in a game.
1894 In an Ivy League game against Princeton, two members of Yale invent the squeeze play. It will come to the majors eight years later.
1897 Hall of Fame skipper Fred Selee manages his 1,000th game. He’s 610-377 for his career.
1897 At age 24, Fred Clarke manages his first game. He’ll later briefly become baseball’s all-time winningest manager.
1905 Branch Rickey makes his big league debut as catcher.
1908 Ned Garvin, pitcher who had such bad poor run support that Bill James once termed him the game’s hardest luck pitcher ever, dies at age 34.
1914 In the Federal League, St. Louis tops Brooklyn 13-12 in 12 innings. Heading into the final frame, it was 5-5.
1916 Boston Braves pitcher Tom Hughes throws a no-hitter in a 2-0 win over the Pirates.
1924 Abner Graves, the man who provided (false) evidence that Abner Doubleday invented baseball, shoots his wife to death. At age 90, he is institutionalized.
1924 Giants first baseman George “Highpockets” Kelly ties a big league record by homering in his sixth straight game.
1924 Outfielder Harry Hooper, in his 16th season, hits his first grand slam. He’ll get another one two months and 11 days later.
1931 Frankie Frisch hits his second and final career walk-off home run.
1932 Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Jesse Haines throws a complete game shutout and hits a home run. St. Louis 2, Philadelphia 0.
1933 Brooklyn trades outfielder Lefty O’Doul to the Giants.
1934 Bob Johnson gets six hits in an 11-inning game for the A’s.
1936 Kiki Cuyler joins the 2,000 hit club. He does it in fewer than 1,600 games.
1938 Jimmie Foxx becomes just the second player since 1920 (and maybe second ever) to have six plate appearances in a game but no at-bats. He walks all six times. He scores twice as his Red Sox team tops the Browns, 12-8.
1940 21 members of the Indians call for the resignation of manager Ossie Vitt. It’s the “Cleveland Crybabies” rebellion, as the press will term it.
1945 After starting his big league career with a record of 8-0, Boston’s Dave “Boo” Ferriss finally loses, as the Yankees beat him, 3-2..
1945 The Giants trade aging Joe Medwick to the Braves.
1945 Red Schoendienst steals two bases in one game for the only time. He’ll steal only 89 bases in his career, but will lead the league with 26 this year, his rookie season.
1952 Pittsburgh signs amateur free agent Dick Groat.
1952 Washington signs 40-something starting pitcher Bobo Newsom, whom the A’s sign that same day.
1953 Johnny Mize gets his 2,000th hit.
1954 Pee Wee Reese belts his 100th home run.
1957 White Sox starting pitcher Dixie Howell hits two homers while pitching just 3.2 innings in an 8-6 Chicago win over the Senators.
1958 The Cubs sign amateur free agent pitcher Dick Ellsworth.
1961 Harmon Killebrew blasts his 100th home run.
1961 Ernie Banks plays his first game at first base. He’ll end up with more games there than at shortstop in his career.
1961 Lew Burdette homers off Sandy Koufax. It’s the second time the Milwaukee pitcher has done that against Koufax. Only one other pitcher ever homers off him. Today’s blast proves to be the difference, as Milwaukee wins, 2-1.
1961 Washington pitchers issue 15 free passes to the Red Sox in a 14-9 Boston wins.
1962 After missing a month with an injury, Mickey Mantle hits a three-run pinch-hit monster home run in the top of the eighth to give the Yankees a 9-7 lead over the Indians. Cleveland wins the game, though, 10-9. Based on the information provided in Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, this must be the homer Bouton refers to when he recalls a badly hung over Mantle smashing a pinch-hit home run.
1962 Wally Joyner is born.
1963 The Phillies sign amateur free agent starting pitcher Rick Wise.
1964 Ken Boyer hits for the cycle for the second time in his career.
1966 Cubs third baseman Ron Santo lays down his first sacrifice bunt since Sept. 15, 1962.
1970 The Mad Hungarian Al Hrabosky makes his big league debut.
1971 Graig Nettles enjoys the only five-hit game of his career, going 5-for-5 with a double.
1973 Cy Young Award winning pitcher Randy Jones makes his big league debut.
1975 Don Sutton is halfway to 300, as he wins his 150th game today. His record is 150-118.
1975 Atlanta signs amateur free agent Rick Mahler, who will have a series of Opening Day shutouts for them.
1976 George Brett plays the full game at shortstop. He’ll do it again four days later, and that’s it for his career.
1977 Kid K Kerry Wood is born.
1978 Bob Horner makes his big league debut with the Braves.
1978 Tom Seaver finally throws a no-hitter, as he blanks the Cardinals while walking three in a 4-0 Reds win. Three times earlier in his career he had a would-be no-hitter broken up in the ninth inning.
1979 Pete Rose receives a walk-off walk, the first of two he gets in his career.
1981 The Chicago Tribune purchases the Chicago Cubs for $20.5 million. This turns out to be a nice investment.
1984 Lou Piniella appears in his last game.
1985 Big Daddy Rick Reuschel, exactly 36 years and one month old, steals a base. He’ll get another one two years later, but that will be at the back of a double steal.
1986 El Presidente goes to a country with a prime minister. Baltimore trades Dennis Martinez to the Expos.
1986 Charlie Hough has his game in hell. He takes a no-hitter into the ninth only to lose the no-hitter, shutout, and game—largely due to a series of gaffes. Defensive replacement George Wright commits a three-base error in left field. Then Hough allows an RBI single to tie the game 1-1. A passed ball advances the winning run to scoring position, and then he dashes all the way from second to home on another passed ball. He first made it to third but turned to home when he realized Hough forgot to cover the plate.
1986 Jamie Moyer makes his big league debut.
1987 Cal Ripken gets his 1,000th hit.
1987 Alan Trammell’s longest hitting streak peaks at 21 games.
1988 Former Reds All-Star pitcher Mario Soto appears in his final game.
1989 Sammy Sosa makes his big league debut.
1992 The Angels retire Nolan Ryan’s number.
1995 Bobby Jones hurls 10 innings for the Mets. It’s the last time they’ve had a pitcher go over nine innings.
1995 Craig Biggio homers in the top of the 15th inning, the latest he ever goes deep in one game.
1995 Oakland’s Todd Stottlemyre throws 10 innings in a game, which is the last time an A’s hurler has gone that long in a game.
1996 Veteran announcer and the voice of This Week in Baseball Mel Allen dies at age 83.
1996 Mark McGwire hits three doubles in one game for the only time in his career.
1999 Alex Rodriguez lays down a sacrifice hit, which is to date the last one of his career. It’s his 16th.
2001 John Olerud hits his second career cycle. He’s one of the only men to hit for the cycle in both leagues. That’s rather unlikely as he rarely ever triples in his career.
2001 Aaron Rowand makes his major league debut.
2001 Sam Jethroe, a Negro Leaguer who became one of the major league’s first black players, dies at age 84.
2002 Mark Grace bops his 500th career double.
2005 Age be damned, 46-year-old Julio Franco steals a pair of bases in one game. In the seventh inning he has a leadoff single and then steals second and third. They come against Reds pitcher Matt Belisle and catcher Javier Valentin. He scores a few minutes later on a double.
2008 The floundering Seattle Mariners fire GM Bill Bavasi.
2010 Michael Young collects his 1,748th hit as a Ranger, breaking Ivan Rodriguez’s franchise record.
2011 Oops! In the 10th inning against the Braves, Mets pitcher D.J. Carrasco allows a walk-off balk. New York loses, 9-8.