40th anniversary: back-to-back first homers

40 years ago, Catfish Hunter made two people feel very good. I’m sure he didn’t want to, as they were opposing hitters, but that’s the way things happen. In a game against the Orioles, Hunter faced two batters who had never homered in the big leagues before, only to have them launch back-to-back balls over the fence against him.

There have been plenty of back-to-back homers hit. And tons of people have hit a first home run. But have you ever heard of back-to-back first home runs? Well, Catfish Hunter has.

On May 9, 1973, Hunter’s A’s played in Baltimore against Earl Weaver’s O’s. The two teams would win all six AL pennants from 1969-74, but in early 1973 they were both off to slow starts, hanging around .500.

Today looked to be Oakland’s day, though, as Hunter outpitched Baltimore’s Dave McNally. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, it was 3-1 Oakland.

This being the early 1970s, Hunter was still in the game to close out his own start. Leading off for Baltimore was Al Bumbry. Though he’d have a fine career for himself, on May 9, 1973, Bumbry was still a raw kid looking to prove himself. Playing in just his 23rd career game, Bumbry had yet to hit a homer.

Well, luckily for Bumbry he was about to prove himself right here. He launched one into the stands for his first home run. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

Next up came center fielder Rich Coggins. He had a bit more experience for himself than Bumbry—this was his 25th game, two more than Bumbry. And like Bumbry, Coggins hadn’t homered before. Also like Bumbry, Coggins changed that right here, with a game-tying solo shot off of Hunter.

Catfish Hunter was a very good pitcher in his prime, with especially nice control. But he was always prone to giving up the long ball. In fact, he’d lead the AL this year with 39 homers allowed, which would be the fifth most ever allowed in a season by an American League pitcher at that point.

Hunter settled down and, because it was a different time, he even stayed in the game when it headed into extra frames. For that matter, so did Dave McNally.

Neither pitched that well in the 10th, though. McNally allowed a run. Hunter surrendered singles to two of the four batters he faced, at which point A’s skipper Dick Williams brought in Darold Knowles to preserve the win, which he did.

As for Bumbry and Coggins, neither ever showed that much power, but both had nice seasons. Coggins would bat .319 in 110 games in 1973, good enough to finish sixth in the Rookie of the Year Award voting. It was all downhill from there, and after three more dismal seasons he was out of the game.

Bumbry was more fortunate. He’d hit .337, while leading the league in triples despite missing a third of the games, to win Rookie of the Year honors. Bumbry became a Baltimore institution, playing for the team for over a decade.

Though their careers took different paths, Coggins and Bumbry are forever yoked together in baseball trivia as the teammates who hit their first homers together back-to-back—and they did it 40 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happens every X-thousand days). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since the Royals trade Jose Guillen to the Giants for cash.

1,000 days since Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey is denied a no-hitter in the most vexing manner possible. The only hit against him comes from opposing pitcher, Cole Hamels. Dickey and the Mets have the last laugh, a 1-0 win.

4,000 days since the Florida Marlins steal seven bases in one game.

4,000 days since Mike Piazza legs out his first triple in over four years.

5,000 days since Randy Johnson records his 14th straight Quality Start, his longest such streak. His line in that time: 113 IP, 80 H, 22 R, 19 ER, 28 BB, 158 K, and a 1.51 ERA. Oh, and a win-loss record of 5-6. Yes, a losing record despite all those Ks and those few runs allowed.

7,000 days since longtime umpire Jim Honochick dies at age 75.

8,000 days since the Dodgers sign amateur free agent Ismael Valdez.

8,000 days since the original Expos ownership group announces the sale of the team to a company headed by Cladue R. Brochu.

At some point today it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the Astros trade second baseman prospect Johnny Ray to the Pirates for Phil Garner. While Garner has the better career, he’s on the down slope, and Ray will have a few very nice seasons in Pittsburgh.

Anniversaries

1871 Cuban Esteban Enrique Bellan becomes the first Hispanic player in the National Association, the proto-major league.

1871 It’s the big league debuts for Lip Pike and Tom York, two of the best players of the 1870s.

1888 With a 12-run lead, right-handed pitcher Icebox Chamberlain decides to have some fun. He pitches lefty for the last two innings—and allows no runs.

1888 Roger Connor, the all-time home run king before Babe Ruth, knocks out three homers in one game.

1889 Amos Rusie, the greatest strikeout pitcher of his era, makes his big league debut. Random fact: Even though Rusie’s career is essentially over by 1898, he’s actually younger than Iron Man Joe McGinnity, a Hall of Famer whose MLB debut came in 1899. Really, two Hall of Fame pitchers—and not controversial selections, either—had careers that scarcely overlapped despite being born within two months of each other. Combined, they still won fewer games than Cy Young, a contemporary of both.

1892 Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon takes over as Baltimore Orioles skipper, and that’s the team largely responsible for his enshrinement in Cooperstown.

1896 Pink Hawley plunks five batters in one game, including three in one inning. Opposing pitcher Win Mercer hits three batsmen.

1896 Umpire Bob Emslie has to be escorted out of Reds ballpark by cops when a controversial non-call allows Baltimore to score a key run in a 6-5 triumph for the visitors.

1896 Shortstop Herman Long is normally known for his first-rate glove work, but today it’s his bat that impresses, as he hits for the cycle.

1901 Rookie Indians pitcher Earl Moore throws nine innings of no-hit ball (though he allows two unearned runs) but loses his no-hitter in the 10th inning.

1901 Ted Breitenstein, one of those pitchers who was far better than his offensive support, plays in his last game.

1905 Iron Man Joe McGinnity, still younger than Amos Rusie, allows two inside-the-park home runs in one game.

1908 Cubs infielder Billy Jurges is born.

1912 Texas League infielder Roy Akin pulls off an unassisted triple play. As it happens, the year before he hit into one.

1913 Wally Schang, a catcher that arguably belongs in Cooperstown, makes his big league debut.

1916 Can’t anyone here play this game? Apparently not the pitchers, as the A’s and Tigers pitchers combine to walk 30 batters in today’s game. The A’s walk 18 and the Tigers issue a dozen free passes.

1916 Tris Speaker first plays in Fenway Park as a visitor. The longtime Red Sox star is in his first season with the Indians. After the first inning, the new Indians centerfielder accidentally heads back to the Boston dugout. Fans predictably cheer him wildly all game long.

1916 New York Giants begin a 17-game winning streak. Not bad, especially since they began this day with a record of 2-13.

1919 Cyclone Joe Williams hurls no-hitter, defeating Negro Leagues rival ace Cannonball Dick Redding, 1-0.

1925 Dave Harris of Braves hits walk-off inside-the-park home run in the 11th inning against Chicago’s Wilbur Cooper. Boston 2, Chicago 1.

1930 Sam Rice hits his 21st inside the park home run. He only hit 34 homers of any sort in his lengthy career. In other words, in 10,251 plate appearances, he hit the ball out of the park just 13 times, once every 789 PA.

1930 The pitchers must’ve been ground ballers. Today’s Tigers-Yankees game sets an all-time AL record with just two outfield putouts all day.

1933 The Browns trade Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell, alongside pitcher Lloyd Brown, to the Red Sox. (OK, so Ferrell’s induction is one of the worst in Cooperstown history, but he’s still a Hall of Famer).

1935 Charlie Gelbert of the Cardinals plays in his first game since a 1932 hunting accident nearly severed his leg.

1935 Rabbit Maranville lays down his 300th career sacrifice hit. He’s the 11th man to do so.

1936 Cub catcher Gabby Hartnett hits two triples in one game

1936 Floyd Robinson is born. As a White Sox outfielder he’ll lead the AL in doubles in 1962.

1936 Senators sign Firpo Marberry as free agent

1937 Reds 21, Phillies 10. Reds get 24 hits in all, including six by catcher Ernie Lombardi. Teammate Alex Kampouris hits three homers, including a grand slam, and ends the day with eight RBIs.

1940 Earl Averill collects his 2,000th career hit. I wonder how many he would’ve had if he’d been bought from the PCL earlier. (He made his debut a month before turning 27, after three seasons of destroying PCL pitching).

1944 After missing much of spring training due to illness, skipper Joe McCarthy returns to the Yankee dugout.

1946 In 12th inning of 2-2 tie, Johnny Hopp of the Braves steals home. The Braves beat the Cubs 5-2.

1947 The Dodgers make public the threatening letters Jackie Robinson has received.

1947 Hot prospect Clint Hartung makes his big league debut. He won’t pan out.

1948 For one day at least, Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese is a champion slugger. He drives in a personal best six RBIs on a double and homer in a 3-for-5 performance.

1950 Ralph Kiner hits his second grand slam in four days.

1953 Dom DiMaggio plays his last game. Though overshadowed by big brother Joe, Dom was a great player in his own right.

1953 Roy Campanella hits a walk-off home run against Robin Roberts.

1954 Warren Spahn loses his 100th game, for a career record of 154-100.

1955 The White Sox release aging first baseman Phil Cavarretta.

1958 In the bottom of the 12th inning, Robin Roberts allows walk-off home run to Ted Kluszewski. Roberts surrenders only four walk-off homers in his career, but two are on May 9.

1960 Tony Gwynn, greatest player in Padres history, is born.

1961 Carl Yastrzemski hits his first career home run.

1961 Orioles slugger Jim Gentile has one of the greatest games in history, belting two grand slams in one contest.

1962 The Orioles trade “Marvelous” Marv Thorneberry to the Mets.

1962 Brooks Robinson becomes the sixth person to hit grand slams in back-to-back games. As it happens, he was also on base for both of teammates Jim Gentile’s slams exactly one year before this one.

1962 Milt Pappas, Orioles, fans a career-high 13 men in one game.

1963 Dick Ellsworth posts a one-hit victory for the Cubs over the Pirates results in Ernie Banks registering a new NL record 22 putouts at first.

1963 Frank Robinson has one of his best games, going 5-for-5 with three runs, seven RBIs, a double, and two homers. He’ll have a better game a few years later, when he joins Gentile in the rare two-slams-in-one-game club.

1964 Wally Post, former star Reds outfielder, plays in his last game. He thrice led the league in strikeouts.

1965 Yogi Berra and Roy Sievers end their major league careers in the same doubleheader. It’s rare you see two notable players end their career in one day in the same park like that.

1966 Tom Cheney pitches his last game. His moment of glory came when he fanned 21 batters in a 16-inning complete game.

1970 Brooks Robinson hits his 200th home run.

1971 Darrell Evans belts his first career home run. It comes off the legendary Cardinals pitcher, Bob Gibson.

1973 Johnny Bench homers three times in a game. It’s the second time in his career he’s done it, and as it happens, both times came against the same opposing pitcher: Steve Carlton.

1975 Jim Kaat notches a personal best 12th straight win. His numbers in that spell: 16 G, 14 GS, 7 CG, 2 SHO, 113 IP, 89 H, 25 H, 17 ER, 26 BB, 74 K, and a 1.35 ERA.

1976 In the bottom of the first inning, Gaylord Perry walk in a run—something he’d last done on June 19, 1971, some 1,531.1 innings previously.

1976 A line drive fractures the kneecap of White Sox workhorse Wilbur Wood. He’s done for the year.

1976 Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter makes his big league debut.

1977 Baseball’s two newest teams meet for the first time: Toronto and Seattle. The Blue Jays win, 12-4.

1978 Gary Carter’s best WPA game: 0.834 WPA. He was 2-for-2 with a home run, walk, and three RBIs in 7-6 Expos win over the Braves. His homer was a three-run shot with two outs in the top of the ninth with the Expos trailing 6-4.

1978 Aaron Harang, starting pitcher, is born.

1979 During an umpire’s strike, substitute umpire Dave Pallone ejects the entire St. Louis Cardinals bench after a player throws helmets and bats onto the field to protest a call.

1979 Speaking of umpire troubles during their strike, four bench-clearing brawls highlight Pittsburgh’s 17-9 win over the Braves. Five players and both managers are ejected. Today’s events help the strike end with a victory for the umpires.

1979 Brandon Webb, great pitcher until he blew his arm out, is born

1979 Carl Yastrzemski hits his first walk-off home run in 14 years.

1979 Its the only time a game ends with Robin Yount fanning with the bases loaded. Cleveland beats Brewers, 8-7.

1980 Jim Rice gets his 1,000th hit.

1981 Tom Paciorek hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth for the second straight game. Not bad.

1982 The Expos release Bill Lee, who walked off the team the day before.

1982 the Dodgers trade John Franco to Reds for Rafael Landestoy

1984 Harold Baines homers in the bottom of the 25th to end the longest game in AL history: CWS 8, MIL 7 (25).

1984 Umpire “Cowboy” Joe West ejects two cameramen from the dugout for showing replays to players of a controversial play.

1984 Prince Fielder, slugging first baseman, is born.

1985 After 24 straight innings without a run, the Giants finally push someone across the plate. It comes at a good time for a 1-0 win in 12 innings over the Cubs.

1986 The Mariners name Dick Williams their new manager. He resigned from the Padres in February.

1986 The Phillies release Dave Stewart, whose best years are still to come.

1987 Chris Speier hits his second grand slam of the year. Previously, he’d gone 15 years without one.

1987 Eddie Murray homers from both sides of the plate for the second straight day, something unprecedented in baseball history.

1988 A’s win their 14th straight game, a franchise record, and the longest winning streak by any team since 1977.

1988 Jerry Reuss wins his 200th game, becoming one of the few to do it without a 20-win season. At one point, Milt Pappas was the only one to lodge that many career wins without a 20-win season, but Reuss and Charlie Hough and others expand the club.

1988 The Angels release aging first baseman Bill Buckner.

1989 Jose Canseco undergoes operation to repair a stress fracture on his left hand and will miss half of the season.

1989 Longtime catcher Alan Ashby appears in his last game.

1990 Minor leaguer Bernard Gilkey gets three hits in an inning.

1990 Roger Clemens wins his 100th career game. He’s 100-47.

1990 Rickey Henderson receives his second and final career walk-off walk. The other one came when he was a rookie.

1993 Mark Grace hits for the cycle. I remember this one. That day, I decided to keep score while watching the game at home, something I never do. But it happened this day. From memory, every time Grace came up, there were two outs and none on.

1993 Rockies draw their 1,000,000th fan in 17 home games, a new record.

1994 Rockies minor leaguer Neifi Perez achieves an unassisted triple play.

1995 Ugueth U. Urbina makes his big league debut.

1995 Indians score eight runs before making their first out in a game.

1995 High school star Sean Gallagher from Wilmington, NC has his consecutive game his streak snapped at 51 games. He was intentionally walked his last time up.

1995 Rickey Henderson hits a pinch-hit, walk-off, three-run homer for 7-5 Oakland win over the Mariners. The homers’ WPA is 0.796, the best one-swing WPA Henderson ever had.

1997 Prior to the game, Pittsburgh Pirate players stand inside stadium gates to shake hands with fans and pose for pictures. Then they beat the Braves, 9-0.

1997 The Reds release veteran player Ruben Sierra.

1997 Confusing play: Jay Bell called out for passing his teammate in a rundown, but the call is reversed by the umpires because the other guy was already called out earlier in the play. Bell goes on to score. The opposing team protests to the league, but the league sides with the umpires.

1999 Florida State University slugger Marshall McDougall homers in six consecutive trips to the plate in 26-2 win over Maryland. He also homered to start the game. He had 16 RBIs on the day.

2000 Cal Ripken first plays DH.

2000 Damian Miller belts a walk-off grand slam off Orel Hershier for an 11-7 Arizona win over Los Angeles in 12 innings.

2003 Dontrelle Willis makes his big league debut. The charismatic young hurler will be a bright star for the game before arm trouble derails his career.

2006 Minor leaguer Delmon Young suspended 50 games for throwing his bat that hit a replacement umpire in the chest (during the minor league umpires’ strike).

2006 Relief pitcher Danny Graves appears in his last game.

2008 San Diego releases Jim Edmonds, in what turns out to be a premature move.

2008 Toronto signs free agent Brad Wilkerson, whose career hasn’t gone according to plan.

2009 A 1-0 loss raises Zack Greinke’s ERA up to 0.51. Yeah, he was that good in early 2009.

2010 Dallas Braden throws a perfect game in a 4-0 A’s win over the Rays.

2012 Mariano Rivera reveals that he’s got a blood clot in his leg. It’s unrelated to his knee injury but more serious to his overall health.

2012 Seattle uses catcher John Jaso as a leadoff hitter. It’s the first time the franchise has done that since 1978.

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