40 years ago today, the White Sox had arguably the greatest one-game clutch performance by any batter in franchise history. It would be an argument not based on the game’s overall importance; it was a routine affair without any real pennant race impact. It’s an argument based just on what the guy did in that game.
And according to at least one metric, no ChiSox hitter ever did as much to help his team win a game as Carlos May did 40 years ago today.
The metric here is Wins Probability Added (WPA). This is the “story stat,” designed to show how each plate appearance affects the chances that a team wins the game. Each squad starts off with a 50/50 chance of winning and the victor ends at 100 percent, and the loser zero percent. It’s a “story stat” because it tries to gauge how the game feels.
And Carlos May was king for the day all those years ago.
On Sept. 3, 1973, the White Sox hosted the Texas Rangers for a Labor Day doubleheader, and May would own the first game.
Early on, not much happened to affect either team’s WPA very much. That’s just the way the stat is designed—big things later move it dramatically. Still, May made the most of his early opportunities at the plate. He drew a walk in the second inning with the Sox down 1-0 (and then later scored the tying run). In the fourth, May hit a routine fly out, but that dropped Chicago’s chances of winning by just two percent. May finally got his first hit in the sixth, a single with no one on and no outs.
In all, he had a mildly positive WPA so far, but he was about to get many more chances to make his mark—and he’d take full advantage of them.
May’s first great moment came in the bottom of the seventh. The Sox had entered the inning trailing Texas 6-2, but had put together a rally. They’d scored one run already to make it 6-3, and had two more men on when May stepped to the plate with two outs. With one swing, May tied it on a three-run homer. Just like that, Chicago’s chances of winning skyrocketed from 12 percent to 52 percent. And there was still plenty of game left to play.
Texas spurted ahead to another lead, 8-7, and in the bottom of the ninth, May again came to the plate with a chance to be a hero. With a runner on third and two outs, May again drove home the tying run, this time on a sharply hit single. Chicago’s chances for winning again leapt up by 40 percent: from 16 to 56 percent.
The game went into extra innings, and in the bottom of the 11th May again came to the plate. This time he didn’t need to tie the game. It was already tied, 8-8. But there were runners on first and second (though this time with just one out). Chicago had a 71 percent chance of winning, but May made it a full 100 percent with his RBI walk-off single.
In all, Carlos May’s WPA on the game scored at 1.204—meaning he’d done enough by himself to account for 1.2 wins. It’s the best WPA performance by any Chicago White Sox hitter—and it was 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened 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 sign free agent first baseman Carlos Pena.
1,000 days since the Royals sign free agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur. It doesn’t take.
2,000 days since 59-year-old comedian Billy Crystal appears for the Yankees in spring training, striking out against Paul Maholm.
2,000 days since the Cardinals sign free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse.
2,000 days since the Mets sign free agent Fernando Tatis.
3,000 days since the Diamondbacks allow 10 runs in an inning for the second straight game. Yesterday the Cubs did it but today it’s Cleveland.
3,000 days since Kenny Rogers wins his ninth straight decision, a personal best.
6,000 days since Ila Borders becomes the first woman to play in the minors, when she pitches in relief for the St. Paul Saints. She allows three runs without recording an out.
6,000 days since Jose Cruz Jr. makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since Chris Turner, a catching hitting .138 entering today’s game, gets three singles and two doubles—and even steals home.
7,000 days since Toronto’s Darnell Coles hits three homes in one game for the second time in his career.
7,000 days since Paul Molitor hits his first grand slam in 13 years, two months, and 13 days.
10,000 days since Tom Seaver gets his 200th career loss.
10,000 days since Oakland’s Alfredo Griffin makes a base running play that is equal parts dangerous, memorable, and risky, as he scores from second on a bases loaded walk. He catches Seattle not paying attention and makes the Martiners pay.
10,000 days since young Bobby Witt is yanked from the game after five innings despite having a no-hitter going. He’s allowed eight walks and thrown two wild pitches, but also fanned 10.
10,000 days since Steve Carlton suffers his 10th straight loss, a career worst streak.
15,000 days since Steve Carlton homers while throwing a complete game shutout, something he does four times in his career.
1876 George Stone, briefly a great hitter, is born.
1885 Ed Konetchy, fine first baseman, is born.
1890 Harry Stovey becomes the first person in baseball history to hit his 100th home run.
1894 Connie Mack manages his first of over 7,000 big league games.
1901 Iron Man Joe McGinnity pitches both ends of a doubleheader, splitting the games for Baltimore against Milwaukee.
1902 Ed Delahanty bashes his 100th home run.
1903 Indians pitcher Jesse Stovall makes quite the debut, throwing an 11-inning shutout, which is the longest debut shutout ever.
1903 Due to rainouts, Hudson and Poughkeepsie play a quadruple-header in the Hudson River League. The Hudson squad wins all four games.
1905 Future Black Sox star pitcher Eddie Cicotte makes his big league debut.
1906 Young Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb returns to action, after missing the last six weeks due to either stomach issues or a stay in a mental health sanitarium, depending on which story you believe.
1907 The A’s sign free agent pitcher Harry Coveleski.
1907 The Giants take pitcher Doc Crandall from Cedar Rapids in Rule 5 draft. Crandall will be the first pitcher ever primarily used in relief.
1908 Giants scouts offer Rube Marquard an $11,000 contract after seeing him pitch a perfect game for Indianapolis.
1915 Eddie Stanky, infielder, is born.
1917 The White Sox sweep a doubleheader from the Tigers for the second straight day. After the games are over, each White Sox player chips in $45 to the Tigers players as a gift. This will later bring accusations of bribery.
1917 Pete Alexander wins both ends of a doubleheader for the Phillies against the defending NL pennant champion Brooklyn Dodgers.
1924 Wilbur Cooper sets a record for pitchers by getting a hit at the plate in his 16th straight game he appeared in.
1925 After just eight disastrous weeks, the Cubs remove Rabbit Maranville as manager.
1927 Future Hall of Famer Sam Rice gets his 2,000th hit.
1927 The Braves Doc Gautreau steals home twice in one game versus Brooklyn.
1927 A’s ace Lefty Grove throws a 1-0 shutout over the Yankees. It’s the only shutout of them all year.
1928 Pirates right fielder Adam Comorosky sets a record with nine putouts in that position.
1928 Ty Cobb gets his last hit, a double.
1930 Bill Dickey legs out his second and final career inside the park home run.
1934 Tony Lazzeri belts his 100th career triple.
1935 Commissioner Landis overrules a $1,000 fine the Reds placed on outfielder Chick Hafey for leaving the team. Landis finds that Hafey had a legitimate medical condition, sinus/sight problems.
1938 Tigers star slugger Rudy York ties a record with his fourth slam of the year.
1939 The Red Sox stall, hoping their game will be called for darkness before it become official, but instead the umpires say they forfeit.
1947 Bill McCahan no-hits the Senators for the A’s.
1948 Bob Lemon throws his third straight complete game shutout.
1951 Legendary umpire Bill Klem dies at age 77.
1953 Pitcher and “Giant Killer” Jack Pfiester dies.
1956 Brooklyn signs free agent pitcher Ralph Branca.
1956 Mike McCormick makes his big league debut as one of the youngest pitchers ever: 17 years and 339 days old.
1957 Brooklyn plays in Jersey City for the last time, losing 3-2 in 12 innings to the Phillies.
1960 Hank Aaron draws five walks in one game. He’ll do that again in 1972.
1961 Mickey Mantle blasts his 50th home run of the year. It’s his eighth multi-homer game of the season, too.
1961 Tom Tresh makes his big league debut.
1963 Dick Allen makes his big league debut.
1963 Cubs third baseman Ron Santo has an inning from hell, making three errors.
1965 Jim Hickman becomes the first Met to homer three times in one game.
1965 The Los Angeles Angels change their name to the California Angels. It lasts a while but ultimately doesn’t take.
1966 Robin Roberts, easily baseball’s best pitcher in the early 1950s, appears in his last game.
1967 Hank Aaron hits his 17th and final homer off of Don Drysdale, the most he has against any one pitcher.
1967 Luis Gonzalez is born.
1967 Willie McCovey receives three intentional walks in one game.
1968 Bill Monbouquette, for a while a very effective Red Sox pitcher, appears in his last game.
1968 Ralph Garr makes his big league debut.
1969 Willie Davis’ best hitting streak peaks at 31 games. He’s 54-for-124 (.435) in this span.
1970 Billy Williams finally takes a day off, After 1,117 consecutive games played, he tells reporters that he’s pooped.
1971 Manny Mota wins a game for the Dodgers with the rare walk-off bases-loaded triple. LA 6, Cincinnati 5.
1971 Harmon Killebrew hits the only pinch-hit grand slam of his life.
1971 Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning appears in his last game.
1971 Speedy outfielder Billy North makes his major league debut.
1971 Dodgers third baseman Ron Cey makes his major league debut.
1971 Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley buys a full-page ad in all of Chicago’s papers to give manager Leo Durocher a vote of confidence and criticizing the “anti-Leo” faction on the Cubs bench. Durocher will be gone from Chicago within a year.
1972 Hank Aaron passes Stan Musial for the most career total bases.
1973 Bobby Bonds hits the first of two career walk-off grand slams for an 11-8 Giants win over the rival Dodgers.
1973 Richie Hebner scampers around the bases for a walk-off inside-the-park home run.
1974 Giants pitcher John Montefusco homers in his first major league at bat. Also, he throws nine innings in relief in this game, something no other Giants pitcher has since done. In fact, it’s only been done twice in all the NL since then, and one of those comes just eight days later.
1975 Steve Garvey begins his 1,207 consecutive games played streak. (He’s returning to the lineup today after missing two games with the flu).
1976 Mike Hegan hits for the cycle.
1976 Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner makes his big league debut.
1977 For the third and final time in his career, Rod Carew hits two home runs in one game.
1977 Japanese star Sadaharu Oh hits his 756th career home run.
1978 Willie Stargell joins the 2,000 hit club.
1981 Larry Anderson has what WPA considers the be the best relief stint in Mariners history: six scoreless innings for a 0.882 WPA.
1981 Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy gets six hits in a 20-inning game.
1981 Outfielder Mel Hall makes his major league debut.
1981 Blue Jays right fielder Jesse Barfield makes his big league debut.
1981 Tim Raines steals a base for the seventh straight game, his longest streak. He has 12 steals in this span.
1982 Troubled outfielder Ron LeFlore appears in the last game of his career.
1982 Phil Niekro wins his eighth straight game, a career high. However, his ERA is just 4.37 in that span (and with six unearned runs in 78.1 innings, too).
1983 Cal Ripken has arguably the best game of his career, going 5-for-6 with two doubles and two home runs.
1985 For the second time in his career, Gary Carter mashes three home runs in one game.
1985 Paul O’Neill makes his big league debut.
1986 Greg Maddux makes an unlikely major league debut. He doesn’t pitch at all, but instead appears as a pinch runner.
1986 Kevin Seitzer, briefly a great hitting infielder, makes his major league debut.
1988 Gary Sheffield makes his major league debut.
1989 There are seven HBP in today’s Royals-Rangers game. Mike Macfarlane, the fifth Royal hit, charges the mound.
1989 John Olerud makes his major league debut.
1989 Former pitcher Rip Sewell dies.
1991 Jim Gantner homers, ending a 1,762 AB streak without hitting one over the fence. Gantner will hit another one two days later.
1991 Veteran catcher Ron Hassey appears in his last game.
1991 Pat Hentgen makes his major league debut.
1992 Baseball owners vote 18-9 with one abstention to call for the resignation of commissioner Fay Vincent. Leading the charge against him is Brewers owner Bud Selig.
1993 Manny Ramirez enjoys the first of 54 career multi-home run games. In fact, they are career home runs No. 1 and 2 for Ramirez.
1995 Tony Clark makes his big league debut.
1995 Tony Fernandez hits for the cycle.
1997 Gary Sheffield connects for the first of four career walk-off home runs.
1997 The Marlins comes as close as they ever have to getting their all-time cumulative record back to .500: 345-375, just 30 games under.
1997 Orlando Cabrera, shortstop, appears in his first major league game.
1998 The Royals purchase pitcher Jeff Suppan from Arizona.
1999 A federal court upholds the resignation of 22 umpires from July 14.
1999 Terry Collins resigns as Angels skipper.
2000 Kenny Lofton has a great game, stealing five bases on five tries and hitting a homer in a 12-11 Indians win over Baltimore. It’s the 18th straight game he’s scored a run in, tying a record held by Red Rolfe.
2001 Young Cardinals pitcher Bud Smith no-hits the Padres, 4-0.
2002 Cubs first baseman Hee Seop Choi makes his big league debut.
2002 The Mets lose their 15th straight home game, tying a 91-year-old record.
2003 Khalil Greene makes his big league debut.
2004 Gavin Floyd makes his big league debut.
2004 Nick Swisher makes his big league debut.
2005 Jack McKeon wins his 1,000th game as a manager.
2006 Albert Pujols hits three home runs in one game. It’s the third time he’s done that.
2006 Ryan Howard hits three home runs in one game.
2007 In the 499th appearance of his career, Mike Mussina makes his first and only regular season relief appearance.
2007 Pedro Martinez joins the 3,000 K club.
2008 In a first, instant replay is used in major league baseball. Alex Rodriguez has a homer to left upheld.
2008 A crowd estimated at 600 attends the Marlins-Braves game in Florida. More tickets are sold, but with it being a day game on a weekday in sweltering 90 degree heat on a humid day, few show up.
2009 Former Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman is sentenced to six months in jail for failing to pay his income taxes from 2002-04.
2011 Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker manage against each other for the 200th time. They are just the second pair of managers in the divisional era (1969-onward) to face each other that often. The other pair is Dick Williams and Chuck Tanner. (Random info: Tony LaRussa once managed Dusty Baker. In fact, he was his last manager, as Baker’s career ended on the 1980s A’s. Baker lost his last starting job to young prospect Jose Canseco).
2012 Adam Dunn becomes the sixth batter to ever fan 2,000 times in his career.