40 years ago today, one of the greatest third baseman in history made his major league debut: longtime Kansas City Royals star George Brett.
Drafted as an 18-year-old out of high school, Brett had torn through the minor leagues. To the modern eye, his minor league stats don’t look that impressive, but the 1970s were not as offensive-heavy an era, and Brett did well despite being one of the youngest players out there. More importantly, the club could tell he had talent.
He hit .291 as a teen in rookie ball in 1971, and advanced to A ball in 1972. Only 19 years old, he posted an OPS of 750 in a league with a 719 overall OPS. That earned Brett a promotion to Double A. The youngest man on Kansas City’s Omaha squad, Brett held his own, posting a league average OPS.
Clearly the hot corner man of the future, the Royals had an early use for him. In late July, normal big league third baseman Paul Schall went down with an injury. Now, the team had utility man Kurt Bevacqua to plug in there, and they did.
But hey—the third baseman is down, and there’s this kid everyone is high on—let’s bring him and see how he does. Besides, Bevacqua batted right-handed and the kid batted left-handed. Maybe KC can get a platoon advantage out of it. And so it came to pass that George Brett got the call—he’d help the team fill the gap until Schall was able to return to the lineup.
As often is the case in these debuts, the only thing really memorable about the game was the debut. At Chicago’s Comiskey Park during the brief period when it had infield turf—rather fitting, given that every single home game of Brett’s career would be on artificial grass—Brett first walked onto the major league field.
Brett batted eighth and first came to the plate in the second inning and lined one back to Bahnsen for an out. Well, at least it was hard hit. In the next half inning he got to field a ball for the first time—and the second time. He handled a grounder for his first assist, and caught a pop up for his first out—a pop up hit by future KC manager Tony Muser.
In the fourth, Brett got on the board, singling to left for the first of his 3,154 career hits. Then he was immediately gobbled up in an inning-ending double play.
That was his big excitement for the night. He fielded cleanly his one remaining play in the field, and in his remaining at bats fanned and grounded out. But his first game was in the books. He’d soon be sent back to the farm, but return the next year as KC’s starting third baseman. He’d stick around another two decades and 2,707 games. But the first of those games came 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something happening X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since Jamie Moyer re-injures his elbow while pitching in the Dominican League for Escogido. The ageless wonder is finally showing his age.
4,000 days since the Reds sign free agent Jose Guillen.
8,000 days since the Angels release Dave Parker.
15,000 days since Tigers pitcher John Hiller returns to the mound 18 months after surviving a heart attack.
50,000 days since Hall of Fame manager/player Peerless Leader Frank Chance is born.
1882 Red Ames, quality early 20th century pitcher, is born.
1890 Patsy Tebeau manages his first game. He’ll last about a decade, mostly with the Cleveland Spiders, and be the leading advocate of the roughneck, dirty play that typified the 1890s NL.
1892 Pud Galvin, the first 300 game winner, appears in his last game.
1900 Brooklyn signs veteran pitcher Gus Weyhing as a free agent.
1900 Giants manager George Davis leads the team in an assault on umpire William Terry after they lose 7-6 to the Cubs on a disputed call.
1904 White Sox pitcher Frank Owen steals home during a 5-1 win over Washington.
1906 The Hitless Wonder White Sox begin a 19 game winning streak.
1907 Walter Johnson, maybe the best pitcher ever, makes his big league debut.
1912 Hall of Fame outfielder Harry Hooper, who debuted in April 1909 in the majors, finally hits a homer over the fence. All his previous homers were inside the parkers.
1913 The Federal League holds a secret meeting in Indianapolis to discuss expanding from six to eight teams next year in order to challenge the NL and AL. They vote to expand in the east.
1919 Harry Heilmann enjoys the first of 10 multi-home run games. He’ll be one of baseball’s best hitters in the 1920s, earning a plaque in Cooperstown.
1919 Pete Schneider, one of only a half-dozen men to throw 200 innings in his age 19 season in the 20th century, appears in his final game.
1920 Star knuckleballer and future Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski wins his 100th decision. He is 100-60 so far.
1921 After just two hours deliberation, the Black Sox jury finds the player innocent. The jurors even put the players on their shoulders in celebration.
1922 Ken Williams sets a record by homering in his sixth straight game.
1924 Joe Hauser of the Philadelphia A’s hits three home runs in one game.
1927 Mickey Cochrane hits the first of two career walk-off home runs: it’s a bottom of the 12th inning solo shot.
1928 Burleigh Grimes notches his 200th victory, giving him a record of 200-157.
1929 Babe Ruth gets his 2,000th hit. It takes him 1,731 games to get there.
1929 Star Dodgers fireballer Dazzy Vance has his worst start ever: 6 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, and 1 K for a horrific Game Score of –10.
1930 Star second baseman Eddie Collins appears in his last game.
1930 Under a portable lights system, Negro Leagues star Smokey Joe Williams fans 27 batters in a one-hit, 12-inning 1-0 win. He leads the Pittsburgh Grays to a win over the Kansas City Monarchs, whose pitcher Chet Brewer fans 19 in the dimly lit game.
1932 The Cubs fire manager Rogers Hornsby and replaces him with Charlie Grimm. Hornsby owes several players money who had been covering him for gambling losses. The team will play much better under Grimm.
1932 Dan Brouthers, one of the best players in the 19th century, dies at age 74.
1933 Mickey Cochrane hits for his second career cycle.
1938 Innovative baseball GM Larry MacPhail introduces dandelion yellow colored baseballs for his Dodgers to play with. It doesn’t take.
1940 For the second time in his career, star shortstop Joe Cronin hits for the cycle.
1948 Right fielder Don Mueller makes his big league debut.
1950 Andy Pafko of the Cubs connects for three home runs in one game.
1950 Bob Lemon does it all – hitting a three-run homer and throwing a complete game shutout. Though he doesn’t need any help, as teammate Larry Doby smacks three homers in the game. Doby is the first black man to do that in the major leagues.
1950 Slap hitter Elmer Valo hits for the cycle.
1955 Ernie Banks blasts his fourth grand slam of the season.
1959 Milwaukee Brave batter Bill Bruton legs out three triples in one game.
1959 In the ninth inning, Tigers stud Jim Bunning needs the bare minimum nine pitches to strike out the side versus Boston. The Red Sox win anyway, 5-4.
1959 Jim Kaat makes his big league debut.
1959 Willie McCovey belts his first home run.
1960 Major League Baseball comes to an agreement with the Continental League: the AL and NL will expand and the CL will disband before it starts.
1966 Knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield is born.
1966 Paul Schall hits a walk-off inside the park home run of Hal Reniff.
1967 Cincinnati star second baseman Pete Rose homers from both sides of the plate.
1969 As Jim Bouton relates in Ball Four, the Pilots are answering a team public relations questionnaire. When the question “What’s the most difficult thing about being in major league baseball?” comes up, Don Mincher cracks: “Having to explain to your wife why she needs penicillin for your kidney infection.”
1970 With the Phillies trailing by three runs, Tony Taylor hits a walk-off grand slam for the win.
1971 Reggie Smith collects his 100th home run.
1972 For the first time in a little over five years, Catfish Hunter allows a walk to the first batter of the game.
1972 Cesar Cedeno hits for the cycle.
1972 Catcher and defensive equipment innovator Steve Yeager makes his big league debut. (He’ll create the little plastic flap designed to help protect a backstop’s neck).
1975 Darrell Evans has the best WPA game of his career, 2-for-4 with three walks and a homer. The homer is a game-winning shot in the top of the 15th. Evans leads the Braves to a 8-6 lead over the Padres. On the losing end is Willie McCovey, who has his worst game ever according to WPA. He’s 0-for-7 with a K and a GIDP. His WPA: -0.379.
1977 Ken Oberkfell, infielder, makes his big league debut.
1977 Jim Rice is hit by a pitch twice in one game.
1978 The Yankees top the Red Sox 6-5 in 14 innings. The Yankees led 5-0 but the Red Sox tied it in the eighth courtesy of three Yankee wild pitches. By persevering for the victory, the Yankees will help their historic pennant race comeback against Boston.
1979 The Mets purchase outfielder Jose Cardenal from the Phillies.
1979 Yankee catcher and team captain Thurman Munson dies in a plane crash.
1980 Vida Blue balks for the first time in over four years.
1982 Durable veteran pitcher Frank Tanana loses his 100th decision. His record is 111-100. He’ll go 129-136 after this.
1982 Grady Sizemore is born.
1982 For the only time in his life, Ozzie Smith draws a pair of intentional walks in one game. I assume he was hitting eighth in the order. He draws four walks in all, tying his personal high.
1983 Huston Street, closer, is born.
1985 In a remarkable and unlikely play at the plate, White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk tags out two players seconds apart. Yankee base runners Bobby Meachem and Dale Berra started the play out 90 feet apart, but Meachem stopped, fearing the ball might be caught, while Berra barreled ahead. But they are both out at the plate.
1987 Texas pitcher Bobby Witt fans four Orioles in the second inning of their game.
1987 For the last time in his career, the great Greg Maddux makes a relief appearance.
1987 Kansas City infielder Kevin Seitzer gets six hits (including two homers) in one game. He’s he first American League with a half-dozen safeties in one game in six years.
1988 The Reds sign Ken Griffey Sr. as a free agent.
1990 Cal Ripken hits his only bases-loaded triple.
1991 This isn’t the day to try to steal off Bob Welch. Four Twins try and all are thrown out during the 3-1 A’s win.
1991 Texas’ Mike Jeffcoat becomes the first AL pitcher since 1973 to get an RBI.
1991 David Weathers, reliever, makes his big league debut.
1994 Barry Bonds hits three homers in one game.
1995 The Angels retire No. 50 for former coach and famed fungo hitter Jimmie Reese. He was strength and condition coach for them from 1973 until his death the year before at age 92. Yes, there was a 92-year-old strength and conditioning coach in major league baseball in the mid-1990s. That should tell us something about the way the game’s culture has changed over the last 20 years.
1995 David Wells posts his 10th straight win, his longest winning streak.
1996 Derek Jeter hits his first inside the park homer. His next one will come 14 years later. It comes in the top of the inning, and is still his only regular season extra-inning home run.
1997 For the first and only time, Curt Schilling steals a base.
1997 Houston’s Brad Ausmus becomes the first catcher to wear Fox Sports’ “Catcher Cam” on his mask.
1997 Todd Helton makes his big league debut – and hits his first home run.
1999 Mark Grace, the man with the most hits in the 1990s, gets his 2,000th career hit.
1999 The Indians release Tom Candiotti, ending his big league career.
1999 Mark McGwire triples! Mark McGwire! The bulky slugger ends a 5,764 consecutive PA streak without a triple. His last three-bagger came on June 20, 1988.
1999 Closer Francisco Cordero makes his big league debut.
2000 Aubrey Huff makes his big league debut.
2002 Albert Pujols plays two innings at shortstop, his only time there.
2002 Bud Selig fines Reds general manager Jim Bowden for comparing a possible baseball players’ strike to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
2003 John Olerud has a personal best seven RBIs in one game. He’s 2-for-3 with two homers in a 10-0 Mariners trampling of the White Sox.
2005 For the first time in over eight years, Curt Schilling balks.
2005 Mike Piazza receives a walk-off walk in the bottom of the 11th in an 8-8 tie game against Milwaukee.
2009 Melky Cabrera hits for the cycle.
2010 The Brewers lash out 26 hits in a 18-1 bombing of the Cubs.
2010 Toronto hits six doubles in one inning versus the Yankees.
2011 Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan engages in some impressive heads-up base running to pull off the rare infield triple against Oakland. He first gets an infield single, and then realizes there is no one covering second. When he goes there, the guy covering third runs there to try and cover – so Ryan notices third is open and scampers another 90 feet unchallenged.
2011 Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to spit on an umpire at home plate during an argument in a game versus the Brewers.
2012 Arizona releases Scott Podsednik.
2012 Cincinnati releases pitcher Brett Tomko.